|Three of last four Dover fall winners have won Sprint Cup|
Call Matt Kenseth untouchable; at least, so far.
Kenseth, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, heads to Dover International Speedway for Sunday’s AAA 400 (2 p.m. ET ESPN, MRN Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio) bidding to become the first driver to win the opening three races of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™.
The season’s top winner with seven victories – a career best – Kenseth twice has won at Dover’s “Monster Mile.” His first trip to the track with his current team, however, was less than successful. Kenseth finished 40th in June, the victim of engine failure.
Seven-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson likely is the greatest road block to Kenseth and Chase history. In two of Johnson’s five NASCAR Sprint Cup title seasons – 2009 and 2010 – the Californian captured Dover’s Chase race.
Tony Stewart was the most recent competitor to open the Chase with back-to-back victories in 2011. He finished 25th at Dover but rebounded to win his third NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
Sam Hornish and Austin Dillon take their red-hot NASCAR Nationwide Series championship battle to Dover on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET ESPN2, MRN Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio); a track on which Dillon owns a statistical edge over the points leader. Joey Logano seeks his fourth consecutive Nationwide victory at the track in hopes of extending the owners championship lead for Penske Racing’s No. 22 Ford.
It’s homecoming week for Las Vegas native Brendan Gaughan, the 2003 winner of Saturday Smith’s 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio). Five members of the current top 20 – including last week’s NASCAR Nationwide Series winner Ryan Blaney – will be making their first series appearance at the 1.5-mile track.
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES – AAA 400, SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2 P.M. ET ON ESPN
Kenseth Pursues Record Third Victory To Open Chase
Matt Kenseth goes to Dover International Speedway bidding to become the first driver to open the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ with three consecutive victories. Unlike Chicagoland and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where the 2003 champion won for the first time, Kenseth has two victories on Dover’s “Monster Mile,” in 2011 and 2006. Engine failure knocked Kenseth out of Dover’s June race.
Kyle Busch Grooves Best Chase Start
With consecutive second-place finishes, Kyle Busch is off to his best Chase start. He ranks second in the standings, 14 points behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth. Busch was fourth in Dover’s June event and led 302 laps en route to a seventh-place finish in last September’s AAA 400. Busch’s two Dover wins came in 2010 and 2008.
Johnson Latter-Day Master Of Dover’s ‘Monster Mile’
No Chase driver has performed better at Dover than five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, whose seven victories – most among active drivers – include Chase wins in 2009-10. Johnson, who trails leader Matt Kenseth by 17 points, has led his last 12 Dover starts with top-10 finishes in nine of his most recent 10 races on the concrete-surfaced track.
Dover Chase Winners Claim Three of Past Four Sprint Cup Titles
A Dover Chase victory is no guarantee of a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship but recent history leans in that direction. The Dover winner has gone on to claim the title three times: Brad Keselowski in 2012 and Jimmie Johnson in 2009-10. On the flip side, Tony Stewart overcame a 25th-place finish to win his third title in 2011.
Biffle Says It’s Far From Being Three-Driver Chase Shootout
Matt Kenseth has opened a wide lead over 10 of his 12 Chase rivals. Greg Biffle, who finished third in New Hampshire, predicts it’s far from being a three-driver shoot-out. Roush Fenway Racing partners Carl Edwards and Biffle rank fourth and fifth, 36 and 38 points behind Kenseth. In 2006, Jimmie Johnson rebounded from eighth after two races – erasing a 136-point deficit that roughly translates to 32 markers under the current format.
McMurray Appears Ready To Repeat Chase ‘Spoiler’ Role
Jamie McMurray didn’t qualify for this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ but his New Hampshire performance – a fifth-place finish in a car damaged in an early-race accident – suggests he could repeat a “spoiler” role he enjoyed twice previously at Charlotte in 2010 and Talladega in 2009. Kasey Kahne is the most recent non-qualifier to win a Chase race at Phoenix in 2011.