Matt Kenseth is looking forward to racing at the superspeedway in Brooklyn, where he's won twice before. (Chris Graythen / Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth has been the most consistent driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series heading into this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway.
Sure, Kenseth has been running up front and sitting atop or near the points lead, but he is still looking for that first win of the season.
And, wins mean a lot more this season with NASCAR’s new rules that lock drivers into one of the 16 Chase spots by reaching Victory Lane.
“I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, but then again, you’re asking a guy who hasn’t won yet,” Kenseth said.
“I’m really leading the points (prior to Sunday’s race at Pocono), but they didn’t have me in the top 10 since I’m without a win. It’s very possible 16 different drivers will earn wins and a second-place driver in points, but without a win, could be having a super season and yet not make the Chase.”
Kenseth, 42, said the points leader still will make the Chase if he is without a win, but not a driver sitting second without a win. Ten different drivers already have won races through the first 14 with Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all multiple winners.
Kenseth, who has a series-high 10 top-10 finishes, said he can’t see 16 different drivers winning races during the 26-event regular season leading up to the Chase’s 10-race run for the title.
“I think it will settle down and maybe we’ll have a couple more winners; I just hope I’m one of them,” said Kenseth, who had a rare bad finish Sunday, placing 25th at Pocono to give him 482 points, second most to Jeff Gordon’s 498. Gordon is among the 10 drivers with a win.
Kenseth entered the race at MIS two years ago with the points lead and news he was ending his long relationship with team owner Jack Roush, with whom he won Rookie of the Year honors in 2000 and the series championship in 2003.
Last year, Kenseth entered the June race at MIS with a series-high three wins while making a smooth transition to Joe Gibbs Racing. He won a career-high seven races last season, finishing second in The Chase to Jimmie Johnson.
“We were better from the start last year with the Gen6 car,” Kenseth pointed out.
Well, JGR is catching up with NASCAR’s new rules concerning ride height limits while Hendrick, Stewart-Haas and Team Penske drivers have jumped out of the gates well.
“No doubt, other teams have taken off faster. Hendrick and Stewart-Haas, especially the 4 car, have more speed, but we’re catching up,” said Kenseth, talking of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet driven by Kevin Harvick. “(Kenseth’s teammates) Denny Hamlin dominated at Talladega and Kyle (Busch) won at California. We just need to get a win now.”
Kenseth is hoping that win comes at MIS, the two-mile superspeedway he won at in June 2002 and August 2006.
Kenseth also hopes the track at MIS widens for better racing.
“It was a perfect track before the repave (prior to 2012, making it NASCAR’s fastest track), but it did need to be repaved,” he said.
“I’m hoping it widens out, gets two grooves or more. Kansas was wide at the end of the race (last month) and it had its repave the same year MIS did.”
Kenseth will be looking for that first win of the season at MIS, but again so will Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer and a number of other top tier drivers, such as Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle.