At some point after the end of the final race prior to the final showdown known as the Chase for the Sprint Cup this season, we thought we knew exactly how the Chase picture looked. It is safe to say that the entire NASCAR world was shocked to see Martin Truex Jr. booted from the chase because of tom foolery committed by Michael Waltrip Racing and he was replaced by Ryan Newman. Even more shocking, was to see that NASCAR had the gumption to insert Jeff Gordon as well, adding him as the 13th driver.
And all along one man sits atop the points standings heading into Chicagoland, flying under the radar. Matt Kenseth is ignored once again, but this time, he will make the media remember him with his near flawless performance in this year’s Chase. You’re probably assuming that I am picking Kenseth to win it all this year, and you’re absolutely right. But with any argument, there needs to be logic, so these are the reasons as to why I believe the #20 team will be hoisting the Sprint Cup at the end of the year.
The Chase hosts a whopping total of five intermediate tracks. Chicagoland, Charlotte, Homestead, Kansas and Texas make up half of the Chase races. Kenseth has excelled on all of the mile and a half tracks, winning a total of two (Vegas and Kansas, not counting Darlington because it is different than the tracks I just mentioned) and Kenseth should have no problem being a front runner this weekend at Chicago. Kenseth has multiple victories at Kansas and Texas as well has having a rich history at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Homestead. Kenseth has come close to winning at the gem in Joliet and I think he will grab his sixth win of the 2013 campaign this Sunday.
Many of Kenseth’s fellow competitors have been part of some serious drama coming into the final race of the year. Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer were involved in the “spingate” at Richmond. Jimmie Johnson, Kenseth’s most feared competitor has had one of the worst strings of bad luck that I can remember. Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch will be racing for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, and thus may fall into the lame duck category which thus helps them fall into the clutches of distraction. While Kenseth is flying under the radar as I mentioned earlier, these drivers are facing constant pressure from outside sources and this will not make it easy for them in these last 10 races.
Consistency vs. Inconsistency
Many drivers in the chase this year have not been very consistent. I’m looking more at the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr, Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon just to name a few. The back half of the Chase is not very impressive, as these guys have not done much to prove they are worthy of a Chase berth. Maybe it is because drivers such as Kenseth, Johnson, Kyle Busch and Harvick have won majority of the races. But I just don’t see anyone outside of the top 5 in points being consistently strong enough to mount a charge for the championship. I could see someone like Kasey Kahne come from the depths of having no bonus points and winning some races in the final 10 races, but even with his wins, he has been extremely inconsistent as well. Kenseth on the other hand, has shown solid consistency. He was contending for wins in two of his DNF’s and would have easily lead the points’ standings if you took away one or two of those DNFs.
Kenseth is seeking his second title since his first Winston Cup title back in 2003. This year, Kenseth has proved that he made the right choice in jumping ship from Roush Fenway Racing to Joe Gibbs Racing. It appears as if Toyota has figured out and fixed their engine woes from earlier this season. If Kenseth can survive Talladega, which I think he will be a frontrunner at, he has the ability to be consistent enough to win the Sprint Cup championship. Even though Kenseth had a summer lull and fell back in points a little bit, his team found their mojo by winning Bristol and finishing out the season with a strong 6th place finish at Richmond.
I believe that Kenseth will finish with 7 victories and beat out Kahne for the championship.