MATT KENSETH BACK ATOP CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS 2003 Cup Champion claims top spot for the third time in 2006 CONCORD, N.C. - For the first time since the NEXTEL Cup Series entered Talladega Superspeedway back in April, a new face sits atop...
MATT KENSETH BACK ATOP CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
2003 Cup Champion claims top spot for the third time in 2006
CONCORD, N.C. - For the first time since the NEXTEL Cup Series entered Talladega Superspeedway back in April, a new face sits atop the Championship points standings. After a tremendous August, Matt Kenseth finally overtook Jimmie Johnson at California Speedway last weekend and now heads to Richmond International Raceway with a nine-point lead just one race shy of the 10-race Chase for the NEXTEL Cup.
Kenseth entered August 97 points out of first and despite a second-place finish at Indianapolis on Aug. 6, watched the margin balloon to 124 points by the time the series left Watkins Glen on Aug. 13. However, Kenseth went on to win the final two events of August at Michigan and Bristol, becoming the first Cup driver to win back-to-back events in 2006. By the end of the month, Kenseth slashed Johnson's lead down to just seven points entering Labor Day weekend at Fontana.
"August was a big month for us," Kenseth explained. "We had gone through a five or six week stretch where we had struggled to be competitive. Indy kind of got us going and then with Michigan and Bristol closing out the month, we knew we were going to have a shot for some good finishes. Fortunately we were able to win those two which put us in a great position heading to California."
At California Speedway, Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT crew managed a seventh-place finish; their fourth top-10 in the past five races. The finish vaulted Kenseth into the points lead with only one race remaining before the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup.
On the season, Kenseth has led the points standings three different times for a total of three weeks. In addition to his current standing, Kenseth first led after the Bristol race in March and secondly, after the Phoenix race in April, which was the last time anyone other than Johnson led the standings; 17 races ago.
"For us, it's important to go into the Chase with the points lead," said Kenseth. "I know it's only five points after Richmond, but I would much rather be five points ahead than five points behind. In a tight points race, which is what we're almost assured to have now with the Chase format, five points can make or break you. But, just as important is how we've been running lately. We've got a lot of momentum that we're looking to carry into the Chase and hopefully put us in contention for the Championship."
-credit: roush racing