Is Kenseth Next To Win?

Matt Kenseth

Crew chief Jason Ratcliff and Matt Kenseth have climbed to second in the points but continue to search for their first win of the year. (Photo: Getty Images)

Now, it’s Matt Kenseth’s turn.

After winning six races a year ago, Jimmie Johnson scored his first victory of the season in last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600. That leaves Kenseth, who won a series-high seven times last year, as the only driver to score at least three wins a season ago without a victory this year.

Despite that distinction, Kenseth questions if there is any more urgency on his team to win heading into Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway.

“I know, obviously, you more than likely need a win to get into the Chase, but you do the best you can every week to try to win no matter what the point standings are or no matter how that works out,’’ Kenseth said Friday morning at Dover. “So, I don’t think there’s any more or less urgency than anything else. It’s not like you can just say, ‘Man, we really need a win’ and you just go and get one. It doesn’t really work like that.”

Kenseth’s situation is not unusual. This marks the third time in the last four seasons that the leading race winner from the previous season had not scored a victory by the 12th race of the following season.

The question of when Kenseth will win grows with 10 different winners in the first 12 races of the season and a new Chase format where a victory all but assures a driver a chance to race for the championship.

Kenseth enters this weekend after a season-best third-place finish in last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600. He’s scored seven top-10 finishes in the last eight races to remain second in the points.    

He comes to a track he’s had plenty of success. Kenseth has two wins at Dover and nine top-10 finishes in the last 12 races there.

With that success at this track, many people place higher expectations Kenseth and his team to win this weekend.

Johnson knows what that’s like.

“I know there’s been a lot of pressure and expectations put on us ... but that pressure that people might see and suspect that might be wearing on us is nothing compared to the pressure we put on ourselves as a race team,’’ Johnson said. “We expect a lot out of ourselves.’’

So does Kenseth and his team.

“If we could’ve won some of the races earlier this year we would’ve,’’ said Kenseth, winless in his last 20 starts, dating back to last fall’s race at New Hampshire. “We just haven’t been quite good enough.  

“I feel like my team has been doing a great job, doing a great job on pit road and really executing and great adjustments and doing all of that stuff. We’ve been in position to win a few races, we just haven’t quite had the speed yet. So, we’ll just keep working on it and hopefully keep putting together mistake-free races and putting ourselves in position and hopefully sooner or later it works out.”

Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – will have live coverage of the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks on Sunday at noon (ET) with live streaming at MRN.com.

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