Kenseth hoping to rebound from tough finish
There were one too many restarts on old tires for Matt Kenseth at last week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race in New Hampshire, and Kevin Harvick beat him to the checker to become the second locked-in driver for the Chase Round of 12.
After Sunday’s race at the Monster Mile in Dover, 12 drivers will move on and four will be eliminated from Chase contention. Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. can take it easy at Dover, but that isn’t the case for the rest of the contenders, particularly those below and just above the cut line. The winningest driver at Dover among active drivers is Jimmie Johnson, with nine trips to victory lane, one each in 2013, 2014, and 2015. But last year’s race Chase race eliminated the six-time champion after a parts failure sidelined him. Kenseth won the first Dover round this season, one of three victories at the track. Kenseth is still smarting from last week’s defeat, so he will definitely be up on the wheel. Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman have also won three times, Stewart most recently in 2013. Brad Keselowski won his only Dover race in 2012 and Kurt Busch scored his second victory there in 2011. The only other recent winner in the field is Kyle Busch, who won in 2010.
Both Toyota and a Chevrolet have each won a Sprint Cup Chase race now, so expect to see a Ford get “the call” at Dover — probably either Keselowski or teammate Joey Logano. In any case, it should be an interesting and hard-fought event. Personally, I’d like to see Kyle Larson advance to the next round, but he’s on the bubble, 12th in points, with only a 5-point margin over Jamie McMurray and Austin Dillon, who are tied. Stewart is another six points back and will need a lot of luck to make the next round. And Chris Buescher, 30 points behind the cut line, will need to win at Dover to advance.
Elliott Sadler punched his ticket to the Round of Eight in the Xfinity Chase Race at Kentucky last Saturday night. Daniel Suarez finished second, solidifying his points position, but his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones didn’t fare so well. Jones, who came into the Xfinity Chase as top seed with four wins, sat on the pole and led 100 laps, but came away with a disappointing 28th place finish. This dropped him to 9th in the standings, and he’s on the outside looking in. Jones will need a win or two excellent finishes in the next two races to advance.
William Byron continued his winning ways in the Camping World Truck series Chase, winning at New Hampshire to insure a transfer to the Round of Six. With the win and a 16-point lead over second-place Matt Crafton, Byron is in great shape to become champion if he can avoid disaster. A series title will go a long way to getting a quality ride in the Xfinity Series next season. Daniel Hemric’s 28th-place finish leaves him in eighth place, 20 points behind the cut line for a transfer spot. A post-race penalty for ride height docked John Hunter Nemechek 10 points, dropping him to seventh, five points out.
Formula One is back in action this weekend, racing in Malaysia at the Sepang circuit, which is different from the past. The entire track has been repaved, and nine of the fifteen turns have been revised in various ways. Drainage has been improved, which may well come into play this weekend as the weather picture looks somewhat mixed. Rain is definitely possible, and if it comes we may see a duel between the two rainmeisters of F1, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. Vettel won last year, his fourth victory in Malaysia, while Hamilton only has one victory there, in 2014. Current points leader Nico Rosberg has never won at Sepang.