The leader in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings doesn’t have a win yet. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Well, Matt Kenseth is a man that won the 2003 title with just one victory, and he might just do that again.
However, with the new championship format, going win-less throughout the 36-race schedule could severely hurt a driver’s ability to contend for the title. Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have won the 2013 crown, but that was the exact opposite of what NASCAR is expecting this year.
Kenseth took over the championship points lead after Dover as Jeff Gordon finished 15th even though he ran inside of the top-five throughout the day. Entering Pocono, he holds a two-point lead over Gordon, and has a good cushion over third-place Carl Edwards.
With the new format, 16 drivers will qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Those drivers will have to earn at least one win to qualify, and if there aren’t 16 different winners, the point’s leader will automatically qualify for the Chase along with the next amount of spots available in the Chase that are winless but are high in the standings. Now, questions have risen about whether or not Kenseth should worry about winning if he stays as the leader in the championship standings as positions in the Chase are filling up left and right.
“It is definitely different. It was a radical change from what we had. We sit here as the points leader, but it’s a little confusing at times. Hopefully, we can get a win,” Kenseth said.
After Dover, Kenseth and the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team have earned 10 top-10s along with five top-fives. However, he is going back to the way he used to race with Roush-Fenway Racing – starting out races rather slow, but picking up the pace by the halfway mark. Kenseth stated during a press conference on Friday morning that the team has adjusted better to the new aero package than he thought, but they have just not been able to seal the deal.
“It doesn’t change at all really,” Kenseth said about his approach now that he has the points lead. “Every week, you go out there with the idea of trying to win. You try to do everything you can to win the race. People always ask about changing strategies or trying harder, but if it were that easy – we would be winning every week.”
In 28 starts at Pocono, Kenseth has yet to score a win at the Tricky Triangle. However, he contended for the victory during the 2003 edition of the Pocono 400, and is expected to run well this weekend even though he finished outside of the top-20 in both Pocono races last year.