It was a different sort of day for Matt Kenseth, who entered the Chase on the strength of a victory in the last regular-season NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond.
On Sunday at Chicagoland, Kenseth wasn’t a contender for the win. In fact, he spent much of the afternoon trying to stay ahead of the race leader to avoid going a lap down.
But Kenseth took advantage of the final restart with five laps left and grabbed a fifth-place finish. In the driver’s view, it was more than he deserved.
“We didn’t run well today, really all weekend,” Kenseth said. “We never were able to make it drive like we wanted it to and never found the speed that we wanted to. We were very, very fortunate to come home fifth. We had about a 15th-place car all day.”
But the restart that followed a late debris caution gave Kenseth the opportunity he needed to salvage a top five and enter the second Chase race at New Hampshire with the series lead (thanks in part to the 12 bonus points he carried into the Chase from four regular-season victories).
“The last restart, we were on the bottom,” Kenseth said. “They got all bottled up in Turn 1, and I think I passed about eight of them on the first corner. It turned pretty good on that restart, and starting on the bottom was an advantage for us.
“I slipped up the hill trying to drive Brad (Keselowski), or maybe we could have got one or two more (positions), but I can’t complain about that – way more than we should have.”