Matt Kenseth still winless but takes over Sprint Cup points lead

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A solid third-place finish on Sunday for Matt Kenseth enabled him to move to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings after previous leader Jeff Gordon faded late to a 15th-place result.

Going into next weekend’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway, Kenseth – who is still winless in 2014 – is up by by two points on Jeff Gordon (one win, Kansas) in the standings.

Kenseth wasn’t nearly as dominant on the day as eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson, but still had one more chance to catch him thanks to a late restart with four laps to go.

He lined up on the outside of Johnson for the restart, but spun the tires on his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota as Johnson went on to his ninth career win at Dover International Speedway.

“It was good, I mean, I thought the 48 (Johnson) and the 4 (Kevin Harvick) had us all day,” Kenseth said. “The 24 (Gordon) at times — all of the Hendrick cars were strong and Brad (Keselowski) got up there at the end.

“We had a good Top-5 car. I did an awful job on that last restart. Just got spinning the tires too much and the best car won. We just need to be a little bit better.”

Prior to that critical restart, Kenseth dodged a bullet on Lap 222, when rookie Alex Bowman hit the wall after a tire went down on him.

Coming up on the scene, Kenseth didn’t know if Bowman would slide down the track or stay up by the wall. In a split-second decision, Kenseth went high and narrowly squeezed through the wall and Bowman’s wounded Toyota.

“He blew a tire or something and I saw him blow a tire, and I was kind of running the middle and I didn’t know where he was going to go,” Kenseth said of the situation. “So I hit the brakes and locked up the left front (tire) and then I didn’t have any steering when the left front was locked up.

“Yeah, that would’ve looked pretty stupid to drive up and go through the back of him.”

Kenseth also survived a late run-in with Clint Bowyer after the aforementioned restart to give his team their eighth Top-10 finish in the last nine races.

Until Kenseth can break through for a win, he’ll need to stay as high up in the points as he can for now. But considering how consistent he’s been in the first half of the regular season, one figures that he’ll be taking a checkered flag soon enough.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”