Today at Dover International Speedway, Matt Kenseth finally cooled off after opening the Chase for the Sprint Cup with back-to-back wins, fading late in the AAA 400 to a seventh-place finish.
Kenseth was able to maintain his lead in the Chase with seven races to go, but with Jimmie Johnson picking up the win, that gap between him and the five-time Sprint Cup champion is now down to eight points.
“We kind of missed it today, but there’s times we ran a lot better than that,” said Kenseth, who led 36 laps at Dover. “We got caught with being the last on two tires and restarting on the inside, which was really bad. Still salvaged a respectable finish, but certainly I wanted to do better than that.”
The stage was set for the finish after debris in Turn 3 brought out the yellow with 31 laps to go. That didn’t help Kenseth, who was hoping for the race to stay green so he could be in position to pick up spots as the leaders pitted for splashes of fuel.
“I really wasn’t [happy] because we were running second I think and [crew chief] Jason [Ratcliff] said nobody could really make it,” he said. “None of the guys that were going to win the race were going to make it and a lot of those cars that I think were trying to make it were already a lap down, so I wish it would have went green to the end. I think that would have got us a Top-3 or 4.”
Instead, Kenseth fell back after the green came out again with 26 laps remaining, victimized somewhat by not being in the preferred outside lane on the restart.
But perhaps there are better days ahead for Kenseth next weekend at Kansas, where he won back in the spring. He’s earned four wins this season on mile-and-a-half tracks, including his Chase-opening triumph at Chicagoland three races ago.
So while Kenseth was left unfulfilled on Sunday, he could find himself with another chance to build on his championship edge very soon.
“I feel good about this stretch — Dover, Kansas, Charlotte have all been great tracks I really enjoy that our performance has been pretty good at it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting there.”