For the first time in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup, Matt Kenseth is not leading the championship.
Jimmie Johnson’s 13th-place result in today’s Camping World RV Sales 500 at Talladega Superspeedway seems a bit lacking after he led a race-high 47 laps. However, it was enough to take the Chase lead from Kenseth, who, like Johnson, ran up front early but finished 20th at the checkered flag.
With four races remaining in the post-season, Johnson now leads by four points over Kenseth as the Chase heads from the Sprint Cup Series’ biggest track to its smallest – the .526-mile Martinsville Speedway – for next week’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 powered by Kroger.
Johnson had hoped to continue what had been a strong run as of late on restrictor plate tracks, but found himself shuffled out of the lead pack as the race wound down.
“The outside lane got going and everyone jumped up in it, and you just don’t know if people are going to chase the bottom or the top,” Johnson told ESPN afterwards. “When I saw the 1 car [race winner Jamie McMurray] have the lead, then you figured the 1 and the 88 [runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr.] would take the top. And as that developed, I was on the bottom lane and worked my way to the middle lane.
“I was able to maintain for a while and then everyone went single-file at the top, and I just dropped like a rock…But we rallied back, got a few more spots, and most importantly, got back in front of the 20 [Kenseth] and missed the [last-lap] wreck on the backstretch.”
As for Kenseth, who was one of the top drivers in the first half of the race, he tumbled from the lead pack with an ill-handling car in the middle stages. Toward the end, he was able to charge back into the Top 5, only to fade once more.
“It was really bizarre,” Kenseth said of his car’s evil ways. “Typically, handling is a non-issue here and we just got so loose, I couldn’t hang on to it. I pretty much had to run in the back for two runs which was disappointing.
“We finally got it fixed on the last run, but we only had 20 laps to get back up there and I really needed to be up there like we were early and kind of feel like I was controlling the race more, controlling the lanes, the runs and all of that. I could never get back to there.”
When asked about losing the Chase lead, Kenseth said the matter wouldn’t affect him or his team’s focus.
“I honestly feel like we can race with anybody when we’re at our best,” he said. “So hopefully, we’ll be at our best the next four weeks and give ’em a run for their money.”
The focus of the Detroit Monster Energy Supercross round was on the mid-pack battle while Aaron Plessinger pulled away from the field, but when he crashed after hooking his foot in the dirt, the results once more looked like we’ve come to expect, with Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac sharing the podium for the fifth time in 10 rounds.
For Sexton, Plessinger’s late-race crash was a vindication of sorts. Several times already this season, Sexton has crashed while battling for the lead and the points that has cost him keeps him sporting the red plate. He lost points in Detroit for a different reason, however.
Sexton was allowed to keep the win, but was penalized seven points for jumping in a red cross section of the course. As a result, he dropped four points to Webb and two to Tomac. Sexton is now 17 points behind Webb in the championship hunt.
One week after snatching the red plate from Tomac for the first time in 2023, Webb stretched his advantage by two. With his second-place finish, Webb holds a three-point lead over Tomac, which essentially means both riders control their fate in the coming weeks. Webb continues to have a sweep of the top five this season with his sixth consecutive podium.
Coming off his worst finish of the season, Tomac rebounded to finish third. His eighth-place result last week was partially attributed to a stiff neck that hindered him in traffic and he still suffered some of those same effects in Detroit. Before Plessinger’s crash, he was destined to be the only rider in the three-man title scrum to finish off the podium in Detroit.
It is surprising what one position can do for one’s confidence.
Justin Barcia scored his fourth top-five of the season. He was part of the exciting four-man battle that dominated the middle stages of the race before Sexton and Webb gained a little separation. Finishing less than three seconds behind Tomac, he kept that rider honest for the entire race.
Coming off his first win of the season, Ken Roczen finished fifth. It was his seventh top-five of the season and it elevated him to fifth in the standings.
Hunter Lawrence tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 wins each after another dominating ride in the Detroit Supercross race and the results in the points continue to widen. With his fifth win in six rounds and a worst finish of third, Lawrence now has a 35-point advantage over Nate Thrasher with four rounds remaining. Finishes of 14th or better in the final four mains will give him his first 250 championship.
Jett will have an opportunity to retake his wins’ lead as Supercross heads west for the next two rounds in Seattle and Glendale, Arizona.
Nate Thrasher earned his third second-place finish of the season with a gap of 7.6 seconds to Lawrence. He won the overall in Arlington earlier this season, but a 15th-place finish in the opening round in Houston and 10th in Daytona hurts his championship chances.
Haiden Deegan scored his second podium and fourth top-five in six rounds of his young career. On his way to that finish, he rode aggressively against his teammate Jordon Smith in the heat race. Fans are getting a glimpse of what his on-track personality might be.
Jeremy Martin continues to be the model of consistency. He has not finished worse than sixth or better than fourth in six rounds now and that has allowed him to close to within two points of third in the 250 East championship standings.
Max Anstie entered the race weekend second in the points, but a hard crash in heavy traffic early in the main forced him to retire after two laps. Earning only one point for the round, he plummeted to fifth in the standings.
The news was worse for Smith, who was dropped out of the top nine in his heat after the altercation with Deegan and failed to advance through the LCQ. In the last chance race, he stalled his engine and had to mount a determined charge. He got only as high as seventh in that race after crashing while attempting to make a pass on fourth-place Jack Chambers.