Kenseth still in good Chase spot, but not out of woods yet

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Most observers think that Matt Kenseth is an assured lock to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. While his involvement in a crash last week at Michigan took a chunk out of his points cushion, he’s still firmly in the 13th Chase Grid position and 58 points up on 17th place.

But without a win, he’s not completely safe.

However, Kenseth said today at Bristol Motor Speedway that he feels no need to choose between the two extremes of going for broke to get a win or simply focusing on building a bigger points gap.

“You finish as best as you can every week and you hope that’s a win,” he said. “The days that you have cars that are good enough to be up front and to win with, you hope you have everything else that goes along with that – you don’t make a mistake on the track, you don’t get caught up in a wreck, you qualify good enough, you have good pit stops, good strategy.

“You do all of those things to have a shot to win, but you take what you have every week and make the best you can of it, and finish as high as you can every week. If you can win every week, you’d do it.”

Kenseth figures that making the Chase wouldn’t really change that stance. Additionally, he didn’t exactly agree with the theory of already-clinched Chase teams looking ahead to the start of the post-season in September.

“If guys have already won, you get more bonus points for the first round if you can win again,” Kenseth said, referring to the three bonus points that each regular season win gives drivers for the first round of the Chase.

“There’s a lot of incentives to win races, so I don’t really buy the fact that any one’s folding it in and getting ready for the Chase, saying ‘OK, we don’t care about the next three weeks, we’re just gonna get ready to go race in a few weeks at Chicago.’

“I don’t know if I buy that. Plus, at a place like this, there’s nothing you’re gonna learn here that’s gonna apply to anywhere else we go to the rest of the year.”

Here’s who were picking to win the Indy 500 — who are YOU picking?

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Several members of the NBC Sports motorsports staff have made their predictions on who will win Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Of the six voters, two are going with 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden, while two others are going with Helio Castroneves to win a fourth 500, which would tie him with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

Here’s our picks. Who are YOU picking?

Leigh Diffey: Helio Castroneves — He drives the place better than anyone else. For me (for what its worth) he deserves a fourth 500 ring for the frustration he went through never getting the IndyCar title!

Townsend Bell: Josef Newgarden

Nate Ryan: Simon Pagenaud — All of his 2018 misfortune on the track has disappeared in May, and it culminates in the biggest victory of his career.

Jerry Bonkowski: Helio Castroneves – There’s no pressure as he pursues his fourth Indy 500 win. All Helio has to do, as late NFL owner Al Davis would say, is “Just win, baby!” (But if Helio falls short, watch for Marco Andretti)

Kyle Lavigne: Josef Newgarden — I think he has everything he needs to get it done this year.

Dan Beaver: Robert Wickens – Has driven like anything except a rookie and his second-place finish at Phoenix proves he’s just as good on an oval as the road courses.

Follow: Jerry Bonkowski