Penske, Hendrick have dominated 1.5-mile tracks, but there’s a darkhorse to watch out for in Chase

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Many fans are already anticipating that this year’s Sprint Cup champion is going to come from either Team Penske (Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano) or Hendrick Motorsports (Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and defending Cup champ Jimmie Johnson).

There’s some decent logic in that expectation.

There are a total of 11 1.5-mile tracks on the 2014 Sprint Cup schedule. Six races have already been contested, with five more still to come in the Chase, beginning with this weekend’s kickoff race at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway and ending with the season finale on another 1.5-miler, Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Thus far this season, Team Penske has three wins on 1.5-mile tracks: Brad Keselowski at Las Vegas and Kentucky.

Team Hendrick has the other three wins on 1.5-milers: Jeff Gordon (Kansas), Jimmie Johnson (Charlotte) and Kasey Kahne (Atlanta).

But here’s an interesting take, thanks to Dustin Long of MRN.com: The top-scoring driver on 1.5-mile tracks this season is none of the above.

What’s more, that same top-scoring driver hasn’t even won a race yet in 2014, yet is solidly in the Chase.

Trick question? Nope. The answer is simple: Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth.

Kenseth has managed to score a top-10 finish in each of the six races on mile-and-a-half’s already contested this season. Add his points totals up and Kenseth has earned 232 points on the mid-range tracks.

Gordon and Logano are tied for a close second with 228 points each on those same tracks.

There’s an irony that Kenseth led all Cup drivers last season with seven wins, but he’s yet to reach Victory Lane this season.

Could Kenseth have the kind of Chase that Tony Stewart had in 2011? Stewart failed to win any races during the first 26 races, but then won five of the 10 Chase races to claim the championship, thanks to a tie-breaker over Carl Edwards.

One other thing to note about Kenseth: guess who is the defending champion of Sunday’s race? Yep, the pride and joy of tiny Cambridge, Wisc. (population 1,200), that’s who.

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