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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IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.