Matt Kenseth fastest in Saturday AM Cup practice at Dover

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One of the drivers on the Chase bubble jumped to the top of the speed charts in this morning’s Sprint Cup practice session at Dover International Speedway.

Matt Kenseth, who’s tied for eighth on the Chase Grid at just eight points over the Top 12 cutoff, turned 45 laps and set the fastest lap at 155.649 mph in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

The 2003 Cup champion has won twice at Dover in his career and will start 14th in Sunday’s AAA 400, the final race in the Challenger Round.

In the most recent Cup race at Dover back in June, he finished third behind winner Jimmie Johnson and runner-up Brad Keselowski.

Kenseth was one of four Chasers in the Top 5 during this morning’s session. Fellow bubble inhabitants A.J. Allmendinger (10th on Chase Grid, +7 points), Denny Hamlin (13th, -6 points), and Kasey Kahne (11th, +6 points) were second, third and fifth-fastest respectively. Non-Chase competitor Clint Bowyer was fourth.

Jamie McMurray and another group of four Chasers – pole sitter Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chicagoland winner Keselowski, and Greg Biffle – completed Positions 6-10.

As for where the other Chasers ended up in the session, they go as follows: Carl Edwards in 11th, Johnson in 13th, Jeff Gordon in 14th, Ryan Newman in 15th, Kyle Busch in 16th, Aric Almirola in 18th, New Hampshire winner Joey Logano in 24th, and Kurt Busch in 27th.

Final practice for the Cup series will take place later this afternoon at 2 p.m. ET.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Dover – Saturday Morning Practice Times

Marvin Musquin’s Indy win may have come too late

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Marvin Musquin answered one question at Indianapolis last week, but the biggest one may well plague him for the next six weeks.

Musquin has won a battle, but can he win the war?

After standing on the podium in eight of the first 10 races, Musquin finally showed the field he was capable of winning in Indy when he grabbed the holeshot and led every lap on the way to Victory Lane. He was never seriously challenged and it was the Musquin that Supercross fans expected to see all season.

It was a long time coming. Musquin must have felt like victory was just around the corner after finishing second in the overall standings in Anaheim II’s Triple Crown race. He was third in the first Main that night and second in the last two Mains.

As it turned out, that single race defined his season until last week. Musquin stood on the podium all night, but he finished two spots behind Cooper Webb in the first Main and was one spot back in the second. It was only as time ran out that he was able to beat Webb by a single spot in the third Main. If Musquin had won either of the first two Mains, he would have had the overall victory – denying Webb his first career win in the process.

Webb’s Anaheim win revitalized the rider and gave him the confidence to rattle off four more wins in the next seven races.

Meanwhile, Musquin scored podium finishes in the next seven races, making him almost perfect. In another season, a record like that would have been enough to give him a comfortable points lead. In 2019, he sit 14 markers out of first, which is the points’ equivalent of the difference between first and 11th in one race. In other words, Webb cannot lose the points lead at Seattle unless he finishes outside the top 10 while his teammate wins.

Looking at the numbers another way the scenario is not quite as hopeless. Musquin needs to shave only 2.3 points off Webb’s lead each week to win the championship. Three points separate first and second. Five points differentiates first from third, which is where Webb finished in Indianapolis. Webb is vulnerable as his 10th-place finish at Glendale and an eighth at San Diego attest.

Those bobbles came early and Webb seems to have forgotten how to make a mistake.

A third-place is Webb’s worst finish in the last six weeks and since Anaheim II when Musquin started his impressive string of podium finishes, Webb has recorded an average finish of 2.2. That came with a worst finish of eighth on an extremely muddy and heavy track in San Diego. Musquin has a worst finish of only sixth, but his average of 2.8 still lags behind Webb.

Worse still, since Anaheim II Musquin has finished behind Webb in every race except for the outlier of San Diego.

It is no longer a question of keeping pressure on Webb. Musquin cannot expect his teammate to make a mistake; he has to find a way to pass him on the track. If Webb adds only two points to his lead at Seattle, Musquin’s fate would no longer be in his hands. He would need to gain 3.2 points per race. With that scenario, Webb could finish one spot behind Musquin every week and still win the championship.