Matt Kenseth came into Chicagoland Speedway as the top seed in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, and remains with the top spot after tonight victory for the 13th Annual Geico 400. Kenseth marks a career high sixth win in a single season and 30 NASCAR Sprint Cup victories throughout his career.
Kenseth leads the point standings by 8 points over fellow Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. Kenseth optimized his points by leading the most laps 89 laps out of 267 and gaining the win. Between Kyle Busch and Kenseth, the JGR Toyotas, led over half of the race with 67 and 89 laps respectively. The other JGR Toyota of Denny Hamlin had an engine problem late in the race at lap 247, a mere 20 laps from the finish.
Matt Kenseth took the lead from Kyle Busch with 22 laps remaining during the final restart at Chicagoland.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get Kyle, but I’m glad I was able to get it out front,” Kenseth said in victory lane. “I thought with the conditions tonight, we were going to be off a little bit. We had a really good test here last week and Kevin (Harvick) gave me a great push too.”
Kenseth is no stranger to rain delay race victories, with the Geico 400 starting an hour and 20 minutes late due to rain and after the first 109 lap the rain returned to the track causing red-flag conditions for five hours and 10 minutes. The race ended shortly after midnight eastern time Monday. Kenseth won the 2012 season opener after the Daytona 500 was plagued by rain all day Sunday, which pushed the event to Monday afternoon, then further delayed into primetime, after a little over two hour red flag Kenseth drove his car to victory in a race that ended in the early morning hours.
In a surprising fact the two past winners at Chicagoland went on to win the Sprint Cup Championship title, Tony Stewart in 2011 and Brad Keselowski in 2012.
Kyle Busch finished second, 0.749 second behind Kenseth. Busch was going for the weekend sweep after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday, the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday.
“We had a great car tonight,” Kyle Busch said. “Kurt (Busch) didn’t get a good enough restart to get with me and push me forward. I thought I had enough to stay alongside of him (Kenseth) through one and two to be alongside of him (Kenseth) down the back, but the 29 (Harvick) pushed the 20 (Kenseth) by me before I got to turn one, that was our race…It’s a great night for Joe Gibbs Racing to start the Chase like this.”
Busch was followed by Harvick finishing 3rd, with Kurt Busch in 4th with Jimmie Johnson finishing in 5th, filling the top five positions with championship contenders.
Jeff Gordon, who was added to the Chase in an unprecedented 13th driver this past Friday, September 13, after the impropriety with one team adding demands to their drivers during last week’s final regular season race at Richmond International Raceway, finished 6th after rebounded from a flat tire that left him a lap down late in the race after the rain delay.
“Man, that was so much fun,” Gordon said. “To think how far down we were with 40 laps, to be able to come up through there and get sixth, that’s what we needed to get this Chase started out right.”
Next weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup series is going to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Sylvania 300 in Loudon. The race will be televised on ESPN with coverage starting at 2:00 pm eastern time.