Bristol: four spots left in the Chase with three races to go
08/22/2014 1:23 PM
08/22/2014 4:05 PM
Right now, Matt Kenseth is the highest-ranked driver in points (fifth) without a win this season. Kenseth sits 13th on the provisional "NASCAR Chase Grid."
Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle are 9th-11th, respectively, in points, and they are 14th-16th on the grid in that order.
The Sprint Cup Series is running at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night. After Bristol, the series heads to Atlanta (Aug. 31) before the regular season concludes at Richmond (Sept. 6).
Surprisingly, Kenseth has not scored a victory in 2014 after winning the most races in the series last year with seven.
"We want to win, and we've been doing the best that we can do every week," Kenseth said. "Obviously with the season that we had last year, I didn't think we would be sitting here at the end of August without a win, for sure."
Kenseth has won a Sprint Cup race at Bristol three times, including a victory in the night race here one year ago. He finished 13th at this track in March.
"I enjoy coming to Bristol, and the last few races here, we've had really fast cars," he said. "We were fortunate enough to win one of them but wrecked in others. So I'm hoping this is our turn to win one. I like racing here. It's always really challenging, really fast with these cars."
Jeff Gordon earned his third victory of the season last weekend at Michigan, which guaranteed that at least one winless driver will qualify for the Chase. Kenseth presently holds a 30-point advantage over Newman, the next highest- ranked winless driver.
But Kenseth has had his share of misfortunes lately, finishing 38th in two of the last three races. Kenseth was involved in a 13-car crash in the late going at Pocono, and at Michigan, he was caught up in an early-race multi-car wreck that was triggered by Danica Patrick.
"We've just been caught up in a lot of stuff," Kenseth said. "Last week, the 10 car [Patrick] spun out in front of us and got caught up in that wreck. Just been caught up in a lot of stuff that has really cost us a lot of good finishes. Even though they're not all DNFs on the stat sheet, there's a lot of races that we weren't running competitively at the end because we've been in an accident.
"So to still be where we are in points, I guess, is a good thing, especially with all of the trouble that we've had. But certainly we want to win."
Kenseth's most recent victory in the series occurred last September at New Hampshire.
In last year's night race at Bristol, Kenseth and Kasey Kahne waged one of the memorable battles from the 2013 season. Both drivers fought each other hard for the lead in the closing laps, running side-by-side multiple times. But Kenseth ended up beating Kahne to the finish line by just 0.2 seconds.
Kahne won at Bristol for the first time in March 2013. He finished eighth here earlier this year.
"Every time we race at Bristol, I look forward to it." Kahne said. "We've ran really well there for a while now."
Kahne is currently 17th on the Chase grid but trails Biffle by just nine points. Kahne has not won a Sprint Cup race since August '13 at Pocono.
Rookie drivers Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson are 18th and 19th on the Chase grid. Dillon is 22 points behind Biffle, while Larson trails by 24. Marcos Ambrose sits 20th on the grid (-44).
Forty-three teams are on the entry list for the IRWIN Tools Night Race.
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Saturday, Aug. 23. Race: IRWIN Tools Night Race. Site: Bristol Motor Speedway. Track: 0.533-mile oval. Start time: 7:30 p.m. ET. Laps: 500. Miles: 266.5. 2013 Winner: Matt Kenseth. Television: ABC. Radio: Performance Racing Network (PRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.
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