Coming off of a win at Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Bojangles Southern 500, Matt Kenseth entered the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway with some serious momentum. That win at Darlington, the first of his Sprint Cup career there, made him the first driver this season to garner three trips to victory lane.
The speed and wins that Kenseth has had in his new ride at Joe Gibbs Racing have made him a favorite to be a serious contender in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. Though Kenseth is now a strong favorite, he is not the top prospect by any means as that undeniable prospect is to no one’s surprise five-time championship winner Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson has also come into this season swinging for the fences and has driven away with a huge points standings lead. Immediately out of the gates Johnson won the Daytona 500 where Kenseth was dominant all race long before suffering an engine failure (engine failures have become an almost common occurrence for Toyota R&D). The veteran driver then won again at Martinsville. Along with those solid finishes, Johnson had cultivated a lead of a race’s worth of points over second place Carl Edwards, but then this weekend at Charlotte happened.
In NASCAR’s marathon race of the year the Coca-Cola 600, both Kenseth and Johnson had disappointing finishes. Matt Kenseth had a dominant car and led more than 100 laps of the race, yet a bad pit strategy call, that kept him out while the rest of the field went down pit road, screwed his night up leading to a lackluster finish of 15th.
On the other hand, points leader Johnson wasn’t too strong all day and was never really in contention for the lead. He then spun out and went multiple laps down which really put an end to the potential for another strong finish at Charlotte following his repeat All-Star victory.
This weekend marked a week off from the shootout between these two frontrunners for the title at this point in the season. Johnson will not keep these types of performances up if he wants to keep his spot at the top, and Kenseth will be back looking for a win at Dover this weekend.