For Matt Kenseth, the third time was not the charm.
The 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion failed last Sunday to fashion a record, third consecutive victory to start the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ but finished seventh to maintain his championship lead.
Kenseth, who heads five-time champion Jimmie Johnson by eight points and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch by 12 markers gets a second shot at a “triple” in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway (2 p.m. ET, ESPN, Motor Racing Network Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio).
The Wisconsin veteran is the reigning winner of Kansas Speedway’s fall event and returned earlier this year to capture the STP 400. He won in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford in 2013, and in his current No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota this April.
Chase rivals looking for Kenseth to stumble in the nation’s heartland may have a long wait.
Kenseth has finished among the top five in four consecutive races and top 10 six straight times. He’s also led nine of the track’s most recent 11 races and owns a third-best Driver Rating of 110.0 trailing only Johnson and two-time Kansas winner Greg Biffle. He’s also won two Coors Light Poles.
Kenseth, Busch and the Gibbs organization have dominated the schedule’s intermediate tracks in 2013, the debut season for NASCAR’s Gen-6 race car. Their Toyota Camrys have won nine times on intermediate tracks with Kenseth visiting Victory Lane at Kansas, Chicagoland, Kentucky and Las Vegas; six of those came at tracks measuring 1.5 miles.
Beginning with Sunday’s race, four of the post season’s final seven events will be conducted on 1.5-mile tracks.
“We had probably one of the best cars I’ve ever driven at Kansas and in the spring we were able to turn that into a pole and a win,” said Kenseth. “Things change a lot though and going back this weekend, they’re bringing a different tire and we all have a test there on this Thursday.
“You always look forward to going back to tracks where you’ve had some good fortune and some success. Hopefully, we can get the car dialed in and have a good day again.”