Through five of the Chase’s 10 rounds, NASCAR Sprint Cup champions Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson have battled to a draw.
Kenseth opened the post season with a five-point advantage. His lead is four markers entering Sunday’s Talladega race. The difference is the Wisconsin driver’s Chase victories at Chicagoland and New Hampshire vs. Johnson’s win at Dover.
Johnson’s average Chase finish is 4.0 to Kenseth’s 4.6.
Both competitors are accomplished restrictor-plate competitors. Each is a two-time Daytona 500 winner – Johnson most recently in February. The five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion has won four plate races, two at Talladega.
Kenseth’s plate record is similar: Three wins including last fall’s Camping World RV Sales 500.
For the two rivals, it’s literally a tale of two seasons.
Kenseth, in his final campaign with Roush Fenway Racing in 2012, won the Daytona 500 and Talladega’s fall race. He finished third in his other two plate starts for a season average finish of 2.0. Johnson, however, failed to crack the top 15 in any plate race. His average finish was 32.5.
In 2013, Johnson has scored a season sweep of the Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. He finished fifth in Talladega’s spring race for a three-race average finish of 2.3. Kenseth meanwhile was 37th and 33rd at Daytona and eighth at Talladega.
Kenseth’s Talladega Driver Rating of 91.5 is the series’ best. Johnson’s rating of 83.1 ranks 10th.
And not to be overlooked, Kenseth has suffered only four DNFs at the 2.66-mile track in 27 races. Johnson has failed to finish eight times in 23 Talladega attempts.
“I’m hoping that we have the speed we had earlier this year at Talladega, because we led pretty much all day and I just ended up messing it up on that last green-white-checker,” said Kenseth. “We were leading on the last one and got beat – I just wasn’t in the right spot.”