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Matt Kenseth optimistic for Dover Sprint Cup race

Matt Kenseth has 19 top-10 Sprint Cup finishes at Dover, site of today’s race; that’s his most at any track.

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Matt Kenseth has 19 top-10 Sprint Cup finishes at Dover, site of today’s race; that’s his most at any track.

It took a stop at a track at which Jimmie Johnson has enjoyed a great deal of success in his career to earn his first victory of the 2014 season.

Is Matt Kenseth up next?

Johnson's victory last week in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway gave him a record seven victories at the track.

Kenseth, who led the NASCAR Sprint Cup series with seven wins last season, is winless this season. But today he too can end a drought at a track where he has found much success, Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

"It is one of those tracks that is not only challenging to race other cars and figure out how to pass them, but it always challenges you every single lap, even when you are by yourself," Kenseth said.

"It is one of those tracks you can't let your guard down."

Dover was the site of Kenseth's first Cup start in 1998 when he finished sixth as a last-minute substitute driver for Bill Elliott, whose father, George, died that week.

In fact, Kenseth was so last-minute he had no fire suit matching Elliott's McDonald's-sponsored car.

Kenseth borrowed a suit from one of Elliott's crewmen, and his finish was the best for a driver in his debut in NASCAR's top series since 1980, when Rusty Wallace finished second in his first race at Atlanta.

And Dover has been kind to Kenseth ever since.

He has two victories at the track and 19 top-10 finishes in 30 starts, more than any other track. In his previous 12 races at the 1-mile concrete oval, Kenseth has finished seventh or better nine times.

Kenseth was in the running to win the 600 but ended up finishing a season-best third.

"I feel like we're gaining on it," he said. "I thought all things being equal and nobody having trouble (at Charlotte) that we had at least a fifth-place car — so we're gaining on it.

"Typically, (Charlotte) has been one of our best places, and I was hoping we were going to be able to sneak up on a win there. We are just a little bit off and just need to get it a little better somehow."

Perhaps the next step for Kenseth's No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team will come in today's FedEx 400.

"I know that Dover is a track that Matt is quite fond of, and it's one of my most favorite tracks on the circuit other than Darlington," said Kenseth's crew chief, Jason Ratcliff. "I just like Dover because it's unique and it reminds me of a Bristol on steroids. Things that apply at the 11/2-mile tracks kind of apply at Dover, but then you also have to throw some short-track characteristics into your car as well. It's fast, it's fun and it's different."

. fast facts

Sprint Cup points

After 12 of 26 races. Sixteen drivers will make the season-ending Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Jeff Gordon* 432—

Matt Kenseth 421 11

Kyle Busch* 408 24

Carl Edwards* 408 24

D. Earnhardt Jr.* 394 38

J. Johnson* 388 44

Joey Logano** 378 54

Brian Vickers 365 67

Brad Keselowski* 361 71

Ryan Newman 361 71

Greg Biffle 351 81

Kevin Harvick** 345 87

* Has a win.

** Has two wins.

Today's race

FedEx 400, 1 p.m., Dover (Del.) International Speedway TV/radio: Ch. 13, 102.5-FM

Matt Kenseth optimistic for Dover Sprint Cup race 05/31/14 [Last modified: Saturday, May 31, 2014 9:31pm]

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