Chase for the Sprint Cup: Week 9

Posted Saturday, Nov. 09, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Like last year, Jimmie Johnson takes a seven-point lead into the final two races of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. This year, he has to hold off one of the most experienced veterans in the sport — Matt Kenseth and the powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing garage. Last year, he couldn’t hold off Brad Keselowski and Penske Racing, which together won their first championships. “I’ve found a lot of peace in expecting the best out of a championship contender, and that’s the way it’s been this year and every year, to be honest with you,” Johnson said. “I felt like last year, there could have been an opportunity to put pressure on Brad and his team. … We just didn’t do our job.” Tire and engine problems sunk Johnson’s chances. But with five titles, he has closed the deal on championships more often than not. Kenseth is going for his second crown. “I do feel driver and team competing for their first is dealing with stress and pressure that someone that’s racing for their second, third, fourth just don’t have,” Johnson said. “And I only know that from my own experience. My first was far more stressful than anything I’ve done in my life.”

Stock Up

Dale Earnhardt Jr. put up a runner-up finish for the second time in three races last week and for the third time in the Chase. Since his 35th-place finish in the Chase opener at Chicago, he has averaged a 6.1 finish.

Stock down

Kurt Busch had his sights set on finishing in the top half of the Chase. That hope is gone. He has been 14th, 18th, 18th and 17th in the past four races, dropping from seventh in the standings to 10th.

Notable

Johnson vs. Kenseth: Johnson has a big edge stat-wise. He has won four times at Phoenix to Kenseth’s one. Johnson has a 6.5 average finish to Kenseth’s 17.2. Kenseth hasn’t been top-5 at Phoenix in six years.

Logano rise: Joey Logano’s third-place finish at TMS last week moved him to ninth in the standings, the highest he has been since engine failure at Chicago saddled him with a 37th-place finish.

Qualifying: Most of the winners at Phoenix come from the first two rows. Eighteen of the last 23 winners started there. The last two winners, Joey Logano and Kyle Busch, started on the pole.

Quotable

“Matt is just one of those drivers where he’s really good at a lot of tracks. So you give him the right car and team, this is a guy that can be a major threat for the championship every single year.” — Jeff Gordon on Matt Kenseth

More on the Chase to the Cup

Chase standings

Pos. DriverChase winsSeason winsPtsLast week
1. Jimmie Johnson262,3421
2. Matt Kenseth272,3351
3. Kevin Harvick132,3024
4. Kyle Busch042,2905
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.002,2807
6. Clint Bowyer002,2736
7. Jeff Gordon112,2733
8. Greg Biffle012,2698
9. Joey Logano012,25111
10. Kurt Busch002,2469
11. Carl Edwards022,22610
12. Ryan Newman012,22412
13. Kasey Kahne022,20913

Results, Schedule

RaceWinner
ChicagoMatt Kenseth
New HampshireMatt Kenseth
DoverJimmie Johnson
KansasKevin Harvick
CharlotteBrad Keselowski-x
TalladegaJamie McMurray-x
MartinsvilleJeff Gordon
TMSJimmie Johnson
DateSiteTime, TV
TodayPhoenix2 p.m., ESPN
Nov. 17Homestead-Miami2 p.m., ESPN

x: non-Chase drivers

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