MATT KENSETH, Roush Fenway RacingPoints position: 9th2010 season: 0 wins, 5 top-fives, 10 top-10sDefining moment: Runner-up, spring Atlanta race.
If there’s a theme to this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, it’s that anyone can win it, that no one has emerged as the odds-on favorite to capture the 2010 crown.
Sprint Cup Chase Driver Bios
That said, one of the real dark horses who at the moment seems highly unlikely to win it all is 2003 Sprint Cup champion Matt Kenseth of Roush Fenway Racing. Kenseth’s season started out well enough: In the first five races of the year, he never finished worse than eighth place and was second in points.
PHOTOS: 2010 Chase Contenders - Matt Kenseth
But once NASCAR switched from the rear spoiler to the wing, Kenseth’s results nose-dived. In the last 20 races, he has just five top-10 finishes: sixth at Phoenix, third at Dover, 10th at Charlotte, fifth at Michigan and 10th at Bristol.
Kenseth has not led a single lap of any Sprint Cup race since the first Michigan race on June 13 and has led just 35 all year. The most curious aspect of Kenseth’s season is that, unlike teammates Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle, he has not benefitted by the addition of the new Ford FR9 engine, or setups from fellow Ford team Richard Petty Motorsports.
What Kenseth brings to the game is consistency: In the 25 Sprint Cup races run to date, he has finished anywhere from 10th to 18th in 14 of those races. Kenseth has completed more laps than any other Cup driver this year, having run all but seven of the 7,276 laps contested in the series so far this year.
But will consistency be enough to win a championship? Probably not, unless Kenseth can consistently earn top-five and top-10 finishes in the Chase, instead of the top-15s he’s been scoring in the regular season.
For what it’s worth, Kenseth doesn’t seen too terribly alarmed about not having much momentum as he heads into the Chase.
“I’ve been on both ends of it and I’m not sure that it matters that much,” he said. “It’s really what you do when you get to New Hampshire all the way through Homestead. You always want to run good every week. The better you run, the better mood everybody is in and the more upbeat everybody is, so you always want to put together good runs and try to keep that momentum going.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.