Matt Kenseth found his way back to Victory Lane Saturday night after a great race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Obviously anytime you have a driver and a team that has won five races so far in 24 events in our regular season there is no way you cannot pick them as being the favorite for winning the championship.
To be fair, however, you can't ignore the fact that Matt has had a couple dismal months since his last win at Kentucky back at the end of June. We all know, other than maybe Dover, which is a full mile of concrete race track, Bristol really isn't a true measuring stick for how someone will be in the Chase.
You hear us say it over and over and over: Winning in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series is hard. So if nothing else, it gives the No. 20 team not only a lot of momentum with only two races to go before the start of the Chase, plus it gives them three more valuable bonus points for another win in the regular season once the Chase field is set.
What Matt has done this season truly is remarkable. He's obviously enjoying one of his best seasons, ever but the amazing thing is he has done it, as you know, with a new owner, manufacturer, crew chief, team and literally a new car. That's a lot of adjustments in only twenty-four events.
Next to winning the championship in 2003, which you have to call his best season ever in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, Matt is clearly on pace to have the most wins in a single season of his career.
Even though he and his team have four wins this season and even though he has led the points forever this season, you aren't seeing any momentum right now over at the No. 48 camp and driver Jimmie Johnson. They've given away some races this year whether it was Jimmie jumping a restart or the pit crew having issues on pit road, but Saturday night at Bristol was simply a case of them not running very well.
I mean the reality is they didn't run well from the moment they unloaded at Bristol. So am I saying just go ahead and write Jimmie off for the Chase?
You would be extremely foolish to do that. We know that ice water runs through the veins of Jimmie and crew chief Chad Knaus.
That car, as if by magic, seems to come alive with the Chase starts. Don't forget they were on track to rack up championship number six last year until the last two races of the Chase knocked them back. If that isn't enough evidence for you, then make a trip to Hendrick Motorsports and look at the five consecutive championship trophies that they have of Jimmie's on display.