NASCAR

Kenseth, Ratcliff quiet contenders

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Larry McReynolds

Larry McReynolds has more than 30 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, Daytona 500-winning crew chief and broadcaster. He earned 23 Sprint Cup wins as a crew chief, including two victories in the prestigious Daytona 500, as well as a pair of non-points victories in the annual all-star race. Follow him on Twitter.

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What an incredible high Joe Gibbs Racing must be on right now, huh? Just like last week, their two Chase cars finished first and second at Loudon. We went into this year’s Chase clearly not having a dominant car. Now Matt Kenseth is the driver to beat for the championship, or as some are saying, it’s his championship to lose.

What has to be really scary for the competition, let alone the fact that Matt has now won seven of our 28 events, but more so the fact that with only eight races left in the Chase, half of them will be at mile-and-a-half tracks. Those size tracks are Matt’s bread and butter. You heard us say going into the Chase that in his long career, Matt has never won more than five races in a season and here he is sitting on seven with eight races left. That’s pretty darn incredible. He’s also far exceeded the number of laps he’s ever led in a season and that also is with eight races to go.

I think it speaks volumes about Matt that he is quick to give credit to both teammates, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin for helping him improve his racing at some of these tracks that historically aren’t ones he is good at.

This past weekend is a perfect example. In his 27 starts at Loudon, N.H., he was only able to get five top-five finishes. Now with his new team and teammates, he comes home the winner.

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So right now, with the momentum they have going, I don’t think you can find a track that he is weak at in the Chase. It still is amazing how he and new crew chief Jason Ratcliff have come together in such a short period of time and look, here they are in their first season together possibly staring a championship in the face. Both guys have very similar personalities. They are both very low-key. They are never both up in the middle of anything. They are just head down and doing their deal.

It’s hard to believe you can win seven races and be below the radar, but to a certain degree they still are. I’ll just say, if these two can keep their head down like this for eight more weeks, when they look up, they will be sitting at the head table in Las Vegas as our 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup champions.  

Tagged: Matt Kenseth

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