The Chase is Halfway to Miami

Carl Edwards is All Smiles

Defending Ford 400 winner at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Carl Edwards, retained the Championship points lead after finishing third at Charlotte (photo courtesy: Jason Smith, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

Matt Kenseth won his only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title in 2003.

Now, eight years later, he’s finally back in the title hunt.

Kenseth won Saturday night’s race at Charlotte, passing Kyle Busch on a restart with 25 laps remaining, to grab his first victory of this year’s Chase.

It moved him two spots in the Championship standings to third, and he’s only seven points behind leader his Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards at the halfway point of the Chase. Edwards was a popular preseason pick to unseat five-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson this fall when NASCAR crowns a Champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

“It doesn’t really matter to me that much what everybody thinks,” Kenseth said. “We’re in it or out of it or whatever. What’s important to me is trying to win races and trying to be competitive and go do the best job we can do every week.

“If somebody wants to say I’m boring or whatever — I was hired to try to go win races and try to run good and that’s what I try to do every week.”

But the path to the championship, which will be decided at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20, may have become just a little clearer Saturday night. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Five-time defending series champion Johnson was in a hard accident that sent him spiraling in the standings.

He was running seventh with 17 laps remaining when contact with Ryan Newman sent him headfirst into the wall. Johnson finished 34th and dropped to eighth in the standings.

“That one stung for sure. Pretty big impact,” Johnson said.

Johnson, winner of last week’s race at Kansas, had started the race ranked third in points and only four points behind Edwards.

After notching his lowest Chase-race finish since he was 38th at Texas in 2009, he may now be wondering if another Championship is possible.

“This is not going to help us win a sixth championship,” he admitted.

Kyle Busch dominated the race only to come up short in his bid for his first win in a Chase race. Busch had to change his engine before the race and started last in the 43-car field. Although he was initially frustrated with his car, he rallied to lead a race-high 111 laps and finish second, his best showing so far in the Chase.

“We drove up through the field and we got in position to win the race ... just got out drove there by Kenseth there on the restart,” Busch said. “He just flat out drove right past me like I was standing still. The frustration is, again, we did not finish where we wanted to, which could have been a real win, a real highlight.

“The next frustration is we have yet to win a Chase race, and I’m sure I’ll be hearing about that for the next four years if I continue that.”

Edwards finished third, but leaned into Busch’s car after the race to discuss what Edwards felt was aggressive driving in the closing laps.

“We should definitely be racing each other hard. It’s just that there’s a difference between racing hard and then cutting across the guy’s nose,” Edwards said. “I just let him know that next time that happens, I’ll just stay where I’m at and he can drive across my hood and wreck himself.”

But there was no chance in this one turning into a feud as Busch quickly diffused the situation.

“There was no malicious intent involved to cause anything or to hurt his chances at finishing second or anything,” Busch said. “It was just a product of what we had at the end going for everything we could, and trying to come home second.”

Edwards seemed to buy the explanation and the two shared the dais in the post-race news conference without incident.

“He told me that he didn’t mean to do it, and so I got to believe that,” Edwards said.

Kurt Busch was 13th, his Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski finished 16th, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was 18th, Jeff Gordon was 21st and Johnson was the lowest finishing Chase driver.This year, Homestead-Miami Speedway will crown NASCAR’s Champions for the 10th consecutive year during Ford Championship weekend. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Round 6 of the Chase is Sunday at Talladega. This year, Homestead-Miami Speedway will crown NASCAR’s Champions for the 10th consecutive year during Ford Championship weekend. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 18-20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are on sale NOW. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

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