MATT KENSETH EDGES KASEY KAHNE
Juan Pablo Montoya finished third at Bristol and for a fifth consecutive year, Homestead-Miami Speedway is partnering with the Montoya and wife Connie to create “Call Me Juan” (photo courtesy: Sean Gardner, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)
Matt Kenseth clinched a spot in the Chase with his fifth win of the season, holding off Kasey Kahne at Bristol. The race at Bristol marked the third time this season the two have gone 1-2.
"I think if you look at the beginning of the season, I think it was better than I ever could have dreamed of," Kenseth said. "We were qualifying up front every week; we were leading tons of laps in position to win races. Sitting here in August, it feels like the year has been two years long with all the different things we've had happen to our race team.
"The last month and a half, two months has been, I hate to say reality check because I hope this is reality all the time, but we've struggled just a little bit more, haven't quite had the speed. It's been a little bit more of a struggle."
Kahne trailed Kenseth for a dozen laps around Bristol, trying every way possible to pass him without wrecking him. Kenseth ended up with his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series-leading fifth win of the season, and Kahne settled for a disappointing second.
"I don't know," said Kahne. "I just ... I think at the end of the day, I just don't wreck people. I just didn't get it done and I'm upset with myself for not figuring out how to win."
It's the third time this season Kahne has finished second behind Kenseth, who wrapped up at least a wild-card berth in the Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins after Race 26. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.
For Kenseth the win, plus the bonus points for Chase seeding would be the top seed over five-time champion Jimmie Johnson when the Chase begins Sept. 15 at Chicago.
Kahne, meanwhile, is still hoping just to make it into the Chase. With two wins on the year he's in pretty good shape, but he's only eighth in the standings with two races remaining to set the 12-driver field. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.
After Kahne passed South Florida’s Juan Pablo Montoya for second, he set his sights on Kenseth and tried numerous times over the final dozen laps -- "It felt like 112," Kenseth said -- to make the pass, but never could make it stick.
Montoya, who learned two weeks ago he won't be brought back to Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates next season, was third. Although he could use a win, he said he was pleased with the result -- especially since he came back from an early speeding penalty.
"To be honest with you, where we are with the team and the result, it's pretty good," he said. "I'm still running until the end of the year with (sponsor) Target, and I want to make sure I can do the best for them."
For a fifth consecutive year, Homestead-Miami Speedway is partnering with the Montoya and wife Connie to create“Call Me Juan”— an exclusive meet-and-greet opportunity prior to the Nov. 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship race. The “Call Me Juan” package is on sale to the general public now for $142. Proceeds from the sale of each package benefit the Formula Smiles Foundation. If priced individually, the offer is valued at more than $200.
With two races remaining, at Atlanta and Richmond, to set the Chase field, only points leader Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Kenseth have locked up berths. The rest of the top 10 in points are Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Earnhardt, Kahne, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano.
The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins after Race 26. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.
Defending series champion Brad Keselowski is 11th, four points out of 10th and not in Chase contention because he's winless so far on the season. Keselowski admitted he's not breathing easy the next two weeks.
"If you're not in right now, I don't care if you're running eighth or you're running 13th, every team is worried and concerned -- not just mine," he said. "I'm not going to be out of the worried zone unless I make it or it's over. That's my job as a race car driver. I care about my team. We've got two races left. I think they'll be good race tracks for us."
Just two races remain until the field is set for the 10-race Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup begins.
Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Atlanta on Sunday, September 1 (1:00 p.m. EDT, ESPN, Sirius NASCAR Radio Channel 90)—Race 25 of 36 en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 15-17). The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins after Race 26. The Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.