LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Matt Kenseth was NASCAR's biggest winner in 2013, a dominant run that thrust him into contention for his second championship.
He came up just short. Seven wins, no title. Small consolation.
Kenseth's first year with Joe Gibbs Racing was a smashing success except for winning a championship to bookend with the one he has from 2003. Kenseth found the hard way that wins are nice, but winning it all matters more.
Headed into Sunday's race at Pocono Raceway, Kenseth is atop the points standings but the only driver in the top nine without at least one checkered flag.
NASCAR revamped the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format this year to add great significance to winning a race in the first 26 before the cutoff. Kenseth would be a lock for the field with a victory. Without one, Kenseth might have to hope he keeps his points lead: The regular-season leader earns a spot even with a winless season.
Kenseth has won 13 races the last three years and it seems inevitable he'll find his way in Victory Lane soon enough. He has never won at Pocono, but has two career wins at next week's track (Michigan) and he's won three times at Bristol (Aug. 23). He'd surrender the lead for taking the No. 20 Toyota for a spin in Victory Lane soon.
"You'd rather have a win at this time of year than be the points leader," he said. "It's definitely different. We knew it was a radical change, but you're sitting here because you're the points leader but you open up the paper and they don't have you in the top-10. It's a little bit confusing at times. So yeah, hopefully we can get a win."
Kenseth joins the rest of the field in trying to race his way past Jimmie Johnson. The six-time champion is coming off back-to-back victories in the Coca-Cola 600 and at Dover International Speedway and will try to win three straight for the first time since 2007.
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