NASCAR Driver Capsules, Sept. 26
Capsules for all drivers competing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Matt Kenseth remains atop the Sprint Cup standings after the first two races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He leads teammate Kyle Busch by 14 points and former points leader Jimmie Johnson by 18 points.
DOVER RECORD: 29 career starts, 2 wins, 13 top-fives, 18 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2006 and spring 2011. Finished 35th in this race last year and was 40th in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth has won the first two races in the Chase, but heads to a track that he has suffered two of his worst career finishes at in his last two starts at Dover (he also has five career DNFs there). Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "My outlook is really not any different, honestly. I know it's kind of cliche, but it really is one week at a time - especially right now. If you get down toward the end and you're lucky enough to have a lead or something, maybe you start looking at that more or thinking about it more, but man, two whole months and eight weeks of racing is a lot of racing, and in this system, one bad finish and you're behind."
LOOKING BACK: Kenseth continued his outstanding performances of late, winning his second straight race to begin this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup. He goes for three in a row this Sunday at Dover.
ETC.: Kenseth has completed 95.3 percent (11,054) of the 11,604 total laps contested in 29 career starts at Dover. His average start is 15.7, while his average finish is 13.6. He has five DNFs there.
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Kyle Busch remained in second place for the second straight week after again finishing runner-up to Matt Kenseth at both Chicago and New Hampshire. Busch trails Kenseth by 14 points and is four points ahead of third-place Jimmie Johnson.
DOVER RECORD: 17 career starts, 2 wins, 8 top-fives, 11 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2008 and spring 2010. Finished seventh in this race last year and was fourth in this year's spring race.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch is a paradox of sorts. He's glad he's finished so high I the first two races of the Chase (both runner-up finishes), but also is frustrated that he hasn't been able to get a win in the Chase thus far. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "I don't think you do anything differently than you've done all year long. I think the organization (Joe Gibbs Racing) is going to give the equipment to the both of us. I don't think any one of us is going to get better stuff. It's just going to come down to better communication between myself and the crew chief in that way because those are certainly the ways that you win these things -- that's how you build speed is getting your car better all through the weekend. But, if you can unload and just hit it and be on it and get going, then that's a better way to win each weekend. It doesn't matter if it's your teammate or anybody else. You've still got to work hard and persevere. It's eight more weeks."
LOOKING BACK: Once again, Busch tried as hard as he could, but just couldn't catch teammate Matt Kenseth in the closing laps at New Hampshire, ultimately finishing second for the second straight race.
ETC.: Busch's overall record at Dover is one of his worst. He's completed just 88.6 percent (6,026) of the 6,804 total laps contested in 17 career starts at Dover. His average start is 11.8, while his average finish is 13.3. He has three DNFs there.
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson remained in third place for the second straight week after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Matt Kenseth by 18 points, is four points behind second-ranked Kyle Busch and leads fourth-ranked Carl Edwards by 18 points.
DOVER RECORD: 23 career starts, 7 wins, 11 top-5s, 16 top-10s, 3 poles. Best career finish: First in spring and fall 2002, fall 2005, spring and fall 2009, fall 2010 and spring 2012. Finished fourth in this race last year and was 17th in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson is tied for the most wins by a driver career-wise at Dover with seven. He's still looking for his first win in this year's Chase, but overall has been very consistent in the first two races. Here's his thoughts heading into Dover: "To open (the Chase) with a five-four (finishing positions) is great. One-one, like Matt (Kenseth) has, is a lot better, but we're in a good spot. We haven't given up too many points, and we're going to one of my best racetracks in Dover. So, I certainly hope to have this Lowe's Chevrolet in victory lane up there."
LOOKING BACK: Johnson stayed within striking distance of points leader Matt Kenseth by finishing fourth at New Hampshire (after finishing fifth the week before in the Chase opener at Chicagoland).
ETC.: Johnson has completed 98.0 percent (9,018) of the 9,204 total laps contested in 23 career starts at Dover. His average start there is 10.3 and his average finish is an outstanding 9.0. He has two DNFs there.
99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards climbed one position, from fifth to fourth, in the Chase standings after New Hampshire. He trails series leader Matt Kenseth by 36 points, is 18 points behind third-ranked Jimmie Johnson and leads fifth-ranked and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle by two points.
DOVER RECORD: 18 career starts, 1 wins, 8 top-fives, 12 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2007. Was fifth in this race last year and 14th in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards has had a good start to the Chase and remains within striking distance of the three drivers ranked ahead of him. However, he needs to start closing the gap, especially on points leader Matt Kenseth, as the remaining eight races of the Chase unfold. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "We've had a pretty solid start to our Chase and we are hoping for great things at Dover. We've had a lot of success there as a team. Our group has worked very hard and we feel like both Greg and I made a pretty big breakthrough last week at New Hampshire with the way we ran there. This is grueling track, it's a tough place, it's very fast, it's hard on equipment, it's hard on the driver and hopefully we can run as well as we have historically here. We'd love to get in victory lane and close that gap on Matt Kenseth and those guys in the top three positions; they've done a great job so far. Eight races to go, a lot of racing left."
LOOKING BACK: Edwards tried to keep pace with Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch at New Hampshire, but just didn't have quite the car to do so, ultimately finishing ninth.
ETC.: Edwards has completed 98.8 percent (7,117) of 7,204 total laps contested in 18 career starts at Dover. His average start is 15.2 and average finish is an outstanding 8.6. He has zero DNFs there.
16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Greg Biffle had the biggest jump upward in the standings of any driver after New Hampshire, climbing from 11th to fifth. He trails points leader Matt Kenseth by 38 points, is two points behind fourth-ranked and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards, and leads sixth-ranked Kevin Harvick by one point.
DOVER RECORD: 22 career starts, 2 wins, 6 top-fives, 10 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2005 and fall 2008. Was 16th in this race last year and 15th in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle made it very clear at New Hampshire that he intends to be a major player in how the Chase plays out. Here's his thoughts coming into Dover: "Dover is a track the Roush Fenway cars have run well at and a place I've had some success at. As a driver, you have to be on your toes at Dover. We're running a lot better on these short tracks and coming off a third-place finish last week, I think we are going to be really good at Dover this weekend."
LOOKING BACK: Although he didn't lead any laps, Biffle had one of his strongest runs of the season at New Hampshire, finishing third.
ETC.: Biffle has completed 99.3 percent (8,745) of 8,804 total laps contested in 22 career starts at Dover. His average start is a strong 12.0 and average finish is an also strong 12.5. He has one DNF there.
29 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet
Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Kevin Harvick dropped two spots in the standings after New Hampshire, going from fourth to sixth. He trails points leader Matt Kenseth by 39 points (after being just 15 points back heading into New Hampshire), is one point behind fifth-ranked Greg Biffle and leads seventh-ranked Kurt Busch by just one point.
DOVER RECORD: 25 career starts, 0 wins, 3 top-fives, 11 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in spring 2012. Was 13th in this race last year and eighth in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Although he has a runner-up, third- and fourth-place finish there, Harvick has never won at Dover in his Sprint Cup career. He's looking to change that Sunday. Here's his thoughts on Dover: "I don't remember much of what happened during the race at Dover back in June. I'm a one week at a time, keep it current kind of guy. I don't like to think back on the past. But Dover is always a fun track to go to. You can be very aggressive in your driving style there compared to most other places. We'll go there this weekend and run as hard as we can just like we do every other weekend."
LOOKING BACK: After finishing third in the Chase opener at Chicagoland, Harvick struggled to a 20th-place finish at New Hampshire.
ETC.: Harvick has completed 98.6 percent (9,861) of the 10,004 total laps contested in 25 career starts at Dover. His average start is 19.7 and average finish is 15.6. He has one DNF there.
78 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet
Team: Furniture Row Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After climbing from a six-way tie for eighth into fifth after the Chase opener at Chicagoland, Kurt Busch dropped back two spots to seventh after New Hampshire. He trails series leader Matt Kenseth by 40 points, is one point behind sixth-ranked Kevin Harvick and is two points ahead of eighth-ranked Jeff Gordon.
DOVER RECORD: 26 career starts, 1 wins, 6 top-fives, 8 top-10s and 0 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2011. Finished 23rd in this race last year and was 12th in this year's spring race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Busch has had some rough sledding at Dover over the last few races. He's looking for a bounce back this Sunday, particularly not wanting to fall further back in the standings. Here's his thoughts on Dover: "We know what we have to do there. It's a matter of execution and making the right strategy decisions as the race unfolds. We're coming off a so-so race at New Hampshire and feel we need to pick up the pace and show more muscle. There's still a long ways to go in this Chase. Avoiding trouble and mechanical issues in the next eight races are vital if you want to be a contender."
LOOKING BACK: Busch fought an ill-handling car much of the race at New Hampshire, ultimately finishing 13th.
ETC.: Busch has completed 93.1 percent (9,682) of the 10,404 total laps contested in 26 career starts at Dover. His average start is 11.2, while his average finish is a significantly worse 18.1. He also has a career-high (for a single track) six DNFs there.
24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 8th, 42 points out of first place. Lost one spot last week.
DOVER RECORD: Finished third in the June race after a runner-up finish last September. Has four wins and 23 top-10 finishes including 16 top-five's in 41 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: After two top-three finishes in the last two Dover races, Gordon can't wait to get to the high-speed facility. "I enjoy racing there because of the high speeds and the high-banked corners and the high-banked straightaways," said Gordon. "But you are constantly on edge and you can find yourself in trouble quickly - whether it be by yourself or in a group of cars. It seems like the groove can widen out there where we can run low, middle or high. You may have to search for a line or a groove that works best for your car. Another tricky aspect is the balance of the car can be different from one end of the track to the other."
LOOKING BACK: Gordon was leading the race when he headed for pit road during the fifth caution flag of the day. But he carried too much speed into his pit stall and slid over the line by maybe an inch or two. But it was enough for the NASCAR official to tell the team they needed to back up. The pit crew had to stop what it was doing, drop the jack and push the car back a few inches. But the time Gordon left his pit, he had fallen to 22nd place. He was only able to rally a few spots as he ended the day in 15th place. "Highly disappointed in myself," said a dejected Gordon. "I'll be disappointed until we get to Dover (for the next race). My car was a really good race car, but it wasn't a good passing car. We needed good track position and we had it until I messed up."
ETC.: Gordon knows his chances of winning a fifth championship took a real hit at Loudon. "For us, we have to be realistic and look at our points position (eighth, 42 points back with only eight races to go)," said Gordon. "Right now, we're not that far out of fourth (six points) and that's a realistic goal for us. Anything is possible. If we go on a tear, who knows? We're higher in the points that we were when we started this thing (13th). But..."
39 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 9th, 47 points out of first place. Lost one spot last week.
DOVER RECORD: Three wins and 11 top-10 finishes in 23 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Newman calls Dover a "miniature Talladega, of sorts, because the speeds are so fast. It's narrow, it does cleanse itself to bottom. It's a timing event depending on where the crash happens. If it's in the middle of the back straightaway or going into the corner, everybody is going to wash back up across the race track and then come back across it in front of your nose, typically. We've seen 20-car pileups there into turn three. We've seen cars upside-down and some unexpected things in the past few years."
LOOKING BACK: After winning the pole position, the 51st of his career, Newman had visions of duplicating his July 2011 Loudon weekend when he followed his pole-winning run with a dominating victory. But instead he battled an ill-handling race car all afternoon as he finished a disappointing 16th. "I don't understand what happened with the car," said Newman. "It just never drove the same after we won the pole on Friday afternoon. Even in practice on Saturday. It just wasn't the day we expected."
ETC.: Newman calls Dover "pretty physically tough. It's not as physical as the road courses - I think they are the most physically demanding - but with the banking and 400 laps, you're just constantly maneuvering the race car. You get just a short distance on the straightaways to take a quick breath and get ready to go back at it in the next corner."
15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 10th, 48 points out of first place. Lost one spot last week.
DOVER RECORD: Will be seeking his sixth straight top-nine finish.
LOOKING AHEAD: Bowyer hopes this is the week that he gets back on track in his bid to challenge for the championship. "Dover has been a really good track for us," said Bowyer. "We need a real good week to get back in the hunt, and Dover can be that place for us. There is still plenty of time left. We just need to start making some noise."
LOOKING BACK: Problems on pit road and an ill-timed caution flag left Bowyer in 17th place at the end of the day. "We stubbed out toe a little today," said Bowyer, who had expected to run up front all afternoon. "We just had a hard time in traffic and couldn't get through the corner like we would have liked. We gambled on track position and I thought we'd be fine, but that caution flag right after our pit stop killed us. It was a tough day overall for the team, but we aren't done yet. There is still some time in this deal and we plan to make some noise before it's over."
ETC.: Michael Waltrip continues to say "Clint did not spin on purpose (at Richmond). I stand behind him. We made some mistakes during the course of those final laps. We're sorry for that. We apologize to the fans. We totally understand their concerns. We will race ahead with much dignity and respect as humanely possible. No matter what happens in life or in sport, you learn from it. You become stronger, you become better. I think our organization has learned a great deal about going forward and being a strong team. I look forward to watching us grow from this unfortunate incident."
88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, 62 points out of first place. Gained two spots last week.
DOVER RECORD: One win and nine top-10 finishes in 27 starts including a tenth in the June race.
LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt's goals for the rest of the season are pretty simple - win a race or two. "If we can win a couple races, no matter what happens in the championship that will improve the results of our season and give us a lot to be happy about. It would be great to go ahead and go to Dover and get that done. I thought we were pretty aggressive last weekend trying to get ourselves in position to win. It's good to be able to look back on Sunday and feel like we had potential. If we can be as aggressive as we were this past Sunday on pit strategy and many different things, just going after the set-up of the car and working real hard on Saturday trying to prepare the car for the race, I think we can put ourselves in position (for a win) more often with just a few races left."
LOOKING BACK: An early miscue on pit stop dropped Earnhardt to 36th in the running order. But he was able to rebound to finish sixth at Loudon. "I'm glad we were able to get a decent finish out of it," said Earnhardt. "I'm glad we had a fast enough car to be able to rally. The car was faster than heck (in the final practice session), one of the top three cars. I just want to win one. I'm trying hard."
ETC.: Earnhardt admits that his problems at Chicagoland Speedway in the opening race of the Chase for the Championship "still stings pretty good. If we had won today (at Loudon), it might have helped a little bit. We dug a pretty deep hole. When Matt (Kenseth) and the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the 18 (Kyle Busch) are running like they are, we are not going to catch them running sixth. So we have to do better."
22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 69 points out of first place.
DOVER RECORD: Will be shooting for his fourth straight top-10 finish. Has won three consecutive Nationwide Series races.
LOOKING AHEAD: Logano is not ready to give up in his bid to win the 2013 championship. "It's going to be tough for sure," said Logano. "The way the 20 team (Matt Kenseth) has been running and the fact that we got in a big hole with our engine issues in Chicago put us behind, but that doesn't mean we can't still do it. All it takes is for a couple of guys to have a bad race here or there and you are right back in the hunt. We need to just run our race and let everything else take care of itself."
LOOKING BACK: Logano finished 14th at Loudon. "This is Loudon for me," said Logano. "It was nothing different. It's just such a tricky race track to get around. At times we had a top-seven or eighth-place car, and I think we did even at the end of the race. But I didn't have as good of a last restart as I needed. You had to be in the right lane on that last restart and we probably could have finished in the top 10 today. But it's just so hard to pass. It is the hardest race track in the world to pass on. It's the most frustrating place I think I've ever been to, so I'm just glad to leave."
ETC.: Logano calls Dover one of his favorite tracks. "It would be very high on my list," said Logano. "It's just a track I feel like I can get around well. I love the speed and the sensation of the banking. It's really cool to just run around there, especially in qualifying trim. I'm excited to go back with a race in the books between me and Todd (Gordon, crew chief). I think we are going to be really fast this weekend."
5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 71 points out of first place. Lost three spots last week.
DOVER RECORD: Five top-10 finishes in 19 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne said, "I feel like we are out of that part of it, the championship, but there's so many good tracks in the Chase for us coming up. I feel like we can still come back and get in the top 10, and maybe even better than that. As much as I love giving speeches, I want to be part of Las Vegas. I owe it to my guys." Only the top 10 make the stage at the annual Sprint Cup Awards banquet held each December in Las Vegas.
LOOKING BACK: Kahne had high, hopes for the 300-lap event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after qualifying second and being one of the fastest cars in every practice session. And he quickly showed how fast his car was by taking the lead on the third lap and leading the next 29 laps. But his visions of challenging for the win ended suddenly on lap 253 when his car got loose while battling Brian Vickers for eighth place and spun hard into the inside wall. "I don't know what happened," said a stunned Kahne, who ended up 37th to all but end his championship aspirations. "I don't know what happened."
ETC.: Kahne was surprised by the reaction to his interview with ESPN's Jerry Punch after his wreck at Loudon. "I couldn't hear what he was saying," said Kahne. "I knew he asked what had happened. At that point, I didn't know exactly what had happened. I knew we were three wide going into turn three. Did we have a little contact, and that's why we spun? I wasn't positive on that. But I was really just mad, and I didn't think too much of it (the TV interview) until I saw people thought something was wrong with me. I screwed up bad and I was just frustrated. Two races in, I'm already out of the Chase. I didn't want to give up that one spot, and I ended up giving up 30 spots because I was hardheaded and made a hardheaded mistake. I feel terrible for my guys."