LONG POND – Sprint Cup Series points leader Matt Kenseth is still without a win in the 2014 season.
It could all change Sunday as the 2003 Cup champ looks for his first win at Pocono Raceway.
“Pocono has not been one of my best tracks historically,” Kenseth said. “I’m looking forward to get out there, so hopefully I’ll be able to run decent.”
Winning at tracks Kenseth hasn’t run historically well at was nothing new to him last season. He won at Darlington and Loudon for the first time in his Cup career with his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) team.
“Pocono is a really different track,” he said. “There’s some tracks that felt were my weakest in the past that were some of our strongest last year. I think with the organization switch, just being stronger at certain tracks: Martinsville and New Hampshire.”
Kenseth left Roush-Fenway Racing at the end of the 2012 season to drive for JGR and scored seven wins in 2013 en route to a second-place points finish.
The driver finishing second in points the year before hasn’t fared very well the next season.
Mark Martin (2010) and Carl Edwards (2012) missed the Chase, as Denny Hamlin (2011) and Clint Bowyer (2013) had mediocre seasons, despite making the Chase each of those years.
Kenseth has shown so far this season that the second-place curse is no more for now.
Although the current Cup points leader doesn’t have a win on the season, he could get on a similar streak to six-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson. Johnson won the last two races on the Sprint Cup circuit at Charlotte and Dover.
Kenseth wasn’t surprised about the No. 48 team’s recent success.
“We don’t concentrate on what anyone else is doing,” he said. “We try to get our stuff better. Some of the stuff with Jimmie not winning for 10 races, I don’t think he was worried about his job.”
The Wisconsin driver won back-to-back races four times in his Cup career, most recently at Chicagoland and Loudon during last year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup and knows the feeling.
“Winning is always fun,” the 2003 Cup champ said. “When you win back-to-back, it’s a sense of accomplishment.”
The Chase for the Sprint Cup adapted a new format this season by putting a greater importance on winning. A win during the first 26 races almost guarantees a driver a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, as long as the driver attempts every race during the season and stays within the Top 30 in driver points.
One guarantee heading into the Chase is the points leader at the end of the 26 races, whether the driver has a win or not, is locked into the Chase field.
Ten different drivers have visited victory lane this season and Kenseth looks to become the 11th on Sunday.
The JGR organization has two Cup wins on the season with Kyle Busch at Auto Club Speedway and Denny Hamlin at Talladega.
Hamlin will lead the field to the green in today’s Pocono 400, as Busch will start sixth and Kenseth 26th in pursuit of his first win at Pocono.