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Matt Kenseth sitting pretty with Sprint Cup win at Chicagoland

Geico 400

Geico 400

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Updated: April 3, 2014 5:35PM

If history is any indication, Matt Kenseth is on his way to the 2013 Sprint Cup championship.

For the first two years the Chase has opened at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, the winner of the GEICO 400 has gone on to win ­NASCAR’s Sprint Cup title.

And that’s why Kenseth’s victory Sunday night is significant.

“It matters because every single point is important from here to the last lap at Homestead [Miami in November],” Kenseth said. “So you want to enjoy this and then go to New Hampshire [next week] to get as many points as you can.”

Kenseth entered the race as the Sprint Cup points leader. He extended his lead over Kyle Busch to eight and over five-time champion Jimmie Johnson to 11.

Kenseth’s victory ended a long race that included a five-hour, 10-minute rain delay and a week in which NASCAR’s credibility was questioned.

With drivers reporting engine problems after the rain delay, Kenseth thought he was having an issue, too.

“The first 30 laps did not go well, and it was 95 percent my fault,” Kenseth said. “We took off on one restart, and I was beside Greg [Biffle] and he drove past me. But I think it was just the spot I was in, so as soon as he got back in front of me, it was fine. It was probably my imagination.”

It was Kenseth’s sixth victory this season, his first with Joe Gibbs Racing and his 30th in 500 Cup starts. Kenseth is the 22nd driver in NASCAR history to reach 30 Cup victories.

“I felt like we had good practices and [crew chief) Jason Ratcliff put everything together,” Kenseth said. “We were in the shadows all week with everything that was going on, which is alright. I think it’s been a tough week for some of the teams and for NASCAR. That part hasn’t been any fun for anybody.”

Kyle Busch finished second, followed by Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Johnson. Jeff Gordon, the 13th member of the Chase, finished sixth.

Four Chase drivers finished in the 9-12 spots: Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne. Greg Biffle was 16th.

Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. blew engines and didn’t finish the race.

Kenseth’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, Kyle Busch, missed out on the tripleheader. Busch won Friday’s truck race and Saturday’s Dollar General 300 Nationwide race.

The only time Busch won a tripleheader was in 2010 at Bristol (Tenn.). No other NASCAR driver has won the triple, and Busch seemed desperate to pull it off.

“I watched it slip right away,” Busch said. “It [stinks], but there’s nothing you could do about it. I didn’t think we had a shot at it after [Saturday’s] practice. But during the race, I could drive the heck out of it.”


Twitter: @takouris

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