Exit Jimmie Johnson and enter Matt Kenseth?
No, we're still not counting the five-time champion out, but Matt Kenseth lept to the top of the Chase contender list with his win in the Bank of America 500 on Saturday night. Kenseth beat Kyle Busch on two late restarts, the second with 12 laps to go and pulled away for his third win of the season.
Save for an early race sequence where he was shuffled outside of the top 10 because of pit strategy, Kenseth was near the front of the field all night and led 46 laps. Now, the man who won the last non-Chase era championship in NASCAR is third in the points standings, seven points behind points leader Carl Edwards and two points behind Kevin Harvick.
And that's not a fluke either; Kenseth has been one of 2011's best drivers. So it's not a stretch by any means to think that he could outrun Harvick and his Roush teammate over the last five races.
Kenseth's average finishes at the last five tracks:
Talladega: 19.3 average finish, 0 wins, 6 top 10s in 23 starts
Martinsville: 15.8, 0, 7-23
Texas: 9.0, 2, 12-18
Phoenix: 17.2, 1, 8-18
Homestead: 18.8, 1, 4-11
They're not flashy, but Kenseth won in dominating fashion at Texas in the spring and was very good at Daytona in the summer, pushing David Ragan to the finish line. With repeat restrictor plate performance and Texas domination, Kenseth could be the one everyone's going after at Homestead.
- Matt Kenseth