Category archive: Matt Kenseth

Crunching Numbers: Top Drivers May Struggle at Sonoma

?

For those of you who know me (we're all just one big happy family in this blog circle), you'll know that I love variety. Which is why I'm glad NASCAR has at least a couple of road courses on the schedule.

I love seeing drivers tested, and the drivers who excel at this type of racing get to the front. I'm also fond of the pit strategy and different approaches that take place during the race.

If you know that about me, you might also know that, as a sports fan, I love me some mayhem.

Unless I have a strong rooting interest, I'm behind a series going to a seventh game, or I'll pull for the underdog. And if you like a turnover in the points, you might get it this weekend in Sonoma.

What do Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle all have in common? If you said they're the top three in the points, you've given me the simple, obvious answer. Try harder.

If you said they all struggle on road courses, now you're smelling what I'm cooking.

All three of those drivers are still looking for their first Cup Series road-course win, and all struggle, especially at Sonoma. Let's use driver ratings going back to 2005 to break this down.

(Driver rating is a formula encompassing many of NASCAR's loop data categories and mirrors the NFL's quarterback rating. Anything over 100 is very good, and it maxes out at 150.)

Well, Biffle's driver rating at Sonoma is a paltry 78.4, 18th-best in the series. But that's the best of the three. Kenseth is a 71.8 (ranking 24th) and Earnhardt's is a 65.4 (27th).

That's why this weekend at Sonoma, I expect some points shuffling, both up from those who excel on road courses, and down from those who aren't in their comfort zone.

Looking for Trouble

Every week, my fellow members in ESPN Stats & Information crunch the numbers and tell us what to watch for the following weekend. Here's what they found:

There are 12 turns at Sonoma, but it's one of the final ones that does the most damage. In last year's race, all three accidents occurred in Turn 11, the hairpin turn, involving 10 cars. Since 2004, Turn 11, along with Turn 8, have accounted for more than half the accidents at Sonoma.

And, for a little more analysis, I went to my main man Ricky Craven, "NASCAR Now" analyst and all-around nice guy. He explained that Turn 11 is dangerous because drivers lock up their brakes in the hairpin. And Turn 8 is a danger zone because drivers don't complete their passes in Turn 7.

The Eliminator: Sonoma

For those of you new to my little blog, every week I use a device called The Eliminator to predict a winner.

It's pretty simple: Instead of telling you somebody will win, I'll point out why everybody else has to lose. The driver remaining, by process of elimination, will be the race winner.

And if you want to see who was eliminated in each step, I'll post the info on my Twitter account (@MattWillisESPN).

1. There has been only one first-time winner in 23 Sonoma races all-time (15 drivers eliminated, 29 remaining).

2. Since 1987, every road-course winner had a top-5 finish earlier that season (11 eliminated, 18 remaining).

3. Of the past 14 Sonoma winners, the 13 who previously had raced at Watkins Glen finished in the top 14 in the last race there (seven eliminated, 11 remaining).

4. The past five Sonoma winners had never won a Sprint Cup Series road-course race (four eliminated, seven remaining).

5. Three of the past four race winners this season finished in the top eight in the previous Sprint Cup race (five eliminated, two remaining).

6. Of the past 13 Sonoma race winners, 12 entered the race fifth or lower in points (one eliminated, one remaining).

Your winner: Clint Bowyer

Greetings to all my NASCAR stat-loving, knowledge-seeking friends. You know who you are.

Today, let's talk a little Michigan, since that's the next race on the schedule and all. It's a repaved Michigan, which means speeds on an already-fast track are going to be up. And Pocono was pretty pacey last week with its fresh asphalt.

In this race, if the numbers are any indication (they usually are), I like a little combination I call Three Men and Five-Time at the front: Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson.

Since 2005, when Edwards became a full-time Cup driver, those four drivers are atop just about every loop-data category at Michigan International Speedway. They're the only four with a driver rating over 100, they rank 1-4 in fastest laps, average running position, and speed both early and late in runs (not to mention overall green-flag speed).

But let's take a look at those results. Let's say, in theory, that anything outside the top 15 is a "subpar" finish, especially for those four. In those 14 races since 2005, Kenseth and Edwards each have a pair of subpar finishes, while Biffle and Johnson have six apiece.

Those stats can be backed up by looking at the green-flag pass differential for those four drivers. Edwards is plus-261 and Kenseth plus-159, while Biffle is just a plus-38 and Johnson is a minus-36.

And what makes that even more damaging is that the bulk of Biffle's and Johnson's losses have taken place at the end of the race. In the final 10 percent of races since 2005, Johnson is minus-71 in pass differential, while Biffle is a minus-64, by far the worst two totals. The third-worst mark is a minus-33.

So Biffle and Johnson might join the other two Roush Fenway Racing drivers up front Sunday at Michigan, but let's see if they stay there.

The Eliminator: Michigan

For those of you new to my little blog, every week I use a device called The Eliminator to predict a winner.

It's pretty simple: Instead of telling you somebody will win, I'll point out why everybody else has to lose. The driver remaining, by process of elimination, will be the race winner.

And if you want to see who was eliminated in each step, I'll post the info on my Twitter account (@MattWillisESPN).

1. Eighty-three of the past 84 Michigan winners had a previous top-5 finish at the track (22 eliminated, 23 remaining).

2. The past eight Michigan winners had a top-20 finish in the previous Michigan race (eight eliminated, 15 remaining).

3. Nine of the past 10 spring Michigan race winners finished eighth or better in the most recent Darlington race (nine eliminated, six remaining).

4. Each of the past seven Michigan winners finished 19th or better in each of the previous three Sprint Cup Series races (four eliminated, two remaining).

5. Four of the past five spring Michigan race winners had a top-5 finish in the previous year's spring Michigan race (one eliminated, one remaining).

Your winner: Matt Kenseth

When Brad Keselowski got his first career Sprint Cup win at Talladega Superspeedway three years ago, I think people chalked it up to an upset Talladega win.

It was for a team that had never won a Cup race, in Keselowski's fifth career start, and he had never led a lap until the final one. But it's clear today that Keselowski is the real deal.

His driving ability was best showcased at the end of the race, as he basically outsmarted the draft. Once he and Kyle Busch had separated themselves from the field, he managed to break the draft and erase the disadvantage the driver leading usually is in at the plate tracks.

That move propelled Keselowski to a win by 0.304 seconds. Now, three-tenths doesn't seem like much, but in plate racing at Talladega, it's practically a blowout.

Since the series introduced electronic scoring in 1993, that's the second-biggest margin of victory on record. The only greater one was a 0.388-second "blowout" by Dale Earnhardt Jr. over Tony Stewart in 2001.

In fact, since 1993, there have been only four plate races decided by over three-tenths of a second. Those two at Talladega, a six-tenths victory by Sterling Marlin over Dale Earnhardt in the 1995 Daytona 500 and ...

Trivia break! What driver won the July 2003 race at Daytona by over four seconds (it was a fuel-mileage race)?

Leader of the pack

Matt Kenseth had just about as dominating an effort as we've seen recently in a restrictor-plate race, leading 73 laps but finishing third. That's the most laps any driver has led at a plate race since Stewart led 86 in a July 2009 Daytona win.

No driver has led more in a Talladega race since Jeff Gordon led 139 there in the spring 2005 race, a race Gordon won.

That brings Kenseth's total in plate race laps led this year to 123, in just two races. Last year, in four plate races, Clint Bowyer led all drivers in laps led with 97.

No driver has led more laps in plate races in a season since Kyle Busch led 135 in 2009.

Trivia break! In the restrictor-plate era (since 1988), who holds the record for most laps led in plate races in a season?

Some fancy passing

NASCAR has been under fire from the fan base for the on-track product -- no denying it. I'll let you decide what you liked and didn't like about the first two plate races of the year. But I'll provide info for your argument.

Sunday at Talladega, there was 103 green-flag passes for the lead (not just at the start-finish line, but anywhere on the track). That's far up from Daytona's 44.

In last year's Talladega races, there were 159 in the spring, but 107 in the fall, so that number didn't drop off much.

There also were 11,459 green-flag passes Sunday for the entire race, about 4,000 more than there were in February at Daytona.

That number is actually up from last spring's wild Talladega race, which featured 11,025 green-flag passes.

Trivia break! Ten drivers have gotten their first Sprint Cup Series win at Talladega, but who is the only one with more career wins than Keselowski?

Trivia break answers

1. Greg Biffle won the race by 4.102 seconds for his first career Sprint Cup Series win.

2. Dale Earnhardt led 523 laps in 1990, winning three of the four plate races.

3. Davey Allison won 19 career Cup races.

Having reached the midway point of the Chase, it's time to reflect, mull things over and meditate on what we've learned.

Note: This isn't just my intro; it's homework. Get mulling.

First, we just can't count Jimmie Johnson out (more on that later). Two races into the Chase, he was down 29 points. Two races later, he was down just four. Now, back down 35 points.

Second, consistency is key. Each of the past two years, Johnson had nine top-10s on his way to a title. The two years before that, eight. You don't get many mulligans.

Third, Matt Kenseth isn't being so quiet anymore. Driving by Kyle Busch on a restart? That's impressive.

Fourth, it's disheartening to watch a race or championship be decided by a broken part, a loose lug nut or a few drops of fuel. The message: attention to detail. I might even proofread this today.

Finally, this week is Talladega, so who knows where we'll be at this time next week.

On with the blog!

Welcome, Matt

Last week, I read about how underrated Matt Kenseth was in the humor and wit department, something a guy like me can appreciate. Now, the features are about how he's a real contender for a second championship.

Kenseth ran 10 laps under 29 seconds, four more than any other driver in the field. In fact, only nine other drivers in the field ran a lap under 29 seconds at any point. Two of Kenseth's sub-29 laps came after the final restart. The rest of the field combined for two in that time.

Trivia break! Matt Kenseth's other Chase race win came at which track?

Consistent Carl

Carl Edwards remains atop the points, something he has done for 17 of 31 races this season. But he has won only once -- again, consistency is key.

Edwards has a top-10 in each of the first five Chase races, just the sixth time that has happened. If Edwards gets to six, that's good. Three times, a driver has had a top-10 in the first six Chase races, and all three went on to win the title.

Trivia break! Who are the two drivers to have six straight top-10s to start a Chase?

Is Jimmie still in it?

The 34th-place finish was Johnson's fifth worst in a Chase race. The last time he finished that bad in the Chase, 2009 at Texas, he won the next week.

In 2006, Johnson was seventh in the points after five Chase races, yet he still rebounded to win the title after finishing in the top two in each of the next four races, with a ninth in the finale.

Is he still in it? I'm not ready to rule him out yet, that's for sure.

Trivia break! Who led after five races in the 2006 Chase?

Power Rankings

I wanted to come up with something to rank the strength of the Chase drivers on a race-by-race basis. So I came up with a nerdy formula, using recent performance, plus recent performance at the specific track, to predict who'll be strong in the next race.

Here are my Chase power rankings for Talladega:

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Matt Kenseth
3. Kyle Busch
4. Kurt Busch
5. Kevin Harvick
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
7. Carl Edwards
8. Brad Keselowski
9. Denny Hamlin
10. Jeff Gordon
11. Tony Stewart
12. Ryan Newman

Trivia break answers

1. Kenseth won at Homestead in 2007.

2. Johnson (twice) and Kurt Busch have done it.

3. Jeff Burton led at the halfway point.

Before I get to my usual rambling and weekly preview, a quick thought: A Saturday night race this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway means no competition with the NFL and limited competition with college football.

If NASCAR were to start holding races on, say, Thursday or Friday nights during the Chase, would you be more likely to watch than on Sunday afternoons, when there's the NFL to be had?

Let's start a conversation in the comments section and let me know your thoughts!

Now, as for Charlotte ...

Earlier this season, we saw Carl Edwards dominate the Sprint All-Star Race and Kevin Harvick come out of nowhere to win the Coke 600 when a certain fan favorite (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) ran out of fuel in the final turn.

But despite their recent success at Charlotte, both drivers have struggled at the track since 2005.

Edwards ranks between 11th and 14th in the biggest of the loop-data categories: average running position, fastest laps run, green-flag speed and overall driver rating.

Harvick is in even rougher shape, ranking outside the top 20 in all of those categories.

So, who could take advantage? The easy answer is Jimmie Johnson, who leads the series in all those categories. But from 2005-09, Johnson's average driver rating was a 118.9. In the three races since, it's a pedestrian 92.7. Still good, but certainly not dominating, and not the best in the series.

So, let's say the numbers hold true, and those three struggle Saturday night. Who could take advantage?

How about the man who led the field in driver rating, laps led, fastest laps run and quality passes (green-flag passes inside the top 15) in the spring race at Charlotte?

If you like those numbers, you'd like Matt Kenseth. Kenseth finished 14th in that race but appeared to be the class of the field.

My prediction: the usual unpredictability.

The Eliminator: Charlotte

Most people just pick winners -- some by hunches, some by stats and some by just picking names off the top of their heads. I don't pick winners; I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.

1. Sixteen of the past 17 Charlotte winners had a previous top-10 finish at the track (11 eliminated, 37 remaining).

2. The past eight fall Charlotte winners had a win earlier in the season (23 eliminated, 14 remaining).

3. Eight of the past nine Charlotte winners finished 11th or better in the previous Kansas race (eight eliminated, six remaining).

4. The past four and six of the past seven Charlotte winners finished in the top 13 of the most recent Charlotte race (four eliminated, two remaining).

5. The past four Charlotte winners and the past four fall Charlotte winners had top-20 finishes in their past three races overall (one eliminated, one remaining).

Your winner: Kevin Harvick.

Ryan McGee tweeted it best when he wrote: "If the Chase is really a microcosm of the regular season, of course we'd start with a fuel mileage race."

Only instead of an upset winner, we had Tony Stewart, who had a strong car all race.

It started the Chase in a topsy-turvy way. Of the bottom four drivers in points entering Chicago, three had top-5 finishes. Of the top four drivers in points entering Chicago, three finished outside the top 20.

For those who finished outside the top 10, that might be their only chance at a slip-up over the next few months. In each of the past two years, Jimmie Johnson won the title with nine top-10 finishes. In the two years before that, it took a mere eight top-10s.

Plus, with the new points system punishing poor finishes more severely than before, it puts drivers in a hole. Denny Hamlin, 41 back, is about a full race behind after the Chase opener.

Another year, another win

Last year, it took 25 races for Stewart to register his first win. This year, he got there in 27. But Stewart just finds a way to win.

This is his 13th straight season with a win, the longest streak since Jeff Gordon won a race in 14 straight from 1994-2007.

What makes Stewart's streak remarkable is that he's never gone a season without winning a race, something that no driver with that many Cup seasons can say.

Trivia break! What two drivers hold the modern-era record for most consecutive years with a win?

Forty wins the hard way

Stewart is the 17th driver to 40 Cup wins, the fourth full-time active driver to reach the mark, joining Gordon, Johnson and Mark Martin.

It's a new age in NASCAR, one in which more drivers win regularly than in the past, so take this note with an asterisk:

Stewart got his 40th win in his 455th start, the second-most starts needed to reach 40 wins in Cup history. The only driver to take more is Martin, who needed 749.

Trivia break! Before Martin and Stewart, who needed the most starts to reach 40 wins?

Sixteen and counting ...

Stewart was the 16th winner this season in just 27 Cup races. You know I love variety.

The 27 races is tied for the third-fastest to 16 different winners in Cup history, trailing only 2003 (25) and 1961 (26).

Trivia break! In 2003, who was that 16th different winner in the 25th race? Hint: It happened in the Southern 500.

Power Rankings

I wanted a way to rank the strength of the Chase drivers on a race-by-race basis. So I came up with my own little nerdy formula, using recent performance this season, along with recent performance at the specific track.

Remember, this isn't for the Chase as a whole, only heading into New Hampshire.

1. Kurt Busch
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Tony Stewart
5. Carl Edwards
6. Ryan Newman
7. Kevin Harvick
8. Denny Hamlin
9. Kyle Busch
10. Brad Keselowski
11. Matt Kenseth
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Trivia break answers

1. Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace both won races in 16 straight seasons.

2. Bill Elliott needed 430 starts to reach 40 wins.

3. Terry Labonte was the 16th different winner in 2003.

Ah, here we are at the Chase, and I do believe it's my time to shine.

But, how much can we depend on past numbers to judge performance at Chicagoland Speedway. After all, this is the first time it's been the first race of the Chase. And unlike past races, this one will be run during the day instead of at night.

Plus, a September race in Chicago is bound to have different temperatures and different track conditions than on a hot, slippery July night.

But let's try to break down some of the notable Chase contenders using past numbers at Chicago, starting with Mr. Five-Time himself, Jimmie Johnson.

This is one of the rare tracks where Johnson has never won, but in seven of his nine starts there, he has finished eighth or better, including a pair of runner-up finishes. But in two of the past four years, Johnson has struggled and finished 37th (2007) and 25th (2010).

Johnson leads all drivers dating back to 2005 in average start and average midrace position at Chicago, but his average finish in that time is 13.5. Speed isn't a problem: His 187 fastest laps run paces the field, with Matt Kenseth (156) and Tony Stewart (124) the only other drivers over 100.

Speaking of Smoke, I'm not ready to rule him out of the Chase, despite his uninspiring performance this year. But Stewart has shown the ability to drop the hammer this time of year, even when he has entered the playoff struggling.

In 2006, Stewart missed the Chase but responded by winning three playoff races, and he finished second and fourth in two others.

It might not matter where Stewart starts, either. Since 2005, his pass differential at Chicago is a plus-141, better than double the next best on the list, Carl Edwards' plus-70.

What about the quiet one, Matt Kenseth? Kenseth is quietly solid in every situation at Chicago, and has shown the speed to win on the 1.5-mile track this season.

Kenseth is third in green-flag speed, speed in traffic and the second-fastest driver late in runs behind Stewart. Kenseth's Chicago finishes over the past couple of years haven't been anything special, but he led a lot of laps in both 2005 and 2006.

Finally, Jeff Gordon has finished second and third at Chicago the last couple of years, and he certainly has more speed this year than the last couple. Expect him to be up front all race, as he didn't fall outside the top 15 in either of the last two Chicago races.

The Eliminator: Chicagoland

Most people just pick winners, some by hunches, some by stats and some by just picking names off the top of their heads. I don't pick winners; I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.

1. The last six Chicago winners finished in the top 11 in the previous Chicago race (37 eliminated, 11 remaining).

2. The first Chase race always has been won by a Chase driver (five eliminated, six remaining).

3. The last three Chicago winners finished 17th or better in each of the two previous Chicago races (three eliminated, three remaining).

4. Three of the last four Sprint Cup Series winners this season finished in the top three in the previous week's race (two eliminated, one remaining).

Your winner: Carl Edwards.

For us NASCAR statistical bloggers, of which I believe I'm the only one, there are certain nightmare situations.

Like having all your notes written, and then an engine failure or a late-race caution completely destroys your race recap. Or when your calculator overheats, since I don't keep an abacus at my desk anymore.

But, the ones that keep popping up are these darn restrictor-plate races.

Don't get me wrong, I love the wildness and the anyone-can-win style of racing. It's just that trying to break down these races and giving you, my adoring fans, some fine statistical preview is just a lot more difficult than the typical week.

But I've done my best, combing through the numbers, and while I might not know what's going to happen Saturday night at Daytona, there are a number of things that I think I know.

First of all, there's a pretty level playing field. At the Daytona 500, out of the 43-car starting field, 40 drivers ran the fastest lap on at least one circuit. At Talladega, 37 of the 43 drivers had at least one fastest lap run.

The only driver who ran both races but didn't run a fastest lap in either one was Joe Nemechek. So if Front Row Joe makes the field, don't expect great things out of him.

I do know one thing, in both of the prior restrictor-plate races this year, Clint Bowyer topped the field in average running position (just the driver's average position by lap) in both races. He finished 17th at Daytona and second at Talladega.

In fact, expect the whole Richard Childress Racing team to run up front and be in the mix. Jeff Burton was second in average running position at Talladega, and Paul Menard fourth in both prior restrictor-plate races. On top of that, Childress-powered Regan Smith was fifth-highest in both races, and he showed he was among the best pushers in February at Daytona.

Two more? Kurt Busch was third in that category in both races, and nobody ran more fastest laps in the two races combined than Kyle Busch. He had 18; nobody else had more than 14.

But, that's just what I think I know.

The Eliminator: Daytona

Most people just pick winners, some by hunches, some by stats, and some by just picking a name off the top of their head.

I don't pick winners, I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.

Last week, my pick was Jeff Gordon, and he finished second. I'm just saying.

1) The last 14 and 25 of the last 26 Daytona winners who had raced there before had a previous top-5 finish there (17 drivers eliminated, 28 left).
2) The last three July Daytona winners had a previous win at Talladega (17 eliminated, 11 left).
3) Six of the last seven July Daytona winners finished eighth or better in that year's Daytona 500 (nine out, two left).
4) The last five Sprint Cup Series winners this season finished in the top 20 in each of the previous three races (one out, one left).

Your winner: Kyle Busch

If there's been one prevailing theme to this season so far, it has to be the semisuccessful return of my weekly Eliminator pick.

Wait, no, that isn't it, but if that's what you've taken out of this season so far, then bless you.

No, what I'll remember, at least from the first 15 races, is the "out of nowhere" winners. I'm talking way beyond the unpredictable wins from Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith and Brad Keselowski.

No, it's a matter of drivers coming out of nowhere during the course of the race, the beneficiary of late-race shuffling due to accidents, pit stops, natural disasters or some sort of alien invasion.

It's a developing trend. In the first nine races of the season, the winner ranked among the top three in the race in overall green-flag speed. There were only two exceptions. The first was when Jimmie Johnson won at Talladega, a race where you can usually throw out the stats, since everyone's on a level playing field, more or less.

The other was Kevin Harvick's Martinsville win, when he was 13th in the field in overall speed. Harvick's victory was also the only race where the winner did not have a "top-10" car, meaning that the driver's average running position in the race was among the top 10 in that race.

But lately, the only criteria for a winner has just been an ability to stay on the lead lap. In half of the last six races, the winner has not been among the top 10 for a race in either green-flag speed or average running position. Take a look at that chart.

In five of the first nine races of the year, the winner had the top overall green-flag speed in the race. But it hasn't happened in any of the last six races.

Could we see the same late-race unpredictability at Sonoma? It sure does keep me glued to my TV.

The Eliminator -- Sonoma Edition

Most people just pick winners -- some by hunches, some by stats and some by just picking a name off the top of their head.

I don't pick winners, I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.

And if you doubt the mighty Eliminator power, check out the U.S. Open Golf Eliminator I did early last week before the tournament. McIlroy!!!

1) Since 1987, every road course winner had a top-5 finish earlier that season. (18 drivers eliminated, 26 remaining).
2) There's only been one first-time race winner in 22 all time Sonoma races. (Five eliminated, 21 remaining).
3) Of the last 13 Sonoma winners, 12 who had previously raced at Watkins Glen finished in the top 14 in the last race there. (12 eliminated, nine remaining).
4) Of the last 18 Sonoma winners, 16 who had previously raced there had a top-15 finish in the last race (five eliminated, four remaining).
5) Each of the last four Sprint Cup Series race winners finished in the top 20 in each of the last three races (two eliminated, two remaining).
6) Of the last 12 Sonoma winners, 11 entered the race fifth or worse in the points. (one eliminated, one remaining).

Your winner: Jeff Gordon

Oh, decisions, decisions.

What to start my usual Tuesday blog with?

As much as I'd like to talk some Matt Kenseth winning at Dover, I feel like I can handle those notes in subsequent sections (I get 500 words after all, and I usually just go ahead and take 600 anyway).

I want to talk about the face of late-race strategy, which has dictated the past two winners.

Now, both deserved their victories. Regan Smith and Kenseth were both firmly inside the top 10 heading to the final pit stops, so they put themselves in position to win the race.

I'm a proponent of NASCAR being a team sport, from top to bottom. The driver is just a member of the team, albeit the most important cog, much like a quarterback.

However, you could take the greatest wheelman in the history of the sport (let's call him Cole Trickle), and he won't do a lick in the top series without quality equipment, a heady crew chief and a rock-solid pit crew.

So, to me, watching a dominant driver go down at the end of the day to a driver whose crew chief called for the big move, because their tire specialists figured out that the tires weren't wearing quickly, that's all part of the game, and I like it that way.

Welcome To The Club

Back to Kenseth, who became the 35th driver to win 20 Cup races, but took 411 starts to get there.

Only three other drivers took longer to get their 20th win: Ricky Rudd (621 starts), Terry Labonte (587) and Jeff Burton (480).

And following a 76-race winless streak, Kenseth has suddenly won two of the past five races, and is basically a lock to make the Chase.

Trivia Break: Who are the eight other drivers in Sunday's race who have already reached 20 wins?

Familiar Face

Before the pit call, it looked like Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson had the cars to beat. For Johnson, it was par for the course.

Johnson has led the most laps in each of the past five Dover races, only failing to lead more than half of the laps in one of those.

With just 19 Dover starts under his belt, Johnson is eighth in track history for Cup laps led with 1,829, and his career laps led per race is 96.3, trailing only David Pearson and Cale Yarborough.

Trivia Break: Who holds the record for most laps led at Dover?

The Value Of A "W"

Man, that word limit sneaks up on you. I'll make this quick.

Kyle Busch won the Camping World Truck Series race -- his 27th in the series -- at Dover for his 96th career NASCAR National Touring Series victory, which includes Cup, Nationwide and Trucks.

That tied him with Mark Martin for the fifth-most across the three series, and puts him one behind Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt for a tie for third.

The debate will continue about the value of Busch's wins compared to those of the aforementioned names on the list, and Richard Petty and David Pearson, the only drivers with more than 100.

Trivia Break: Busch is just one win away from tying which two drivers for second on the all-time Trucks wins list?

Trivia Break Answers

1) Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch and Bobby Labonte all have 20 Cup wins.
2) Bobby Allison holds the record with 2,800 laps led at Dover.
3) Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague both have 28 wins.