DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — Matt Kenseth hopes to get his season going and lock up a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Darlington Raceway.
Kenseth came to the Southern 500 last May one of Sprint Cup's hottest drivers, winning twice in his first season driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. This time, Kenseth comes in winless through seven races under the new NASCAR format where a victory pretty much ensures a driver a spot in the 16-team playoffs.
"I've never been at a race I didn't want to win," Kenseth said. "We show up every week with our best stuff trying to figure out how to sit on the pole and win the race. That's never really changed since I started racing."
Kenseth and his JGR team got it done a season ago, taking the Southern 500 and enhancing the driver's fast start with his new program. Kenseth hopes that past success gives him a leg up for Saturday night's race — and gets him locked into the playoffs.
Kenseth's not the only regular winner without a trip to victory lane this year. Six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson hasn't won. Neither has current points leader Jeff Gordon, Greg Biffle or Tony Stewart with 19 races remaining before the playoffs begin.
Kenseth said he and his team aren't panicking with plenty of time remaining to claim a victory or get in on points — still a possibility in Kenseth's mind despite no multiple winners so far this season.
But Kenseth doesn't spend any more or less time considering his placing after each race. That might change, he says, if he gets to late summer without a victory and trying to qualify for the playoffs on points.
"History suggests that there are going to be a few guys added by points who didn't win," he said. "Certainly, if that's the case, the point standings are very important."
Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.