NASCAR: Matt Kenseth's Chase Hopes Gone After AAA 400 at Dover

Tyler Piccotti@@SYRTylerPContributor IIISeptember 30, 2012

DOVER, DE - SEPTEMBER 30:  Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 Ford EcoBoost Ford, is involved in an incidentn in front of Landon Cassill, driver of the #83 Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on September 30, 2012 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Matt Kenseth was hoping for a rebound performance in Sunday's AAA 400 at the Dover International Speedway. After finishes of 14th and 18th to start the Chase, a solid top-five finish was needed for him to get back into contention. Seeing as though Dover is one of his better racetracks, this was not an unreasonable prediction to make.

Unfortunately for Kenseth, the "Monster Mile" devoured his championship hopes, along with the track bar of his Ford Fusion.

For all intents and purposes, he is now eliminated from the championship hunt.

Buried in a 72-point hole, Kenseth is now dead last in the Chase field. The way Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin are all running, Kenseth could realistically win the next three races and make up very little ground. He has to rely on all of the other 11 Chasers to have multiple issues during the final seven weeks of the season, which will not happen.

The math may say otherwise, but he has no shot.

It really is amazing to think about how quickly his season has shifted from being quite successful to a borderline failure. He started the year off by winning the wackiest Daytona 500 in recent memory and consistently put together good finishes to maintain a firm hold within the top 10 in points.

He has never been one to rattle off wins in bunches, and that again was proven true this season. He came the closest to another victory in the Bristol spring race, where he recorded his only runner-up finish.

Even with his lack of wins, Kenseth led the points throughout the summer stretch. He never fell lower than fourth in points until the reset after Richmond, leading many to consider him a dark horse pick for the championship. After all, his consistency over the years has been second to none. It is widely accepted that his 2003 championship season, during which he won only once, was directly responsible for the introduction of the Chase format. He looked like a solid lock as someone who would stay in the title hunt.

Instead, he is now relegated to looking ahead to his fresh start with Joe Gibbs Racing next season. Seeing as though he will not be returning to Roush Fenway Racing, there is nothing left to do but try to go for victories these final seven races. Otherwise, he will not be able to salvage anything from his dismal start to this year's Chase.

It truly was a season that started with such promise, but has now ended in relative disaster.