What It Means for Matt Kenseth to Be Atop the Sprint Cup Standings Without a Win

Jerry Bonkowski@@jerrybonkowskiFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2014

Matt Kenseth prepares in his car before practice for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup series Coca-Cola 600 auto race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., Thursday, May 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Mike McCarn/Associated Press

Matt Kenseth sitting on top of the Sprint Cup points standings heading into this Sunday's race at Pocono once again leaves NASCAR with a conundrum.

In a season where winning has been stressed more than ever, particularly with the significance of the revamped Chase for the Sprint Cup that starts this September, it is a clear irony that Kenseth leads the points but still hasn't won a race in 2014.

That's nothing new, though. Jeff Gordon was No. 1 for four weeks before he finally won his first race of 2014.

Frankly, Kenseth being No. 1 at this point in time of the season is a slight concern, but not an obsessive quandary—at least not yet.

With 13 races remaining until the Chase begins, there's plenty of time for Kenseth and other winless drivers like Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer to win a race and stake their claim to make the 10-race playoff.

Granted, six-time and defending Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has won the last two races and may win a third straight Sunday at Pocono, a place where Kenseth has never really fared that well during his Sprint Cup career.

But after winning a career-record seven races last season, Kenseth still remains a win waiting to happen in 2014.

Or does he?

Some could make the argument that his seven wins last season were somewhat of an aberration. After all, the most wins Kenseth ever had in a season prior to 2013 was five in 2002, followed by four in 2006.

He also had three wins in each of his final two seasons with Roush Fenway Racing in 2011 and 2012.

But if you look at Kenseth's overall career record, consider this: In his first 14 full-time seasons on the Cup circuit, Kenseth managed two or fewer wins in nine of those seasons.

Make that nine-and-a-third seasons if you add in his winless exploits thus far in 2014.

What does it mean for Kenseth to be atop the standings without a win?

Honestly, it means a lot. For despite the fact he hasn't reached Victory Lane, Kenseth wouldn't be ranked No. 1 heading into this weekend if he wasn't consistent.

As that old racing saying go, "If you can't win, at least finish as high as you can."

Kenseth has embraced that philosophy and the results bear that out: In the first 13 races this season, he's managed five top-five and five other top-10 finishes. He's the only Sprint Cup driver to have 10 top-10s thus far. Gordon has nine, and Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. have eight top-10s apiece.


With 13 races remaining before the Chase, there's still plenty of time for Kenseth, Stewart, Bowyer, Kahne and the other winless drivers to finally claim their first checkered flag of 2014. But as we go through the summer and each subsequent race clicks off without a win for those drivers, things are going to get significantly wilder.

And what happens if Kenseth ultimately still doesn't win a race by the time the Chase begins but manages to qualify for the playoffs based upon the fact he's one of the highest-ranking drivers points-wise, despite no wins?

Here's an even more confounding possibility:

Molly Riley/Associated Press

What happens if Kenseth or one of the other winless drivers manages to find a way to make it through the Chase without a win and ultimately wins the championship?

Such a scenario is highly unlikely with the way the new format is set up, and advancement in the Chase is predicated primarily on wins within the 10 races, especially with the elimination rounds after the third, sixth and ninth Chase races.

But if Kenseth somehow finds an improbable way to win it all without ever reaching Victory Lane even once in a win-predicated format, then what?


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