Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kenseth a Serious Title Contender

For much of his career -- even when he won the 2003 Winston Cup championship -- Matt Kenseth has been an afterthought. A quiet, unassuming driver who never draws attention to himself with his driving style, Kenseth has quietly built a solid career -- even if he came into the 2011 season with a winless streak that spanned nearly two years and seemed to have a new crew chief every other week.

But following his win at Dover International Speedway this past Sunday, when Kenseth took two tires on the final pit stop and pulled away from Mark Martin, Kenseth has two wins this season and sits sixth in points.

Even if Kenseth wasn't so high in the points, the new wild card format based on wins would likely have him in the Chase.

But is Kenseth a legitimate title contender this season? I say yes.

Kenseth has had a lot more speed in 2011 than in recent years -- much in line with the rest of Roush-Fenway Racing, and we already know Kenseth knows how to win a title. The only issue in his way is consistency; after winning at Texas earlier this season, Kenseth had finishes of 36th, 21st and 25th.

A stretch like that during the Chase won't win you a title. Still, given how well Kenseth has run so far this season, a little luck could land the No. 17 car in the same class as the No. 48, No. 99, No. 29 and No. 18 come the fall.

Air Pockets
When Joey Logano smacked the outside wall and triggered a massive wreck late in Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Dover -- a wreck in which Clint Bowyer went on his side and there were legitimate fears he would climb over the wall separating the track from pit road -- there was almost a sense of deja vu.

Carl Edwards was under Logano as the two came out of Turn 4 to take the white flag, battling for the lead. Initial camera angles made it appear that Edwards got into Logano, sending the No. 20 car into the outside wall, before Logano came down and all hell broke loose.

My first thought? "There goes Carl, wrecking someone else for the win ..."

But further replays showed the two cars never made contact. Edwards broke loose under Logano, but corrected it as his car drifted up the banking. Logano then broke loose before hitting the fence.

So Edwards didn't wreck Logano -- but he did disturb the air enough to get Logano loose. Did he do that on purpose? Maybe he did, maybe he didn't -- and if he did, playing with the air like that coming to the white flag while battling for the win is fair game.

And even if Edwards did disturb the air against Logano's left rear like that, I'm pretty sure he didn't mean to trigger a huge, multi-car accident that left sheet metal torn all to hell and sent a crew member to the hospital after a spring hit him in the leg.

Still, Edwards isn't completely innocent in all this. He may not have meant for what happened to happen, but something tells me Logano doesn't wreck without another car underneath him.

Paying the Bills
Everyone got all excited when they saw Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were both entered in Friday's Camping World Truck Series race at Dover. But there's one simple reason why they were never going to go at each other in that race, and it has nothing to do with the punishments NASCAR handed down after Darlington.

See, Harvick and Busch are owners in the Truck Series; did you really think they were going to tear up their own equipment to settle a grudge? That money would've come out of their own pockets --- unlike in the Cup Series, where any of that nonsense would've been paid by Joe Gibbs or Richard Childress.

Harvick and Busch are many things, but they're not stupid -- especially Busch, who has had a hard time keeping his newfound truck team financially viable in its first year-plus of existence.

Trust me when I say the next round of Harvick v. Busch is coming ... but you're kidding yourself if you thought it would be in Friday's Truck race, where both drivers were also signing the checks for the vehicles they were driving.

One More Thing ...
Shoutout to Cole Whitt, the 19-year-old who's quickly making a name for himself in the Camping World Truck Series. Whitt finished a career-best second to Busch in Friday's race at Dover, leading until a series of late cautions put him against Busch on the ensuing restarts.

Whitt sits third in the standings, just seven points behind leader Matt Crafton. The youngster already has a pole (at Darlington, no less) and four top-10 finishes so far this season.

If Friday was any indication, that first win is just above the horizon.

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