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Gibbs camp sends message with 1-2 finish in the Windy City

Sep 16, 2013, 2:38 AM EDT

Matt Kenseth AP

Outside of race winner Matt Kenseth, the happiest person at Chicagoland Speedway late Sunday night was likely car owner Joe Gibbs, who saw two of his drivers – Kenseth and Kyle Busch – finish 1-2 in the first race of the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

It’s quite the opening salvo from Joe Gibbs Racing, which showed on Sunday that the road to the Cup championship goes through them. But while Gibbs was thrilled with the outcome at Chicagoland, he knows it was just one race in a 10-race grind.

“The reality is tomorrow morning, it starts all over again,” Gibbs said following the GEICO 400. “We’re going to be worried. We got nine races. You see those competitors out there…I think this is going to be very, very competitive.”

Kenseth, who won his sixth race of the 2013 season, took the same tack as his boss: Happy for the victory, but ready to move on to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next weekend.

“Every single point, every position is equally as important from here all the way until the last lap at Homestead, so you want to get as many points as you can get each and every week,” said Kenseth. “We did a great job of that this weekend.”

“You want to enjoy this, then go to work on New Hampshire tomorrow, try to go there and get as many points as you can.  Just kind of take it one week at a time.”

But while Gibbs and Kenseth don’t seem to want to dwell too much on the events of Sunday night, it was still an impressive performance. Kenseth led a race-high 89 laps, and between himself and Kyle Busch, they paced 156 of 267 laps at Chicagoland.

As a result of their 1-2 finish, Kenseth now holds an eight-point lead over Busch going into Race No. 2 of the Chase in the Granite State. Busch naturally hopes to see that flip-flop soon, but was still pleased with Sunday’s outcome – from a team standpoint, at least.

“I think having the 18 [Busch] and the 20 [Kenseth] running up front like that shows that we’re capable of doing that,” said Busch. “Matt, I tell you, Matt is really, really good at mile-and-a-half racing. He is fast. He’s won a lot of them this year.

“I typically in the past haven’t been great at it, but certainly this year, I have been better at it. It’s a testament to us all learning, sharing information, getting better.”

And if JGR keeps getting better, there may be no one that can keep them from claiming a fourth Sprint Cup trophy, and their first since the 2005 season.

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