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Matt Kenseth still winless but takes over Sprint Cup points lead

Jun 2, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

Matt Kenseth AP

A solid third-place finish on Sunday for Matt Kenseth enabled him to move to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings after previous leader Jeff Gordon faded late to a 15th-place result.

Going into next weekend’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway, Kenseth – who is still winless in 2014 – is up by by two points on Jeff Gordon (one win, Kansas) in the standings.

Kenseth wasn’t nearly as dominant on the day as eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson, but still had one more chance to catch him thanks to a late restart with four laps to go.

He lined up on the outside of Johnson for the restart, but spun the tires on his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota as Johnson went on to his ninth career win at Dover International Speedway.

“It was good, I mean, I thought the 48 (Johnson) and the 4 (Kevin Harvick) had us all day,” Kenseth said. “The 24 (Gordon) at times — all of the Hendrick cars were strong and Brad (Keselowski) got up there at the end.

“We had a good Top-5 car. I did an awful job on that last restart. Just got spinning the tires too much and the best car won. We just need to be a little bit better.”

Prior to that critical restart, Kenseth dodged a bullet on Lap 222, when rookie Alex Bowman hit the wall after a tire went down on him.

Coming up on the scene, Kenseth didn’t know if Bowman would slide down the track or stay up by the wall. In a split-second decision, Kenseth went high and narrowly squeezed through the wall and Bowman’s wounded Toyota.

“He blew a tire or something and I saw him blow a tire, and I was kind of running the middle and I didn’t know where he was going to go,” Kenseth said of the situation. “So I hit the brakes and locked up the left front (tire) and then I didn’t have any steering when the left front was locked up.

“Yeah, that would’ve looked pretty stupid to drive up and go through the back of him.”

Kenseth also survived a late run-in with Clint Bowyer after the aforementioned restart to give his team their eighth Top-10 finish in the last nine races.

Until Kenseth can break through for a win, he’ll need to stay as high up in the points as he can for now. But considering how consistent he’s been in the first half of the regular season, one figures that he’ll be taking a checkered flag soon enough.

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