Jul 8, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
Prior to last season, Matt Kenseth and New Hampshire Motor Speedway didn’t get along too well.
From 2008 to 2012, Kenseth was only able to earn one Top-10 finish in 10 starts at the Magic Mile.
But in 2013, Kenseth finally appeared to get a handle on NHMS with Joe Gibbs Racing. He finished ninth that July, and when the Sprint Cup series returned to Loudon for Chase Race No. 2 that September, Kenseth won in his 500th career Cup start.
Kenseth is still winless this year, but at fifth in the championship standings, his chances of making the Chase on points alone look decent with eight regular season races to go.
Surely though, he’d like to remove all doubt by taking another win this weekend at Loudon.
“Last year, I thought we ran pretty well in both of our races there and of course we were able to win the fall race where I thought our car handled pretty good overall,” Kenseth said recently.
“It’s just one of those tracks where you have to turn good in the corner and still be able to get off the corner. It’s about keeping up your middle of the corner momentum the best you can, which is typical of any flat or short track.”
Whereas Kenseth thrived on 1.5-mile tracks last year (four of his seven 2013 wins were on those intermediate ovals), the 2003 Cup champion has appeared to be the strongest this year on shorter tracks such as Loudon.
In the five races staged so far this year on tracks of one mile or smaller, Kenseth has earned an average finish of 7.8 with his best result in those races being a third at Dover in early June.
That has Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, feeling confident about the No. 20 team’s chances this weekend.
“I think that our short-track program has been a little better this season than our intermediate stuff so far, even though last year that program seemed to be our bread and butter,” he said.
“I thought we had a good run at Bristol. Martinsville, we had a decent finish and Richmond, I thought we had a shot of winning that thing at the end. I anticipate a good weekend at Loudon and know that we’ll have another strong Dollar General Toyota, so I’m ready to head up there.”
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