SPRINT CUP SERIES – FOOD CITY 500, SUNDAY, MARCH 16, 1 P.M. ET ON FOX
Keselowski All But Clinches Postseason Spot
One year after becoming only the second driver in the Chase era to follow up a title campaign without a trip to the postseason, Brad Keselowski virtually grabbed a spot in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup after winning Sunday’s race in Las Vegas. With the win under his belt, the driver of the No. 2 Ford can race all out the rest of the regular season, beginning with Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Keselowski has two victories in eight starts at the short track.
Earnhardt’s Epic Start Continues
Although Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t won since the Daytona 500, he’s done the next best thing – finished second in both races. That’s three top-two finishes in the first three races – a feat that’s only been accomplished six previous times. Richard Petty (1974), Cale Yarborough (1977) and Jimmie Johnson (2006) were all able to parlay their early-season success into titles. Prior to 2014, Earnhardt never led the standings for three consecutive weeks to open a season, which is his second longest streak. In 2004, he led for seven straight weeks, mid-season.
Kenseth Reaches Top-10 Milestone
With a 10th-place showing on Sunday at Las Vegas, Matt Kenseth notched his 250th top-10 finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, becoming the 22nd driver to do so. Kenseth has an opportunity to add to that list in this weekend in Bristol. In 28 starts at the .533-mile short track, the Wisc., driver has compiled 18 top 10s, including three wins. In last fall’s event, Kenseth held off a hard-charging Kasey Kahne over the last couple of laps to win by .188 seconds, providing fans with action-packed drama.
Kurt Busch & Stewart-Haas Racing Hope To Get On Track At Bristol
Outside of Kevin Harvick’s dominating victory at Phoenix, the entire four-car contingent from Stewart-Haas Racing has struggled in 2014. Harvick’s average finish is 18.3, best among the team’s drivers – Tony Stewart (28.0), Kurt Busch (28.7) and Danica Patrick (32.3). Busch is the most likely of the SHR drivers to shrug off the early-season doldrums at Bristol. He’s won at the short track five times, including three straight from March 2003 to March 2004. Stewart (2001) and Harvick (2005) have both won there, too.
Rookies Continue To Improve, Still Long Way To Go
Through three races, the eight drivers in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year class continue to perform. For the first time this season, two rookies finished in the top 20 on Sunday – Austin Dillon placed 16th, Kyle Larson 19th. Dillon leads Larson by eight in the rookie standings. Justin Allgaier, who finished 25th in Vegas and is third in the rookie standings (-nine), is the only rookie to have a national series win at Bristol, the site of Sunday’s Food City 500. He won the spring 2010 Nationwide race.