Though he’s the defending winner at Bristol Motor Speedway, when asked what his odds were to win the Irwin Tools Night Race Saturday, Matt Kenseth deadpanned “1 in 43.”
Kenseth led the final 34 laps in the rain-delayed spring race on the way to his first win of 2015 but has even more working to his advantage. In addition to his four Bristol wins, three of them at night, he has the streaking success of Joe Gibbs Racing over the last eight races.
“It’s been a good track for us,” Kenseth said Friday. “I always like coming up here at Bristol. I feel like since I’ve got to JGR it’s been one of the better tracks I think as a company. Carl (Edwards) had a good test a couple weeks ago.”
Kenseth was second in the opening practice session and 34th in the final session Friday.
Kenseth will be looking to notch his third win in four races and JGR’s seventh in nine. In the five Bristol races ran since he joined the team in 2013, JGR has four top-five finishes and one top 10 (Denny Hamlin, spring 2014). Kenseth represents three of the top fives.
JGR’s success entering Bristol – seven wins in 13 races – is a sharp contrast to the 2014 season when it had two wins all year.
“I think as an organization last year was a down year,” Kenseth said. “I don’t think there’s one reason for that. There never really is although when people start running good or start running bad, everybody, especially when they get panicked, always try to find one thing to either give the credit or blame it on. But, really it’s a combination of a lot of little things and we just got ourselves behind and feel like certainly we’re catching up now.”
Catching up includes all four JGR drivers currently eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, even with Edwards in his first year with the team and after Kyle Busch missed the season’s first 11 races due to leg injuries suffered at Daytona.
The team dominated a complex string of races where the series used three different aero packages. That came in a stretch of races where Busch won four of five races.
“There’s been some moving targets there,” Kenseth said. “When you get in the Chase, obviously everybody knows what the rules are and what the tracks are coming up and everything so hopefully we have everything where we need it in September coming up here.”