What a difference 10 years makes. It was after the 2003 the Winston Cup championship was won by Matt Kenseth with just one victory, that everyone started clamoring about how winning should mean more. And the Chase for the Championship was born.
Of course few people talk about how the year before that Kenseth won a series high five races and finished eighth in the points. But I digress.
I supposed people shouldn't be that surprised by Kenseth's success this season. He is a former champion driving for an organization that has three titles of its own. I supposed we shouldn't be surprised that the driver who is fifth among active drivers in wins is leading the series in wins.
But come on admit it, your a little surprised this season has gone this well for Kenseth. His victory Sunday in Chicago is a career high sixth of the season.
"I'm really enjoying this win. It's been a record season for me,' said Kenseth. "I'm obviously the same guy, the same driver. It's obviously about Joe Gibbs Racing, the guys working there, Jason and the group and everything."
Kenseth now has an eight point lead one race into the chase over his teammate Kyle Busch. But more importantly he sent a statement. The last two Sprint Cup Series champions, won the chase opener. For a guy who was already leading the series in wins this season, it's pretty clear the message..."catch me if you can."
"We've had a pretty solid season," said Kenseth's crew chief Jason Ratliff. "It's important for us to go into the Chase with the season we've had and perform well. I felt like we have the opportunity to do that. To come to Chicago, like I said, felt like our team was very well-prepared and our car was well-prepared from front to back."
Adds Kenseth about the importance of winning that first race.
"It matters," said Kenseth. "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. We did a great job of that this weekend."