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Matt Kenseth 'optimistic as I've ever been' in NASCAR's Chase

Stock Car RacingAuto RacingMatt KensethJimmie JohnsonRoush Fenway RacingJoe Gibbs RacingHendrick Motorsports

AVONDALE, Ariz. - Matt Kenseth said Friday, "I'm as optimistic as I've ever been" this season about his chances in Sunday's NASCAR race and catching Jimmie Johnson for the Sprint Cup title.

"I feel like my race team and my race cars are capable on any given week," said Kenseth, who's seven points behind Johnson with two races left.

The first race is Sunday's AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, followed by the season finale the next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.

Kenseth, with seven wins, is having a strong first season driving the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Previously, he raced for what is now Roush Fenway Racing and won a Cup championship with that team in 2003.

Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, is seeking a sixth championship. He has six victories this season and he's good friends with Kenseth.

"I don't view the 48 [team] as weak or vulnerable," Kenseth said. "They can win any weekend at any kind of race track. I just feel like, at our best, that we can run with them."

Johnson said he, too, was prepared for the Chase's climax.

"I'm not the best at putting up the fastest lap, the best at qualifying," Johnson said. "Racing's what I'm good at. That's my sweet spot."

Qualifying at the one-mile Phoenix International oval was scheduled later Friday to set the 43-car field for Sunday's race.

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