Matt Kenseth wins Pure Michigan 400: 5 things learned

Aug 22, 2014; Bristol, TN, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth sits in his car during practice for the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 22, 2014; Bristol, TN, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth sits in his car during practice for the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Matt Kenseth picked up an important win at the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday. Here are five things learned at Michigan.

Sunday’s race at Michigan wasn’t brought to an end by rain, instead it was clear skies and wide open racing. It was a day that had lots of cautions, yet featured some of the best racing on the track that has been seen all season as Matt Kenseth won his third race of the season.

Kenseth, who started on the pole, led 146 of 200 laps in dominating fashion, as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver brought yet another win to his team this season. He never really faced any tough competition outside of Kevin Harvick, who gave him his best run, but it wasn’t enough as Kenseth pulled away on the final lap.

Kenseth, who only had one win just a few weeks ago, now has three and suddenly is emerging as a new contender on the track, as he and the rest of his team gear up for “The Chase.” For Kevin Harvick, it’s another top-5 finish and yet another sign that he’s going to be right there so other winners don’t get any separation on him. With only three races left until “The Chase,” things are beginning to heat up on the track.

With Kenseth pulling off his third win of the season, here are five things learned.

1. Austin Dillon had his breakout performance

Austin Dillon is one of the top young drivers in NASCAR, and is expected to be one of the future drivers that will win many races. He also drives the No. 3 and has a big legacy to fill while driving one of the most iconic cars in racing history.

Sunday, Dillon led laps and battled alongside Matt Kenseth and showed poise as he went after the veteran driver. At this early of a stage in Dillon’s career, it’s about gaining experience on the tracks each week, and on Sunday, he got a chance to really feel what it’s like to battle for and hold a lead.

His time is coming, and he’s showing incredible progress out there. It won’t be long before we see the No. 3 in victory lane.

2. Kyle Busch kept his standing in the top-30 in points

The story of Kyle Busch needing to get into the top-30 in points has become almost comical. He’s in, then he’s out, then he’s back in again. Sunday, Busch had to start at the rear of the field after he wrecked in practice and the team had to go to a backup car.

Because of that, he started the race back outside the top-30. That didn’t last long however, as Busch climbed all the way to the front and led multiple laps on the track. With a top finish Busch is back in the top-30 in points. He continues to secure his position in “The Chase,” and with a few more top finishes or a win in the final three races before “The Chase,” Busch should get in easily.

3. Jimmie Johnson had a bad day

When you’re off, you’re off. Jimmie Johnson was reeling off wins like a madman at the beginning of the season and quite frankly looked like the guy who has won six Sprint Cup championships. He’s been slumping for a while now, and has had his share of issues on the track.

Sunday, he had two moments on the track that he would probably like to forget. The first moment came when Johnson came in for a routine pit stop.

As Johnson was heading in for a pit stop, he drove right past his pit stall and appeared to forget where his team was located down pit road. Johnson would have to finesse his way in via reverse to get into his stall so his team could work on his car.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Jimmie Johnson would proceed to spin out near the end of the race, as the nose of his car got absolutely wrecked by the infield grass.

Johnson has spot in “The Chase” and he should rebound, but right now, he and his team are out of sync.

4. Clint Bowyer’s spot in “The Chase” is on the edge

When you’re on the bubble for making it into “The Chase” based on points, there is absolutely no room for error. Last week, it looked like Bowyer was going to pull away from Kasey Kahne, when Kahne wrecked for the second week in a row.

Well, Kahne and Aric Almirola might have another chance at getting in thanks to Clint Bowyer getting turned and hitting the safety barrier.

Bowyer would fall to 41st, and suddenly the race for the last spot is wide open again.

5. Matt Kenseth is a new emerging contender

All eyes have been on Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick, as the trio of drivers have been battling for domination all summer long. However, there is another driver that has been flying under the radar this summer that has more wins than Logano and Harvick, Matt Kenseth.

Sunday, Matt Kenseth dominated leading 146 laps of 200 and picked up his third win of the season. Having won two of the last three races, Kenseth is getting hot at the right time and is primed to be in good position to have a serious shot at winning a second cup championship.

Even more staggering, is the absolute string of dominance that Joe Gibbs Racing is currently on. The team has won five of the last six races, and the smart money would be to expect one of their drivers to win a championship this season.

After Sunday, that driver could be Matt Kenseth.

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