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NASCAR: Win at Indy would have double meaning for Matt Kenseth

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/25/19/44/1hOSB2.Em.138.jpeg|198
    R Brent Smith - AP
    NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth waits by his car during Friday’s practice for the Brickyard 400 Sprint Cup series auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/25/19/44/rFCcc.Em.138.jpeg|247
    AJ Mast - AP
    Driver Matt Kenseth wipes his face during Friday’s practice for the Brickyard 400 Sprint Cup series auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/25/19/44/18vQXg.Em.138.jpeg|189
    Darron Cummings - AP
    Driver Matt Kenseth practices Friday for the Brickyard 400 Sprint Cup series auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS All Matt Kenseth lacks this season is a victory.

All his NASCAR career lacks is a victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He can accomplish both in Sunday’s Crown Royal 400.

It’s certainly not that easy, but it appears to be a very real possibility.

Kenseth, who led the Sprint Cup Series last season with seven wins, remains without one this year, in a season where wins have become the de facto method of qualifying for the Chase.

Even without a victory, Kenseth is fourth in the series standings and would currently still make the 16-driver championship field, but a victory would ensure his participation.

“I feel like we’re closer than we’ve been in a long time in balance and in speed,” said Kenseth, who was fastest in the Cup series’ lone practice session Friday. “We still have a lot of work to do, but I felt pretty good about today.”

Qualifying for Sunday’s race is 2:10 p.m. Saturday.

Kenseth, 42, has enjoyed a great deal of success in his NASCAR career. He won the Cup series championship in 2003 and has 31 career victories, including two wins in the Daytona 500, a Southern 500 victory and a win in the Coca-Cola 600.

About the only prestigious NASCAR accomplishment Kenseth lacks is a victory at Indy. He has finished second in the race twice in 14 starts (2003 and 2006).

“A lot of things have to go right to have a shot here,” Kenseth said. “You’ve seen a lot of different races with different strategies, and a lot of things happen here.

“But, the first part is having a fast car and we seem to have some speed in it, so we’ll build on that.”

Kenseth and the Joe Gibbs Racing organization have had a solid season thus far, but the absence of wins in a season where they mean the most does stand out.

“Last year was such an incredible year,” Kenseth said. “I know we came up short of the championship, we exceeded every other expectation I think we ever could have dreamt of putting the whole thing together.

“Obviously expectations are high, and when you’re sitting here almost in August and don’t have win yet, you always get asked about that, especially with this new system and all that.

“The year really hasn’t been a bad year … we just have been as an organization lacking a little bit of speed. I feel like we’re gaining on that and feel like we’re getting closer.”

Kenseth’s JGR teammates – Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch – already have wins this season.

The organization had one of its best race days of the season two weeks ago at New Hampshire when all three drivers finished eighth or higher, including Busch who was runner-up and in contention for the win.

“Overall, I feel like from a team perspective and execution and all that stuff, we’re probably better than what it was last year,” Kenseth said. “As soon as we get the speed to go with it and have some things to go our way, it’s possible to get on a roll.

“You never forget how hard it is to win races and to run up front, so you have to really enjoy it when you can and keep working on it when you’re off.”

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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