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Auto Racing: NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth to conduct testing at Chicagoland Speedway

Matt Kenseth sits garage during practice for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 44th Annual Pure Michigan 400 Michigan International Speedway August

Matt Kenseth sits in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 44th Annual Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2013 in Brooklyn, Mich. | Getty Images

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Updated: September 22, 2013 6:43AM



Matt Kenseth is trying not to think about one statistic in particular when it comes to next month’s GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, the first of 10 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship races.

In the two years the Joliet track has hosted NASCAR’s first playoff race, the winner of the GEICO 400 has gone on to win the Sprint Cup title. Tony Stewart won at Chicagoland in 2011, later winning his third Cup championship; and Brad Keselowski drove to Victory Lane in Joliet in 2012 and went on to win his first Cup championship in November.

Entering Saturday night’s race in Bristol, Tenn., Kenseth is tied with five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson for the most victories this season (4) and is sixth in the Cup standings, 125 points behind Johnson.

Even though a spot in the Chase virtually is assured for Kenseth, the Cambridge, Wis., native isn’t taking anything for granted. The top 10 drivers in the points standings make the Chase, along with the two wild-card drivers who have the most wins out of the rest of the field.

“Winning races in the Chase goes a long way toward trying to win a championship, but one race doesn’t make or break you,” Kenseth said. “Tony had five wins that year and that was only one that he had (in the Chase). I don’t think that whoever wins will automatically be the champion.”

Kenseth won’t have to worry about a late surge by Stewart, who has been notorious for putting together hot streaks at the end of the season.

Stewart-Haas Racing announced Monday that the owner-driver will have to miss the rest of the season with a broken leg. Stewart broke his leg in two places during a sprint car race Aug. 5 in Iowa and had to have two surgeries.

Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing team will use part of that knowledge in Joliet on Monday and Tuesday. Kenseth and his team will be doing testing both days at the Speedway, trying to figure out a setup that will work for his No. 20 Toyota Camry during the Sept. 15 GEICO 400.

“I’ll have a better idea after that test how confident I will be and what I have learned about performance and what to expect (for the GEICO 400),” Kenseth said. “We usually have a pretty detailed testing plan and then beyond that just get a good balanced setup.”

And when Kenseth comes back again for Chase week, he will be participating in NASCAR Contenders Live with the other 11 Chase drivers Sept. 12 at Navy Pier. The drivers will be able to take questions from fans.

“If I’m not participating in that, then something really bad has happened,” Kenseth said. “I look forward to that event because its fun. We get to be loose and everyone is still getting along. We all go to dinner together, and it’s really a time where us 12 can get together and hang out. We really don’t do that any other time.”



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