Earnhardt narrows Kenseth's points lead

Kenseth atop Sprint Cup standings for second straight week

Published On: Jun 20 2012 05:58:01 PM EDT

17 MATT KENSETH, Ford

Team: Roush Fenway Racing

WHERE HE STANDS: This year's Daytona 500 winner remained atop the Sprint Cup standings for the second straight week after Michigan. He is 4 points ahead of second-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and 17 points ahead of Roush Fenway Racing teammate and former series points leader Greg Biffle.

SONOMA RECORD: 12 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 1 top-10, 0 poles. Best career finish: 8th in 2008. Finished 14th in this race last year, which tied for his third-best performance on the twisting road course.

LOOKING AHEAD: You can practically hear Kenseth now, saying, "Ugh, Sonoma again? Let's get there and get out fast." Road-course racing is not Kenseth's forte, particularly at Sonoma. To his credit, he is competitive there but just doesn't seem to have the mechanics or skills to be a challenger for wins there. He'd rather just get through the race unscathed, which he has done in all 12 of his starts there, and then fly off to the next race. Here's Kenseth's scouting report on Sonoma: "You go there thinking about different things because your driving style on approach, and things you do in the car, is a lot different. We go to Sonoma working as hard as we can in practice to get our car to drive as good as it can because certainly there are a lot more opportunities for mistakes from a driver's standpoint at that track. Sonoma is always a challenge and one that I sort of look forward to trying to get better at, but I also look forward to leaving on Sunday night, too. Hopefully we can get a good result and get our cars running better there. All our cars were fast at Watkins Glen last year, and hopefully we get them going fast at Sonoma this year."

LOOKING BACK: Another race, another consistent finish for Kenseth as he came home in third place at Michigan. He typically does well at the 2-mile oval, but with a new racing surface and rainstorm that washed away all the rubber before the race, anything was possible. Still, the veteran Kenseth took to the track like a duck to water and once again showed why he's one of the best at MIS.

ETC.: Kenseth has completed 98.3 percent (1,306) of the 1,329 laps contested in his 12 career starts at Sonoma. He has both a mediocre average start (20.2) and average finish (21.5). He has 0 DNFs there.

88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

Team: Hendrick Motorsports

WHERE HE STANDS: Despite winning Sunday at Michigan, Earnhardt remained in second place in the standings but closed the gap on points leader Matt Kenseth to just four points. Earnhardt leads third-ranked Greg Biffle by 13 points.

SONOMA RECORD: 12 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 0 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: 11th, three times (2003, 2004 and 2010). Finished 41st in this race last year, failing to make it even halfway because of overheating issues.

LOOKING AHEAD: After breaking his 143-race winless streak Sunday at Michigan, can Earnhardt make it two in succession? Doubtful. He's not a road-course ace. But on the flip side, with the momentum he gained at Michigan, Earnhardt shoots to the top of the charts as one of the favorites in each of the next four races that follow Sonoma: Kentucky, Daytona, New Hampshire and Indianapolis. Here's how crew chief Steve Letarte looks at Sunday's race: "Years ago when race teams went out to Sonoma on the road courses, everyone looked at it to go out there, not make mistakes, get the best run you can. I think that mindset has gone away. Every race team feels that it can be like an oval track -- they can go out and run well. The double-file restarts increases tempers. You hear all the time about wanting to race for wins. Sonoma is a perfect example of how hard everyone races every lap to get the best finish possible."

LOOKING BACK: Finally! Earnhardt snapped the longest losing streak of his career at 143 races Sunday at Michigan. He had the most dominant car and