"It's nice to be locked in," Kenseth said yesterday on a conference call. "We've been on both ends of the spectrum. We've been the last seed before and we've been the first seed. I don't recall being in this early."
Kenseth says he's very confident in his No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford team.
"It's been funny. There's been times I went into the Chase and I've been, believe it or not, brimming with confidence, just feel like we're one of the favorites, and we haven't won it," he said. "There have been other times where I haven't felt so good and we've done well.
"If we can do everything right, we can be a contender if everything goes our way, if we run as good as I feel we're capable of running."
Kenseth won his only Cup title in 2003, the year before the first Chase. In 22 starts, he's never won at Atlanta; his best finish was second in the spring 2010 race.
One of Kenseth's two wins this year was the spring race at Dover.
I don't know much Polish, but I'm pretty sure Keselowski means "sizzling."
In Brad Keselowski's last four Cup races, he has collected two wins, a second- and third-place finish, while recuperating from a broken ankle. He's 11th in points, only 21 behind Tony Stewart, who is in 10th. If he cannot overtake Stewart in the next two races, Keselowski, with three victories this season, has virtually assured himself of one of the two wild-card berths. He is one point ahead of winless Clint Bowyer and 17 ahead of the No. 2 wild-card driver, Denny Hamlin.
Keselowski's surge has been remarkable. Six races ago, he was 23rd in points, 95 points out of 10th place.
"We've definitely got things going for us right now, and it's weird, because it's not really doing anything different," crew chief Paul Wolfe said after Keselowski won Saturday night at Bristol. "It's been a lot of small things over the past couple months just starting to add up. And we've got fast race cars, the driver is doing his part, the pit crew is doing their part, and we're making good calls on pit road and adjustments."
Keselowski clearly is enjoying his run. On Tuesday night's "NASCAR Race Hub" on Speed TV, he surprised former Cup driver Jimmy Spencer with a cream pie in the face. Following the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Spencer was skeptical that Keselowski would make the Chase.
WHY NOT PHILLY?
With Baltimore the center of open-wheel racing this weekend, the question is: Why Baltimore and not Philadelphia?
There was talk several years ago of holding an IndyCar Series race in Philly. The late actor/racer Paul Newman visited City Hall to promote the idea, but nothing happened.
Sunday's Baltimore Grand Prix should be a big economic boost for a city that needs some positive publicity. According to the Wall Street Journal, Baltimore has the second highest crime rate in the nation behind Detroit. The city has lost 30,000 residents and 53,000 jobs since 2000.
Dario Franchitti, Will Power, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti and others should put on an entertaining show on the 2.1-mile 12-turn course on the streets near the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards.
Writing in the Baltimore Sun, columnist Kevin Cowherd said, "I know the race is a big gamble for a town like Baltimore, which is sometimes leery of big ideas and big projects . . . " Sounds like Philly, sometimes.
"But I want it to be a big hit here," Cowherd wrote. "This city needs a big hit."
THIS WEEK'S RACE
Atlanta Motor Speedway, Hampton, Ga.
When: Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN/WNPV (1440-AM)
Course, distance: 1.54-mile oval, 325 laps/500.5 miles
Race forecast: thunderstorms, upper 80s
Last year's winner: Tony Stewart
Last year's pole: Denny Hamlin, 187.38 mph
Track qualifying record: Geoffrey Bodine, 197.478 mph (November 1997)
Track facts: Tony Stewart led 76 laps, including the last 25, in winning last year's race. Stewart is winless this year . . . Kyle Busch is scheduled to race all three races at Atlanta this weekend . . . NASCAR says that based on standings, Jeff Gordon has clinched a playoff spot.
Wins: Kyle Busch, 4; Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski, 3 each; Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon, 2 each; Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, David Ragan, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose, 1 each.
SPRINT CUP STANDINGS (Through 24 of 36 races)
1. Kyle Busch 830 -
3. Matt Kenseth 798
4. Carl Edwards 795
5. Kevin Harvick 782
6. a-Jeff Gordon 782
7. Ryan Newman 762
8. Kurt Busch 749
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 728
10. Tony Stewart 710
11. x-Brad Keselowski 689
12. Clint Bowyer 688
13. y-Denny Hamlin 672
14. A.J. Allmendinger 664
15. Kasey Kahne 656
16. Greg Biffle 649
17. Martin Truex Jr. 645
18. Joey Logano 642
19. Mark Martin 633
20. Paul Menard 631
a-clinched playoff spot; x-No. 1 wild card; y-No. 2 wild card
Chase for the Championship is made up of top 10 drivers, plus two wild cards chosen on the basis of most wins.
Up next: Wonderful Pistachios 400, Sept. 10, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, 7:30 p.m.; TV: ABC; last year's winner: Denny Hamlin.