Kenseth won last year's Chase race at Kansas in his final season with Roush Fenway Racing. The April 21 event here marked his second victory as driver of the No. 20 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Entering Sunday's 400-mile race at Kansas, which is round 4 in the Chase, Kenseth holds an eight-point lead over Jimmie Johnson, who won at Dover. Kyle Busch is 12 points behind his JGR teammate Kenseth.
Sprint Cup teams arrived at Kansas a day early on Thursday for a Goodyear tire test. This will the third time the series runs on this 1.5-mile racetrack since it was repaved during the middle of the 2012 season. Teams familiarized themselves with Goodyear's new multi-zone tread tire for this race.
"I would have rather left everything alone for us, especially after (Thursday)," said Kenseth, who was 13th on the practice charts at 180.711 mph. "It was a struggle. I was glad we got the extra practice. Whenever anything is working good for you, then you kind of like to leave everything the same. But yet when you come back it's the same for everybody. You just have to figure it out."
Johnson posted the quickest lap at 182.648 mph. Chase drivers Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch were second and third fastest, respectively.
"Goodyear and NASCAR didn't like the fact there wasn't any tire wear, and that is why they tested a couple of times and having this test day for us," Johnson said. "They are trying to create the right tire fall-off, so we can have that side-by-side racing that is everybody's goal."
Five drivers have two victories at Kansas: Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Johnson and Kenseth. No driver has yet to win three races here.
Kenseth has finished no worse than seventh in the last six races at Kansas. He started on the pole and led 163 of 267 laps at this track in the spring.
"Kansas obviously was brand new, paved, and reconfigured for last fall," Kenseth said. "We had a fast car there last year, and then circumstances worked out where we had to pit and fix some damage, and ended up being in the front. It's pretty tough to pass with the new pavement, and this past spring, we just had an unbelievably fast car and were fortunately able to turn it into a win."
Kansas is the second of five mile-and-a-half tracks on the Chase schedule. The remaining intermediate tracks are: Charlotte (Oct. 12), Texas (Nov. 3) and Homestead (Nov. 17). Four of Kenseth's series-leading seven wins this season have come at mile and a halfs.
Johnson's victories at Kansas occurred in September 2008 and October 2011. He has finished ninth or better in the last nine races here. Johnson placed third in the spring event.
While Kenseth and Johnson have been impressive at Kansas, Kyle Busch has not. Busch has scored just two top-10 finishes in 12 races at this track. He finished 31st in last year's Chase event at Kansas and then 38th here earlier this season.
"We definitely had a great start to our Chase thus far with three top-fives in a row," Busch said. "We go to one of our worst racetracks on the circuit. Probably going to be our second biggest test, we feel like, in the Chase. We're ready for it. We're focused and excited about being able to get there and have a great weekend in Kansas."
Kevin Harvick is presently fourth in the Chase standings (-39 points), followed Gordon (-39), Biffle (-41), Ryan Newman (-48) and Clint Bowyer (-51).
Ninth through 13th in points are: Kurt Busch (-55), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-57), Edwards (-65), Joey Logano (-66) and Kasey Kahne (-78).
Forty-three teams are on the entry list for the Hollywood Casino 400.
Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, Oct. 6. Race: Hollywood Casino 400. Site: Kansas Speedway. Track: 1.5-mile oval. Start time: 2 p.m. ET. Laps: 267. Miles: 400. 2012 Winner: Matt Kenseth. Television: ESPN. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.