A year ago, people were criticizing Matt Kenseth for being too consistent and racing for points instead of wins as he drove away with the championship in NASCAR's premier series.

Now, heading into Sunday's race at Chicagoland Speedway, Kenseth would just like to regain that consistency.

"We've had it pretty tough four out of the last five races, so we're ready to start finishing good and get some momentum back and get everything rolling before we get to those last 10 races," Kenseth said.

In 2003, Kenseth had only one win and failed to finish two races, but he also had 11 top fives and 25 top 10s. Already this year, he has failed to finish three times and, despite winning two races early in the season, has only six top fives and 10 top 10s.

In his last five races, he has finished better than 20th once -- a seventh-place run last month at Michigan.

The reigning champ is fifth in the points standings, but under NASCAR's new "Chase for the Championship" system, he's not entirely comfortable with his situation.

After the first 26 races, only the top 10 and any other driver within 400 points of the leader will be eligible to contend for the championship over the final 10 races. No matter how many points they have after the 26th event, the top 10 will be separated after that race by just 50 points.

Right now, after 17 races, it appears there may be only 10 eligible drivers. Tenth-place Kevin Harvick is 450 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, and 11th-place Kasey Kahne is 561 points out of first.

Kenseth is 356 points behind Johnson, which means very little if he remains in the top 10. But, what makes him a bit uncomfortable is that he is only 94 points ahead of Harvick in 10th spot after crashing and finishing 39th last Saturday night in Daytona.

"We need to get back up there and be more solid in the top 10 so, in case we do have more problems, we don't drop out of it," Kenseth said.

New Experience

Tina Gordon could hardly wait to get her first look at Chicagoland Speedway this week. It's just one of a number of racetracks the new Busch Series regular is going to have to get to know.

"I've never raced there before, but that's all right," said Gordon, who drove her first race as teammate to Derrike Cope, with Jay Robinson Racing, last weekend at Daytona, finishing 32nd.

It was the fourth career Busch start for the 33-year-old Gordon, who began the season in the truck series.

"I am here to drive this car the rest of the season to gain experience," she said. "The majority of the tracks where I am going to be going to I just haven't been to yet. But we are using the rest of this season to learn. We want to be prepared for a strong full season next year." . . .

Hendrick Motorsports drivers have six wins and six poles in the last 10 Nextel Cup events, dating from Martinsville on April 18. During that stretch, a Hendrick team has either finished first, earned the pole or won from the pole in nine of 10 events. (Jeff Gordon has three poles and four wins, Jimmie Johnson two poles and two wins and rookie Brian Vickers one pole.)

Tina Gordon, who placed 32nd at Daytona last week, stands by the car she will be driving at the Chicagoland Speedway.