Late-Race Accident Relegates Team 17 to 40th-Place Finish at New Hampshire
LOUDON, N.H. (September 14, 2008) -- In the first of 10 races to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 Carhartt Ford Fusion team came home with a disappointing 40th-place finish. After struggling to find the perfect setup through all three of the weekend’s practice sessions, Kenseth and company were feeling less than optimistic heading into Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. However, Mother Nature smiled on the 17 team and rained out qualifying, the field was set according to the rule book and Kenseth was permitted a 12th-place start for Sunday’s race. Though Kenseth maintained a top-15 running position for 178 of his 228 laps completed, he battled an ill-handling race car for much of the 300-lap event. Just as the handling of the No. 17 started to improve, Kenseth was involved in a multi-car crash that ended his day. He ultimately finished the race in 40th place.
Since qualifying was cancelled for the second week in a row, point leader Kyle Busch led the 43-car field to green and Kenseth rolled off 12th. But by the NASCAR-issued competition caution flag on lap 35, Kenseth had fallen back to 14th-place and was reporting that his Ford was “low on rear grip” and “lacking speed in the middle of the turns.” An aggressive adjustment was needed to remedy the handling problems and crew chief Chip Bolin prescribed just that. When Kenseth brought the No. 17 down pit road, a spring rubber was removed, four tires were bolted on and two cans of fuel were inserted. The lengthy stop, due to the removal of the spring rubber cost Kenseth several positions on the track. He was scored in 21st place when green flag racing resumed on lap 40.
Throughout the next run of the race Kenseth continued to battle with a loose handling race car, however was able to maintain his 21st-place running position. On lap 83 caution fell for the second time of the event and Kenseth brought the No. 17 back to pit road for more servicing. Again, aggressive adjustments were needed and thus received. This time the No. 17 crew removed another spring rubber, raised the track bar and bolted on just two tires. The call for two tires instead of four proved valuable, as Kenseth gained several track positions and restarted the race on lap 88 in ninth place.
Kenseth would make two more scheduled pit stops before his untimely finish. On each stop the No. 17 crew worked to correct the ill-handling Carhartt Ford and by lap 220, Kenseth was reporting improvements. Unfortunately the improvements would be short-lived. Just after a restart on lap 228 while Kenseth was running 12th he became the victim of a multi-car crash. The crash started when Sam Hornish Jr. ran out of room on the bottom of the track and bumped Kyle Petty, triggering a melee that also involved Casey Mears, David Gilliland, Kyle Busch, and Kenseth. The damages incurred in the wreck were terminal and Kenseth’s day was over. He ultimately finished 40th. The disappointing finish for Kenseth was his first DNF of 2008.
“I’m fine,” Kenseth said after being checked and released from the infield care center. “That was a couple of hard hits there, the hardest I’ve hit in a while. That’s not the way we wanted to go out with our Carhartt Fusion. All of the guys were doing a really good job. We had good pit stops, good strategy, good adjustments today. We didn’t have much to work with. We were really slow today and overnight they made the car a lot better. We weren’t gonna be a factor to win, but we were gonna get a decent finish out of it anyway and try to go onto next week. This isn’t the time to have it happen, but those things happen. You just kind of take it one week at a time. We’ve got to get running better. Today, we were gonna salvage something decent, I thought, after not much of a Friday and Saturday, so we’ve just got to keep working and get our performance better. We just really have to approach it one week at a time and work as hard as we can every week to get our cars better. If we can get our cars better
and run up front, most of the time things like this won’t happen. If we would have been up running where Greg and Carl were running, we wouldn’t have got wrecked to start with, so I always feel it’s partially our own fault. Even though we got caught up in somebody else’s mess, if we would have been running better, we would have been ahead of their mess.”
Roush Fenway Racing driver, Greg Biffle held off Jimmie Johnson to capture his first win of 2008. Another Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Carl Edwards came home third. Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. followed to complete the top five.
After the first race in the Chase, Kenseth remains ranked 12th, 177 points behind the leaders, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson who are tied. Kenseth and the No. 17 team will travel to Dover International Speedway next week for race two in the Chase to the Sprint Cup. ABC television and MRN radio affiliates will carry the live race broadcast beginning at 1:30 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, September 21.