Team 17 Secures Second Top-Five Finish in a Row and Improve in Chase Standings
There are people who, when faced with trouble or adversity will throw in the towel – just quit. Then there are those who will never give up, never lose their heads and make the most of a bad situation. In Sunday’s Camping World 400 at the Kansas Speedway, the latter described Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT Ford Fusion team. In a rollercoaster of a day filled with highs and lows, Kenseth and company overcame many obstacles en route to a fifth-place finish. After securing a season-best third-place qualifying effort and turning fast times during the weekend’s practice sessions, it looked as though the DEWALT team would be serious contenders in Sunday’s 267-lap event. However, a mishap in the pits and an incident on the track set the No. 17 team back. In spite of the problems, the determined DEWALT team forged ahead and succeeded in the end.
“We just got behind in the pits and then I spun out that one time – I don’t know if that was my fault or what really happened to be honest with you there,” Kenseth said. “There was just too much ground to make up. It’s just hard to get back in the front, harder than it’s ever been, and to come back through and get fifth is a pretty big accomplishment, I think.”
Pole winner, Jimmie Johnson led the 43-car field to the green flag on a warm and sunny Kansas City afternoon and Kenseth followed close behind in third place. By lap 17, the No. 17 was the leader of the pack and would remain in first position until lap 42 when he was passed by the No. 1 of Martin Truex, Jr. Kenseth reported to crew chief Chip Bolin that his DEWALT Ford was “a little too loose on exit, but overall okay,” and entered pit road for the first time under green flag conditions on lap 50. After the Killer Bees bolted on four tires, filled the No. 17 with fuel and made a wedge adjustment to resolve the handling problems, Kenseth returned to the track as the race leader.
From lap 53 to lap 74, Kenseth enjoyed a three-second lead over second place, but caution fell and Kenseth’s fate soon took a turn for the worse. In a scheduled, routine pit stop for four tires and fuel, the jack was dropped before all lug nuts were secured. Kenseth exited the pits on lap 77 in first place, only to have to return on lap 78 to properly bolt on the tires. When green flag racing commenced on lap 79, Kenseth was scored in 25th position.
Kenseth worked his way up to ninth place by lap 122 when again, trouble found the No. 17 team. On a restart, Kenseth’s Ford was tagged from behind by another competitor and went spinning across the track. Kenseth, being the driving machine that he is, avoided making contact with any of the charging cars and came out of the incident with just flat tires. After pitting for new tires, Kenseth rejoined the race on lap 126 in 29th place.
Down, but certainly not out, Kenseth again began his charge to the front and by lap 200 was running in ninth position. He made a final trip down pit road on lap 217 for four tires and fuel only. After the 12.3-second pit stop, Kenseth was scored in sixth place and set to race for the checkers. In the final 45 laps, lapped traffic hindered Kenseth’s trek to the lead and he would ultimately finish fifth.
A sellout crowd stood cheering as hard-driving Carl Edwards made a last lap attempt to pass the race leader, Jimmie Johnson. Unfortunately, Roush Fenway Racing’s Edwards ran out of track before running into the wall. Edwards struggled to maintain control and watched Johnson go back by him for the victory at Kansas Speedway. Fellow Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Greg Biffle made a last-lap pass of Jeff Gordon for third position. Kenseth rounded out the top five.
“We have made a lot of improvements over the last two races,” said Kenseth. “But you know I really think we probably would’ve gotten the most points for leading the most laps today had we not had the issues we had. I’m not sure; I think we would’ve run in the top three. With 10 races to go in the Chase and being so far behind from New Hampshire, you just can’t afford to have any mistakes. We’ll just move on from here and dig hard next week, and try to get ’em again.”
Three races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup are complete and Kenseth is currently ranked ninth in the point standings with 5383 points - 192 points behind the leader, Jimmie Johnson. Kenseth and the No. 17 team will travel to Talladega Superspeedway next week for the AMP Energy 500. ABC television and MRN radio affiliates will carry the live race broadcast beginning at 1:30 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, October 5.
Amp Energy 500
2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway
Sunday, October 5, 2008