A Promising Day Ends Up Short on Gas; Upsetting Finish Leaves Kenseth 11th in Chase Standings
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (November 16, 2008) – In the 2008 season finale race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT Ford Fusion team turned in a stellar performance. Posting a third-place qualifying effort and fast lap times during the weekend’s practice sessions, Kenseth and company looked to be on track and set to score their first victory of 2008. Though, Kenseth kept the No. 17 up front for 73 laps, the No. 17 ran out of fuel with just two laps remaining in the race. Kenseth was forced to pit under green flag conditions and ultimately finished the race in 25th place, one lap down.
Pole winner, David Reutimann led the 43-car field to the green flag on a cool and sunny Sunday afternoon in Homestead, Fla. Kenseth, in the No.17 DEWALT Ford followed closely behind in third position and by the time the first lap was logged, Kenseth was scored as the race leader. However, as the run progressed, Kenseth reported that his DEWALT Ford was handling “tight in and loose off”. A green flag pit stop on lap 51 gave the No. 17 team the opportunity to make adjustments to Kenseth’s Ford. But, with the bright, Florida sunshine glaring in Kenseth’s eyes, he over shot his pit stall and valuable time was lost on pit road. When the entire field had cycled through green flag stops, Kenseth was scored in seventh place, running 14 seconds behind the leader.
Throughout two pit cycles, Kenseth continued to report tight handling problems. On lap 139, during a pit stop under caution, crew chief Chip Bolin made an aggressive call to insert a shim into the right front shock of the No. 17. After spending just over 16 seconds on pit road for the timely adjustment, Kenseth rejoined the race on lap 145 in 18th position. The adjustment worked because by lap 173, Kenseth was running third and on lap 186 Kenseth was the race leader.
A lap 198 caution would be the wrench thrown into the plan to stop just once more before the race’s conclusion. While Kenseth made his way down pit road under this caution period, he was eight laps shy of making it to the finish on fuel. But, since the “save fuel” strategy had successfully worked for teammate, Carl Edwards several times this season, Bolin made the call to try to make it on fuel. He directed Kenseth to save fuel as he would not be pitting anymore.
From lap 203 to lap 256, Kenseth saved fuel while racing inside the top two. On lap 256, race leader, Tony Stewart pitted for fuel and Kenseth was scored in first place and looked to be on his way to victory lane. But, just two laps shy of the finish, his DEWALT Ford puttered and Kenseth was forced to pit for fuel.
Roush Fenway Racing’s Edwards took over the lead when Kenseth’s Ford ran out of gas on lap 265. Edwards maintained the lead and captured the win in the Ford 400. The win marked his ninth of 2008. Rounding out the top five were: Kevin Harvick in second, fellow Roush Fenway Racing driver, Jamie McMurray in third and Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer finished fourth and fifth respectively. Kenseth ultimately finished the race in 25th place, one lap down to the leader.
“We just decided to try and make it on fuel, so we just went slow,” Kenseth said after climbing out of his Ford Fusion. “We had a really fast car. We just messed up on our bump-stop gaps and couldn’t get it fixed until we got a caution in the middle of the race and then we had a good car, we just didn’t have enough gas.
“It just seems like it doesn’t matter which way we roll it. If we would have run hard, we wouldn’t have won either. It just doesn’t seem like we can do anything right. The car performed really well today. I’m happy about that, but we just can’t seem to get things to go our way. The 99 can’t do anything wrong and we can’t do anything right. I don’t understand how he can make power and still get that much better fuel mileage than us. I had such a big lead I was just riding around.
“I love racing and we’ve got to get this back to championship form. We’re used to winning and running up front and we haven’t been doing that, so we’ve got to figure out how to fix that. I’m ready to work on that and try to be back at the track and try to get doing better.”
The Chase for the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup concluded and Jimmie Johnson has for the third time in a row claimed the title. Johnson defeated Roush Fenway’s Edwards by just 69 points. Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT Ford Fusion team wrap up the season 11th place in the Chase standings.
About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing operates 13 full-time motorsports teams, five in NASCAR Sprint Cup with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; four in the Nationwide Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Erik Darnell and Colin Braun; three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Darnell, Braun, Kvapil, Bobby East and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.