PHOENIX, Ariz. (November 9, 2008) –After enjoying three consecutive top-10 finishes, Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT Ford Fusion team were looking forward to the race at Phoenix International Raceway. However, Kenseth and crew would be none-too excited for what Sunday’s O’Reilly Checker’s Auto Parts 500 would have in store for them. After relatively successful practice sessions Kenseth and the No. 17 team were hopeful heading into Sunday’s 312-lap event, although a less than stellar 34th-place starting position would have Kenseth starting near the rear of the pack. During Sunday’s second-to-last NASCAR Sprint Cup race, the No. 17 team came face-to-face with trouble in the form of just about anything from handling issues to a flat tire and even a late-race accident. After spending much of the race a lap down to the leader, Kenseth earned the Lucky Dog Award on lap 284 and by day’s end; the No. 17 DEWALT team had pulled off a 15th-place finish.
Handling was a problem for Kenseth from the drop of the green flag as he had his hands full with a tight-handling race car - reporting that the DEWALT Ford was “too tight and in need of grip”. The first caution waved on lap 19 and gave the team its first opportunity to work on the DEWALT Ford. Kenseth entered the pits on lap 21 in 24th position and crew chief Chip Bolin directed them to change two right-side tires and make a track bar adjustment. When green-flag racing resumed on lap 24, Kenseth was scored in 17th position.
The tight-handling condition continued to plague the DEWALT Ford and by the second caution on lap 30, Kenseth had fallen back to 20th position. Bolin directed Kenseth to stay out during this yellow flag period and just a few laps later the race was red flagged due to rain. As Kenseth made his way down pit road for the red flag period, Bolin observed that the left front tire was flat on Kenseth’s Ford. During the 20-minute red flag period, Bolin and Kenseth formulated a plan to repair the tire on the No. 17.
As soon as the race restarted Bolin called Kenseth to pit road to mend the flat tire before severe damage was caused. Since Kenseth pitted early, he was penalized and forced to restart the race at the tail end of the lead lap cars. When green flag racing commenced on lap 48, Kenseth was scored in 38th place.
Still wrestling with the No. 17, Kenseth went one lap down on lap 94. Over the next 206 laps Kenseth gradually made up ground and with just 28 laps remaining in the race, he returned to the lead lap after receiving the Lucky Dog award. By lap 296, Kenseth had worked his way up to 15th place and looked as though he may be on his way to his typical come from behind to capture a solid finish. But, yet again, trouble befell the DEWALT team. On lap 305, when Kenseth was running in 15th place – his highest position of the day, he was tapped by the No.10 car. The contact with the other competitor caused Kenseth to slide into the No. 20 and sent both race cars spinning. When the dust settled no real damage was incurred. However, Kenseth would make his way down pit road for a final time for fresh tires.
Kenseth rejoined the race on lap 311 in 17th place. Down, but not out, he forged ahead and worked to regain track positions. When the checkers finally waved, Kenseth was scored in 15th place. Jimmie Johnson won the race. Kurt Busch was second; Roush Fenway Racing’s Jamie McMurray and Carl Edwards were third and fourth respectively. Denny Hamlin finished fifth.
Johnson’s victory was his seventh of the season, his third straight at Phoenix and the 40th of his career, Johnson widened his lead in the Chase to 141 points over fourth-place finisher Edwards. If Johnson finishes 36th or better in next Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he will capture his third straight Cup title.
The Chase for the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup will conclude next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway when a champion is crowned at the season finale, Ford 400. Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT Ford Fusion team enter the final race ranked eighth in the Chase standings, 470 points behind the leader, Jimmie Johnson. The No. 17 team will look to end their season on a high note on Sunday, November 16, 2008. ABC television and MRN radio affiliates will carry the live race broadcast beginning at 3:00 p.m. (EST).
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. For more information on any of the Roush Fenway Racing teams, log onto www.RoushFenway.com. For sponsorship inquiries, please contact Robin Johnson at 704.720.4645.