Kenseth Improves to Eighth Place in Chase Standings
JUSTIN, Tex. (November 2, 2008) – Heading into Sunday’s Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Ford Fusion was optimistic and looking forward to racing at the 1.5-mile Texas track. Coming off of an impressive fourth-place finish at Atlanta, where Kenseth dominated much of the race, the No. 17 team was looking to build on that momentum and hopefully improve on that finish. Kenseth posted fast times during the weekend’s practice sessions and qualified sixth, so it looked as though team 17 was well on their way to a strong run. However, as fate would have it, from the drop of the green flag in Sunday’s 334-lap event, Kenseth reported “loose” handling conditions with his No. 17 and despite the best efforts of the DEWALT team nothing seemed to remedy the handling problems. Kenseth wrestled with his Ford all day and ultimately brought home a hard fought ninth-place finish.
For the first time in four weeks qualifying was not rained out and the 43-car field was set the old fashioned way – by qualifying. Pole winner, Jeff Gordon led the way to the green flag. Kenseth followed closely behind in sixth position after laying down an impressive 28.81 second lap time during Friday’s time trials. By lap 14, though Kenseth had worked his way up to fourth place, he reported that his DEWALT Ford was “too loose in and off and lacking grip”. Kenseth would wrestle with the No. 17 until lap 51, when he made his first scheduled pit stop under green flag conditions. By the time Kenseth entered the pits he had fallen to ninth place and crew chief Chip Bolin made the call for fairly aggressive adjustments. In just over 13 seconds, the No. 17 team bolted on right side tires, ran around to the left side, inserted two spring rubbers before fastening the left side tires and filled Kenseth’s Ford with fuel. By lap 54 the field had cycled through green flag stops and Kenseth was scored in ninth place.
Over the following two runs, Kenseth continued to report “loose” handling conditions. No matter what adjustments Bolin and company threw at the DEWALT Ford, Kenseth still described loose handling conditions. Despite the handling problems, Kenseth maintained a top-10 running position until lap 117 when he fell to 13th place after a round of green flag pit stops.
Throughout 150 laps and four pit stops, Kenseth’s No. 17 was never able to run to his satisfaction. Air pressure adjustments, wedge adjustments, track bar adjustments – nothing seemed to remedy the loose handling problems. But, as usual, Kenseth held on and ran inside the top 10.
In the closing laps of the race, fuel mileage became the major player in the outcome of the finish. Kenseth would be just 12 laps short of making it to the checkered flag, but with the field spread out due to long green flag racing a risk would need to be taken in order for Kenseth to have a shot at a top-five finish. On lap 311, Kenseth pitted several laps before the rest of the field for two tires and fuel, in hopes of making up ground on his competitors with the tires. The early stop dropped him down to 29th place, but as other cars stopped Kenseth began to climb the pylon. Even though Kenseth was able to climb back inside the top 10, the loose handling problems persisted and ninth place would be the best he could do.
“We were just so loose all day,” said Kenseth. “No matter what adjustments we made, we couldn’t get the grip we needed. It felt like we had a tire going down. These cars are just so much different and days like today are really frustrating. There are two races to go, hopefully we’ll be able to pull something together in the next two weeks and run better.”
In the final laps of the race fuel mileage became a player as the cars charged around the 1.5-mile tri-oval. Though more than three-quarters of the field were forced to pit, Carl Edwards’ commanding lead allowed him to conserve more fuel and avoid pitting. Jeff Gordon finished second, also gambling on going the distance at the end without stopping for gas. Trailing Edwards and Gordon were Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex, Jr., Kenseth and David Reutimann.
With just two races remaining in the 2008 Chase for the Sprint Cup, Kenseth and the No. 17 will head to Phoenix International Raceway next weekend ranked eighth in the Chase standings, 393 points behind the leader, Jimmie Johnson. Kenseth and the No. 17 team will look to improve their Chase standings in the Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday, November 9, 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.