CONCORD, N.C. (May 25, 2008) – Last week’s third-place finish in the Sprint All-Star Challenge was the moral booster that Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT/R+L Carriers Ford Fusion team needed as they headed into Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 – the most grueling race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. Kenseth qualified 12th for Sunday’s 400-lap event and spent the majority of it inside the top 15. Despite the impressive showing, handling issues plagued team 17 for much of the race and prevented Kenseth from charging to the front. When the checkers finally flew after four hours and 25 minutes of racing, Kenseth crossed the finish line in seventh place.
Under warm, sunny skies, Kyle Busch led the 43-car field to green in front of a crowd of nearly 160,000 at the 1.5-mile oval located in Concord, N.C. Kenseth followed in 12th position in the green and yellow R+L Carriers paint scheme and settled in for the longest most challenging race of the season. One of the greatest challenges of the event is battling the ever-changing racetrack. Since the race starts with the sun still out and gradually transitions to darkness, teams that manage the shifting conditions will usually prevail.
Kenseth reported the car being too loose at the start the race as he ran in and around 12th place. After entering the pits for the first time in the on lap 49 under green flag conditions for a four-tires-and-fuel pit stop with a minor air pressure adjustment, Kenseth rejoined the race in eighth place. Despite the adjustments, Kenseth continued to report ill-handling conditions, however still maintained a top-10 running position.
Throughout the marathon event, Kenseth was penalized once for speeding on pit road after a stop on lap 192. Despite the setback, the No.17 crew would work to tweak the DEWALT/R+L Carriers Ford Fusion with track bar and wedge adjustments over the course of nine scheduled pit stops. While Kenseth never reported being completely satisfied with the handling of the No. 17 after a stop on lap 329 that included significant air pressure changes, along with the removal of a spring rubber he began picking off the competition lap-by-lap.
On lap 334 Kenseth was scored in 17th place and by lap 359 he had worked his way up to seventh position. Although things looked promising for team 17, fuel mileage would play a role in the race’s conclusion. As most cars pitted on lap 335 under caution – just 10 laps short of Kenseth’s fuel window, another stop for fuel only would be required to complete the race. One-by-one cars pitted for fuel and on lap 390, Kenseth was among those. A three count fuel was all that was needed and Kenseth returned to the track to complete the race. In the final 10 laps, Kenseth did what he could, but ultimately finished seventh.
Kasey Kahne won the Coca-Cola 600, his eighth NASCAR Sprint Cups Series victory. Roush Fenway Racing driver, Greg Biffle finished second. Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. followed to complete the top five.
The solid finish for Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT/R+L Carriers team gave them a great points advantage; boosting them from 20th to 16th in overall point standings.
“We just really fell behind some today and could never really get our set up just right,” said Kenseth. “Even though we were able to get a pretty decent finish, it could have been a lot better. Still we were able to make some gains in the point standings and hopefully that will continue next week at Dover.”
Kenseth and the No. 17 team will travel to Dover, Del. next week for the Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway. The racing action at the Monster Mile will be broadcast live on FOX television and MRN radio affiliates beginning at 2:30 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, June 1.
About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing is NASCAR’s largest team operating 13 motorsports teams. Five in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 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; and three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Darnell, Braun, Kvapil, John Wes Townley and Bobby East; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.