Kenseth Moves Up to Ninth in Chase Standings
HAMPTON, Ga. (October 26, 2008) – Prior to Sunday’s Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 USG/DEWALT Ford Fusion was optimistic and looking forward to racing at the 1.54-Georgia track, stating: “I feel like we’ve got a team that’s capable of winning, we just have to figure out how to put it all together. I feel good about the race this weekend. Our mile and half stuff has been really strong all year and I’m looking forward to a good race for the USG team.” So, after Kenseth posted fast times during both of Saturday’s practice sessions, it looked as though team 17 was well on their way to a strong run – and they were. From the drop of the green flag in Sunday’s 325-lap event, Kenseth’s Ford was among the fastest on the track. Though the Killer Bees were awesome in the pits, logging pit stops of less than 13 seconds all day and Kenseth led a race-high 128 laps, three late-race cautions, lapped traffic and unclean air were hurdles that team 17 wouldn’t be able to cross and Kenseth would finish the race in fourth place.
It was a picture perfect day for racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway when the green flag waved just after 2 p. m. Quite the opposite of the weather conditions on Friday when rain washed out qualifying for the 10th time this season and the set the starting grid by the NASCAR Rule Book. Points leader Jimmie Johnson led the field to the green flag and took off to a quick start, leading the first three laps. Kenseth rolled off 10th, but fell back to 11th place by the first caution flag on lap three.
The race restarted on lap six with Kenseth still in 11th position. By lap 24, Kenseth had gotten a feel for the No. 17 and reported to crew chief Chip Bolin that his USG Ford Fusion was “loose in and lacking rear grip.” Kenseth maintained his Roush Fenway Racing machine for 10 more laps, when caution again fell permitting him to make his way down pit road for the first time of the day. In ninth place, Kenseth wheeled the No. 17 into his pit stall where he received four tires with air pressure adjustments, fuel and a track bar adjustment. After the 12.5 second servicing, Kenseth rejoined the race in fifth place on lap 39 when green flag racing resumed.
Over the ensuing 75 laps that included a green flag pit stop, Kenseth worked his way up to second place. A caution on lap 109 set the stage for Kenseth and the Killer Bees to shine. On lap 110 Kenseth entered pit road in second place. After the Killer Bees bolted on four tires and filled the No. 17 with fuel, Kenseth rolled off as the race leader. For just over 100 laps and through three pit cycles Kenseth maintained the lead and conveyed his satisfaction to his team.
But after a routine pit stop on lap 253, Kenseth’s good fortune began to dwindle. Beaten off pit road by the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin, Kenseth restarted the race in second place on lap 257. He reported being “tight” in traffic and thus struggled to pass Hamlin. Kenseth held on to second place when a caution on lap 288 set up Kenseth’s final pit stop of the day. Despite a blistering fast 12.6 second pit stop, Kenseth was unable to pass Hamlin on pit road. He restarted the race second.
The race would be stalled on three more occasions due to cautions before its conclusion and Kenseth would remain on the track through each yellow flag period. With each restart Kenseth did his best to make up ground, however lapped traffic would hinder his climb to the front and he fell back to third place on the lap 302 restart. Despite his best efforts, Kenseth would be unable to make up any ground and ultimately finished the race in fourth place.
“We were good all day, it’s just that in this day and age of racing with these cars and stuff we’ve got going on, you can take a pretty good car and put it in the front and think you’ve got the best car in the world, and then you put it in second and you’ve got a pretty average top-five or top-10 car,” Kenseth said following the race. “It’s just really frustrating. We had a good car. I had good stops. Denny beat us out of the pits and once he did that, we just couldn’t get back by him. We were just so much slower behind another car and then I got beat on that restart by Carl. He laid back a little bit and got an excellent restart and got by me and then we were pretty much done. There are certain things that happen that are out of your control and things that happen that are in your control you try to look at and try to fix and try to do better the next time and just keep trying to improve.”
Johnson raced his way back into contention after a pit road speeding penalty put him a lap down. With just 16 laps to go after the final caution, Johnson's pit crew gambled by stopping for new tires, dropping back to 10th position for the restart. Johnson wheeled his way passed everyone but Carl Edwards in the final 16 laps on his way to a runner-up finish. Hamlin finished third, followed by Kenseth. Kyle Busch was fifth and Kurt Busch sixth. Roush Fenway Racing drivers, Jamie McMurray and David Ragan were seventh and eighth respectively. Jeff Gordon finished ninth and another Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Greg Biffle completed the top 10.
After the solid fourth-place run at Atlanta, Kenseth is currently ranked ninth in the Chase standings – up one spot from last week. Kenseth trails the points leader, Jimmie Johnson by 413 points with just three races remaining in the 2008 Sprint Cup Series season.
The Sprint Cup Series races next at the Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, November 2, 2008. ABC television and PRN radio affiliates will carry the live broadcast of the Dickies 500 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.