Kansas City, KS (April 22, 2012) – After battling handling issues earlier in the weekend with their No. 17 Ford, Matt Kenseth and his Ford EcoBoost team made changes prior to Sunday’s race that allowed them to earn their third consecutive top-five finish. Kenseth finished fourth after starting the race from 18th and lead the way for the Roush Fenway organization.
The field took the green flag at 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway at 12:19pm CST as Kenseth started 18th. Within the opening 20 laps, Kenseth drove his Ford EcoBoost Fusion up to 12th and took the opportunity to report in to crew chief Jimmy Fennig about the car’s handling. Kenseth told his team that the No. 17 machine was getting tight across the center of the turns, was also tight on the gas, and needed more front grip.
The first round of green-flag pit stops began to cycle through the field around lap 44 and Fennig called his driver in for service on lap 46 for four tires, fuel, and air adjustments. The first caution of the afternoon came shortly after the cycle on lap 52 after the No. 15 spun coming off of Turn 4. Since the No. 17 had just pitted six laps earlier, Fennig opted to stay out and Kenseth restarted 10th.
Over the course of the next run, Kenseth moved up to seventh on the leaderboard and told Fennig that the new tires didn’t help him at the start of a run, and that the No. 17 Ford still needed to turn a hair better. The next round of green-flag pit stops began around lap 90 and Kenseth earned bonus points for leading a lap on lap 94 before pitting for four tires, fuel, and air adjustments on lap 95.
A caution for debris on lap 132 gave Kenseth the chance to discuss with his team over radio communications about the fact that the No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Fusion was just a little loose, but otherwise perfect overall. Kenseth was sitting second under the caution and restarted in that position, but a hold up on the restart found him shuffled back to fifth. He fought for the remainder of the race to get back his position at the front of the field, but changing track conditions found the No. 17 Ford loose off overall, and tight in the middle.
In the end, Kenseth was able to cross the line in fourth, and earned his third consecutive top-five finish.
“I’ve got to thank all the guys who worked on this car,” commented Kenseth after the race. “Jimmy (Fennig) and the guys did a great job on this Ford EcoBoost Fusion. I was not happy with it at all this weekend, and they made a lot of changes this morning and last night, and it drove a lot better today. We were a little bit off. I got that one just horrendously awful restart in the middle of the race and we could just never quite get it exactly right, but it was a good day for us. I wish we could have got up there and mixed it up with the top two a little bit more, but overall, it was a solid day. We had good pit stops. Jimmy and the guys made great adjustments on our car to make it better from yesterday to today. We were just a little short and had that one bad restart that got us behind and we just weren’t quite strong enough to get up there again.”
Denny Hamlin won Sunday’s STP 400 after he was able to hold off Martin Truex, Jr. in the final 30 laps. Truex, Jr. had dominated Sunday’s race leading a total of 173 laps, but towards the end of the race, the sun came out through the clouds and changed the track condition and found Hamlin taking the lead. Jimmie Johnson finished third, while Roush Fenway Racing teammates, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle rounded out the top-five finishers.
NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series heads to Virginia next weekend for Saturday night racing at Richmond International Raceway. Pre-race television coverage begins on Saturday, April 28th at 7:00 p.m. EST on FOX. Radio coverage will be provided by the Motor Racing Network (MRN).
Richmond International Raceway (0.75-mile)
Saturday, April 28, 2012