Watkins Glen, NY (August 12, 2012) – After two disappointing finishes getting caught up in wrecks the last two weekends, Matt Kenseth and his No.17 Ford EcoBoost team traveled to New York for their final road course event of the season. Watkins Glen International is a 2.45-mile road course that is tough on equipment as well as the drivers who are forced to fight for position throughout a series of challenging twists and turns along the course. Statistically it has been a track where Kenseth had only earned three top-ten finishes, but after finishing eighth on Sunday, he tied his career-best finish there.
Kenseth began Sunday’s 90-lap race from the 24th starting position, and within the opening lap, he had driven his way into 20th. With a few laps under his belt, Kenseth radioed in to crew chief Jimmy Fennig during lap seven that the No. 17 machine was “out-of-control loose going to the right.” A series of green-flag pit stops cycled through the field around lap 18, and Kenseth once again told the team that the Ford EcoBoost Fusion was loose to the right and tight to the left. He also told Fennig that the car started out the run good, but that it just lost grip as the run went on.
Fuel mileage and pit stop strategy are important factors at road course races and Fennig’s plan entering the race was to only pit twice if possible. The first caution of the day came during lap 25 while Kenseth was running in the 14th position. Fennig called his driver down pit road for four tires, fuel, air pressure and track bar adjustments.
The Ford EcoBoost Fusion restarted 13th and held onto position until a few more teams opted to pit around lap 46. The pit strategy allowed Kenseth to move up to eighth on lap 57 right as the second caution of the day came on lap 58. Fennig asked his driver how the adjustments on the last stop had helped the car. Kenseth said that while he had better grip off the corners with the changes, that the No. 17 Ford continued to be loose off.
Fennig decided to pit for four tires, fuel and air pressure changes on lap 59 and Kenseth restarted in eighth. A passing rain shower misted the track, but it wasn’t enough to make NASCAR officials red-flag the race as the field ran caution laps around the course to keep it dry. The race returned to green on lap 69 and was able to complete all 90 laps of the event Sunday afternoon.
“I feel good about our finish,” said Kenseth following the race. “We didn’t run particularly well overall this whole weekend, but I’m glad we got a top ten. Our team cars were faster all weekend, and we kind of missed it, but I thought we did a great job on pit road today. We had a great strategy and got it to where we could hold on to our position at the end, so I guess that was a good day overall.”
Marcos Ambrose claimed the win Sunday earning his second consecutive victory at Watkins Glen in the Cup Series. Ambrose only led for a total of eight laps in Sunday’s 90-lap event, but the final laps of the race are where he made his move and beat Brad Keselowski to the line. Jimmie Johnson finished third behind Ambrose and Keselowski, while Kenseth finished eighth, tying his best career finish at the track.
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway for the Pure Michigan 400. Pre-race television coverage begins on Sunday, August 19th at 12:00 p.m. EST on ESPN. Radio coverage will be provided by the Motor Racing Network (MRN.)