MARTINSVILLE, VA. (March 30, 2008) – After enjoying a week off, Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT Ford Fusion team were eager to go racing. However, Kenseth and crew were none-too excited to unload this weekend at Martinsville Speedway – a track notorious for being a thorn in the side of the No. 17 team. Though Kenseth and company were hoping for the best, they struggled with handling issues throughout each of the weekend’s practice sessions and laid down a less than stellar 28th-place qualifying lap. During Sunday’s Goody’s Cool Orange 500, the No. 17 team came face-to-face with trouble in the form of just about anything from handling issues to an accident and even a two-lap penalty. By day’s end, Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT team escaped Martinsville with a 30th-place finish.
Handling was a problem for Kenseth from the drop of the green flag as he had his hands full with a loose-handling race car - reporting that the DEWALT Ford was “really loose in the gas”. The first caution waved on lap 20 and gave the team its first opportunity to work on the DEWALT Ford. Kenseth entered the pits on lap 22 in 27th position and crew chief Chip Bolin directed them to change two right-side tires and make a track bar adjustment. When green-flag racing resumed on lap 24, Kenseth was scored in 25th position.
An extremely loose-handling condition continued to plague the DEWALT Ford and by the second caution on lap 43, Kenseth was reporting that his Ford was, “so loose I can’t even drive it.” Again, Bolin called Kenseth to pit road in hopes of remedying the loose handling problems. In what should have been a routine stop for four tires and a track bar adjustment, trouble again found the DEWALT team. As Kenseth was entering his pit stall, he was tapped in the close quarters of the pits by another competitor and ultimately pitted outside of his pit stall. The pit road mishap resulted in the loss of a lap for Kenseth and crew. When green flag racing commenced on lap 48, Kenseth was scored 43rd, down a lap.
Over the next 165 laps Kenseth gradually made up ground and on lap 213, he returned to the lead lap after receiving the Lucky Dog award. When it looked as though Kenseth was en route to his typical come from behind to capture a solid finish, trouble again befell the DEWALT team. On lap 328, when Kenseth was running in 15th place – his highest position of the day, he was tagged from behind and sent up the track. The contact with the other competitor caused severe damage to the No. 17. The time spent in the pits trying to repair the DEWALT Ford would prove costly to the team, as two laps were lost in the process.
Kenseth rejoined the race on lap 332 in 31st place, two laps down to the leader. Down, but not out, he forged ahead and worked to regain track positions. However, mechanical failure on 361 resulted in Kenseth making contact with another competitor and thus causing more damage to the No. 17. On lap 364, Kenseth was in the pits again for repairs, when NASCAR announced they were penalizing him for “aggressive driving” from the previous lap’s incident. The two-lap penalty was served and Kenseth returned to the track on lap 367 in 34th place, four laps down to the leaders.
Though Kenseth would continue to make laps around the .526-mile Virginia track, too much was lost and by day’s end, the DEWALT team finished the race in 30th position, four laps down to race winner, Denny Hamlin.
“Every time we made up a little ground, we kept getting wrecked, or whatever the case turned out to be,” Kenseth said following the race. “We were so far off in the beginning and then I got spun out on pit road and pitted out of the box. That cost us a lap and it took us 200 laps to get that back, and then we really ran pretty good but we just kept getting run into. It was a long day and I’m glad it’s over. I’m ready to go to Texas.”
Before an estimated crowd of 63,000, Denny Hamlin won the Goody’s Cool Orange 500. Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart followed to complete the top five.
The 30th-place finish in Martinsville dropped Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT team from 11th to 15th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings. Kenseth is currently 238 points behind point leader Jeff Burton.
Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT team will head to Texas Motor Speedway next weekend for the Samsung 500. FOX television and PRN radio affiliates will carry the live race broadcast beginning at 1:30 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, April 6.
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.