Martinsville, VA (October 29, 2012) – Martinsville Speedway is a challenging half-mile track on the Sprint Cup series circuit known for hot tempers and plenty of racing action. The paperclip-shaped track has historically been a challenging track for Roush Fenway Racing’s driver of the No. 17, Matt Kenseth, and his Ford EcoBoost team. A tight-handling car Sunday afternoon found Kenseth fighting to maintain position, while long green-flag runs found the majority of the field a lap down to the race leaders for much of the race. Kenseth and his team were able to use pit strategy to finish 14th Sunday despite the handling challenges.
Kenseth began Sunday’s Tums Fast Relief 500 from sixth in the No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Fusion as the field took the green flag to begin the 500-lap event. Within the opening laps, Kenseth called in over team radio communications to crew chief Jimmy Fennig that the car was way too tight. The Ford EcoBoost Fusion began to drop back into the pack, and by lap 40, Kenseth found himself in 21st as the first caution of the day came on lap 46.
Kenseth and Fennig discussed the car’s handling as they came up with a plan for a round of sweeping changes to the No. 17 machine on the team’s first pit stop of the day. Fennig called for four tires, fuel, wedge and track bar adjustments, as well as pulling a rubber on the stop, all of which were targeted to help loosen up the car in the corners. The Ford EcoBoost Fusion restarted 21st, but when a caution came out on lap 98, Kenseth told his team that the car was still too tight. Fennig once again called his driver into the pits for tires, fuel, and rubbers into the right rear, but all the adjustments didn’t seem to be helping with the car’s handling.
Stuck in the middle of the pack at a short track like Martinsville is challenging, but Kenseth battled for position the best that he could with a car that wasn’t turning the way he needed it to. Fennig and the team continued to make various chassis adjustments, but Kenseth was mired back in the mid-twenties on the track.
Kenseth fell a lap down to the leaders on lap 297, but around lap 335, green-flag pit stops began to cycle through the field. Fennig told his driver that they were going to stay out for as long as they could, hoping a caution would fall in their favor. As drivers came into the pits for service, Kenseth worked his way up to the front of the field and was scored as the leader on lap 365. The next time by, Fennig called his driver into the pits for a four tire stop.
Kenseth wrestled with the tightness throughout the entire race as the No. 17 seemed immune to all the chassis adjustments Fennig and the team threw its way. Kenseth and his team fought for every position they were able to gain before the checkered flag fell after 500 laps. Kenseth went on to finish 14th Sunday at Martinsville, and improved one position in the driver point standings to eighth with three races remaining in the Chase.
Jimmie Johnson earned the win Sunday after he led for a dominating 193 laps and won his seventh career race at Martinsville. Johnson’s victory also launched him to the top of the point standings. Kyle Busch finished second while Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-three finishers.
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series returns to Texas Motor Speedway for the eighth race of the Chase, the AAA Texas 500. Pre-race television coverage begins on Sunday, November 4th at 2:00 p.m. EST on ESPN. Radio coverage will be provided by the Performance Racing Network (PRN.)