DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 17, 2008) -- Three consecutive Daytona 500s have come and gone and left Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT team wondering what might have been. The excruciating consistency is that in each event, Kenseth has been wrecked while running inside the top 10. On Sunday, Kenseth ran inside the top 10 from lap 34 to lap 160, leading on one occasion and spending much of that time inside the top five. It appeared as if Kenseth had another shot of competing for the win in The Great American Race. After 160 laps of accident-free racing at Daytona, Kenseth was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. On lap 161, Kenseth was riding in the outside lane in the 10th position coming off of turn four, when suddenly the car underneath him slid up the racetrack and directly into the left front of the No. 17 sending both cars into the wall. The damage was severe enough to send Kenseth behind the wall and by the time he returned to the track he was six laps down, able only to limp home in the 36th position.
The 50th running of the Daytona 500 got underway at 3:41 p.m. Eastern under partly cloudy skies and a near-perfect temperature. The sellout crowd on hand witnessed 2007 Cup Champion, Jimmie Johnson lead the field to the green flag. Kenseth, rolled off in the 28th position, but didn’t stay there long.
By lap six, Kenseth had climbed inside the top 20 and was working the heavy traffic, a product of restrictor-plate racing, on his way to the front. Kenseth reported the car as being a little bit loose on entry and exit of the corners, but overall “not bad” compared to the rest of the competition.
Kenseth cracked the top 10 on lap 34, just before the first cycle of green-flag pit stops. After the “Killer Bees” turned out a 12.96-second stop, with four tires, fuel, and an adjustment, Kenseth cycled back on the track in the sixth position.
The field settled in early and sorted out to single-file racing around most of the track. Kenseth’s Ford Fusion was handling well enough to methodically make his advance and by lap 41, he was running in the fifth position. After another stellar pit stop on lap 74, Kenseth was up to fourth when the first caution flag of the afternoon occurred for debris on lap 80.
During the caution flag, Kenseth pitted for two tires in order to keep track position and during the next run made his advance to the front complete. After reporting the car as being bad loose in the high lane, Kenseth moved down to the low lane and made a ton of progress. After dropping back to 10th on lap 97, Kenseth charged up through the pack in the low lane and on lap 108, with the help of teammate Greg Biffle, moved to the front and led his first lap of the season.
After another green-flag pit cycle, NASCAR threw a caution for debris on the racetrack on lap 151. Kenseth pitted under caution and after another excellent stop by the No. 17 crew returned to the track, two positions better, in the fifth spot.
The field restarted on lap 156 and when Kenseth’s teammate, Biffle, got shuffled out of line and to the high side while leading, Kenseth went high to help him out. But before Kenseth could get to him disaster struck. After exiting turn four on lap 161, the car directly underneath Kenseth slid up the racetrack and smashed into the left front of the No. 17 machine pinning it to the outside retaining wall. Kenseth was able to keep it moving, but immediately took the heavily damaged Ford to the garage for repairs.
Then No. 17 crew worked frantically to repair the fenders and suspension, and after resetting the toe (wheel alignment) sent Kenseth back onto the racetrack, six laps down in the 37th position.
Over the final 30 laps, Kenseth was able to avoid any further damage, pick up one position on the track and bring the car home with a 36th-place finish; another promising run cut short in The Great American Race; which was won by Ryan Newman, who took the lead from Tony Stewart on the last lap to win the 50th running of the Daytona 500.
“We had a very competitive car today,” said Kenseth. “I don’t think we were as good as the guys at the very front, but we could hang in there. The guys on pit road did an excellent job as always and Chip (Bolin) was making the right adjustments and getting the car better as the race went on. It’s just unfortunate what happened. I was just riding in the high lane, trying to give Greg (Biffle) some help and suddenly the 6 car just went straight like I wasn’t even there, and that ended our day. It’s a shame because we had car capable of getting a top-five finish, and I thought we were running a good race, but there’s not much you can do when that kind of thing happens.”
Auto Club 500
Two-mile California Speedway
Sunday, Feb. 24, 2008
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 and Joey Clanton; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.