Long Pond, Penn. (August 3, 2008) -- Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Ford Fusion started Sunday’s Pennsylvania 500 fifth and by midway through the race had picked up three spots in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings, to eighth. But when the weather began threatening, pit strategy came into play and Kenseth's fortunes changed for the worse. A decision not to pit on lap 128 left Kenseth three laps shy of completing the race with just one pit stop – Kenseth was forced to pit twice, thus losing valuable track position. Kenseth finished 11th at Pocono, but only after a wild shuffle of cars making fuel stops or running out of gas in the race's final laps moved him up from 17th. Despite the respectable finish, Kenseth fell from 11th to 13th in point standings and is currently 11 points out of the 12th place Chase contention.
Pole winner, Jimmie Johnson led the 43-car field to the green flag at Pocono Raceway Sunday afternoon. Kenseth in the No. 17 DEWALT Ford rolled off fifth and settled in for 500 miles at the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania track.
The race was stalled twice for cautions within the first seven laps. However, Kenseth would not see pit road until the NASCAR mandated competition caution on lap 20. In 10th place, Kenseth entered the pits for two tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. When green flag racing resumed on lap 24 he was scored in second place.
Over the course of 100 laps and through four pit cycles, Kenseth maintained a top-six running position. But on lap 126 when caution was thrown due to rain, pit strategy came into play. Crew chief Chip Bolin opted not to pit during this period and just five laps later the race was red flagged for rain. When the race resumed 41 minutes later and fuel mileage calculations were complete, Kenseth would be just three laps short of making it to the end of the race with just one pit stop.
Realizing his fate, Kenseth did his best to maintain a top-five running position in hopes that a caution would fall so that he could pit without losing track position – that never happened. On lap 184, when Kenseth was in fourth place, he pitted for two tires and fuel. He rejoined the race in 21st position with 15 laps remaining in the race.
Lap by lap he picked off the competition and worked his way up to 17th place. In the last two laps, when championship leader Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Scott Riggs, David Reutimann and Brian Vickers ran out of gas Kenseth picked up five more spots and finished the race in 11th place.
“We knew when we stayed out there when it rained that we were about three laps short of making it on one stop and everybody else was gonna make it on one stop,” Kenseth said. “We needed more rain or more caution laps, we knew we were gonna be a little short. That’s just what we chose to do. I thought it was gonna rain one more time. We didn’t think it was gonna rain out, but I though there was gonna be another little delay and then we would have been able to make it. But despite the last two weeks I’m still optimistic. Our car was really fast at Indy. We qualified really well. We qualified well here. Our stuff has been fast, so I’m optimistic about it.”
Before an estimated crowd of 105,000, Roush Fenway Racing driver, Carl Edwards won the Pennsylvania 500, his fourth victory of 2008. Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and David Ragan followed to complete the top five.
The 11th-place finish for Kenseth and the No. 17 team moved them from 12th to 13th in overall point standings – just 11 points out of 12th place and 46 points out of 10th.
Kenseth and the No. 17 team will travel to Watkins Glen, N.Y. next week for the Centurion Boats at the Glen at Watkins Glen International. The racing action will be broadcast live on ESPN television and MRN radio affiliates beginning at 2:00 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, August 10.
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.