Sonoma, CA (June 24, 2012) – NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series traveled to California’s wine country and Sonoma Raceway for the season’s first road course race. With only two road course races on the schedule, the racing action at the 12-turn course of Sonoma can be challenging for even the top drivers in the sport. Roush Fenway Racing’s driver of the No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Fusion, Matt Kenseth, entered the race weekend as the points’ leader, and the team’s goal was to maintain that position with a solid race on Sunday. Kenseth earned the ninth starting position, and after running in the top ten for much of the race, ended up finishing 13th.
The 43-car field took the green flag at 12:20pm PST and Kenseth drove his way to sixth just 23 laps into the race. Kenseth was quiet over team radio communication as the driver focused on the track making sure that he kept his No. 17 Ford on the course as he fought for position.
The first round of green-flag pit stops began to cycle through the field around lap 29, and crew chief Jimmy Fennig asked his driver to give them a status report about the car’s handling. Kenseth told his team that he needed more overall grip, mainly in the rear of the car. Fennig called the Ford EcoBoost Fusion down pit road on lap 33 for four tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment.
15 laps after the stop, Kenseth’s No. 17 Ford had dipped down to tenth. Kenseth told Fennig over the radio that following the pit stop, the EcoBoost Ford wasn’t as good as it had been earlier in the race, but that he wasn’t sure why. Kenseth also told his team that the track was losing grip and that everyone else must be as well.
Kenseth maintained his position within the top ten however despite the lack of grip, as a second round of green-flag stops began around lap 64. Fennig once again opted for four tires, fuel, and air pressure changes during their stop on lap 70. The first caution of the race came on lap 82 after the No. 10 spun in Turn 8. Kenseth radioed in that the middle of the car was tighter during the last run, but that he still was a little loose. Fennig opted for four tires and fuel for the Ford EcoBoost Fusion, and Kenseth set up to restart 10th.
One more caution came at the end of the race on lap 108, which meant that the race was going to have a green-white-checkered finish. The restart also meant that teams were relying on picking the right pit strategy to put them in position in the final laps of the race. The leaders opted to stay out, and Kenseth was the last car at the front of the pack to stay out while many behind him opted to pit for fresh tires. Kenseth restarted tenth, but in the closing laps, was shuffled back to 13th to cross the Finish line.
Clint Bowyer won Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma as he was able to hold off a late-race charge from Tony Stewart. Stewart had pitted for fresh tires on the final caution and was able to chase down Kurt Busch for the second position; Busch went on to finish third. Kenseth maintains his lead in the point standings following Sonoma with 11 points separating him from teammate, Greg Biffle.
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series travels to Kentucky Speedway for the Quaker State 400 at the 1.5-mile track. Pre-race television coverage begins on Saturday, June 30th at 6:30 p.m. EST on TNT. Radio coverage will be provided by the Performance Racing Network (PRN).