Brooklyn, MI (June 13, 2010) – Michigan International Speedway is referred to as one of Roush Fenway Racing’s “home tracks” on the Sprint Cup series circuit since it’s the headquarters to Ford Motor Company and Roush Industries. Roush Fenway also boasts a solid performance record at the 2.0-mile speedway, so coming to the Irish Hills of Michigan is always an anticipated stop for Matt Kenseth and his No. 17 team. Despite the threat of rain, Sunday’s race went off without a hitch and the 400-mile event ended with three of Roush’s cars in the top 15. Kenseth and his No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford finished 14th Sunday afternoon despite having a loose-handling race car.
Teams had one practice session Friday afternoon before qualifying and the No. 17 struggled to find the correct combination of speed and handling for their race car during the practice session. Friday’s qualifying lap also found difficulty and forced Kenseth to start Sunday’s race from the 39th position. Saturday’s two final practice sessions of the weekend saw improvement in the handling of the No. 17 Ford with Kenseth posting the sixth-fastest times in both sessions.
The team’s hopes were high for a strong performance as the green flag waved to begin Sunday’s 400-mile race at Michigan. The track is known for being wide and allowing room for drivers to drive their way up through the field if they have a car that is handling correctly. Within the first ten laps of the race, Kenseth had driven his way from 39th up to 23rd in the Crown Royal Black Ford.
The first caution of the race came just a few laps later on lap 19, and Kenseth took the opportunity to radio in to his crew chief Todd Parrott that the car was loose in and off of the turns. Parrott called his driver down pit road for service on lap 21 and the team took four tires, fuel and a series of air pressure adjustments in an effort to tighten their car up in the corners of the track.
Kenseth restarted, but later in the run he called in over radio communications that the car’s handling was even looser in the gas during this run. The No. 17 pit crew made track bar and air pressure adjustments during the next pit stop on lap 50, but shortly after the restart, Kenseth once again said that the changes weren’t helping as much as he needed them to.
A series of green flag pit stops began to cycle through the field around lap 88, and Kenseth pitted on lap 91 for another series of track bar and air pressure changes. This time following the stop, Kenseth called in to Parrott that the adjustments had helped but that the No. 17 Ford was still a bit loose as he sat in the 16th position at the time.
The Crown Royal Black crew continued to adjust the track bar and air pressure settings over the course of the next few runs, and after a two tire stop on lap 101. Kenseth was able to lead for two laps Sunday afternoon as the team waited to pit during a series of green flag stops around lap 135.
Kenseth was still fighting a car that was loose in and loose off of the turns at the 2.0-mile speedway when the final caution of the race came on lap 182. The No. 17 machine pitted for four tires and another round of adjustments before the restart on lap 187. Kenseth was in 14th for the restart, but with the field fighting for position in the closing laps, Kenseth got stuck in the traffic and was unable to advance his way any higher on the leader board. Kenseth was forced to finish 14th on Sunday in his No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford.
“I really feel like we had a top-10 finish today,” commented Kenseth after the race. “I really think we could have gotten a decent finish today until that final caution came out. I got caught up in traffic on the restart when the field bunched up and I think that cost us a few positions in the final laps. Our Crown Royal Black Ford was loose all race long today and our adjustments never fixed the entire problem. We just have to go back to the shop and look over our adjustments and build on a few things before we come back again in August.”
Denny Hamlin won Sunday’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Hamlin claimed his second consecutive victory Sunday and his fifth Sprint Cup series win of the 2010 season. Kasey Kahne led the way for Ford Racing Sunday with his second place finish at Michigan while Kurt Busch rounded out the top three at Michigan International Speedway. Kenseth finished 14th in the No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford and dropped one position down to fifth in the driver point standings.
Next weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels west to Sonoma, California for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway. Pre-race television coverage begins on Sunday, June 20th at 3:00 p.m. E.S.T. on TNT. Radio coverage will be provided by the Performance Racing Network (PRN).
Toyota/Save Mart 350
Infineon Raceway (1.99-mile road course)
Sunday, June 20, 2010