Daytona Beach, Fla. (February 16, 2008) – NASCAR Nationwide racing kicked off the season in Saturday’s Camping World 300 from Daytona International Speedway. NASCAR welcomed Nationwide as the new series sponsor and Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 team had the support of Kraft Foods and Ritz Crackers on their Ford Fusion. Kenseth managed to qualify 14th out of the 53 competitors attempting to participate in the season opening event. The solid qualifying effort was overshadowed by handling problems throughout the entire race. The team constantly made adjustments throughout the race and Kenseth earned a fifth-place finish.
Kenseth quickly began to move forward through the field from his 14th-place qualifying position despite fighting with the handling on his No. 17 Ritz Ford. Kenseth broke his way into the top 10 just three laps into the 120-lap event. Unfortunately the No. 17 was not handling anywhere near as well as Kenseth needed it to be. He reported back to crew chief Drew Blickensderfer that the car had “no grip”, needed to turn better and felt like he was lacking front down force.
Kenseth maintained his track position, drafting with the rest of the field and staying in the top 15 until he could pit for changes to his car. By lap 31 the race had remained caution free which led to the start of green flag pit stops. Kenseth came down pit road under green on lap 37 for four tires, fuel, track bar adjustment and an air pressure adjustment. Kenseth cycled thru green flag stops and wound up in the 11th position with a car that was still really tight.
The first caution of the day came on lap 55 while Kenseth was in the 11th position. Crew chief Drew Blickensderfer decided to pit under caution and work on the handling for Kenseth. Kenseth came down pit road for four tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and a rubber in the right rear. The team struggled getting the rubber in the right rear and came down pit road again while the field was still under caution to make sure the rubber was securely in place and to make sure the right front fender was clear of the tire.
Kenseth was scored in the 22nd position when the field returned to green flag racing on lap 58. The car was still way to tight and Kenseth couldn’t gain any track position. He decided to ride it out where he was and wait for the big wreck to happen since he had no idea how the handling had gotten worse with the adjustments the team had made. The answer came a few laps later when a team a few pit stalls down returned the rubber which the team had put in the right rear. The rubber must have popped out after the last pit stop and was the reason the handling had gone downhill so fast.
The second caution came on lap 78 while Kenseth was struggling to stay in the top 20. They were all ready running at the tail end of the leaders, so they pitted for four tires, fuel, a track bar adjustment and to put the rubber back in the right rear. They took their time and made sure the car was full of fuel so they would run to the end and the rubber was securely in place. Kenseth restarted 20th on lap 81 and began to work his way through the field.
With the right rear rubber securely in position Kenseth was able to break into the top 10 with 13 laps remaining. The car was still handling tight, but was more manageable than earlier in the race. Kenseth partnered up with teammate Greg Biffle and made a run toward the front. Despite struggling with handling Kenseth was able to earn a fifth-place finish.
"It was a good race,” said Kenseth. “We made it through without wrecking anybody. It was pretty cool and I'm excited about it. My car was kind of tight in one and two all day, so I found my line and stuck to it and a lot of guys bailed out and went to the bottom. We got a good push from that 41 [Bryan Clauson] car and got back up there. I'm really pleased. Our car wasn't that great most of the day, but we made some adjustment and got a decent finish."
About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing is NASCAR’s largest team operating 14 motorsports teams, five in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; five in the Busch Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Todd Kluever, Michel Jourdain Jr. and Danny O’Quinn Jr.; and three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Edwards, Peter Shepherd, Travis Kvapil, Erik Darnell and T.J. Bell; and one in the ARCA/REMAX Series with Colin Braun and Darnell.