Fort Worth, TX (November 5, 2012) – Entering this weekend’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Matt Kenseth held the record for the most top five and top-ten finishes at the 1.5-mile track. Along with those accolades, Kenseth also held the top spot of active Sprint Cup Series drivers for the best average finish. For Kenseth and his No. 17 Ford EcoBoost team, they hoped that statistics would once again be on their side as they looked to earn another strong finish at a track that had been good to them in the past. Kenseth and his team were able to battle back to finish fourth in Sunday’s eighth race of the Chase and improved their position in the point standings to fifth.
Kenseth began Sunday’s race from the 10th starting position as the field took the green flag at 2:21 pm CST. Kenseth’s No. 17 Ford EcoBoost dropped back to 20th on the opening laps as the driver radioed in to crew chief Jimmy Fennig that the car was way too tight. Kenseth also went on to tell his team that the No. 17 Ford was looser off the corners than it had been in final practice, and that he was having difficulty turning the car for the first half of the corner. Fennig discussed track bar and air adjustments as possible changes for their first stop of the day.
Green-flag pit stops cycled through the field and Fennig called his driver into the pits on lap 43 for four tires, fuel, track bar and air adjustments. Following the stop, Kenseth called in over radio communications that the adjustments hadn’t helped with getting the car to turn much better. Over the course of that run, Kenseth also told his team that he needed to be able to keep more rear grip and that the Ford EcoBoost Fusion got looser as the run went on.
Another round of green-flag stops cycled beginning on lap 85, and Kenseth pitted on lap 90 for four tires, fuel, and air adjustments. Shortly after the stop, a caution for debris allowed the No. 17 team to discuss the handling challenges in the race with a little more depth. Fennig decided to pit under yellow and asked his team to pull a shim along with the other adjustments.
On the restart, the No. 47 stalled and set off a chain reaction where Kenseth told his team someone had hit into the No. 17 Ford from behind. Upon further review of the car, Fennig had his driver come into the pits to fix the slight damage to the left rear quarter panel and bumper. Kenseth was back in 23rd and was still fighting a race car that was mainly loose off.
Another round of green-flag stops cycled and Fennig left his driver out on the track until Kenseth was scored as the leader on lap 167 for a bonus point. As soon as he had led the lap, Fennig called for a four-tire pit stop.
Kenseth drove his way into the top ten on lap 268 and was able to maintain his position when a caution for debris came out on lap 275. Kenseth was seventh at the time, but quick work in the pits found him restarting fourth. Kenseth held on to finish fourth after a late-race caution for the No. 55 set up a green-white-checkered finish.
“It was Jimmy (Fennig) and those guys who made some really good decisions for adjustments and pit stops today,” said Kenseth after the race. “We had some fairly decent restarts and were able to get back into it. I didn’t think we would ever be standing here with a top-five the way our day started. We started way off and these guys never gave up. They battled hard all day long and got me a good finish in our Ford EcoBoost.”
Jimmie Johnson earned the win in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 after he led for 168 laps and earned his 60th career win in the process. Johnson’s victory also increased his lead in the point standings over Brad Keselowski to seven points with just two races remaining in the Chase. Keselowski finished second after Johnson beat him to the line by 0.808 seconds, while Kyle Busch rounded out the top three. Kenseth’s top-five finish found him improving his position in the standings by three spots, as he moved into fifth.
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series returns to Phoenix International Raceway for the ninth race of the Chase, the AdvoCare 500. Pre-race television coverage begins on Sunday, November 11th at 2:00 p.m. EST on ESPN. Radio coverage will be provided by the Motor Racing Network (MRN.)