Talladega, AL (May 7, 2012) – The last time Matt Kenseth and his No.17 Best Buy team were at a superspeedway this season, they claimed the win in their Gatorade Duel race as well as the DAYTONA 500. The team was looking forward to heading to Talladega based on the results from the start of the season, but also aware of the possibilities of how quickly wrecks can catch up with teams having successful days. Kenseth started from the tenth starting position and after leading the most laps, left Talladega with a third-place finish thanks to a strong car and a display of skillful driving.
Kenseth’s Best Buy Ford showcased its strength as it finished second and third on the speed charts during Friday’s practice sessions. Kenseth rolled off the starting grid Sunday from tenth, and within the opening laps after the green flag, he was pushing the No. 14 to the front of the pack. The duo was out front as the first caution of the day came on lap 16 after the No. 78 spun.
Crew Chief Jimmy Fennig made the call to come down pit road, and the Best Buy pit crew serviced the car with a fuel only stop. The pit strategy paid off and Kenseth restarted as the race leader on lap 21. In true Talladega-style, cars found drafting partners and drivers found themselves constantly being shuffled back and forth throughout the field jockeying for position. Kenseth fought to keep himself within the top five as he radioed in to his team to tell them that the No. 17 Ford had gotten a little bit loose and needed to be tightened up on the next round of pit stops.
Green-flag pit stops began to cycle through the field around lap 58 and Fennig made the call to pit for four tires, fuel, air pressure, and a wedge adjustment on lap 60. A few other teams opted to take two tires which found Kenseth back in third after the pit stop cycle completed. The field cycled through a second round of green-flag stops and this time Fennig opted to adjust the track bar along with air pressure, four tires, and fuel.
Over the course of the run, Kenseth dipped down to 16th, and reported into his team that now the Best Buy Ford was a little too tight. He was able to reclaim his position within the top three by lap 119, and paired up with teammate Greg Biffle to take over the lead on lap 122.
On lap 143, Kenseth called in to the team that he felt as though he was running out of gas, and just as the team was opting to bring him down pit road, the caution came out. With Kenseth pitting before pit road was officially open, he was assessed a penalty, and had to restart at the tail end of the longest line. Since the team knew that they had a small set back, Fennig opted to pit one more time before the restart in order to pack the car full of fuel.
Kenseth restarted 18th to begin lap 151, and just 15 laps later, he was back in third. The Best Buy Ford was scored as the race leader on lap 167, but a caution on lap 182 found one of Kenseth’s drafting partners, Kurt Busch, fall a lap down. Kenseth and his team scrambled to find another partner as they led the field to the restart. As the field came to the green, a nine car accident in Turn one found the field under yellow one more time. This time, Biffle was able to line up for the restart behind Kenseth for the green-white-checkered finish, but the duo wasn’t able to hold off the charge from Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch.
“I just did a poor job of staying with Greg (Biffle) there at the end,” commented Kenseth in the media center after the race. “We had a really fast Best Buy Ford all day and nobody could really stay attached to us. That worked for us at Daytona, and I think what happened was that a lot of the cars bailed out from behind Greg, and he didn’t have anybody pushing him. We just didn’t have a strong enough row to keep the lead at the end. I should have just dragged the brake and kept him with me better than I did. By the time he was attached, I had way too big a lead. I knew if I waited for him we weren’t going to win, and I knew if I held it wide open we weren’t going to win, so I just did the best I could.”
Brad Keselowski won Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 after he was able to hold off Kyle Busch to claim his second victory of the season. Busch finished second, while Kenseth rounded out the top-three finishers Sunday. Kenseth led the most laps (73 of 194) and moved up two positions in the point standings to second, trailing his teammate Greg Biffle by just seven points.
NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series heads to South Carolina next weekend for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at historic Darlington Raceway. Pre-race television coverage begins on Saturday, May 12th at 6:30 p.m. EST on FOX. Radio coverage will be provided by the Motor Racing Network (MRN).
Bojangles’ Southern 500
Darlington Raceway (1.366-mile)
Saturday, May 12, 2012