Concord, NC (October 13, 2012) – Fresh off a win the previous weekend, Matt Kenseth and his No. 17 Best Buy team came to Charlotte Motor Speedway as the defending race winners for this weekend’s Bank of America 500. After qualifying seventh, Kenseth fell victim to a flat tire on the opening run of the race and lost track position early on in Saturday night’s 500-mile event. Long green-flag runs made it difficult for Kenseth to race for position in order to get back onto the lead lap, but in the end, the team rallied back to finish 14th at Charlotte under the lights.
The field took the green flag at 7:51 pm EST and Kenseth started from seventh in his No. 17 Best Buy Ford. During the opening laps of the race, Kenseth called in over radio communication that the car was getting loose and getting sideways in the turns. Shortly after the radio conversation, Kenseth spun off Turn 4 bringing out the first caution of the evening on lap 11. The team discussed the fact that Kenseth must have run over something that blew out his left rear tire causing him to spin off the turn.
Kenseth brought the No. 17 Ford down pit road for four new Goodyear tires and Sunoco fuel. Crew chief Jimmy Fennig brought his driver down pit road one more time before the restart for adjustments to the track bar and wedge, along with pulling a rubber, and to top off fuel before the field took the green flag. The stop and repairs found Kenseth a lap down to the field as he restarted 43rd.
The second caution of the night came on the restart and Fennig opted to come into the pits to pull out another spring rubber and get fuel. Kenseth restarted 41st and just 12 laps after the stop, Kenseth radioed in to his team that the Best Buy Ford was a lot better with overall handling.
Kenseth continued to be a lap down to the race leaders as a long green-flag run began on lap 42. The Best Buy Ford was a bit loose off, but Kenseth was able to drive his way up to 25th on lap 105. As the race went on and the track cooled off, Kenseth told his team that the car had tightened up and was loose in, but tight everywhere else.
A round of green-flag stops allowed the team to make track bar and air adjustments on lap 132. Despite the adjustments, Kenseth still was searching for more front grip in the center of the corner. The track was loosening up as night set in and cooler temperatures began to affect handling. Kenseth never gave up on chasing down the lucky dog position, and on lap 196, he got into position as he moved up to 17th. A caution finally came on lap 223 allowing Kenseth to get back onto the lead lap.
The final portion of the race found Kenseth with a loose-handling race car that the looseness off the corners was his biggest challenge. The long green-flag run also forced teams into a fuel mileage race, but most teams found themselves unable to make it to the end without one final stop for fuel. Kenseth took two tires along with his splash of fuel on lap 316, and crossed the line 14th despite the challenging setback at the start of the race.
Clint Bowyer saved enough fuel to earn the win Saturday night which was his first at the 1.5-mile track. Bowyer held off runner-up Denny Hamlin by 0.417 seconds and Jimmie Johnson finished third in the Bank of America 500. Kenseth finished 14th in the No. 17 Best Buy Ford and is currently 11th in the Chase driver point standings.
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Kansas Speedway for the sixth race of the Chase, the Hollywood Casino 400. Pre-race television coverage begins on Sunday, October 21st at 1:00 p.m. EST on ESPN. Radio coverage will be provided by the Motor Racing Network (MRN.)