Daytona Beach, FLA. (July 4, 2009) – Fireworks flew on a warm Fourth of July Florida evening, as Matt Kenseth was able to survive a wild and crazy finish in Saturday night’s 400-mile Sprint Cup event at Daytona International Speedway, bringing his R+L Carriers Ford Fusion safely home in eighth position.
Kenseth, who led three laps in the event and ran inside the top five much of the race, was running in sixth position, when Tony Stewart turned around race-leader Kyle Busch on the last lap of the race. A melee ensued, resulting in a plethora of destroyed race cars. Kenseth had to back out of the throttle to avoid the whirling Busch, but was able to hold on to the top-10 finish.
“A lot happened (on the last lap),” said Kenseth after the race. “We had pretty good last lap. I don’t know what all went down behind me. We were all single file and Carl (Edwards) was pushing me and those other guys went high, and I think somebody must have got under Carl and he got high behind me and I lost my push from both sides.
“They lined up and got a run on me, and I lost my push, and then Carl went by me like you’ve got to do at the end of the race. Then they started wrecking in front of us and I had to let off. It wasn’t worth it to go driving in there wide open and take the chance of hitting someone. All in all we had a good car tonight, and we were able to bring it home in one piece and get a solid finish out of it.”
Kenseth had restarted for the final time of the 160-lap race in fifth position on lap 155. He was quickly shuffled out by teammate Carl Edwards and was battling to maintain sixth position coming to the checkered when the wreck occurred just in front of him.
Kenseth, who won the Daytona 500 at DIS in February, started the race 10th but wasted little time flexing his muscle on the track. By lap 23 he had moved inside the top five, where he ran the majority of the race.
The team took a dose of potential bad luck and made it work for them, when Kenseth was forced to the pits early under green with a worn right-rear tire on lap 55 -- tire wear was an issue for the field all weekend. However, caution was called while the No. 17 team was in the pits. Kenseth returned to the field in 36th position, but stayed out while the remainder of the field pitted. The result was the green and yellow R+L Carriers Ford took the lead under caution on lap 160, and went on to lead for three laps after the field returned to green.
In addition to the final lap, Kenseth avoided close calls on lap 12 when the No. 5 car of Mark Martin turned in front of him and into the wall to cause the race’s first caution and on lap 122 when teammate David Ragan spun out just beside of the No. 17, narrowly avoiding contact and bringing out the sixth caution of the race.
It was the team’s seventh top-10 finish of the season and Kenseth’s fifth top-10 finish in the last seven races at DIS.
With the finish Kenseth remains in 10th position in the Sprint Cup point standings, but he was able to put some distance (100 points) between himself and 13th position (the first position outside the Chase cutoff mark). Kenseth now trails seventh place by only 34 points, while leading 12th by just 35 points, in a heated point battle where only 69 points separate seventh and 12th positions.
Kenseth and the team return to action next Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway, where he has two top-five and four top-10 finishes in eight career-Cup starts. Kenseth finished seventh there last season, and has led in the last five races at Chicagoland for 297 total laps.