Team forced to go to backup car for Sunday’s Daytona 500
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 12, 2009) – Matt Kenseth started 11th and drafted all the way to third position in Thursday’s first session of the Gatorade Duels, at Daytona International Speedway, but it would be all for not as he and his No. 17 DEWALT Ford Fusion were involved in an accident with only eight laps remaining in the qualifying race. As a result, Kenseth finished the race 26th, but more importantly the team will have to start Sunday’s Great American Race in a back-up car.
“The car was pretty good, really,” said Kenseth after climbing out of his DEWALT Ford. “But it’s pretty torn up. It’s not something we can fix at the track. It’s hard to say how this will affect our race on Sunday. The car’s handling had been pretty evil all week, so if the backup car handles better it should work out okay.
“As for the wreck, we got grouped together going in there. I was kind of in the middle and toward the top side a little bit when the 77 came down just a little bit, but not a lot. My car moved up a little bit at the same time and it looked like the 77 was trying to go under the 34, maybe, in front of him and we just kind of all got together there.”
Kenseth, who struggled with the car’s handling for the majority of the race, had powered his DEWALT Ford to the front, before getting shuffled back to 14th position with just under 20 laps remaining. He was running in ninth when the third caution of the race was called on lap 48. The majority of the field pitted and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer brought the car down pit road for four fresh tires.
Kenseth returned in 13th position and was wrecked out of the race just a few moments later.
Jeff Gordon went on to win the race, as the No. 17 team began to unload its backup car in preparations for tomorrow’s practice. The team officially finished the Duel 26th and will start Sunday’s race in the back of the field.
“The car had a lot of damage, so obviously we had to go to the backup,” said first year crew chief Blickensderfer. “The right side of it is completely torn off, so it would need quite a bit of work to get that right and at a speedway you don’t want to take that chance.”
“We build them so similar that you don’t worry about that as much as you probably used to. The cars, with NASCAR’s template and the way we build them at Roush Fenway, they’re very similar so it’s not a bad thing performance-wise. It just puts the shop in a bind and then you still have two more practices you have to get through of drafting practice that you hope nothing else happens, or then you’ll be on your fourth car. That’s the only fear – that the weekend is not over yet.”