March 29, 2009 9:35 PM

Kenseth, No. 17 DEWALT Battle Back to 23rd-Place Finish at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 29, 2009) – Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT Team were forced to overcome an early pit road penalty and a late accident to finish 23rd in Sunday’s Goody’s 500 at Martinsville Speedway. In a race known for hardships and constant beating and banging Kenseth’s DEWALT Ford Fusion wore the battle scars to prove at the end of the 500-lap event.

“We kind of got behind the eight ball early with the penalty on pit road and we spent the rest of the race trying to battle back from that,” said Kenseth.

“Martinsville is always a tough place to race and when you have stuff like that happen it really makes it hard to recover from. The guys on the team did a good job of staying with it all day and we managed to get what we could out of it. We’ll have to take that and move on to Texas next weekend.”

Kenseth found himself at the back of the field twice in the first 90 laps of the race. First, after an early pit strategy backfired and the second time after being forced to serve a pass through penalty under green. Still the veteran battled his way back through the field, and was running in 22nd position before getting knocked into the wall on the final lap of the race. Fortunately, he was able to collect the car and secure the 23rd-place finish.

Kenseth started the race in 10th position, based on Sprint Cup Owner points after Friday’s qualifying session was cancelled due to persistent rainfall. The early going was tough for Kenseth and his No. 17 DEWALT Team. Kenseth was caught up in traffic early and fell back to 22nd place, before he regrouped and moved back inside the top 20. The team then opted to stay out under the race’s first caution, while taking four tires during the second caution on lap 40. The move backfired with the majority of the field taking two tires under the second caution, and Kenseth restarted in 32nd position.

The team moved back to 22nd position after taking two tires under caution on lap 71, but was given a drive-through penalty after NASCAR deemed they lost control of a rear tire in the pits. There was a miscommunication between NASCAR and the No. 17 pit and Kenseth was forced to serve the penalty under green, costing him a lap and almost two laps.

“Ordinarily, you would come in and serve your pass through under caution, so then you would just start at the tail end, but we didn’t get it relayed to us and we didn’t realize it quick enough, and we didn’t get told until five laps in that we needed to pit,” said crew chief Drew Blickensderfer. “At a track like this, you’ll lose multiple laps.  We were lucky to only be one down, but that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day.”

Kenseth found himself in 39th place and almost two laps down, just 83 laps into the race. Kenseth would spend the remainder of the race a lap down and fighting his way through the field at the .526-mile paperclip flat oval.

It put us in a position early in the race like that where we had to start in the back and we were a lap down,” added Blickensderfer. “We never could get to the point where the leader would lap one person and then they’d throw the caution, so we were just on the bad side of that pretty much most of the day.  I thought we ran around in the lucky dog spot for probably 200 laps for sure and we never could get lucky enough to get it.” 

With the finish, Kenseth dropped to 12th-place in the Sprint Cup point standings, 10 points behind 10th and 255 points outside of first.

The DEWALT Team returns to action next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, where Kenseth boasts five top-five finishes, eight top-10s and one win. He has led a total of 442 laps 1.5-mile quad oval, including 68 there last fall.

The race will be televised by FOX network with the green flag set for 1:30 p.m. EST.

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