Dramatic Daytona 500 win caps last-to- first ending for Kenseth, DEWALT Team
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 15, 2009) – Matt Kenseth powered his way from the back of the field to the front to win the 51st running of the Great American Race Sunday at Daytona International Speedway. Kenseth took the lead on lap 146, just moments before the race’s eighth and final caution was issued on lap 146. Heavy rains set in moments later making Kenseth the 2009 winner of NASCAR’s biggest race - the Daytona 500.
“It’s really more about the team than it is about the driver,” said Kenseth. “It’s always about the team. They make the cars go fast. I wasn’t happy with my 500 car and it ended up getting wrecked in the 150s anyway, and as soon as we unloaded this car it drove much, much better. I kept complaining about it and they kept adjusting on it all night and did the right stuff at the end, so it was pretty unbelievable to sit here and be able to actually be in the Daytona 500, much less win one. It’s just a dream come true.”
Officially Kenseth started the race 39th, but went to the very back of the field (43rd) after being forced to a back-up car after the accident in Thursday’s Gatorade Duels. Still, he wasted little time flexing the muscle of his No. 17 DEWALT Ford Fusion, drafting his way inside the top 20 by just the 15th lap of the race. He broke into the top 10 on lap 30 and inside the top five on lap 33.
Kenseth, who was competing in his 10th Daytona 500, moved all the way to second by lap 37 and contended for the lead, before dropping back to seventh a few laps later. He moved back to fourth on lap 68 and would never run outside the top five again in the race.
After the sixth caution of the race on lap 124, Kenseth restarted in third when the green flag flew on lap 132, after yet another solid stop by the DEWALT crew in the pits. He moved into second four laps later, just before caution number seven was issued on lap 137. In his first race as the DEWALT team’s crew chief, Drew Blickensderfer opted to stay out under caution and hold track position, and the field restarted for the final time on lap 142.
Kenseth needed just four laps to take the lead, getting a push from the No. 29 car of Kevin Harvick to take the lead just moments before a multi-car accident on lap 146 ultimately closed out the race, as the rainfall would force a premature ending to the event soon after.
“It was really a team effort,” said Kenseth in the media center after the race. “Without that last really good pit stop, we would have been in the wreck. Actually, Kyle (Busch) was right in front of me and got in the wreck and Carl was right behind me and got in the wreck, so if the pit stop was faster or slower, we would have got in the wreck, so they did their job and got us up there when we needed the track position and after that wreck, I felt we were the fastest car up in the lead group.”
Ironically the win is Kenseth’s 17th career Sprint Cup victory. It is also Roush Fenway Racing’s first win in the Daytona 500.