JOLIET, ILL. (July 12, 2008) – For Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 USG Ford Fusion team this weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway was anything but a walk in the park. After suffering a flat tire on lap 123, Kenseth battled back from 37th place, one lap down to capture a solid seventh-place finish. The top-10 finish moved Kenseth into eighth place in overall point standings.
Rain cancelled qualifying on Thursday evening and the starting line up was set by point standings, so Kyle Busch led the 43-car field to green on Saturday evening. Kenseth rolled off ninth and had worked his way into fourth place by the mandatory caution on Lap 35.
Kenseth reported that the USG Ford was handling “a little too tight”; therefore the No. 17 crew utilized this caution period to make an air pressure adjustment to Kenseth’s Ford. After also receiving four tires and two cans of fuel, Kenseth rejoined the race on lap 40 in seventh place – though the pit stop was performed in 12.5 seconds, Kenseth was held up on pit road by other competitors and lost several track positions.
Denny Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota shut off at Lap 48, prompting a second caution, which brought Kenseth back to pit road yet again. Still reporting that the No. 17 was experiencing tight handling conditions, Kenseth requested more adjustments to remedy the issue. In fourth place, Kenseth came down pit road for two tires and fuel along with an air pressure and track bar adjustment. When the green flag waved again on lap 52, Kenseth was in 10th place, as not all cars opted to pit.
Over the next 40 laps Kenseth continued to report that his Ford Fusion was experiencing tight handling conditions. So under green flag pit stops around lap 92, crew chief Chip Bolin called for a more aggressive spring rubber adjustment. The adjustment seemed to work because by lap 116 Kenseth had taken over the lead.
Trouble however would strike on lap 122 when Kenseth radioed to his crew that he a flat tire. On lap 123 he entered the pits in fifth place for four fresh tires. Kenseth rejoined the race after the unscheduled pit stop in 37th position, one lap down to the leaders.
Kenseth would make his way up to 30th place – the Lucky Dog position on lap 160 and a caution on lap 176 would put Kenseth back on the lead lap.
With just under 100 laps remaining in competition, Kenseth had his work cut out for him to capture a solid finish. However, lap-by-lap he picked off the competition and by his final pit stop on lap 225, Kenseth had worked his way up 11th place.
Three more cautions would stall the race before the race would conclude in a green, white, checker finish. Kenseth ultimately took the checkers in seventh place.
Kyle Busch captured his seventh win of 2008 in the LifeLock.com 400. Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart followed to complete the top five.
“I’ve passed a lot of cars in my career, but not with these cars,” Kenseth said. “These are a lot tougher to pass with. They just get so tight. We just had that flat tire and there were a lot of green-flag running, and it took us a long time for us to get our lap back, and then we just sort of ran out of time. Overall, it was a great night. We had a really fast car; we just couldn’t get quite the finish we thought.”
“Our USG Ford was one of the better cars out there tonight just because I thought our set-up was a little bit better. We were better than most, but it was still a huge advantage to be out front. When we were out front, we were running side-by-side with the 18 and he ended up winning the race. We could run with those guys, we really could. We’ve got to figure out how to get there, you know, you can’t have flat tires, you got to figure out the pit-stop strategy and whatnot to make it happen. It’s just tough to drive by those guys. But, overall I’m happy with our top-10 finish.”
The top-10 finish for Kenseth and company boosts their points standing from ninth to eighth - 564 points behind the leader, Kyle Busch and 34 points ahead of 12th place.
Kenseth and the No. 17 crew will enjoy a week off, but will return to racing action at the Brickyard on July 27. The Allstate 400 will be broadcast live on ESPN television and PRN radio affiliates beginning at 1:00 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, July 27.