Loudon, NH (September 23, 2012) – NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series traveled up to New England’s New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the second race of the Chase, the Sylvania 300. The one-mile flat track has been a place that has tested Roush Fenway’s driver of the No. 17 car, Matt Kenseth, as a place that statistically is one of his most challenging. Despite starting 25th, Kenseth drove his Zest Ford to a 14th-place finish Sunday afternoon and remains 11th in the Chase driver point standings.
The field took the green flag at 2:18 pm EST to begin the 300-lap event as the Zest Ford rolled off 25th. During the opening run, Kenseth was quiet over team radio communications, but drove his way from 25th up to 15th before the yellow came out for a competition caution. Kenseth took an opportunity under the caution to tell crew chief Jimmy Fennig that the No. 17 was tight in the center, but that it was getting off the bottom good. Fennig called for a two-tire stop along with fuel and air adjustments during their pit stop on lap 42.
The quick job in the pits by the Zest team found Kenseth gain two positions off pit road and he restarted 13th. Kenseth broke into the top ten on lap 77 and got up to ninth before green-flag stops began to cycle through the field on lap 105. As cars cycled through the pits, Kenseth was scored as the leader on lap 110 which meant that he earned a bonus point for leading a lap before Fennig called him down pit road for service. This time Fennig called for four tires, fuel, and air pressure adjustments since his driver had told the team that loose off was his biggest problem during the last run.
Kenseth’s Zest Ford cycled back into ninth after everyone had come in for service. Looseness off continued to challenge Kenseth over the next run. Although the No. 17 maintained track position, Kenseth told his team that he needed more front grip without losing the rear of the car in the process of the changes. A caution for debris on lap 178 once again found the Zest team pitting for four tires, fuel, and air adjustments.
Kenseth was able to hold on to his track position within the top 15 until late in the race when a caution for debris came on lap 274. Fennig made the call to pit for two tires and Kenseth restarted 13th on lap 278. Unfortunately, the Zest Ford was so loose that Kenseth wasn’t able to chase down any more cars for position before the end of the race, and crossed the line 14th.
“On a long run we had about a 10th-place car, which is probably a little bit better than we usually do here,” commented Kenseth following the race. “On short runs, we weren’t very good at all, and when we got that caution at the end, that didn’t work in our favor. We were a little bit better on a long run, but we just weren’t that great overall. Everybody wants to be leading the points, but last week was last week, and this week we got everything we could get out of our Zest Ford; it just wasn’t much better than that. I thought we had really good pit stops and did what we could for strategy today.”
Denny Hamlin was the victor of Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway earning his fifth win of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series season. Hamlin started deep in the field and drove his car to a 2.675-second victory over runner-up Jimmie Johnson. Johnson’s teammate, Jeff Gordon rounded out the top three race finishers Sunday, while Kenseth’s 14th-place finish finds him remaining 11th in the Chase driver point standings.
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series travels to Delaware and Dover International Speedway for the third race of the Chase, the AAA 400. Pre-race television coverage begins on Sunday, September 30th at 1:00 p.m. EST on ESPN. Radio coverage will be provided by the Motor Racing Network (MRN.)