HAMPTON, GA (March, 9 2007) – Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 Arby’s team may not have the most dominant car in Saturday’ NASCAR Nationwide Series’ Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but they still won the race – and free fries for everyone on “Matt’s Monday.”
Kenseth and crew struggled to find speed during Friday’s practice session, posting only the 20th quickest time on the speed charts. Then on Saturday, qualifying was cancelled due to inclement weather, so the 43-car field was set by 2007 owner point standings. Concerned and unsure of what to expect, the No. 17 Arby’s crew, led by crew chief Drew Blickensderfer took to the track in hopes of working to find the perfect set up for Saturday’s 195-lap event.
When the green flag waved signaling the start of the race, Kenseth rolled off 10th and quickly made his way through the field. By the first caution on lap 10, Kenseth was reporting that his No. 17 Ford was “better on the longer runs” and “starting to come to” him. On lap 29, under caution Kenseth made his way to pit road for a quick servicing. Four tires, fuel, air pressure and track bar adjustments were performed and the No. 17 was in seventh place on lap 32 when green flag racing commenced.
Throughout the next several laps Kenseth would make his way into the top five, though the No. 17 was never quite fast enough to lead any laps, he maintained a top-three running position for the majority of competition.
Battling with the No. 33 of Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 of Jeff Burton, the top four cars on the track were trying to chase down the lead car of Kyle Busch. Despite their efforts, no one seemed to have anything for the Joe Gibbs Racing machine. As fate would have it, with just 25 laps remaining in the race, the dominating car of Busch cut a right front tire, thus ending what looked to be a winning performance for his team. This accident set the stage for Kenseth, Harvick and Burton to contend for the lead.
On lap 171, Blickensderfer called Kenseth to pit road for a final stop for four tires, fuel and more chassis adjustments. The field took the green with 20 laps to go and Kenseth was scored in fifth position.
By lap 186, Kenseth had taken the lead and never looked back. He held on for the final laps of the race and captured the 22nd NASCAR Nationwide Series of his career.
Harvick, Burton, Carl Edwards and Bobby Labonte followed to complete the top five.
Kenseth’s next NASCAR Nationwide Series start will be on May 2 at Richmond International Raceway.
NICORETTE 300 QUOTE/MATT KENSETH:
"Well, it played out perfect, obviously. Most of the day it was a little struggle. We were a little bit off and struggled it with a little be yesterday. Today we had to make a lot of changes and Drew made some good changes overnight and made it drive a lot better than what it was driving yesterday, I just said that because he walked in the door. He did make some good changes and we made a lot of adjustments today and got it as good as it needed to be at the end. We still could have been better, but it was good enough to get up through there."
NICORETTE 300 QUOTE/DREW BLICKENSDERFER:
"We started the race worried about tires because we didn't have enough sets we thought to put on and we ended up okay. The cautions fell when we needed them to. We had a couple long runs. We had a car yesterday that was probably a 10th place car we thought. We made some changes overnight and just more than anything, Matt learned how to handle the tires on the COT car and our Nationwide car better than the other guys.”
Kenseth Nicorette 300 Results:
Led: Twice for 14 laps
Fastest Laps: 10
Laps in Top 15: 194/198
Points: 190 *5
About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing operates 13 full-time motorsports teams, five in NASCAR Sprint Cup with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; four in the Nationwide Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Erik Darnell and Colin Braun; three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Darnell, Braun, Kvapil, Bobby East and John Wes Townley; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.