Long Pond, PA (August 6, 2012) –After a disappointing finish at Indianapolis last weekend, Matt Kenseth and his No.17 team were looking forward to getting another strong run under their belts. Pocono Raceway had been a challenge for Kenseth in the past, but after a repave earlier this year, the race at the 2.5-mile track in June found several drivers, including Kenseth looking ahead to this weekend’s Pennsylvania 400 with a bit more anticipation due to the improved surface. Unfortunately, late-race contact collected Kenseth and relegated him to finish 23rd despite running within the top three for the majority of the rain-shortened event.
Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 Zest team got off to a fast and furious start in the Pennsylvania 400 on a rainy Sunday afternoon at Pocono. With severe thunderstorms in the area, the race was delayed for more than an hour before NASCAR officials called drivers to their cars to begin the 160-lap event.
Kenseth rolled off the grid in the seventh position and made quick work of his competitors in front of him, gaining four spots the first 15 laps of the race. Kenseth ran in the top three for the bulk of the afternoon, running fast lap times and ascending to the lead on lap 76, until bad luck struck on a restart on lap 91. The No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson got loose in Turn one and slid into Kenseth, who spun and collected multiple cars in the process. The unlucky break caused major damage to the No. 17 machine but the Zest pit crew made speedy repairs to keep their driver to finish on the lead lap.
The race was red-flagged on lap 98, after seven laps were run under caution following the wreck that had collected Kenseth as storms moved back into the area. When what started as a light rain became a torrential downpour, NASCAR was forced to call the race after just 98 laps of 160 had been completed. Kenseth finished 23rd despite having such a strong No. 17 Zest Ford all weekend long.
“On that last restart, Turn one actually widened out pretty good and we took off,” commented Kenseth after the race. “The No. 2 car didn’t get going and I had a pretty good gap, so I crossed the line and was going to pull behind Jimmie (Johnson). When I pulled down to go behind him, I got a little draft and actually pulled up to his door and so I decided to race Jimmie through there and we went off into Turn one. I could hear his pipes and I wasn’t sure he had lifted yet. He drove in really, really far and spun out underneath me and I got wrecked. I am not mad at him, it is just that you race for the win and I thought I gave enough room down there. He drove in hard because he is racing for the win too. We are in a situation where we need to win some races too. You don’t mind if something happens, it is just a bummer when it takes you out after you are running top three all day and finish 23rd. That is very disappointing and it is hard to look at the bright spot in that, but it’s just part of it though.”
Jeff Gordon earned Sunday’s win in the rain-shortened race at Pocono after storms forced NASCAR to red-flag the event 62 laps from the scheduled finish. Gordon’s teammate, Kasey Kahne, finished runner-up while Martin Truex, Jr. was scored in third. Kenseth was relegated to finish 23rd after contact from the No. 48 car sent him into the wall after he had been running in second at the time.
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series returns to road course racing at Watkins Glen International for the Finger Lakes 355. Pre-race television coverage begins on Sunday, August 12th at 12:00 p.m. EST on ESPN. Radio coverage will be provided by the Motor Racing Network (MRN.)