Dover, DE (September 30, 2012) – Dover International Speedway is known as “The Monster Mile” since the track has claimed several victims over the years due to its challenging high-banked concrete surface where handling can make the difference between taming the monster or merely falling victim to it. For Roush Fenway Racing’s Matt Kenseth, the track is his favorite on the circuit, and statistics agree. Unfortunately, and ill-handling race car for the weekend’s practice sessions combined with a rear suspension issue late in the race, crippled the No. 17 team’s hopes for another successful finish in Sunday’s AAA 400.
Kenseth’s No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Fusion started Sunday’s 400-lap event from 12th and dropped back to 17th on the opening run of the race. Kenseth was quiet over team radio communications until crew chief Jimmy Fennig asked him about the car’s handling on lap 55 before the team was slated to pit. Kenseth told the team that the car was loose, but that tightness in the middle was the biggest problem at the time and it was forcing the car to plow in the middle of the turns.
Green-flag pit stops cycled through the field, and Fennig called his driver down pit road on lap 65 for four tires, fuel, air pressure, and track bar adjustments. Immediately after the stop, the first caution of the day came out which caught several drivers two laps down. Kenseth was one of those drivers and so Fennig opted to do the “wavearound” and not pit under yellow which meant that Kenseth earned a lap back. Under the yellow, Kenseth told Fennig that he desperately needed more forward grip because the Ford EcoBoost Fusion was way too loose.
With only eight cars on the lead lap, Kenseth restarted 18th one lap down to the leaders. Over the run, Kenseth radioed in to his team that the No. 17 was looser following the adjustments and that it was also slow and tight across the center. The slowness in the middle was Kenseth’s most limiting factor for advancing his way through the field he told his team.
A green-flag stop on lap 145 found Fennig once again taking four tires and fuel, but this time the adjustments came in the form of air pressure and wedge. The adjustments continued to not be enough for what Kenseth needed in order to battle the Monster Mile. Track bar adjustments on lap 181 under yellow were aimed at tightening up the No. 17 machine, but Kenseth was still two laps down and in 20th.
Kenseth was able to eventually drive his way up to 14th by lap 228, but the balance of the car still wasn’t where he needed it to be. On lap 247 under another caution, Kenseth radioed in to Fennig that the Ford EcoBoost Fusion had started off tight, but was still loose off, and that he needed more grip in the front of the car in order to get around the track faster. Fennig once again made the call to adjust the track bar and air pressure settings and Kenseth restarted 14th on lap 253.
On lap 309, the team got the frantic call over the radio that Kenseth needed to pit immediately after he had brought out a caution after slapping the wall. Something wasn’t right on the left rear of the car and Fennig and the No. 17 team sprang into action in the pits for repairs and assessment. A rear suspension issue seemed to be the culprit, but the team made the necessary repairs and Kenseth restarted 24th on lap 316. On the restart lap however, Kenseth was sent crashing into the wall in Turn 4 and was forced to bring his heavily damaged Ford into the garage for repairs. The team was able to get the Ford EcoBoost back out onto the track on lap 335, but the damage found Kenseth finishing 35th and dropping to 12th in the Chase standings.
Brad Keselowski earned the win Sunday at Dover in the AAA 400 after he was able to conserve fuel on a 79-lap green-flag run. Keselowski’s win also found him leaving Dover with the points lead over five-time Champion, Jimmie Johnson. Jeff Gordon had a late-race rally to finish second, while Mark Martin rounded out the top three finishers. Matt Kenseth finished 35th after a rear suspension issue caused considerable damage to the No. 17 Ford forcing Kenseth to fall to 12th in the Chase driver point standings.
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series travels to Talladega Superspeedway for the fourth race of the Chase, the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500. Pre-race television coverage begins on Sunday, October 7th at 1:00 p.m. EST on ESPN. Radio coverage will be provided by the Motor Racing Network (MRN.)