Mid-Race Accident Sends Team 17 to Garage; Ruins Chances for Solid Finish
RICHMOND, Va. (May 3, 2008) -- For the third consecutive race, Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT NANO Ford team suffered misfortune on the race track that resulted in a trip to the garage, a less than stellar finish and a loss of valuable points in overall standings. To say the least, this weekend’s events at Richmond International Raceway were anything but kind. After struggling to find speed during Friday’s practice session and qualifying a disappointing 24th for the Crown Royal presents, the Dan Lowry 400, Kenseth and crew were hoping that things would turn around for them during the 400-lap Saturday night race. However, that would not be the case. Kenseth struggled to find “grip” for the first half of the race and was relegated to running mid-pack. On lap 230, the No. 17 was caught up in a multi-car melee that resulted in severe damage and a trip to the garage. After team 17 spent several laps working to repair the DEWALT NANO Ford, Kenseth returned to the track in 41st position 62 laps down to the leaders. Though Kenseth would gain a few track positions, 38th place is where he ultimately finished.
Denny Hamlin led the 43-car field to the green flag before his hometown crowd on Saturday evening. Kenseth in the black No. 17 DEWALT NANO Technology Ford Fusion rolled off 24th. When the first caution was displayed on lap 65, Kenseth reported that his Ford was lacking grip. Crew chief Chip Bolin directed Kenseth to pit. In hopes of remedying the handling problems, Bolin directed the No. 17 crew to bolt on four fresh tires and adjust air pressures. Green flag racing commenced on lap 71 and Kenseth was scored in 24th place.
Over the beginning of the next run, Kenseth was still not satisfied with the handling of the No. 17 and fell back to 31st position. However, as the run progressed, his lap times were matching those of the leaders and when the second caution fell on lap 127, Kenseth was scored 21st.
Bolin and crew would continue to work on the No. 17 during pit stops under caution in hopes of giving Kenseth more traction for the start of the runs. Air pressure and track bar adjustments were made and spring rubbers were pulled from the No. 17, all in anticipation of a better handling Ford. The adjustments were seemingly helping as Kenseth managed to maintain a top-20 running position over the ensuing 26 laps.
Just when Kenseth was starting to make progress on the track, the No. 99 spun the No. 96, causing a multi-car melee that collected 10 cars, including Kenseth’s No. 17. Kenseth immediately drove his Ford to the garage where the DEWALT team met him to assess the damages. The field was red-flagged for over 21 minutes, so team 17 was unable to begin working on the demolished race car. When the caution flag waved, signaling the restart of the race, the DEWALT crew went to work. After 62 laps in the garage, the team had bandaged up Kenseth’s Ford and he returned to the track on lap 291.
Besides routine stops for tires and fuel, Kenseth continued to make laps for the remainder of the race and ultimately finished 38th.
“We didn’t run very well at all even before the accident,” said Kenseth. “We were running in the back and everybody was doubled up. We were two and three-wide back there and everybody was trying to stay on the lead lap and they all wrecked. I got run into from behind and kind of got pushed into it, but that’s part of it.”
Pole sitter, Hamlin owned the race until he had a tire go flat on Lap 383, which brought out a caution. After the restart, fan favorite, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kyle Busch battled several laps for the lead with Earnhardt taking over, much to the delight of the crowd. Their cheers turned to boos a few laps later when the two drivers scraped together and Earnhardt spun, hitting the outside wall.
The incident set the stage for a green, white, checker finish – with Clint Bowyer leading the race. Bowyer held off Busch for the two laps as the sellout crowd of more than 110,000 fans roared as Bowyer took the checkered flag. Busch finished second. Mark Martin, Tony Stewart and Martin Truex, Jr. followed to complete the top five.
The third consecutive disappointing finish for Kenseth at Richmond dropped him and the No. 17 DEWALT team from 19th to 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver point standings. Kenseth is currently 537 points behind point leader Kyle Busch.
Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT NANO Technology team will travel to Darlington, S.C. next weekend for racing action under the lights at Darlington Raceway. The No. 17 team will take to the newly paved Lady in Black on Saturday evening. FOX television and MRN radio will carry the live broadcast beginning at 7:30 p.m. (EST).
About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing is NASCAR’s largest team operating 13 motorsports teams. Five in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 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; and three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Darnell, Braun, Kvapil, John Wes Townley and Bobby East; and one in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.