Kenseth, No. 17 DEWALT Team Can't Get A Grip in Atlanta, Finish 12th Hampton, Ga. (March 8, 2009) -- Matt Kenseth battled and ill-handling race car for the majority of Sunday's 325-lap Kobalt Tools 500, but managed a 12th-place finish in the ...
Kenseth, No. 17 DEWALT Team Can't Get A Grip in Atlanta, Finish 12th
Hampton, Ga. (March 8, 2009) -- Matt Kenseth battled and ill-handling race car for the majority of Sunday's 325-lap Kobalt Tools 500, but managed a 12th-place finish in the fourth race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Despite never finding adequate grip on the long run, and having to battle their way back onto the lead lap, Kenseth and the No. 17 DEWALT Ford Team were poised for a top-10 finish before running short on fuel with five laps to go in the race.
"It was just a struggle all day," said Kenseth. "We struggled yesterday in practice getting the car right and we were just off all day. It was just an uphill battle today.
"We short-pitted there a little bit, which actually kept us one lap down instead of two laps down. That was a big part of us getting our lap back, but we just ran really bad. I ran out of gas at the end and lost all of our track position doing that. It was just a tough day and really not a very good weekend for us. We were actually fortunate to finish 12th, but we have to improve overall as a team as we move forward."
Kenseth started the race 30th based on Friday night's qualifying session. Despite an extremely 'loose' race car, the veteran patiently worked with way through the field, breaking into the top 20 on lap 31. He was running in 19th position when the team opted to short pit on lap 61. When caution was issued just four laps later, it put the No. 17 team at the tail end of the lead lap, while costing much of the field a full lap.
Despite moving up to 12th position, the No. 17 team eventually went a lap down on lap 81. The team would spend the next 123 laps fighting its way back onto the lead lap, but when the race's sixth caution was called on lap 204, Kenseth was awarded the free pass and placed back on the lead lap.
Once on the lead lap Kenseth, who's car was fast on the restarts, would move all the way to sixth position by lap 225. However, the No. 17 DEWALT Ford Fusion would lose grip over the long run and Kenseth eventually settled back into 10th position. Kenseth moved inside the top 10 on lap 217 and ran there for the remainder of the race before running out of fuel with only six laps to go.
After pitting under yellow on lap 271, he moved up to as high as fifth position with only 35 laps remaining, but once again the car would fade on the long run, losing grip and forcing Kenseth to hang on with all his ability.
It looked as if the team would bring home a top-10 finish with the No. 17 running in eighth position with only a handful of laps remaining; but Kenseth reported he was out of fuel after the race's 11th and final caution was issued on lap 323. The DEWALT team reacted quickly, getting Kenseth into the pits, adding fuel and restarting the car in time for him to remain on the lead lap for the final two-lap dash to the checkered flag.
The 12th-place finish dropped Kenseth to fifth place in the Sprint Cup standing, 81 points outside of first and one point behind fourth. Former Roush Fenway teammate Kurt Busch won the race.
The series will take a break next weekend before returning to action in two weeks at Bristol Motor Speedway, where Kenseth has two wins and 11 top-10 finishes in 18 career Cup starts.