Martinsville: Matt Kenseth race report

Kenseth and DeWalt team bring home second from Martinsville. MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 15, 2002) -- Two years ago, if anyone told Matt Kenseth and his crew chief Robbie Reiser they would finish in the top five at Martinsville Speedway, they...

Kenseth and DeWalt team bring home second from Martinsville.

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 15, 2002) -- Two years ago, if anyone told Matt Kenseth and his crew chief Robbie Reiser they would finish in the top five at Martinsville Speedway, they would have never believed it. But after a second place finish in the Virginia 500 on Sunday, it seems the potential for success on any track Kenseth and his DEWALT team race on this year - is endless.

Kenseth qualified in the 26th position at Martinsville. "That was not the fastest lap we could have run," said Kenseth. "But I think our best starting position here prior to this weekend was 22nd, so we are pretty happy with that. I had a good handling car, it just was not as fast as some of the others."

During final practice on Saturday, Kenseth and crew chief Robbie Reiser felt very comfortable with the performance of the No. 17 car. Again, the car handled very well for Kenseth, and it was one of the most consistent cars lap after lap.

Just before the green flag, Reiser told the team, "Patience is the key today boys. Stay calm, we have 500 laps to sort this race out. Its no mistake racing...lets get 'em!"

Typical racing at Martinsville usually involves cars 'beating and banging' on each other. Sunday's Virginia 500 was no exception. Early on, Kenseth said the car was a little bit tight. They brought the car into the pits on lap 29 for four tires and an air pressure adjustment to free the car up. The DEWALT Team pulled a spring rubber out of the car on lap 54 when Kenseth came in for two tires.

Using pit strategy, defensive driving, and the right adjustments made on the No. 17 car, Kenseth worked his way up to the top-10. 13 cautions later and hundreds of laps later, Kenseth found himself in the top five.

In the race to the finish, Kenseth found himself in a heated battle with Dale Jarrett. Kenseth and Jarrett raced side by side, bumping each other until Jarrett got loose giving the second place to Kenseth. The final caution came out with two laps left in the 500 lap event and Bobby Labonte took the checkered flags for the victory.

In a post race interview Kenseth said, "We came here to Martinsville to run in the top-10 and we got a second place out of it. That is awesome for us. Our best finish up to this point here at Martinsville was sixth. We had some really bad luck here my rookie year, and to turn it around like that says a lot about this team. I'm proud of these guys and am happy to get out of here with the car in one piece.

"Leaving Martinsville with a second place, well, I couldn't be happier. We had an uphill battle all day starting in the back. This is a real tough race track, but everything worked out in our favor. Robbie made good decisions on when and when not to pit, and we made the right adjustments on the car. Tony (Stewart) obviously had the fastest car, but we had the track position when we needed it - at the end."

Kenseth notched his sixth top-10 finish of the season, and while still in second place, has pulled to within 27 points of the championship standings leader Sterling Marlin.

-jrr/dewalt-

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Series NASCAR-CUP