Race for Chase will go down to wire for No. 17 Team HAMPTON, Ga. (Sept. 7, 2009) -- Matt Kenseth battled back from an early brush with the wall to finish 12th in Sunday night's Pep Boys Auto 500. In one of the most up and down races of the...
Race for Chase will go down to wire for No. 17 Team
HAMPTON, Ga. (Sept. 7, 2009) -- Matt Kenseth battled back from an early brush with the wall to finish 12th in Sunday night's Pep Boys Auto 500. In one of the most up and down races of the season for the team, Kenseth's R+L Carriers Ford was extremely loose early, eventually making hard contact with the wall and dropping all the way back to 31st position and falling a lap down. The team rebounded, working feverishly during cautions to fix the car, with Kenseth advancing as far as fourth, before hanging on for the 12th-place finish.
With the finish, Kenseth moves into next week's final race before the Chase cutoff point in 12th position; the final spot in the Chase field.
"We were pretty optimistic in practice yesterday, but we started the race way off," said Kenseth. "I ran into the wall early, which isn't the team's fault; it's my fault. That hurt us, but the car is just so inconsistent and hard to drive. I don't know, we just can't really seem to figure out how to get these cars to go fast."
Kenseth started the race 15th based on his best qualifying effort at the track in seven years. Despite a very loose-handling Ford, he moved to 12th before making contact with the outside wall and dropping all the way to 31st and going a lap down on lap 36.
The race's first caution was issued seconds later and Kenseth was awarded the free pass. The team used the next two cautions to work to repair the damaged R+L Carriers Ford. Once the car was repaired, Kenseth began to etch his way back through the field, breaking back inside the top 20 on lap 110.
After a stop for four tires and track bar and air pressure adjustments on lap 131, Kenseth restarted in 19th position and embarked on his most impressive runs of the night. He drove his No. 17th all the way back to 11th by lap 179. After a green flag stop on lap 185, the team moved inside the top 10 for the first time of the race on lap 190.
He would advance to as high as sixth after a restart on lap 207, but the car's splitter was dragging the race track and effectively limited Kenseth's ability to race with the event leaders -- especially on the short run. It would be a problem that would hurt the team's effort all night, eventually costing them a top 10.
"We started so far off," added Kenseth. "We got it really good for one run and tried to change it just a little bit more and made it worse, so I don't know. We kept going one way or the other and could never get it really right. We had one run that was really, really good and that's it. We could never get it to drive like that again and I have no idea why."
Kenseth hit his highest mark of fourth after a restart for the race's eighth caution on lap 252. Restarting in eighth, he moved all the way to fourth, before issues with the splitter would force him back to 10th position just five laps later.
"We knew it (the splitter) was dragging about lap 30, but we chose not to fix it. On a long run, you could live with it, but it's going to get worse as the night goes on and the team just decided not to mess with it. You can put shims in there and that's something you can do on a pit stop, but it costs you time."
Kenseth was running in ninth position when the race's 10th and final caution was issued on lap 311. The team came down pit road one last time for four tires and restarted in seventh position. However, with the car's issues, Kenseth once again would be unable to hold position over the run, falling back to 12th position where he would finish the race.
"Well, it probably would have been (an incredible comeback) if we would have finished fifth or sixth or seventh, but at the end there we just couldn't go anywhere on restarts because we had something in the car wrong," added Kenseth. "The splitter would drag so hard that there was no possible way you could turn. I lost five or six spots on that restart, so it's pretty frustrating."
Kenseth and the team now head to Richmond just 20 points ahead of 13th-place Brian Vickers and 37 points ahead of 14th-place Kyle Busch. He trails 11th-place Greg Biffle by 48 points, but is only 76 points out of sixth.
The green flag for next weekend's showdown in Richmond will fly at 7:43 p.m. EDT.