HAMPTON, Ga. (March 10, 2002) -- It was a weekend of highs and lows for the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools team, as they battled their way through the field to a fourth place finish in the MBNA America 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Driver Matt...
HAMPTON, Ga. (March 10, 2002) -- It was a weekend of highs and lows for the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools team, as they battled their way through the field to a fourth place finish in the MBNA America 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Driver Matt Kenseth was on the top of his game as he blistered the field in practice throughout the weekend. Mechanical problems during Kenseth's qualifying lap would relegate him to start 42nd in the field, because the DEWALT Team had to change motors on the No. 17 car.
"During our qualifying lap I began to lose power," said Kenseth. "I had to shut the car down halfway through that second lap. I'm disappointed because we had a great car capable of a top-10 qualifying run and now we are going to have to start from the back."
Before the green flag flew on Sunday, Kenseth made his way to the back of the pack. He started 42nd and by lap 43 he had passed the 20th place car for position.
The first round of green flag pit stops came on lap 58 where Kenseth came in for four tires and a minor air pressure adjustment because he was a little loose when he was on the gas in the corners. The DEWALT team belted out an impressive 14.6 second stop, sending Kenseth out 12th in the field.
By lap 65 of the 325-lap event, Kenseth was 10th. While running ninth, Kenseth came into the pits again for tires and another minor air pressure adjustment on lap 78 under a caution. A 14.06 second pit stop by the DEWALT crew sent him out onto the track in the seventh position.
Heavy winds were a factor all day as the event unfolded under clear, but chilly skies in Hampton, Ga. Kenseth told crew chief Robbie Reiser the car was loose when the wind hit it, but otherwise it was one of the best cars he ever had.
By the time the halfway mark of the race passed, Kenseth was running fifth. On lap 210, Kenseth came into the pits second for tires, and the 13.77 second service job by the DEWALT guys sent him out in the lead. Kenseth then remained in the top five until a pit stop on lap 259. A 14.4 second stop sent him out with the lead again, and ready to sprint to the finish.
Another caution flag flew and Kenseth came into the pits on lap 283 for tires and fuel. He came into the pits second. The front tire hit the air hose and flew out of the No. 17 pit box during the stop. Time was lost as the team had to retrieve the tire, sending Kenseth out 16th in line.
He impressively worked his way from 16th to fourth in the closing laps of the race to the finish. Kenseth scored his second top-five of the 2002 season, and was part of the record setting 34 lead changes during the race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He climbed from tenth to sixth in the point standings and has now led laps in each event with the exception of Las Vegas in 2002.
"That was a great run," said Kenseth in a post race interview. "I am a little disappointed because at the end we lost a tire on our pit stop. We came from last place and came up and ran with the leaders all day, so I can't ask for more than that.
"We were in contention for a win if the race would have unfolded into our hands, so that gives me a lot of confidence. This is one of the greatest race tracks we go to, and one of my personal favorites. It is real fast, but you can run on the bottom or you can run right up against the wall. I think it makes for a good race. The driver can do a little extra here. If your car is not handling right on the bottom, you can move to the top or vice versa.
"One thing I've learned with this kind of racing is you never count your chickens until they hatch. I knew we were in a good position and I knew we had a fast car, but I wasn't as good as Tony Stewart and a couple of those other guys. If everything would have fallen our way we could have had a shot to win this thing, but I'm real happy running fourth."