Kenseth Fights to Top-10 Finish at Bristol as Points Race Heats Up Down the Stretch BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 23, 2009) -- Matt Kenseth battled to a 10th-place finish in Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at the world's fastest half mile, Bristol Motor ...
Kenseth Fights to Top-10 Finish at Bristol as Points Race Heats Up Down the Stretch
BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 23, 2009) -- Matt Kenseth battled to a 10th-place finish in Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at the world's fastest half mile, Bristol Motor Speedway. The finish capped an up and down weekend where the No. 17 DEWALT team struggled in practice on Friday, qualified fifth and fought back to a top-10 finish in front of a crowd of over 150,000 at NASCAR's Thunder Valley.
"At the end there, I thought we were probably good enough to run sixth or seventh, but just kept getting stuck behind people that were slower than me and couldn't get around them," said Kenseth. "So, overall it was a good night for us compared to what we've been doing. The last four weeks have been closer, a little more consistent.
"We didn't run particularly well the entire race, but we ran a lot better than I thought we would. The double file restarts are just real hard here. If you get on the bottom or get behind somebody, it almost made it harder to pass here because everybody's stuck side by side."
Kenseth started the race fifth, based on one of the team's strongest qualifying efforts of the season. He moved to second position on lap 17 and ran there until the team came down pit road under the race's second caution on lap 64.
Eventually, Kenseth's Ford Fusion began to lose grip, with the veteran falling back to 13th on lap 164. Still Kenseth would hold his No. 17 DEWALT car inside the field's top 15 for virtually the entire race, with the team using a series of pit stops under caution to work with the car's handling.
Kenseth advanced to as high as seventh position with only 33 laps remaining, but would lose position on a series of double file restarts that preceded a plethora of late cautions. The race was actually red flagged for rain with just eight laps remaining after the 11th and final caution of the evening. Kenseth restarted in 10th with four laps remaining and was able to hold on to the top-10 position.
The finish was the team's fifth consecutive finish of 14th or better, but Kenseth's first top 10 in four races. Despite the solid run, Kenseth dropped one position to 12th in the Sprint Cup point standings; the final spot inside the Chase cutoff.
With just two races remaining in Atlanta and Richmond before the Chase cutoff, Kenseth leads 13th place Kyle Busch by only 34 points. In a tight points battle that sees just 69 points separate eighth and 14th positions, Kenseth trails 11th place Kasey Kahne by just 18 points and he's only 41 points behind eighth.
"All we can do is run the best we can," said Kenseth of the points race. "If we get it running better and finishing better we won't have to worry about it. This was better, but we still have work to do. It's 26 races from Daytona to Richmond and every race is important and you put forth your best effort every week.
"You do all you can do each week," added Kenseth. "You get down to crunch time, and it's that close, but you had a chance to gain or lose points for the last 23 weeks. So, you've just got to do the best you can every week, and where it ends up, it ends up."
Kenseth and the series will take its last off weekend of the season next week before returning to action in two weeks at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kenseth has posted finishes of 12th or better in his last six races at the 1.54-mile speedway, including four top-fives.