Charlotte: Matt Kenseth race report

Crew and consistency keys to Kenseth's second at Lowe's. CONCORD, NC (May 27, 2002) -- It was a Roush Racing romp at Lowe's Motor Speedway as Matt Kenseth and his No. 17 DEWALT Team brought home a second place finish in the Coca Cola Racing...

Crew and consistency keys to Kenseth's second at Lowe's.

CONCORD, NC (May 27, 2002) -- It was a Roush Racing romp at Lowe's Motor Speedway as Matt Kenseth and his No. 17 DEWALT Team brought home a second place finish in the Coca Cola Racing Family 600 behind teammate Mark Martin.

Kenseth qualified the car in the 21st position, but started the race 19th due to teams who had to change engines and drop to the rear of the field. Neither Kenseth nor the team were happy with the performance of the car in final practice so they made some changes prior to the race, and crossed their fingers that they were the right ones.

With 600 miles ahead of them, the DEWALT Team's game plan was to be smart, patient, and be there at the end-making no mistakes. A few laps into the race, Kenseth said the car was on the loose side, and brought the car in for adjustments as early as lap 27. He moved into the top-10 by lap 53.

One of the key moments of the night came on lap 70. Kenseth was running sixth, and the DEWALT team had a 13.82 second pit stop sending him out 2nd. On lap 104 Kenseth pitted again, and came out with the lead.

As the race wore on, Kenseth battled among the top three drivers. The No. 17 car was very loose, and the team knew they needed to make it to the last 100 laps, so Kenseth decided to be smart, and follow the leaders.

At the halfway point of the race, Kenseth was fourth. During a round of green flag pit stops, Kenseth's crew again sent him out on the track with the lead.

Disaster nearly stuck the team when while running second, Kenseth radioed to crew chief Robbie Reiser that he heard a vibration in the right front tire. The problem worsened and he was forced to pit on lap 309 under green. The team would have been able to complete the race on one more pit stop, but the early stop made them 24 laps short on fuel. The crew made a four tire pit stop and Kenseth found himself a lap down in the 21st position. A belt broke in the right front tire, shredding part of it, so Kenseth made a good call and avoided a possible blown right front tire.

From there, the only thing that could save the team was a caution -- and luckily, they got one.

On lap 360 of 400, leader Jimmie Johnson tangled with Hut Stricklin bringing out the caution flag. The field pitted, and Johnson overshot his pit stall, losing valuable track position. The DEWALT crew serviced the No. 17 car and sent it out onto the track in third. Kenseth then battled his way to second, almost catching leader Mark Martin in the dash to the checkered flags.

It was Kenseth's eighth top-10 finish of the year. He is now eligible for the Winston No Bull 5 at the July 6th Pepsi 400 in Daytona.

"Mark and I were hammer down," said Kenseth in a post race interview. "I think I could have caught him if it weren't for those lapped cars. We sort of lost a little momentum there, and I think we broke a valve spring late in the race. My team did a great job in the pits today -- they keep backing up their championship title with performances with nights like this.

"We just raced smart. Its a long race, and there were many opportunities to work on the car. Mark told me when I went to see him in victory lane that I would've had to spin him out to pass him. He was going for a million dollars and he was determined to get back to the winners circle.

"Overall, I'm happy with that. I would have been happier if we won, but I will take that. Some of my favorite tracks are coming up and I think we should be pretty good."

Kenseth and the DEWALT team head to Dover Downs next week, the site of Kenseth's Winston Cup debut in 1998.

-jrr/dewalt-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Hut Stricklin , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin