Darlington: Matt Kenseth race report

Kenseth "Lucky" in Darlington - Finishes 8th DARLINGTON, SC (March 17, 2002) -- It was a roll of the dice by the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools team in the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday. With a disappointing qualifying...

Kenseth "Lucky" in Darlington - Finishes 8th

DARLINGTON, SC (March 17, 2002) -- It was a roll of the dice by the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools team in the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday. With a disappointing qualifying run and practice runs that were not up to expectations, Matt Kenseth and crew chief Robbie Reiser made spring and shock changes prior to the race in order to better their chances for success.

During the pace laps, Kenseth radioed the team and said, "I don't know what we have here today, boys, but we will see soon enough. Let's keep our heads in this thing, and see what we can get."

Kenseth started the race in the 34th position. By lap 13 he was running lap times as fast as the leader while riding in the 30th position. The first caution flag flew on lap 38 when the leader at the time, Steve Park, tangled with a lapped car, and second place runner, Ricky Craven.

Kenseth came into the pits with a loose condition and running 28th. The team changed four tires, made an air pressure adjustment, and sent Kenseth out in the 19th position.

He then moved his way even further through the field until the next caution flag flew. Kenseth came into the pits on lap 92 in the 16th position and went back out into the field 12th. The car was better on long runs, so the air pressure adjustments gave the car more grip as Kenseth tore his way into the top-10.

At the halfway point of the race, on lap 147, Kenseth was running 9th.

The No. 17 car began to give Kenseth a hard time as he was loose and tight on different parts of the track. Green flag pit stops started on lap 194 and Kenseth came in on lap 196. Unfortunately, the No. 97 car of Kurt Busch spun out trying to peel off the track onto pit road. Two other cars ran into each other trying to avoid the spinning car of Busch, bringing out a caution flag. Kenseth and the team, as well as many others, would have to restart the race on the tail end of the lead lap.

A twelve car pile up occurred on lap 226 again involving the leaders and lapped traffic. Fortunately, Kenseth was not involved, and ended up in the sixth position when the race restarted on lap 210.

Kenseth then held on for the finish, taking the checkered flag in the eighth position.

"That was a great run for this team," said crew chief Robbie Reiser. "We had no idea what kind of day we were in for and this team worked hard at getting a top-10 out of it. Matt drove a great race."

"We actually ran pretty bad," said Kenseth in a post race interview. "The DEWALT car didn't handle as good as we hoped it would, but through attrition and great pit stops we eighth out of it. We missed the setup today pretty bad.

"You always hate to see wrecks, but everybody that was probably on the lead lap that got in that wreck would have probably beaten us. Most of those guys were running ahead of us at the time of the wreck, so you never know. You never know what's gonna happen in one of these things until they're over, but I'm real happy to get out of here eighth. Maybe this time we have some luck on our side. We thought it was bad luck by coming into the pits and losing our lap, but after the wreck happened it was probably good luck we pitted that time. I felt like we had a top-15 car and we came home eighth, so that was great."

Sterling Marlin won the race, followed by Elliott Sadler, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and rookie Ryan Newman.

Kenseth and the DEWALT team roll into Bristol sitting third in the championship point standings, 143 points behind leader Sterling Marlin.

-rr/dewalt-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Ricky Craven , Elliott Sadler