Kenseth passes entire field to win in Texas. JUSTIN, TX (April 8, 2002) -- Matt Kenseth and the DEWALT Power Tools Ford team have done it again. For the second time this year, Kenseth, crew chief Robbie Reiser and the No. 17 team found victory...
Kenseth passes entire field to win in Texas.
JUSTIN, TX (April 8, 2002) -- Matt Kenseth and the DEWALT Power Tools Ford team have done it again. For the second time this year, Kenseth, crew chief Robbie Reiser and the No. 17 team found victory lane. It was only after Kenseth passed every car in the field that he cruised to a win in the Samsung/Radioshack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in front of over 180,000 people on Monday.
The team unloaded the No. 17 car on Friday ready to race. Kenseth went out onto the newly paved track for practice, but was only able to make five laps before the engine failed. The team had no choice but to replace the motor and NASCAR's one engine rule took its toll on the DEWALT team for the third time this season. The No. 17 would have to start in the back of the pack - regardless of the outcome of qualifying-since they changed the motor.
Kenseth and the team decided to qualify the car anyway, but it was only good for 31st on the speed charts. Practice on Saturday was canceled because of rain and thunderstorms. Luckily, Kenseth did compete in the Busch Series event on Saturday, and was a contender for a win, until rain halted the event just over halfway through the race.
Rain and severe weather washed out any opportunity to run the race as scheduled on Sunday. Weather predictions for Monday were much better, and the race was postponed.
Race setups and conditions were going to be major players in the guessing game for most teams - especially for those who did not test at Texas. Due to lack of practice during the weekend, NASCAR decided to allow for a competition caution on lap 36, to allow teams to make adjustments on the cars. Kenseth and Reiser were not too worried, because they brought same car they raced in Atlanta, and the two tracks are similar.
When the Samsung/Radioshack 500 started, Matt had to drop back to the 42nd position. He was apprehensive about starting so far back in the field, because it was going to be hard to pass with only one groove on the track.
"I was real worried about the ability to pass here in Texas" said Kenseth. "I just knew with the new surface it was going to be fast, and hard to move up. I'm glad I was not right about that, because the track got really wide after a while. I literally passed everyone to get to the front."
Early on, Kenseth proved his passing theory was not true, because when the first caution flag flew he had already muscled his way into the 21st position. At that point the car was a bit tight. On the pit stop the team made an air pressure and track bar adjustment to loosen up the car, and sent Kenseth back out onto the track in 15th position. Then Kenseth told Reiser, "This is one good handling race car. We just need to make a few more adjustments and then we can see what we've got to contend with."
As the green flag laps added up on the score board in the 500-mile event, Kenseth had moved up to sixth place. The team pitted during the green flag on lap 102. They decided to pull a spring rubber out of the right front of the car, and it cost them track position. Kenseth and Reiser decided it was the right move to make, and the car was handling so well, that they would be able to get it back since they were still in the top 15.
It was not long after the pit stop that Kenseth again informed the team the car was going to be good once the tires got built up and the race stayed green for a while.
On lap 124 Kenseth said the car had an 'areo push' when he got behind a certain car. An areo push usually throws off the balance in a race car and makes it hard to drive. Once Kenseth passed the car, he picked up where he left off - moving toward the front of the field.
The team continued to make air pressure adjustments on the car during pit stops and soon Kenseth raced his way into the top 10. Green flag pit stops began again on lap 225. Kenseth was only a few laps away from making a stop of his own when a caution came out leaving just a few cars on the lead lap. Kenseth came into the pits on lap 242 for four tires in second, and left with the lead.
Kenseth then pulled away to an impressive 6.5 second lead over the No. 20 car of Tony Stewart. Unfortunately, he would not be able to make it the rest of the race on fuel and would have to stop with 25 laps to go.
On lap 310, Kenseth caught a break, as the No. 97 car of Kurt Busch spun on the track bringing out a caution. Kenseth came into the pits and took two tires and enough fuel to go the duration of the event. He left the pits with the lead and never looked back.
Kenseth lead the field three times, for a total of 84 laps and went on to win for the third time in his career, and for the second time this season. The car, chassis number 6, is the same car Kenseth won the Coca Cola 600 with at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May of 2000.
"That was awesome," said Kenseth from victory lane. "I was so much better when I could get out front, and run by myself. All day we had a car that handled very well, and the guys did a good job in the pits, getting me out front when it counted. The track changed a lot throughout the day, and we were able to keep up with the adjustments and be there at the end.
"Our cars have been handing much better this year, and we have been able to be consistent. There is still room for improvement though. When a team has won two out of seven races, and still has room for improvement, that is a good thing.
"We were able to pass a lot of cars today, and the track got really wide. I came here thinking it was going to be a one lane track, but it turned out a lot different. Its really a great track.
"I'm proud to give DEWALT their second win of the year, and Roush Racing their third. Although its too early to talk about points, if we keep running like this, we might be in this position in the fall."
"It's about the people," said Robbie Reiser. "The guys at the shop who put these great cars together for us are the best. Although its way too early to talk about the points, we just focus on each race one at a time. Who knows, if we can keep our heads in it, we might be talking about this stuff in New York. Matt is a helluva race car driver, and I am really proud of this team today."
Kenseth and Reiser will head to Martinsville next weekend with the rest of the Winston Cup circuit looking for win number three of 2002.