KANSAS CITY, KS (September 29, 2002) -- Matt Kenseth is on a roll. For the fourth race in a row, Kenseth extended his top-10 streak with a seventh place finish in the Protection One 400 at Kansas Speedway Sunday afternoon. The performance of...
KANSAS CITY, KS (September 29, 2002) -- Matt Kenseth is on a roll. For the fourth race in a row, Kenseth extended his top-10 streak with a seventh place finish in the Protection One 400 at Kansas Speedway Sunday afternoon.
The performance of the DEWALT car was not up to par throughout the entire weekend. Kenseth qualified in 27th position, but the car was not handling the way he wanted it to. Practice speeds were in the bottom third of the field, so the team knew they would have to make plenty of adjustments to get a respectable finish out of the weekend.
As the race began under sunny skies, crew chief Robbie Reiser told the team they had a long day ahead of them with lots of work to do, so they needed to be "picture perfect".
Shortly after the green flag flew, Kenseth told Reiser he felt a vibration in the car. On lap three, nine cars were involved in an accident behind him. Racing resumed on lap 15, but another caution flag flew on lap 20 due to the No. 15 car of Michael Waltrip hitting the wall. Kenseth pitted for two tires and a track bar adjustment to combat a tight handling condition. He went out on the track in 25th position. Another caution on lap 29 allowed for Kenseth to pit on lap 29 to top off the fuel tank.
Racing resumed again on lap 33 and Kenseth moved up to 17th by the time the next caution flag flew on lap 43. The DEWALT car had a bad vibration when it reached a certain RPM so Kenseth attempted to take it easy on the car without losing too much on the track.
As the race wore on, Kenseth moved into the top-15. The car was faster in clean air so as Kenseth passed cars on the track he was able to pull away and gain on the leaders.
On lap 77, Kenseth pitted again, but for right side tires only. He went back out onto the track in 2nd place. Shortly after the restart he lost some ground, and fell back to 12th. The handling of the car was too tight, and it was all Matt could do to keep the car on track.
The highlight in the DEWALT pits came on lap 142. A 13.87 second pit stop propelled Kenseth from 11th to 6th on the track. He maintained the track position and held on until the closing laps.
A red flag stopped the race with only five laps remaining in the 267 lap event. Kenseth was fifth, but struggled on some of the restarts throughout the race. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. slowed Kenseth up on the final single file restart, causing Kenseth to let off the gas to avoid wrecking the No. 8. He lost some ground but ended up in seventh position - and his sixteenth top-10 of the season.
"Today was all right I guess," said Kenseth. "We didn't have that great of a car, but we stayed at it all day and got a top five car at the end. It was unfortunate that they threw that red flag because our car was really, really poor on restarts today for some reason. I couldn't get going after that red flag but when I did, I got under Junior and he ran me all the way down past the apron. I could have stayed in the gas and finished fifth, but I would've had to wreck him. I chose to lift and lose some spots, so I lifted and lost some spots."
Kenseth maintained the eighth spot in the chase for the championship, and now is only 193 points out of first place. The NASCAR Winston Cup series visits Talladega Superspeedway next weekend for the final restrictor plate race of the season and Kenseth and a lucky fan will race for the Winston Million Dollar Bonus.