Kenseth Fourth at Talladega TALLADEGA, Ala. (October 22, 2001) -- It was typical bumper to bumper, restrictor plate racing at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday afternoon. For the No. 17 DEWALT Racing team, the results of the EA Sports 500 ...
Kenseth Fourth at Talladega
TALLADEGA, Ala. (October 22, 2001) -- It was typical bumper to bumper, restrictor plate racing at Talladega Superspeedway Sunday afternoon. For the No. 17 DEWALT Racing team, the results of the EA Sports 500 were finally indicative of the caliber of the team. They brought home a fourth place finish in the 500-mile nail biter.
Driver Matt Kenseth qualified in the 24th position, and practice times throughout the weekend were competitive. The car was strong with or without the draft, and would provide positive results in the race.
When the green flag dropped, Kenseth wasted no time in getting himself into the top five cars. They began to pull away from the 40 car "parking lot", as Kenseth referred to the pack of cars running 190 mph behind him. Green flag pit stops came on lap 51 for the DEWALT team. Kenseth was the leader and the contribution of a 14.55 second stop by the DEWALT crew helped him maintain the top spot.
Kenseth then rode comfortably in third place. While running beside Todd Bodine on lap 95, Bodine was hit from behind, bounced off Kenseth and hit the wall bringing out the first caution of the day. Kenseth came into the pits third, and went back out ninth.
Until the next chance to pit, Kenseth maintained a top-15 position. He came into the pits for the last time on lap 120 and a 14.09 second stop left him within striking distance of a top position.
With less than 15 laps to go, Kenseth threaded the drafting needle and made his way into the top 10. He was running third with seven to go as the battle for the lead intensified. While coming to the checkered flag, a 16-car pileup occurred right in front of Kenseth. He kept the car on the bottom of the racetrack, and drove right by to a fourth-place finish.
"That was awesome for this team," said crew chief Robbie Reiser after the race. "These guys worked their hearts out and deserve a finish like that. I'm real proud today."
Mike Calinoff had a busy day as well. As the team spotter, he played an integral part in the overall success of the day. "That was pretty hairy out there -- especially with ten to go. It was crazy all day, but Matt drove the heck out of that car. He amazes me sometimes. When that wreck happened right in front of him I just told him it was there, and told him to stay on the bottom. We were lucky with that one. I'm glad this race is over, it is so nerve-wracking."
"Today was just great and I'm happy about our finish," said Kenseth. "Restrictor plate races are a crapshoot. You're never sure where you're going to finish. If things don't go your way you could finish last, if things go your way you could win the thing. I felt like we had a good car all day. When we got up front we could hold our own up there, so to finish fourth and make it through that mess at the end, I was happy with that.
"When you get in a situation like that where the front-five or so cars are all running wide open on the mat and everybody else in the middle of the pack is running three-quarter throttle, and when they throw the white flag everyone wants to run wide open and come back to the finish line, and there's just so much room for so many cars out there.
"I was behind it and the 18 and 55 got together and got up real high on the track, and the next thing I knew somebody was coming straight down the track off of turn two. I just stayed on the bottom, stayed on the gas and drove by the 32 while he was spinning. I am glad everyone walked away from that one.
"Now we get to race for the Winston Million in Vegas next year," Kenseth said with a smile. "Hopefully by then we will be winning races like we should have been all year. This is positive for the team, and now we need to think about Phoenix."
The Talladega finish was the second top five since July of 2000 for Kenseth. He picked up a position in the point standings to 14th and is within reach of 13th.