Martinsville II: Matt Kenseth preview

CONCORD, NC (October 19, 2005) -- With an average finish of 17th over 11 starts, Matt Kenseth's record at the Martinsville Speedway is not stellar. This weekend's Subway 500 at the half-mile paper-clip shaped track marks the sixth of ten races to...

CONCORD, NC (October 19, 2005) -- With an average finish of 17th over 11 starts, Matt Kenseth's record at the Martinsville Speedway is not stellar. This weekend's Subway 500 at the half-mile paper-clip shaped track marks the sixth of ten races to determine the 2005 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series champion. Over the past year and a half of Nextel Cup competition Kenseth has finished eighth, 16th, and 11th, in races comprised of track disintegration, tragedy and yellow flags.

The Advance Auto Parts 500, run April 18, 2004, was the first race at the Martinsville Speedway under the Nextel banner. It was a memorable and controversial event as the race had to be stopped for more than an hour to repair the track that was crumbling under the racecars. Kenseth rolled off 29th after two dismal practice sessions and a sub par qualifying effort. Braced for the worst, the car was a pleasant surprise as it ran much better than it had in the previous practice sessions, particularly on long runs. Kenseth broke into the top-ten by lap 127. Kenseth settled in and fluctuated between the eighth and 11th spots. On lap 290, however, a large chunk of concrete broke loose from the track surface and was kicked up and into the No. 24 driven by Jeff Gordon. The action on the track was halted and NASCAR threw a red flag for safety crews to patch the hole in the track. Over an hour and fifteen minutes later, competition resumed and Kenseth was able to hold for an eighth-place finish.

The circuit returned to the Martinsville Speedway for the Subway 500 on October 24, 2004. The event would set a record for the number of cautions at 17. Kenseth started the race in the 25th position and fighting a loose racecar. The crew made adjustments throughout the day but just past the halfway point had a new obstacle to face -- they would have to install a new battery in the No. 17 DEWALT Ford. Kenseth went two laps down as his crew worked to install the new battery but fortunately, because of the number of subsequent caution flags, was able to get his laps back. Kenseth managed to avoid trouble in the remaining laps beset with yellow flags, and brought home a 16th-place finish. This day would be overshadowed by tragedy, however, as competitors learned at the conclusion of the event that a Hendrick Motorsports jet had crashed with team owner Rick Hendrick's brother and son on board, along with eight other persons.

The first stop at the Martinsville Speedway in the 2005 season was on April 10, 2005, for the Advance Auto Parts 500. As is typical for Kenseth at Martinsville, the DEWALT team struggled with the set-up during the practice sessions and qualified mid-way through the field in the 18th spot. Kenseth made the most of the 16 cautions that slowed the race to come down pit road for much needed adjustments. He would lose a lap on two different occasions but managed to return to the lead lap each time. With his brakes fading towards the end of the event, Kenseth held on for an 11th-place finish.

Kenseth and the DEWALT team will be bringing car number 23 to race in the Subway 500 this weekend in Martinsville. In the 2005 season this car has raced at Phoenix, both races at Loudon and the fall race in Richmond. In its' four runs, it has posted two top-five and three top-ten finishes. Looking ahead to the race weekend, Kenseth said, "To be truthful, Martinsville is a track I go to with some trepidation. We have historically struggled there. We tested at the track back in the spring but I'm not sure how much progress we've made on the set-up. On top of that, you have to be careful and somewhat lucky to avoid being caught up in a wreck. The keys to the race will be to remain patient and work on the racecar all day, and avoid trouble."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth
Teams Hendrick Motorsports