Kenseth finishes 9th in STP 500 at Martinsville
MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP Series;STP 500
Matt Kenseth Race Summary
No. 20 PEAK Antifreeze Toyota Camry
Started: 25th • Finished: 9th • 500/500
105 total points for the season; 22nd in the driver point standings following the race
Kenseth Earns a Top-10 Finish at Martinsville
· After two weekends of disappointing finishes being caught up in accidents, Matt Kenseth and his No. 20 Tide PODS team traveled to the short track of Martinsville Speedway eager to earn a much better finish this weekend. Rain showers in the area on Friday allowed Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams to get on track for practice, but qualifying was cancelled. The starting line-up was set according to the rulebook, which meant that it was based off owner points. Martinsville is a half-mile paper clip-shaped track, which makes it difficult to pass at in the tighter corners with limited space on the straightaways as well. Kenseth started from 25th, but the team worked hard at adjusting the Tide PODS Camry and the effort paid off with a top-10 finish coming home in ninth.
· Sunday’s STP 500 took the green at 2:18 p.m. EST to start the 500-lap event where brakes and tempers always seem to flare up throughout the race. Mired in the pack, Kenseth knew that he would need to be patient but also fight for every opportunity he had to make his way forward through the field. During the opening 35 laps, Kenseth was running in 21st as he told his team that the No. 20 Camry was too tight rolling and needed more grip off the corners. He was able to improve to 19th before the first caution of the day came at lap 70.
· Crew Chief Jason Ratcliff and Kenseth discussed handling as the team prepared for their first pit stop of the day. Four tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment were made before Kenseth lined up in 16th for the restart. Over the next run, the Tide PODS Camry improved to 12th before another caution came at lap 106. Under the yellow, Kenseth asked his team for a little more assistance with the backend of the car since it was “hopping” the rears and making it difficult to make the passes.
· Once again, the Tide pit crew made a round of adjustments on the pit stop, and Kenseth lined up in 18th for the restart after several cars opted to stay out. Stage 1 ended following lap 130, and since the team had opted to pit just a few laps prior to the break, Kenseth stayed out and was able to line up in ninth for the lap 142 restart.
· Kenseth continued to improve throughout stage 2 of the race and was able to drive his way into seventh before the yellow came after lap 260. As the team prepared to pit under the caution, Kenseth told his team that the Tide Camry was “a lot better that run” but that he was having a bit of difficulty “pushing the gas down hard enough” like he wanted to in order to challenge for position. A four-tire stop with adjustments were made, and Kenseth lined up in sixth for the restart to begin lap 274.
· With just under half of the race remaining, cautions started to breed cautions as drivers’ tempers began to overheat from all the beating and banging. Kenseth was able to avoid most of the calamity as he continued to focus on advancing positions one at a time whenever possible. By lap 285, the Tide PODS Camry was running in fourth and was able to maintain that top five positioning until lap 329.
· A caution at lap 335 allowed the team to make a round of adjustments since Kenseth had told his team that his race car was a little loose off and tight in the middle at the time. Kenseth restarted in seventh after two cars ahead of him had opted to stay out, but the No. 20 quickly took back its place within the top five.
· On lap 431, a caution came out and the No. 20 team hit pit road for service. Since teams had been varying their pit strategies throughout the cautions that had come out at lap 407 and 419, Kenseth lined up in 15th for the restart at lap 437. Over the remaining 63 laps, Kenseth was able to drive his way from 15th to ninth as he and his team were able to stay out of trouble and earn a top-10 finish at Martinsville.
· Brad Keselowski drove off with the win Sunday afternoon, as he was able to hold off Kyle Busch for the victory. Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five finishers at Martinsville. Kenseth’s ninth-place finish is his third top-10 finish of the 2017 season so far, and he improved to 22nd in the driver point standings.
2017 SEASON SUMMARY:
O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile track)
Fort Worth, TX
Sunday, April 9, 2017