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Publication: NASCAR News
Kenseth Has Late Rally

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          NASCAR NEWS - Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kenseth puts together late rally to get top-10 at AMS
By Dave Rodman, NASCAR.COM

HAMPTON, Ga. - A broken transmission only cost Matt Kenseth 
four positions on the starting grid for Sunday's Kobalt 
Tools 500, when he had to drop to the rear of the field for 
the start at Atlanta Motor Speedway. 

But a gutsy, persistent performance by the former Cup 
champion and Roush Fenway Racing team leader resulted in 
an eighth-place finish, his second top-10 in four 2008 
starts. He also saw a four-position gain in the driver 
standings, to 12th. 

Kenseth changed clothes in his team's hauler, and then 
grabbed bottles of water and a sports drink, thanked his 
crewmembers and hustled toward the driver/owner coach lot 
after wife Katie and son Ross, sharing insight into his 
day on his way out of the garage. 

"Well, it was an uphill battle because we were a lap 
down and just ready to go two laps down and we caught a 
caution," Kenseth said. "We had a good pit stop and got 
up there and got our [free pass] so it was a battle. 

"I think it was about the hardest eighth-place I think 
we've ever had to do." 

Kenseth's No. 17 Ford team had to change the car's trans-
mission between Saturday's final practice and the race, 
so Kenseth had to drop from his qualified spot, 38th, to 
the last position in the outside lane, 42nd. 

With outside front-row starter Dale Earnhardt Jr. and 
eventual race winner Kyle Busch leading large chunks of 
the race's early stages, Kenseth almost immediately 
lost a lap. And he came close to going down two laps on 
Atlanta's fast, 1.54-mile layout. 


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But what could have been a brutal outcome on a brilliantly 
sunny day ended with Kenseth's crew chief Chip Bolin 
returning from pit road to his team's hauler with a smile 
after 325 laps. 

"Without Matt Kenseth driving that car, we'd have been 
two laps down," Bolin said. "But he's never going to give 
up on us, so we're never going to give up on him. So all 
we could do was work on it all day [because] we weren't 
gonna make it any worse." 

Bolin and Kenseth were in good company with a lot of other 
driver/crew chief combinations, as they struggled to mate 
their chassis' adjustability to a hard-compound Goodyear 

"We worked on the car, trying to make it better, and ended 
up making it way too tight," Bolin said. "So we basically 
went back and freed the car up all day -- and we just 
battled loose-in when we got it to where he could get it 
through the corner." 

Earnhardt and Busch were so good early, and there were only 
two cautions in the race's first 110 laps, that a lot of 
cars lost laps, including Kenseth's. By Lap 92, he was 
21st, a lap down and third in line to get the free pass if 
a caution flew. 

On Lap 114, Kasey Kahne spun coming out of Turn 4, the 
third caution flag came out on Lap 115 and Kenseth had 
raced into position to get back on the lead lap via a 
free pass. He must have been shaking his head inside his 

"I've thought about it a lot of times, and when [the free 
pass rule] first came out, I hated it -- I thought it was 
the silliest thing in the world, to give somebody a free 
lap back for no reason," Kenseth said. "But yet again, in 
a race like this, where there are 25 or 30 cars a lap down, 
you still gotta race like crazy to get it. 

"So I don't know. It definitely makes it more entertaining, 
puts more people on the lead lap at the end of the race. 
It works better at some places than others -- like, at 
Watkins Glen it seems silly -- but here and places where 
you get a lot of cars a lap down it certainly makes the 
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It worked that way for Kenseth, who had battled his way to 
14th only 43 laps after getting his lap back. And as bad 
as the Roush Fenway men claimed their car was handling, 
they were still one of only 11 cars on the lead lap when 
the race reached Lap 200. 

Despite that, there were just more than 100 laps left in 
the race when Kenseth got into the top 10 for the first 
time, at Lap 220. 

Bolin and Kenseth agreed their car was the best it had 
been all day at the end of the race when Kenseth -- who 
won Saturday's Nationwide Series Nicorette 300 but only 
has a best finish of third in 16 Cup starts here -- 
outran three-time Atlanta winner Jimmie Johnson, who 
was going for his third consecutive AMS victory, among 
others over the last 30 laps. 

"Yeah [it was the best], but it still sucked," Kenseth 
said. "We were just off -- we just missed it somewhere 
-- I don't know where [because] obviously the 99 [Carl 
Edwards] and 16 [fourth-place Greg Biffle] hit it pretty 

"We were just off. We started off real bad and made a lot 
of improvements, but we just never got it right." 


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Kenseth's crew, as it often has, stepped up again on his 
last pit stop, under the eighth caution at Lap 283, as 
in addition to regular service they had to change the 
car's throttle spring, which knocked Kenseth back to 
11th for the final restart. 

"We finally figured out what to do with it at the end, 
so I guess we probably would've wanted another fuel run, 
if it was up to us," Bolin said. "But I think I pretty 
much wore him [Kenseth] out, chasing it [Sunday] so 
we'll let him go home and just finish eighth. 

"Everybody did a good job and we'll go on to the next one." 

The finish was Kenseth's 10th top-10 in 16 AMS starts, 
and despite breaking a string of three consecutive top-
fives, had him somewhat upbeat as the series heads to 
consecutive short-track races at Bristol and Martinsville. 

"The end result was great," Kenseth said. "We didn't run 
good at all and we were able to overcome almost being two 
laps down to finish eighth. Overall, I'm happy with the 

"It was really a struggle. We ran really bad and got a good 
finish, so I'm happy with that." 

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