TALLADEGA, AL (October 7, 2012) – At a track where things can literally change in an instant, Matt Kenseth and his No. 17 National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) Ford EcoBoost Fusion were in the right place at the right time and avoided “The Big One” Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Kenseth earned his second win of the 2012 Sprint Cup season and his second win at a superspeedway for the year as well. Kenseth avoided a melee on the last lap that claimed a total of 25 cars, and sailed across the finish line to win the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500.
Kenseth started Sunday’s race from the 15th starting position as the field took the green flag at 1:25pm CST. In true Talladega-style, competitors were already racing three-wide within the opening laps of the 188-lap race. Kenseth was stuck in the teen positions but found drafting help early on from the No. 18 car as the duo shot up to the front of the field around lap 15.
The first caution of the day came on lap 17 and Kenseth called in over team radio communications that the No. 17 Ford was a tick tight. Crew chief Jimmy Fennig made the call for a fuel-only stop with a slight wedge adjustment to help with the car’s handling.
Kenseth restarted second to begin lap 22 on the outside line and gained the lead on lap 23. The NBCF Ford remained up front fighting for position over the course of the run, but right after Kenseth had reclaimed the lead on lap 41, his teammate Greg Biffle had a slight miscue with the pass which found Kenseth with an impressive save on his hands after the No. 17 got loose. Kenseth dipped back to 30th, but just 20 laps later, was back up into sixth. Kenseth radioed in to his team that the NBCF Ford EcoBoost was “twitchy” loose back in the pack. As a round of green-flag pit stops began to cycle through the field, Kenseth asked for some help with the rear of the car when he was being pushed.
Fennig called his driver down pit road for service on lap 60 for four tires, fuel, and wedge adjustments. Kenseth broke back into the top five and even pushed the No. 24 to the lead on lap 72 as the pair showed the way.
Kenseth continued to battle a loose-handling race car over the next few race runs, but a caution on lap 139 allowed Fennig and the team to make another sweeping round of changes to their car. Track bar, wedge, and air pressure adjustments accompanied the four-tire stop on lap 140.
Kenseth’s NBCF Ford restarted eighth to begin lap 144. By lap 161, Kenseth was mired back in 13th and stuck in the middle lane, but by lap 167, Kenseth was up to fifth and eyeing his place at the front of the field. Kenseth held his own within the top five when a late-race caution came out on lap 183 setting up a green-white-checkered finish. Fennig opted to stay out under the yellow, and Kenseth was scored as the race leader under the caution.
Kenseth led the field to the green flag, but on the final lap coming off of Turn 4, contact between Tony Stewart and Michael Waltrip set off a 25-car pileup. Kenseth was able to avoid the melee and drove his way across the line to claim the checkered flag Sunday. Fellow Chase driver, Jeff Gordon, earned the runner-up spot while Kyle Busch rounded out the top-three finishers at Talladega.
“Plate racing is really a testament to everybody at Roush Fenway Racing and the guys that build these cars, put bodies on them, Jimmy and the guys that set them up and work on them, the pit crew, and certainly everybody at the engine shop,” commented Kenseth following his win. “Plate racing, especially Talladega, has always been about a fast race car and not necessarily a good handling one. I never felt like the driver was a huge factor, so certainly this win is really about those guys a lot more than me, but I’m glad to get them the win. The plate stuff has just been unbelievable this year and all four plate races they put me in a position to win. I really felt like I let them down here last time on the move I made or didn’t make, and at Daytona again we had a shot to win that thing and messed it up at the end and got beat by Tony (Stewart), so I’m really proud to be in Victory Lane with these guys. They worked on it hard today. We had an up-and-down day. We had a couple near misses on the track and had to work our way back through the pack two or three times. We had the car pretty loose and it was pretty tough to drive at times, so I’m glad it all worked out for us at the end.”
Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series competes at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the fifth race of the Chase, the Bank of America 500. Pre-race television coverage begins on Saturday, October 13th at 7:00 p.m. EST on ABC. Radio coverage will be provided by the Performance Racing Network (PRN.)