Kenseth Finishes 16th in the Let’s Go Places Toyota
MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP Series;O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
Texas Motor Speedway
Matt Kenseth Race Summary
No. 20 Let's Go Places Toyota Camry
Started: 8th • Finished: 16th • 334/334
126 total points for the season; 22th in the driver point standings following the race
Late-Race Contact Forces Kenseth to a 36th-Place Finish at Fontana
· NASCAR traveled to “The Lone Star State” for a race weekend filled with several unknowns. Texas Motor Speedway had just completed a repave prior to the race weekend, but no one had been on track to test or practice in a racecar until Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams unloaded on Friday morning. Unsure how the track would change throughout the weekend, teams had to work to make sure that they maximized the weekend’s practices in order to get as much information leading into Sunday’s race as possible. Matt Kenseth and his No. 20 team earned a top-ten starting spot, but throughout much of Sunday’s 334-lap event, Kenseth found himself battling handling in his Let’s Go Places Toyota Camry.
· Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 took the green at 12:49 p.m. CST as NASCAR told teams that there would be a competition caution following lap 30 since officials had continued to work on laying rubber down on the surface prior to the race. On the opening lap, Kenseth’s lane was slow on the start, dropping the No. 20 Toyota back into 13th. Fortunately, Kenseth was able to drive his way up to seventh before the competition caution appeared after lap 30.
· Under the yellow, Kenseth told crew chief Jason Ratcliff that the Let’s Go Places Toyota had come in pretty good after starting out loose, and that the car was a bit tight across the middle. Ratcliff called for right-side tires and fuel on the team’s first stop of the race, and Kenseth lined up in sixth for the restart.
· Over the next run, the No. 20 Camry started tight, but then became “dance-y” according to Kenseth who also reported that the right-rear felt as though it had faded by lap 60. Stage 1 ended following lap 85, and Kenseth was in 17th at the break after falling back due to the challenging handling issues. Under the caution, the team made a four-tire pit stop with numerous adjustments, and Kenseth lined up in 22nd for the restart.
· Handling continued to challenge the No. 20 team and Kenseth told his team that while his Let’s Go Places Camry had started to get tight, the entry then went away and was low on grip. A caution for debris at lap 164 allowed the team to take another big swing at adjustments to their racecar, and the slightly longer stop found Kenseth in 24th for the restart.
· Stage 2 ended after lap 170, and Ratcliff opted to stay out since they had just hit pit road a few laps earlier under caution. Stage 3 found Kenseth restart in 19th, and while he told his team that the adjustments had seemed to help the entry a bit, he was still fighting “tight off and plowing” conditions from his racecar. Green-flag stops cycled around lap 220 and Kenseth hit pit road for service and adjustments. By lap 248, the Let’s Go Places Camry was up to 17th as Ratcliff told his driver that his lap times were just as good as the leaders.
· Another round of stops began around lap 270, and the No. 20 came in for another round of adjustments on lap 274. A caution for debris at lap 299 let Kenseth and his team catch up on handling as he reported that the No. 20 “started off tight, but then came around before it turned loose affecting the front a bit.” Kenseth restarted in 15th to begin lap 305, and in the end, the Let’s Go Places Toyota Camry crossed the line in 16th at Texas.
· Jimmie Johnson drove off with the victory on Sunday afternoon, earning his first win of the 2017 season in the process. Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the top-five finishers at Texas. Kenseth was scored with a 16th-place finish and remains 22nd in the driver point standings. The series will take next weekend off, but then will return to action the following weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500.
2017 SEASON SUMMARY:
Food City 500
Bristol Motor Speedway (0.53-mile track)
Sunday, April 23, 2017