Matt Kenseth called his shot on the radio before the Green-White-Checkered finish and he almost hit it right out of the park. Except almost doesn’t count in racing and he came home with a second place finish.
“Yeah, it’s been an interesting day,” Kenseth said.
“All our cars were fast today. Greg probably had the best car if he wouldn’t have broken his transmission or whatever happened there. Our pit stops were really good today, they were better than they have been.”
“I didn’t speed on pit road today, which was a bonus. I’ve been doing that too much lately. Just all day we had a mistake-free day. Even when we had trouble we were able to stay calm and fix our problems and get back in the lead lap.”
He continued, “So just everything went just right today in the pits and on pit road and pretty much on the track, too. I wish I could do the last lap one more time and try something different, but other than that, everything went as good as we could have expected today.”
Texas Motor Speedway has always been a racetrack that the No. 17 have excelled on. Seven top fives, 10 top 10s and 497 laps led and three straight second place finishes (2006, and twice in 2007) led Kenseth into the day.
With a win in their pocket, 2002, Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 came at great time for a team that even while making the Chase, hasn’t had many highlight reel moments in 2010.
Fords were dominant in both the practice sessions and qualifying, sweeping the top three positions and five out of the top 10. The Roush-Fenway Fords more specifically, were on track to steal the show coming off a Carl Edwards victory in the Nationwide Series race Saturday afternoon.
Kenseth and company went about their business in their usual quiet manner. Having to start 19th wasn’t a big concern for a car that was primed for race trim. Once the race arrived though, it was a good thing that there were 334 laps and plenty of time to make changes. Kenseth went a lap down early after an unscheduled pit stop for a vibration.
From there the car came alive upon getting the lucky dog and his lap back and tore through the field. All eyes remained on the leaders as teammate Greg Biffle led 224 laps, covering the field. Or they were on former teammate Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon when the two got physical on the backstretch after a wreck.
Kenseth later joked, “I heard there was a fight today, did everyone take their helmets off?” In 2006 at Bristol Kenseth was on the receiving end of a Gordon shove after the two tangled on the track. Gordon hadn’t taken his helmet off.
Back on track, Kenseth and company continued to climb finally reached the top 10 and joined the real fun. After passing Mark Martin for the second spot on lap 311, he needed to erase over a near two-second lead by Denny Hamlin to have a shot at the victory.
When Patrick Carpentier spun his No. 26 and the caution came out with six laps remaining, that’s when Kenseth spoke his confidence over the radio. The restart was one of the most exciting ones of the night as he took the lead coming off turn two and then lost it going down the backstretch.
“I got a really good restart and he pulled as close as he could to me to get the wind off of me, which in lap 100 you wouldn’t do that to somebody because they’d be mad, but over last ten laps that’s totally fair,” said Kenseth.
“I’d probably be trying to do the same thing as much as I could to get the inside guy loose and get him uncomfortable. So surprisingly my car was pretty stable and it lasted for a lap, and I just lifted real early because we were side by side and I wanted to actually keep him outside of me, and I thought if we left turn 2 at least nose to nose and I could get into 3 and still have him outside of me that we’d have a shot to the finish line,” he said.
Kenseth’s race would be over by turn three however.
“I probably shouldn’t have been holding the wheel as much as I did but I wanted to get a nice run off the corner, and as soon as he got away from my side for whatever reason and got behind me, my car just took off. It just felt like it raised the car half an inch and went straight, and I had to get out of the gas, so I had to keep from hitting the wall.”
“I don’t know, it was a heck of a race down to the finish … you hate it when you get beat.”
Getting beat at Texas is something that Kenseth is unfortunately becoming all too familiar with. In 2007 Jeff Burton passed him on the last lap coming off turn two when Kenseth again got loose. Later that season he and Jimmie Johnson had a fierce battle over the final 10 laps before Johnson passed him for good with two laps to go.
Getting passed again on the last lap at Texas just gave him his fourth second place finish and his eighth top five at the track, which now leads all active drivers. He’s getting closer to the day when he’ll again be leading all 42 drivers to the checkered flag at Texas Motor Speedway.