Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; Alabama 500
TRACK: Talladega Superspeedway
DRIVER: Matt Kenseth
CAR: No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Toyota Camry
POINTS POSITION: 3,005 total points for the season: 11th in the Playoffs driver point standings following the race
NASCAR traveled to the largest track on the circuit, Talladega Superspeedway, for the season’s 31st points-race of the 2017 season. Talladega is synonymous with chain reactions happening in the blink of an eye since cars are often running three-wide at speeds of over 200 mph on the 2.66-mile high-banked course. Matt Kenseth and his No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ started 19th for Sunday’s race, but got collected in “The Big One” on lap 173. Fortunately, Kenseth was about to continue, and limped home 14th only one lap down to the leaders.
Sunday’s Alabama 500 took the green flag at 1:13 p.m. CST as Kenseth’s DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Toyota rolled off from the 19th starting spot. Kenseth was able to quickly slice and dice his way up to 10th by lap 10, and took the lead on lap 26 as green-flag pits stops were beginning. On lap 27, the first caution flag flew for a multi-car incident on the frontstretch. Crew chief Jason Ratcliff summoned his driver to pit road two laps later for four tires, fuel and a slight air pressure adjustment. A mishap during the pit stop saw Kenseth restart 14th on lap 36.
With five laps remaining in Stage 1, Kenseth was listed 11th fighting hard to get back into the top 10 and secure valuable playoff points. However, a caution flag flew on lap 51 for a single-car incident in Turn 3. Ratcliff once again called his driver to pit road for right-side tires and fuel, and Kenseth restarted in the top 15 with two laps remaining in the stage. He battled three and four-wide in those final two laps, but ultimately crossed the finish line 12th to end the stage.
The No. 20 team opted not to pit under the Stage 1 caution, which allowed them to restart second on lap 61. Kenseth was able to take the lead on lap 62, but his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammate Denny Hamlin overtook the top spot on lap 64. Six laps later, Ratcliff made the call to hit pit road for a scheduled green-flag pit stop. After the pit stop cycled through the field, Kenseth was once again listed in the top-10. Crazy three and four-wide racing continued, and Kenseth was in 11th with 15 laps remaining in the stage. With a Toyota Camry that didn’t work on the bottom line like Kenseth was hoping, he struggled to make bold moves that would help propel him towards the front. The veteran driver crossed the finish line 17th to end Stage 2.
At the start of Stage 3, things seemed to calm down a little and the field settled into a single-file freight train with Kenseth listed in seventh. He maintained that position until another scheduled green-flag pit stop occurred on lap 144. Shortly after the pit stops, another caution flag flew for the No. 6 car on lap 151. Ratcliff called his driver to pit road for left-side tires and fuel only. With several teams opting to stay out, Kenseth took the lap 155 restart lined up in 19th. The No. 20 DEWALT Camry maintained its positioning within the top 20 until Kenseth was collected in “The Big One” on lap 173, which brought out the red flag.
Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota Camry sustained considerable damage, but he was able to limp it back to his pit box after the red flag was lifted. A total of 16 cars suffered damage in the wreck, and the No. 20 team was determined to get their car repaired enough to get back out on track to try and finish the race. The team worked quickly while on the five-minute repair clock, and they were able to get their No. 20 machine back on the track and up to speed in order to be able to continue racing.
The race returned to green to begin lap 176 with Kenseth scored in 21st and two laps down to the leaders. However, several more multi-car incidents occurred in the closing laps allowing Kenseth to advance his positions. He ultimately crossed the finish line 14th for the afternoon.
Brad Keselowski won the 49th annual Alabama 500 at Talladega. Ryan Newman, Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano and Aric Almirola rounded out the top five. Kenseth is now 10th in NASCAR Playoff point standings, nine points out of the Round of 8.