Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; Ford EcoBoost 400
TRACK: Homestead-Miami Speedway
DRIVER: Matt Kenseth
CAR: No. 20 DEWALT Hurricane Recovery Toyota Camry
POINTS POSITION: 2,344 total points for the season; 7th in the driver point standings
NASCAR’s top series traveled to South Florida this weekend to crown a Champion for the 2017 season. Fresh off a victory at Phoenix, Matt Kenseth and his No. 20 team entered the weekend with a throwback paint scheme aboard their DEWALT Toyota that paid homage to Kenseth’s rookie season in the series. The special paint scheme also featured Habitat for Humanity and ways that fans could help with hurricane recovery efforts. Kenseth started Sunday’s race from fourth, and despite dipping back into 16th on the opening run, he quickly worked his way back into the top-10, where he remained for the rest of the day. Kenseth got as high at third at one point, but in the end, he closed out the 2017 season with an eighth-place finish in his DEWALT Hurricane Recovery Toyota.
Sunday’s 400-mile race at Homestead-Miami Speedway took the green flag at 3:15p.m. EST as Kenseth rolled off from fourth. Early in the opening laps, Kenseth told crew chief Jason Ratcliff that the DEWALT Camry was a “little slow rolling, and then mainly tight center on late throttle.” The first caution of the day came at lap 5, and many teams behind Kenseth opted to hit pit road for fresh tires. The No. 20 stayed out under the yellow, and Kenseth took over third on lap 10. Just a few laps later, Kenseth told his team that the tires weren’t as good and that he had wished that he had stopped for new Goodyears. Kenseth was asked to do the best he could until the team was within another fuel window.
Green-flag stops began to cycle around lap 35, and Ratcliff called his driver in for service on lap 37. Four tires, fuel, and adjustments were made to the DEWALT Camry in an effort to help with the “loose on the gas” handling that Kenseth had been experiencing. Stage 1 came to a conclusion following lap 80 as Kenseth finished it in 12th at the time. Under the yellow flag, Kenseth told his team that the DEWALT Camry was “looser in than what it was and the center’s tight and slow.” Ratcliff opted to bring his driver down pit road on lap 83 for four tires, fuel, and adjustments, and the speedy stop from the team, found Kenseth gain two spots exiting the pits to restart 10th.
Running back within the top 10, Kenseth was able to drive his way back up into sixth before another round of green-flag pit stops began. The team continued to work on tightening up their race car since Kenseth told them that he was experiencing “looser off and slow rolling” in the DEWALT Camry. Stage 2 came to an end following lap 160 with Kenseth scored in seventh at the time. Under the yellow, Ratcliff opted to hit pit road for another four-tire stop, and the team knocked out a stop that was under 11 seconds. The quick stop once again four the DEWALT Hurricane Recovery Toyota gain two positions off pit road in order to restart p. 5th.
A series of green-flag stops began to cycle around lap 198 as Ratcliff made the call to pit on lap 214 after Kenseth had improved to third earlier. Following the team’s stop, the DEWALT Camry cycled back into 12th as the team worked to make up the positioning based on their varied pit strategy.
A late caution on lap 228 allowed Ratcliff and Kenseth to discuss the fact that the DEWALT Camry’s lap times were great as Kenseth told the team that the handling had improved as well. In for service on lap 230, Kenseth restarted in eighth to begin lap 239, as the DEWALT Camry ultimately finished Sunday’s race in eighth.
Martin Truex, Jr. won Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 and also won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship in the process. Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, and Chase Elliott rounded out the top five finishers in the season finale event. Kenseth was scored with an eighth-place finish in his DEWALT Hurricane Recovery Toyota as he closes out the season seventh in the driver point standings.