Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series; First Data 500
TRACK: Martinsville Superspeedway
DRIVER: Matt Kenseth
CAR: No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Toyota Camry
POINTS POSITION: 2,215 total points for the season; 10th in the driver point standings
NASCAR started its Round of 8 with Sunday’s race at the half-mile track of Martinsville Speedway. The track is affectionately named “the paper clip” due to its shape, and it’s a place with limited room to make passes on the narrow and flat track. With all the battling for position, brake temperatures aren’t the only things that get hot during the race as frustration levels can quickly escalate. Matt Kenseth and his No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ team were looking to snag that elusive win that has narrowly escaped them several times. Kenseth earned the 17th starting position as teams had qualifying just hours before the race on Sunday, which meant that cars were impounded following qualifying. Kenseth was able to drive his way into the top-10 several times throughout the race, but in the end, the DEWALT Camry was caught up in a multi-car wreck that collected most of the field coming to the finish. Kenseth was scored with a ninth-place finish and remains 10th in the driver point standings.
The First Data 500 from Martinsville Speedway took the green flag on Sunday at 3:18 p.m. EST as Kenseth rolled off from 17th. Kenseth quietly focused throughout the first run of the afternoon, but the day’s first caution came on lap 35 and allowed Kenseth and crew chief Jason Ratcliff to talk about handling under the yellow flag. Tightness in the center and looseness off was the challenge early on, so the team serviced the DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Camry with four tires, fuel, and an air pressure adjustment.
The speedy stop in the pits improved Kenseth four positions and he lined up in 13th for the restart. Looseness on throttle and on entry continued to challenge Kenseth as he also told the team that his No. 20 machine was tight in the center and was spinning a bit on the exit of the corners. Kenseth cracked into the top-10 on lap 82 before a caution came at lap 87 that would allow the team to make a series of adjustments to the DEWALT Camry.
Several cars opted for varying pit strategy under the lap 87 caution and Kenseth lined up in 16th but on four fresh tires versus many ahead of him who had stayed out. Stuck on the high line for the restart, Kenseth and his spotted worked to find a hole to get the No. 20 down onto the bottom lane, but once that happened, Kenseth drove up to 11th before the end of Stage 1 at lap 130.
Under the caution that followed, Ratcliff called for another four-tire stop with adjustments since Kenseth had told his team that while the DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Camry was “pointed better,” the car was still a little loose in and off. Kenseth lined up in eighth for the restart and the beginning of Stage 2 on lap 140, but over the next run, he told his team that the No. 20 was a little “slow-rolling” and was getting tighter as the run went on. Kenseth was able to maintain his positioning within the top-10 however, and finished Stage 2 in eighth.
The No. 20 team continued to work on adjustments to their race car under the caution that followed at the end of Stage 2, and Kenseth lined up in seventh to begin Stage 3. Unfortunately, following the restart, Kenseth started Stage 3 with a race car that was locking up the brakes and was tighter in the center. The handling challenges saw Kenseth dip back into 11th before another caution came that allowed the team to take yet another swing at adjustments.
Over the next few runs, Kenseth continued to run in 11th and was quiet over the team radio as he worked to maintain track position. Kenseth improved to eighth on a lap 368 restart as he told his team that the DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Camry was tight in the middle but lacking some grip on exit. The veteran driver continued to fight for his top-10 positioning as the race neared the end.
Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch, went on to earn the victory Sunday night at Martinsville and he punched his ticket into the Championship 4 competition at Homestead in the process. Martin Truex, Jr., Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five finishers on Sunday, while Kenseth earned a top-10 ninth-place finish in his DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Camry.