Roush Fenway Racing’s Matt Kenseth was hoping to claim victory Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, especially with a special paint scheme aboard his No. 17 Ford and along with the fact that the race car for the weekend was the team’s race-winning Ford from Texas last month. Despite leading the most laps during the race Sunday, numerous cautions shuffled up the field’s pit stop rotations forcing the race to be determined by fuel mileage, and Kenseth finished 14th in his No. 17 Jeremiah Weed Ford.
Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 event at Charlotte is the Sprint Cup Series longest race of the year which means that there is plenty of time for things to happen throughout the race, leaving teams to focus on making sure they have a car that will adapt throughout the race.
Kenseth rolled off from the 19th starting position as the 43-car field took the green flag. Within the opening run, Kenseth called in over team radio communications to crew chief Jimmy Fennig that the Jeremiah Weed Ford had started out good, but was loose in the entry and exit of the turns. Kenseth steadily drove his way up to seventh on the leaderboard by lap 40 as the first series of green flag pit stops was cycling through. Fennig called his driver to the pits for four tires, fuel, and a slight air pressure adjustment on lap 44.
Immediately after rejoining the field, Kenseth reported that he had a substantial vibration in the rear of the car. Despite the handling challenge the vibration presented, Kenseth fought to maintain his track position and fortunately, a caution for debris came during lap 75. The caution allowed the No. 17 team to put on four new tires in case there was an issue with one of the tires currently on the car.
The No. 17 Jeremiah Weed Ford restarted fourth on lap 80, and on lap 108, Kenseth was scored as the race leader. Kenseth maintained his position at the front of the pack for the next 100 laps until a cycle of green flag pit stops cycled through before a caution on lap 233. Kenseth had pitted under green for four tires and fuel on lap 224 before the caution came out on lap 233. Fennig told his driver that they needed to pit for fuel and two tires under yellow, and Kenseth restarted ninth on lap 238.
While Kenseth was fighting to regain his track position, a series of cautions erupted starting at lap 283 with a total of six cautions over the next 60 laps. With the cautions coming out so frequently, pit strategy throughout the field varied and several drivers who had encountered problems earlier in the race, now found themselves back on the lead lap due to the wavearound or being in the lucky dog positions. The Jeremiah Weed team which had set the tone early in the race, now saw Kenseth unable to get a long green flag run to make up the necessary track position.
Kenseth and his team continued to rally for position as the driver told his team that no adjustments were necessary late in the race since he felt he had a “pretty good” racecar. Finally a long green flag run began on lap 323 and Kenseth was able to drive up to fourth place before Fennig had to bring his driver down pit road for a splash of fuel on lap 393. Immediately after Kenseth’s stop, the final caution of the race came and set up a green-white-checkered finish. Kenseth was stuck back in traffic and was forced to finish Sunday’s race in 14th for the Jeremiah Weed Ford.
"We had a race-winning car tonight," Kenseth said after the race. "With the way the cautions fell late in the race, our strategy from earlier got lost with all the wavearound cars and lucky dogs getting back on the lead lap. We had a really good car tonight, and I’m proud of the team for all the hard work they put in with some great pit stops.”
Kevin Harvick won Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway as he was able to pass dale Earnhardt, Jr. on the final lap of the race after Earnhardt ran out of fuel. Roush Fenway’s David Ragan claimed the runner-up position while Joey Logano rounded out the top three finishers. Kenseth finished 14th and dropped one position in the point standings down to seventh.
Roush Fenway Racing PR