Matt Kenseth, by his own admission, rarely qualifies well. But an unlikely starting position of third combined with a typically strong race car earned Kenseth and the No. 17 team a solid second-place finish in Sunday’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Adding to the list of accolades, the team also took home a pair of contingency awards.
Kenseth, who led the charge for Roush Fenway Racing by putting the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion third in qualifying with a lap of 188.620 mph, led three times for 17 laps. Thanks to a late-race caution, a hard-charging Kenseth was able to close on eventual race-winner Denny Hamlin over the final five laps. After getting loose while attempting a last-lap pass for the race win, Kenseth hung on to cross the finish line just .281 seconds behind Hamlin.
“Every race is important to me, but if you can do good, it is probably extra special for Jack [Roush] and Ford and those people around here and headquartered here,” said Kenseth. “When you come to a track you feel like maybe is one of your better tracks, you want to take advantage of that at your good places. You want to try to perform when you can.”
For his efforts behind-the-wheel, Kenseth earned his third American Ethanol Green Flag Restart of the Race Award this year which goes to the eligible driver that records that fastest average speed on restarts and finishes the race on the lead lap. Kenseth’s crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, also captured his second DIRECTV Drew Chief of the Race Award given weekly to the crew chief of the driver who has demonstrated the best qualifying and race effort based on starting and finishing positions during the weekend.
The awards are part of the NASCAR Prize Money and Decal Program, also referred to as the contingency program, which provides teams prize money and weekly awards based on performance in several categories.
Kenseth moved up from seventh to sixth in the current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase standings and now trails teammate and points-leader Carl Edwards by 41 heading into Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway (3 p.m. ET, TNT).
Official winners of this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Prize Money & Decal Program special awards include:
v AMERICAN ETHANOL GREEN FLAG RESTART: Matt Kenseth
v COORS LIGHT POLE AWARD: Kurt Busch (188.699 mph. 38.156 secs.)
v DIRECTV CREW CHIEF OF THE RACE AWARD: Jimmy Fennig (crew chief for Matt Kenseth)
v GOODYEAR GATORBACK BELTS FASTEST LAP AWARD: Greg Biffle (183.575 mph, Lap 13)
v MAHLE CLEVITE ENGINE BUILDER OF THE RACE AWARD: Mark Cronquist, JGR, No. 11
v MOBIL 1 OIL DRIVER OF THE RACE AWARD: Ryan Newman
v MOOG CHASSIS PARTS PROBLEM SOLVER OF THE RACE AWARD: Bob Osborne, 0.101 secs (crew chief for Carl Edwards)
v O’REILLY AUTO PARTS POSITION IMPROVEMENT AWARD: Kyle Busch (21 places)
v SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD: Andy Lally