Matt Kenseth led a race-high 169 laps to end a 76-race win drought, and nab three post-race contingency awards at the Samsung Mobile 500.
The Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Crown Royal Ford team used timely adjustments and long green flag lap runs to capture the American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award, given to the driver who records the fastest average speed on restarts and finishes the race on the lead lap.
Crew chief Jimmy Fennig claimed his first DIRECTV Crew Chief of the Race Award, presented to the crew chief of the driver who demonstrates the best qualifying and race effort based on finishing position during the weekend. Roush Yates Engines captured the MAHLE Clevite Engine Builder of the Race Award based on qualifying, laps led and finishing position.
All 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.
t always feels good to win no matter how you can win. More times than not, the fastest car ends up winning, and I thought that happened tonight,” said Kenseth. “We had a fast car. The way Jimmy pitted the race, it made ground the way we needed to and gave us a little bit of a cushion.”
Kenseth started fourth and stayed up front most of the night, avoiding on-track incidents and helping to dictate the pit cycles for the field.
“Well, I don't really know why we do better here than some other tracks,” added Kenseth. “But the thing that makes you a good race car driver are fast race cars. So I've had really fast cars coming here, and great engines and crews and teams and all that. So that certainly makes my job a lot easier. I think there are some tracks that for whatever reason you have a better feel at. You can probably give better feedback, and better information, and help your guys maybe more so than others.”
During the race, the No. 17 team overcame increasing engine temperatures due to the hot evening and debris, and kept its position near the front of the field all night. Fast pit stops and timely fueling strategy allowed Kenseth to take advantage of competitors running out of fuel to claim the checkered flag.
“Jimmy's been a crew chief with us longer than anybody else,” said team owner Jack Roush. “He's worked with a lot of different drivers and he and Matt are as good a combination of driver and crew chief as I've experienced in my 24 years here.”
With the win, Kenseth moves to third place in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings just 13 points behind leader and teammate Carl Edwards heading to Talladega Superspeedway on April 17 for the Aaron’s 499 (1 p.m. ET, FOX).
Official winners of this week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Prize Money & Decal Program special awards include:
· AMERICAN ETHANOL GREEN FLAG RESTART: Matt Kenseth
· COORS LIGHT POLE AWARD: David Ragan (189.82 mph. 28.448 secs.)
· DIRECTV CREW CHIEF OF THE RACE: Jimmy Fennig (crew chief for Matt Kenseth)
· GOODYEAR GATORBACK BELTS FASTEST LAP: David Ragan (184.54 mph, Lap 2)
· MAHLE CLEVITE ENGINE BUILDER OF THE RACE: No. 17, Tom Ghent, Roush Yates Engines
· MOBIL 1 OIL DRIVER OF THE RACE: Clint Bowyer
· MOOG CHASSIS PARTS PROBLEM SOLVER OF THE RACE: Steve Letarte (crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr., 0.062 secs.)
· O’REILLY AUTO PARTS POSITION IMPROVEMENT AWARD: Tony Stewart (14 places)
· SUNOCO ROOKIE OF THE RACE: Andy Lally