Kenseth Ends 2001 On Fourth Coming Note

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LOUDON, N. H. - It was a brisk day in Loudon, NH for the season finale of the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season. Matt Kenseth and the DEWALT Power Tools team started the New Hampshire 300 in the 16th position, and finished fourth.

The garage opened at 5:00am, so it was an early day for the drivers and crew. Kenseth had the opportunity to practice from 8:30-9:15am for the 300-mile event. The team was 21st on the practice sheet, and hurried to make the car ready for the noon start.

Throughout the race Kenseth said the car was tight. The crew made adjustments, and Kenseth was better on longer runs, passing cars and running lap times comparable to the leader sometimes 30-laps into a run.

The big story of the day was the right front tire. The DEWALT team was no exception to the plagued tires. According to tire specialist Todd Millard, the tire Goodyear brought was a softer compound, and a combination of all elements was causing all 42 competitors to experience blistered right front tires.

When asked about the tire issues, Kenseth said, "I think everybody had trouble. When I had the car too loose one run I hurt the right-rear pretty bad. Other than that, we basically blistered the tires evenly so it didn't hurt us as bad as some others."

NASCAR assisted the teams, and called for mandatory caution periods throughout the race, for safety reasons, giving the teams time to change tires on the cars. At one point, after a slower pit stop, and an extremely tight car, Kenseth was as low as 30th on the leader board.

At the halfway point in the race, Kenseth was seventh. On lap 265, crew chief Robbie Reiser made the call to take on two tires and fuel. Kenseth was fourth on the restart with less than 20 laps to go. He maintained the position and crossed the finish line in fourth.

"That was a great way to end this year," said Kenseth in a post-race interview. "To tell you the truth, this year has been kind of miserable for us. We struggled a lot early on, but it seems as the year went on, we gained on whatever we were missing, and have finished on a good note.

"Ever since Talladega this DEWALT team has run really well. I feel like we've had top-five cars even though we haven't finished there every week. We've had a little bit of momentum and it seems like we've been turning the corner and running a little bit better the last month and a half, so that's a good feeling."

"What a great finish," said Robbie Reiser. "We have a great team, and driver. This was a group effort that got us up there today. This same car finished fourth at Phoenix. We'll take that, and build on it during the off-season, and come back next year more competitive than we've ever been."

Kenseth and Co. will end season in the 13th position, following Roush Racing teammates Jeff Burton in 10th place, and Mark Martin in 12th.

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2001

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