Monster Day for Kenseth
May 15, 2011 | 4:30 P.M. EST
Matt Kenseth celebrates his 20th career win. (Photo: Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth used late race tire strategy to help him score his second Sprint Cup Series win of the season in Sunday's FedEx 400 Benefitting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway.
Kenseth took only two tires to gain track position on the day’s final caution flag and was able to motor by Mark Martin for the top spot and lead the last 32 laps on his way to Victory Lane on Sunday.
It was Kenseth’s second career win at Dover and the 20th of his career.
“I was sitting on the track and thinking that we should stay out and get clean air and try it because I knew we wouldn’t win if we took four,” Kenseth said of the late race call by crew chief Jimmy Fennig.
“Jimmy wanted four but as I was driving down pit road I thought maybe we could compromise. While I was on the jack I asked if he was sure we didn’t want to try two and he said to put on two. It was really Jimmy’s call and just a suggestion by me.”
Along with his win at Texas earlier this season, Kenseth joins Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch as two-time winners in the season’s first 11 races.
Kenseth followed up teammate Carl Edwards’ Nationwide Series race win on Saturday to give Roush Fenway Racing a Dover weekend sweep.
“If Doug Yates were here, I’d probably give him a kiss; we had so much horsepower and it made our job so much easier,” Kenseth laughed.
Martin and his crew chief Lance McGrew rolled the dice by not pitting at all on the final stop, a move that nearly paid off with the team’s first win of the season.
But Kenseth proved to be too much for Martin and the veteran was forced to settle for second.
“We ran good,” Martin said. “But we were getting ready to finish 15th again and its been a shame because we have run that well a lot this year and finished 15th. And today was just a great Dover race. I love this place.”
Marcos Ambrose equaled his career-best finish on an oval in third.
Kyle Busch, who started at the rear due to an engine change, and Brian Vickers rounded out the top five.
Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick completed the first 10 finishers.
Edwards and Johnson had dominated most of the race but both opted for four tires on the final stop, a decision that cost the duo a chance to challenge for the win.
“I didn’t have any choice in it really, that is up to the guys up on the box,” Edwards said. “That is too tough of a choice to make right there and I don’t blame Bob Osborne one bit.”
Johnson was shooting for his seventh career Dover win and fourth in the last five outings at the one-mile concrete track. But the tire strategy did not work out and despite leading a race high 207 laps, Johnson settled for a ninth-place finish.
“I guess in our minds we didn’t think that would take place, so many guys taking two,” Johnson said. “It was certainly the call. I knew basically from the numbers we were in trouble when we left pit road and there were so many guys in front of us. It is just the way it is. We had a great race all day. Led a lot of laps but unfortunately, not the one at the end that counted.”
Outside front row starter AJ Allmendinger was one of the day’s most frustrated drivers when his chance at contending for his first career Sprint Cup win were thwarted by engine problems. Allmendinger’s strong run ended on lap 165.
“It was weird because it all happened at once and there was no sign of it,” Allmendinger said. “Doug Yates and all the guys at the engine shop do a great job. We had a ton of horsepower and this rarely happens. Honestly, it sucks. I really wanted this for us...I hate this.”
The race was relatively incident free. Six caution flags slowed the pace for 28 laps with one yellow flying for a brief rain shower that hit the track just before midway.
Edwards remains on top of the Sprint Cup Series point standings by 24 over Johnson. Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick round out the top five.
The series now heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race.