Kenseth Eyes Bristol Turnaround

Matt Kenseth

Kenseth comes into the eighth race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 22nd in the series standings and has yet to lead a lap so far in 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Matt Kenseth is looking to turnaround both a tough start to the season and a recent string of bad finishes at Bristol Motor Speedway in Sunday's Food City 500.

Kenseth comes into the eighth race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 22nd in the series standings and has yet to lead a lap so far in 2017.

"I think that we've been off," Kenseth said. "We haven’t run real well. At Atlanta we ran good, but we miscalculated pit road speed and it took all day to get back up there. The rest of the races we just have not run very well. Phoenix we ran really bad and we ended blowing a right-front tire. Not many other people had problems. A couple cars did but it’s because we are not handling good and not running the way we should run. California we ran bad and got wrecked when we finally got up to the front."

Kenseth did finish ninth at Martinsville Speedway, two races ago, but failed to lead a lap there for the first time with JGR when he's been running at the finish.

"Martinsville has been arguably one of our strongest tracks on performance since I’ve been at JGR,” Kenseth said. “It’s one of our better tracks and we ran really, really bad. We didn’t finish that bad, but we ran bad. We’ve ran bad at tracks we’ve historically run good at which definitely for me is a concern."

Speaking of track's where Kenseth has historically run well, Bristol Motor Speedway is his best based on wins, but his last three outings have resulted in finishes of 36th or worse. He led 142 laps last year in the spring race, but was forced behind the wall for repairs after suffering a flat tire and contact with the wall in two similar incidents. Last August, Kenseth started fifth, was 17th at the halfway mark, and finished 37th after getting swept up in a multi-car accident on lap 374.

"Last August was the worst I have ran there since I’ve been at JGR," Kenseth said. "Other than that we have ran good enough to win all of them that we have been there. We have four or five DNFs and we have a couple wins but it’s kind of feast or famine for us there. I do enjoy it and I always look forward to going there and the challenges even with the little changes they keep making to the track."

Last year's summer race, which was delayed a day by rain, was run with a VHT resin applied to the track.

“It sounds like they put VHT down on the bottom lane of Bristol again for this weekend," said Jason Ratcliff, crew chief for Kenseth. "The last time they did that, it seemed like it had a little bit of an effect on the surface, so we’ll see what happens. By doing that, they’re trying to make it more appealing for cars to run the bottom lane so that cars don’t always migrate to the top lane."

Carl Edwards, who stepped away from racing in January, won the Food City 500 last year to give Joe Gibbs Racing its ninth win at the track. The organization remains winless this season, but Kyle Busch has come close on two occasions and is second in laps led among all drivers with 413.   

 

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