Box Score Info:
RACE: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series; Daytona 500
TRACK: Daytona International Speedway
DRIVER: Matt Kenseth
CAR: No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Toyota Camry
POINTS POSITION: 7 total points for the season; 32nd in the driver point standings following the race
With a new entitlement sponsor as well as a revamped race format, NASCAR’s top series set the stage to open the 2017 season with the most prestigious race of the year, the Daytona 500. Matt Kenseth and his No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ team earned the ninth starting spot for Sunday’s 200-lap race after finishing fifth in their Can-Am Duel race on Thursday earlier in the week. With the races in all three of NASCAR”s series being divided into segments, teams found themselves choosing varied pit strategies in order to try and earn the maximum number of points possible within a race. Kenseth and his team weren’t able to fully see a strategy playout after the No. 20 had to pit out of sequence and then was later caught up in a wreck just past the halfway point of the race. With NASCAR’s new format rules, once a car is forced to go to the garage because of damage, a team is done on track for the day. Kenseth was scored with a 40th-place finish and only completed 103 laps.
Sunday’s 59th-annual Daytona 500 took the green flag at 2:40 p.m. EST and Kenseth starting along the bottom lane with his DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ Camry. During the opening 10-lap run of the race, Kenseth shuffled around in the pack as cars jockeyed for position looking for momentum. On lap 12, Kenseth called in over the team radio to crew chief Jason Ratcliff that the No. 20 was “loose off of (turn) 2 and tight everywhere else.”
Ratcliff called his driver into the pits on lap 18 for the team’s first stop of the race. With the segments coming after lap 60, 120, and the end of the race, teams worked to try and gain an advantage over their competitors as to when they pitted. Kenseth came in on lap 18 for right-side tires and fuel, but he flat-spotted the tires of the DEWALT Toyota entering the pits. The team performed the two-tire stop, but Ratcliff was forced to call Kenseth back in for left-side tires and a splash of fuel. The additional stop dropped Kenseth a lap down to the leaders as he fell back to 38th.
The first caution of the day came at lap 32, and Ratcliff opted for a four-tire stop with fuel for the DEWALT Camry. Kenseth was running at the rear of the field, but the team opted to stop so that they could pit ahead of the segment 1 break that was slated at lap 60. As several teams waited to pit until the break, Kenseth stayed out and was able to work his way into the top 15 and back onto the lead lap. The Toyota teammates had planned to pit about 12 laps into segment 2. Kenseth hit pit road on lap 82 for right-side tires and fuel, as he rejoined the field ready to work his way forward through the field.
Unfortunately, trouble struck Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch after a tire problem sent his No. 18 into the wall. Kenseth was ultimately caught up in the collision that included six cars. The DEWALT Camry was so heavily damaged that Kenseth wasn’t able to drive it back to pit road, and the team knew that they were forced to end their day early.
Kurt Busch won Sunday’s Daytona 500 earning his first title in the prestigious race with Ryan Blaney, and A.J. Almendinger rounding out the top-three finishers. Kenseth was scored with a 40th-place finish and currently sits 32nd in the driver point standings as the series travels to Atlanta for next weekend’s race.
Kenseth's Post-Race Thoughts:
What happened from your standpoint?
“I didn’t see anything that happened in front of me. I know Kyle (Busch) spun out. Albeit a flat, or, I really don’t know. We caught those lapped cars. I thought we had ourselves in good position with our DEWALT Camry to get up there for segment two and hopefully be in a good position for the end of the race. Those lapped cars did some weird things – that 13 (Ty Dillon) and 95 (Michael McDowell) or whoever it was – they just split all over. So we had to kind of snake through there and into the corner at a weird angle. I looked back to make sure I was clear and when I looked back up they were already crashed in front of me and I already had Erik (Jones) parked on my hood. It just happened pretty quick and I didn’t have anywhere to go. Never saw it happen and didn’t have anywhere to go.”