It has been an up and down year for Roush Fenway Racing driver Matt Kenseth. Winning the first two races of the year, including the rain shortened Daytona 500.
Since then he has seen his team struggle to contend each week.
Whether it was mechanical issues, or poor handling race cars, Kenseth saw his Chase hopes end in a disastrous final race before the Chase for the championship began in Richmond.
Now he sits on the outside looking in, as his team is focused on winning races and getting better for 2010.
The series heads into Martinsville, a track where Kenseth hasn’t always found success. After a strong second place finish at Lowes last week, Kenseth is hoping to win for the first time since California in February.
On Friday, the teams were focused on race trim, with Saturday practices threatened by rain and storms. Kenseth took the track and made 41 circuits, and his fastest lap was on lap 11.
His lap of 20.2 seconds put him 41st on the speed charts.
With so many teams working on a mixed bag on Friday, the team was focused on qualifying in the final minutes of practice.
Kenseth was going out 17th for qualifying, and during qualifying ran a lap of 19.8 seconds, which put him 32nd to start on Sunday.
Saturday all the practices were rained out.
Kenseth did risk the chance to get lapped early, starting so deep in the pack. So strategy and a good car to move through traffic would be important for this team to stay in contention.
After the fans waved the green flag, Kenseth was trying to move forward. Kesneth was trying to pass Marcos Ambrose, when he got into the back of Ambrose because his car was loose.
Kenseth admitted that it was his fault, and that he was sorry for the incident with Ambrose.
With some damage to the left front tire and bumper, the team made the repairs, changed the tires, and started at the back of the field.
Kenseth was sitting deep in traffic, and struggling to make passes.
On the competition yellow on lap 43, Kenseth was still struggling with a loose race car. They made adjustment and came out 25th.
The adjustment and four tires changed helped, and they were moving forward, but soon after the restart the ill handling race car had them going backwards again.
Kenseth was also battling the flu this weekend, and did have Nationwide driver Erik Darnell on standby in case he was going to get out of the race car.
On the third caution of the day, Kenseth continued to struggle, both on the track and on pit road. They came out 27th, but were still struggling to cure the handling issues with the car.
On the sixth caution for the Penske teammate’s incident, Kenseth said he was still loose. They pitted again to work on the car. They changed four tires and made another air pressure adjustment on the car.
They gambled and stayed out for track position, but were quickly overtaken when drivers with fresher tires quickly outran them.
They had to pit under green to take on four fresh tires and more adjustments on a very loose race car. Through the round of green flag pit stops, Kenseth was able to get his lap back that he lost pitting under green.
On the caution on lap 442 Kenseth pitted for fresh tires, merged back in traffic, and was careful not to get wrecked in traffic.
They never could get back up front with so many cars with different agendas. The much needed track position on Sunday they could not take advantage of.
They battled all day long, and on the final restart they were able to pick up positions and finished 14th. It was not easy for this team, but they persevered.
Now they head to Talladega, where anything, and everything can happen...
Check out the second half of this week's Roush Fenway Racing Lugnut Report on Carl Edwards .