News & Media

Kenseth has mixed emotions about Texas fifth

April 16, 2012, Dave Rodman,

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Happy for teammate Biffle, Kenseth wonders how to improve car during the race

Team owner Jack Roush can be sure he has a pretty good organization when his key players honestly express more pleasure at their teammates' success than their personal goals or shortcomings.

In Saturday night's Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth started second and Greg Biffle third. They endured plenty of adversity, but Biffle eventually won.

"We had a lot of speed, but we never could get [the car] right. We couldn't quite figure it out. "


That left Kenseth standing on pit road after the race, where three TV crews and a lone reporter were all he had to deal with -- besides his mixed emotions.

"It's hard to be frustrated with fifth, I guess," Kenseth said. "And when Greg's standing in Victory Lane, that's good for Greg. This is one of his best tracks and he really deserves it because he's been close a lot of times. He's had different kinds of troubles that have taken him out, so I'm really happy for my buddy Greg Biffle."

Biffle, despite being mired in a 49-race winless drought, said he wasn't thinking of that as the laps wound down. In the aftermath, he was thinking more of his crew chief, Matt Puccia's, first Cup win.

"I'm so happy for Matt," Biffle said. "You know, he's worked so hard, he's a great guy, he's got great character and he works -- this is what his life is about, racing. I wanted to win more for Matt than I did myself.

"I know I hadn't won in a long time, but I wanted to get a win for him."

But so much for the feel-good moments which, while they still left Kenseth in fifth after the race, enabled him to remain second to Biffle in the championship. That, however, was small consolation.

Short-term, Kenseth said he was more concerned about how he'd failed to keep pace with Biffle, who experienced some of the same issues during the race as Kenseth. But Biffle's bunch was better able to solve them.

"We had a lot of speed, but we never could get [the car] right," Kenseth said. "We couldn't quite figure it out. We ran pretty good in the beginning. There were a couple of runs that I was better than Greg. I passed him on one run and I could see he was loose.

"He got his car fixed and we could never fix ours, so I was chasing my tail for the rest of the race. We've got to look at that and figure out what we need to do to keep up with the race track. We could never get it right [and] I was just hanging on there."

Kenseth allowed himself to get on edge over his in-car radio only once, when he called his team and said "let's take a deep breath and get it together here," after their first green-flag pit stop. The strategy must've worked because Kenseth, despite not liking the feel of his race car, was never scored outside the top five on NASCAR's every-20-laps rundown sheets.

Kenseth said he wasn't surprised there were only two cautions for a total of 10 laps, even though both were Texas records in its 23 career races.

"Not shocked," Kenseth said. "We get a lot of green flag racing here. It didn't shock me. It was hard to drive a car by yourself. It is pretty slick out there."

But the lack of disruptions certainly was a factor in Kenseth and crew chief Jimmy Fennig being unable to get their car as right as it consistently needed to be to challenge Biffle, runner-up Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon.

"My car, at least, is pretty darned sensitive," Kenseth said. "A quarter of a pound of air [pressure change in a tire] and an eighth-inch on the track bar drastically changes my car, and we just couldn't change it in the right direction."

But one caution, which fell at lap 68 for debris, did save Kenseth from losing at least a lap and maybe two when Kenseth and Fennig debated pitting to solve a vibration they thought might've been a loose lug nut. When Kenseth couldn't zero in on exactly where the problem was, Fennig had already called for a green-flag, four-tire stop when the caution came out.

Biffle's win and even Kenseth's fifth-place run continued a stellar stretch for Roush Fenway at Texas. A year ago in this event, Kenseth had snapped his own 46-race winless streak. Of course, Kenseth started this season by winning his second Daytona 500, and didn't miss the chance to praise his organization and team.

"It all starts with having fast race cars and Jimmy and these guys bring us pretty good cars every week," Kenseth said. "Qualifying was important [Saturday] night with the lack of cautions and pit stops were really important. So as bad as we had it, to still hang on and finish fifth, I can't be too disappointed with that."