Kenseth: We “hoped to get lucky” on late two-tire call

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Knowing there was no chance of him taking down Kevin Harvick on four tires, Matt Kenseth went for the track position with a two-tire stop under a caution with 10 laps left in Saturday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

The decision enabled him to get ahead of Harvick, but not for long. A restart with 5 to go didn’t yield a conclusion as debris in Turn 3 sent the race into Green-White-Checkered mode.

It ultimately took two G-W-C attempts before Harvick charged to the win, while Kenseth ended up fourth when it was all over.

“Multiple attempts there hurt us a little bit,” said Kenseth. “We had a real good restart the second time. Kevin obviously had the dominant car and we weren’t going to beat him on four tires.

“We put two tires on and hoped to get lucky and pull one out, and I think that’s about where we finished anyway, so I thought it was a great call.”

The fourth-place result was also a great recovery after failing to advance from the first round of knockout qualifying on Friday afternoon and being forced to start 25th on the grid.

Kenseth was already into the Top 10 by Lap 50, but then vaulted to second with a two-tire stop in time for a Lap 64 restart, in which he took the lead away from Denny Hamlin.

Harvick would do the same to Kenseth however on Lap 76, as he settled in for a long run at the front. Meanwhile, Kenseth would fall into the lower reaches of the Top 10 before rising back among the leaders late.

“We went back and forth,” he said. “We were better than I thought we were going to be – I was pretty pleased with it really. There was three or four cars, five cars really in the playing field we couldn’t run with.

“I thought we made great adjustments tonight and had good pit stops. We did a ton of adjustments in the pits and came up with a good finish.”

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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