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Atlanta Penalty the Latest of Kenseth’s Disappointments

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HAMPTON, Ga. – Matt Kenseth was again left with a fast racecar but nothing to show for it after a 19th place finish in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“It’s kind of the way it’s been going last few months; we’ve had a lot of disappointments. We’ll just keep digging,” Kenseth said. “The encouraging part is the car was really fast, best car I probably ever had at Atlanta and we were in the mix to go for a win early in the race.

“You never know what’s going to happen in the second half because there’s a lot of racing to do, but we were definitely in the mix.”

After starting 13th, Kenseth took the lead for the first time on Lap 40. He would go on to led 47 laps on the day, but was out of contention for the race win by the event’s halfway point.

The No. 20 Dollar General Toyota was penalized on their third trip down pit road on Lap 116 for improper fueling. According to the NASCAR rulebook, the fueler is not permitted to perform any other adjustments while the fuel can is engaged with the car.

NASCAR penalized Kenseth because his fueler placed a wedge wrench on the rear decklid during the stop. But as Kenseth cycled back to the race lead, he was never told of the penalty by crew chief Jason Ratcliff or interim spotter Curtis Markham. NASCAR displayed the black flag to the 20 car and eventually stopped scoring him as Ratcliff argued the call.

By the time Kenseth served his penalty, he had lost a lap by NASCAR and to the leaders. He never made them back up.

“I was riding around and I had no idea we had any problems on pit road or that there was a penalty,” Kenseth said. “I guess they were black flagging us, and I didn’t know it; the spotter never said anything and Jason (Ratcliff) didn’t tell me. So I didn’t know anything about it.

“They said do a pass-thru and I did a pass-thru and told me I was two laps down, so I don’t really know what happened down here, to be honest with you.”

It was the second consecutive week Kenseth had one of the strongest cars in the field. During last Sunday’s 58th annual Daytona 500, Kenseth led 40 laps and was leading entering Turns 3 and 4 when his teammate, Denny Hamlin, got the best of him. Kenseth ended up 14th. There was also, as Kenseth mentioned, the disappointments during the 2015 Chase.

Owner Joe Gibbs admitted the team should have done a better job of communicating the penalty to Kenseth, since he was focused on racing for the lead at the time. But Gibbs was also curious to find out the exact letter of the law because his Joe Gibbs Racing teams had never had the issue before.

“I think we’ve been doing that for a long time, and I was just curious when that change came,” Gibbs said, later revealing an official told him the rule changed prior to this year. “So if we missed something on the change, that’s what I was trying to find out.

“When did that come out and when they did change it because our guys have been laying it there for a long time.”

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