SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — Drew Blickensderfer, crew chief for the #17 Carhartt Ford Fusion driven by Matt Kenseth, captured the second NASCAR MOOG “Problem Solver of the Race” Award of 2009 for what his driver called “perfect adjustments” in the final 100 laps of last weekend’s Auto Club 500 in Fontana, Calif.
Sponsored by Federal-Mogul, the MOOG “Problem Solver of the Race” Award is presented throughout the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season to the crew chief whose team posts the largest increase in average lap speed from the first half to the second half of a race.
Blickensderfer and Kenseth have had plenty to celebrate this year, with back-to-back wins to start the Sprint Cup season. It might be all the more meaningful for Blickensderfer, however, who is two-for-two in his first season as crew chief of the Roush-Fenway Racing-owned Ford. Kenseth and the #17 Ford were winless in 2008.
While the Carhartt Ford led a race-high 84 laps in Fontana, thousands in the stands — and even Kenseth himself — expected Jeff Gordon to claim the lead in the final 100 laps. But thanks to four near-perfect pit stops, the Ford was able to maintain a slight advantage over Gordon’s faster-running #24 Chevrolet. Kenseth attributed the win not only to flawless pit work but also a set of chassis adjustments in the final pit stop that allowed him to hold off Gordon for a 1.464-second margin of victory. “They got (the chassis setup) just good enough at the end,” Kenseth said of Blickensderfer and team engineer Chip Bolin. “We made the perfect adjustment and the perfect pit stop.”
The #17 Ford, which started the race in 24th position, picked up an average of .321-second per lap in the second half of Sunday’s event in spite of a persistent drizzle.
“Everyone could see the importance of chassis adjustments in the final laps today. Drew was able to preserve enough of a handling advantage over Jeff Gordon to overcome an obvious disadvantage in speed,” said Federal-Mogul Motorsports Director Tim Nelson. “Drew earned the MOOG Problem Solver Award by making the right decisions during four consecutive pit stops.”