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Matt Kenseth, 3rd in the Dover 400, and 3rd in the Sprint Cup standings, says he and teammates need to pick up another step

  The road back isn't easy, but crew chief Todd Parrott (L) and Matt Kenseth made another step forward in Sunday's 400 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)   

   By Mike Mulhern

   DOVER, Del.
   Matt Kenseth nearly pulled it off, Ford's long-awaited first win of the NASCAR season. But after Sunday's Dover 400 he conceded he still didn't really have enough car to race against winner Kyle Busch and dominant-but-ill-fated Jimmie Johnson.  
   "This is historically a really good track for us...even when we are running bad elsewhere," Kenseth, third here, said. "This is one of our best tracks.
   "But I didn't think -- no matter what we did to the car -- that we had a shot to win.
    "Jimmie and Kyle were just better in front of us. And Jeff Burton, if he had track position, was better all day.
    "I still feel we need something. I don't know what that is, though.
     "It just seems like we are a little off the other three organizations.
     "And the competition is so tough that if you get a little behind it is hard to break through and get that win.
    "I think we are maybe a half a step or step behind.
     "It was a struggle out there. We had to work hard to get where we were.
     "We made really good adjustments in the pits, and really good pit calls to get the position we needed. Track position was really important.
     "We'd made our way to about 15th, and there were like 18 cars on the lead lap...We were within a couple second of getting lapped (about 250 miles in). 
    "In that pit stop (moments later) we decided to take two (tires), and everybody else got four. That brought us out of the pits third, and that was really the main call that got us where we were.
    "And it took us out of jeopardy of being a lap down. That call right there was the key.
     "And I am glad the race finished under green. (The final 110 miles were green, climaxed by a final round of gas-and-tire stops with about 40 miles to go.)
    "We were able to get the long runs in there (where Kenseth typically performs best) and get the green flag pit stops.
     "That was fun to race that way and have a race end that way."
    And that new flat-blade rear spoiler? Has that really been a game changer on the tour, or is it just coincidence that Jimmie Johnson's luck seemed to run out when the switch from the wing was made. Johnson won more races than anyone else during the 2-1/2 years NASCAR mandated that rear wing.
     Kenseth, like most others, says the spoiler change hasn't really been much of a change, in his eyes: "I feel we are running about the same. We started the season running really well -- We ran top-three in Vegas with the wing and finished second in Atlanta with it."
    One man under pressure to perform here too, because of Ford's drought, was Greg Biffle, who finished sixth: "After finishing 22nd three weeks in a row, I feel like this was a pretty good day for us.
     "We weren't right when we started the race. We kept trying to get it better, but we kept going back and forth to extremes.
    "We ended up hitting on it toward the end...unfortunately it was just a little bit late. 
    "We have struggled the last couple weeks, so I can't complain about where we ended up today."


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   Greg Biffle: sixth....but been down so long it all looks like up now. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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