Drew Blickensderfer was able to look back on a remarkable debut success as crew chief in the Daytona 500, after rain brought the 51st running of the Florida event to a premature end.
Having worked with Carl Edwards in 2008, Blickensderfer switched to take up the reins on Kenseth's car as the Roush Fenway team reshuffled its personnel in an attempt to get the #17 DeWalt car back on top. Sunday's 500, however, was his first at the helm and the 'rookie' benefited from both a fortuitous shove from rival Kevin Harvick and the arrival of the rain with 48 laps remaining.
Prior to that, Kenseth had had to work his way from plumb last at the start, having been forced to take a second back-up car following incidents in both the Budweiser Shootout and Gatorade Duel, but emerged as a contender as the race moved into its final quarter, running with the three Richard Petty Motorsports entries.
"It hasn't sunk in yet,” Blickensderfer admitted, “It's pretty surreal to have the chance of being associated with a team like the #17. When I worked at Roush Fenway before on the Cup side, you kind of looked over at them as the model team in the series. They were just about to win the championship, so that was a team you wanted to be involved with, and then getting to work with Matt on the Nationwide side, and then be able to come back to him and lead the team is pretty amazing."
Blickensderfer was on the Edwards' crew that helped the #99 to runner-up honours in the Cup Series, and even won his first race with that car.
“I'm very fortunate, obviously, to be at Roush Fenway and have two drivers like Carl Edwards and now Matt Kenseth,” he reflected, “I know I'm blessed with that, so I'm thinking about that,
but the success last year is kind of over with, especially since we only finished second in the points and it's on to this year.
“I was fortunate enough, when I went with Carl last year, that we won our first race at Milwaukee - first race out - and I knew the next week, at New Hampshire, it was gonna be downhill. That's what I told them out there [tonight] – I said 'it can only go downhill from here'. I'm thinking that, if we don't win the first practice at California, it's a failure…..”
Ironically, despite having to twice change cars, Blickensderfer felt that the third #17 had potential.
“Matt and I have similar personalities, where you're a perfectionist,” he revealed, “I thought yesterday our car was good, but not great. It can always get better. I thought today our car was good, but not great, but I really [thought we had a chance].