NASCAR Sprint Cup Series post race press conference Michigan International Speedway
An Interview With: Matt Kenseth And Kyle Busch
KERRY THARP: Let's roll right into our post race press conference. Our race runner-up is Matt Kenseth. Currently sixth in points now after tonight's race.
Matt, certainly you gave it a heck of an effort there trying to come away with this win. Your thoughts about today?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, we had a really great car today. I'm happy that there was a caution and we didn't run out of gas and we got to race for the end. That was no fun running half throttle. It was nice to be able to go race, but unfortunately I didn't do a great job on the restart. I spun my tires, Denny saw me hanging back a little bit and took off. Once he's clear, it's really hard to pass, especially on a short run like that, the track gets black, it's all slimy with the new tires.
My car wasn't good on a short run. Took us about 10 laps. Didn't have enough to get around him once he cleared me there.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Matt.
Q. Your teammate, Carl Edwards, said something about the 2013 cars taking away downforce. I know Jack was talking about the new Mustang. What was he talking about?
MATT KENSETH: I'm right with you. I have no idea. I know nothing about the '13 car. That's not a lie. I know nothing about it.
Q. How frustrated were you today? Forced with fuel mileage.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, you know, you try to not get too frustrated because it's a team effort, try not to make tons of mistakes. You try not to get too frustrated. At least the third time we haven't got a full fuel, fourth time, something like that. We recovered at Texas. We didn't recover at Charlotte. Cost us a shot at a win. We did it again here today.
We got lucky and got a caution so it didn't end up costing us, but it could have. We had a slow pit stop that put us behind. Hard to overcome that. Happy we got to second.
Q. Matt, to clarify, Carl Edwards said he feels like this race was too much about track position and NASCAR should look at taking downforce off for the 2013 cars. Seems like every week it's evolved into a track position game.
MATT KENSETH: I don't have any suggestions for what NASCAR should do.
But, yeah, it's been more difficult to pass I think lately. I like this new nose in this car a little bit better. But seems like it's just a little bit harder to pass. But I honestly think that's probably the tire more than it is anything else. Seems like the tires we've been running this year lay down a lot of rubber, which is nice. But on the restart, it was slime bottom to top. You are on top of all that rubber sliding. That's what it feels like to me. I don't know if that's what it is or not.
You do the best with what they give you. It's definitely an advantage to be in front. It's hard to pass, that's for sure.
KERRY THARP: Let's hear now from our third-place finisher today, Kyle Busch. Kyle is now fourth in our championship points race.
Kyle, talk about today's race. You certainly had a strong car for much of the afternoon.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, we did. We had a really good Snickers Camry. It was fun to drive. Probably one of the best cars I've had here at Michigan in a while. It was good to come from as far back as we did. Had a good race with many of the guys out there. Once I got to the 17 and 16 up front, it seemed like it was even harder to race with those guys. We were all running the same speed. Lap after lap we would run the same time.
It was good to get out there and lead a little bit. I felt like if we could have went the rest of the way, we may have had a shot at beating the 17. He definitely caught us there on that one run there. But they pitted, and we may have been able to come out with him or in front of him, who knows. We had the restart and everything. Got bungled up. Dropped back a few spots.
Came to pit road for a couple tires. That final restart we got a good one, passed a couple cars. Once I got to third, I was trying to run with those guys, but my car was definitely better once I could get up to the top. Seemed like you couldn't get up to the top until later in the run at least after restarts. It wouldn't be until about 20 or 25 laps that my car would start coming in. Just too late.
Overall happy with today, happy with the finish. If you finish third in the last 10 races every single race, you might win this thing, so we'll take it.
KERRY THARP: We'll now open it up for questions for Matt or Kyle.
Q. Kyle, what happened on the last restart where you went from second to sixth?
KYLE BUSCH: I was just a little bit ahead of Matt. When I saw Matt start taking off, I took off. I guess I took off pretty good. I didn't spin my tires at all. I was too far ahead of him. I didn't know how that was going to look in NASCAR's eyes. I tried to back up a little bit, not beat him too bad from the start/finish line.
Once I slowed my momentum down, the herd was coming. I had to let them go by me, regather, get my momentum built back up in turns one and two, go back after it. Once I got back like that, my car was perfect out front. In traffic there I was just a little bit too tight in the center, a little bit too loose off. It was hard to get the throttle down and accelerate back up to those guys.
Q. Kyle, what exactly was the ailment you were fighting all day?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't know what it was. But just a center chest pain I had early in the race. It was really hard to breathe. Couldn't tell you what it was. I don't know. I've never felt that before.
Guys gave me some special sauce and dialed me right in, so I'm good (smiling).
Q. Kyle, were you close at all to coming out of the car?
KYLE BUSCH: No. I didn't feel that bad. You know, it was just hard to breathe. I had to take real short breaths. Felt like I was running a 400-mile marathon, which essentially I was. But I felt like I was running on my feet instead of in a racecar.
It was all right.
Q. If that last caution hadn't come out, up until that point what were you thinking? What were possible scenarios or options?
MATT KENSETH: I think I was going to run out of gas, so I was riding around half throttle, which isn't much fun. Didn't feel like racing. I was riding around slow, said I was two laps short. I wasn't going to save that. But I wasn't going to pit either. Just running slow, hoping for a caution.
KYLE BUSCH: We were pretty good to go the rest of the way. I was just trying to run down the next car in front of me. I think at that time it was the 27. He had just gotten passed by the 14. He was my next one. I don't know if I would have got there or not. We probably would have just finished where we were running.
Q. Kyle, obviously the weekend didn't start well for you guys at Joe Gibbs Racing with the oil pan thing. Apparently everyone pulled together. Didn't seem to affect anyone. You have your best 1-2 as a team of the season. When that happened did you just fluff it off, let's go do what we need to do here?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, I think the guys come in this weekend, you know, not knowing that we were going to have the problems that we had. It just was circumstances that came about that they had to deal with at the time. All the crew members and crew chiefs, that is. Once they got everything squared away and fixed, we got to the racetrack, it was business as usual.
I think everybody did a great job in that respect. We'll see what happens this week, if anything. But, you know, we didn't get to run 'em, so that was kind of disappointing for the engineering department I'm sure. All the hard work they've done on that stuff, you know. Some teams, they get away with it, other teams maybe not. In this case, we took it off. We knew that we just needed to run stock standard pieces that had been already approved and go on with our business.
The fuel thing, I mean, the rules are the same for everybody on pit road.
Q. Kyle, about the track position. Seems like fuel mileage and where you are on the racetrack is determining a lot of the superspeedway races lately. What is your view on that?
KYLE BUSCH: I would go with that's the way it's been for a long time. I don't know that I've ever seen a guy in the last run of the race take four tires and drive by everybody and win the thing. Last time that happened was probably a long, long time ago.
I don't know that you can really change much. I think this has been a product we've had for a long time, maybe unfortunately we're just taking more notice to it. Like Matt said, the tires are good tires. They have a lot of grip. They lay down a lot of rubber. But we don't clean off enough of the rubber for enough lanes to race on when we go back green. So if you run in the cleaned-off part of the racetrack, you have a lot of grip. If you try to go up high, make it three- or four-wide, you start slipping and sliding, can't make up any ground. Hard to make up distance on the cars in front of you when you have that.
I don't feel there's anything wrong with what we have. I feel like we are able to race each other a lot more when we're side-by-side with this car versus the '08 car when we had the splitter and the wing on it, didn't have a lot of downforce in it. Them things were evil. They were just so hard to drive. We were all sliding all over the place. It was hard to get beside each other and race each other anytime.
Now there were a few times today where I drove it on the inside of somebody like Biffle or Matt and the car stuck and I was able to race with them instead of just praying for my life I wasn't going to spin out and wreck.
Q. Matt, you had fuel issues. Kasey Kahne had a real difficult situation with fuel. Do you have a solution for the fuel can situation? And what's the status of Crown Royal for next year?
MATT KENSETH: The fuel thing, I mean, the rules are the same for everybody on pit road. Everyone has the same piece of equipment to work with. I don't think we have an equipment problem, I think we have a problem getting it plugged in right away and making the exchange fast enough. So we're getting our tires changed so much faster than the fuel. Everybody else on pit road doesn't seem to be waiting for fuel. We drop the jack before it's full. I think that's a problem we have to keep working on internally. I don't think that's a rule or NASCAR problem. Everyone has the same rules and the same pieces. That's up to us to figure out how to do that as good or better than everybody else.
The status for Crown Royal, I'm not really sure what it is right now.
Q. Kyle, for some reason a lot of teams when they have controversy or chaos around them, they really fall apart. You seem to pick it up and run better when you're in the news for things you might not necessarily want to be in the news for. Why is that?
KYLE BUSCH: I'm sorry, I don't know what you're talking about (smiling).
MATT KENSETH: I've never really seen you run bad, so I don't know what he's talking about either.
KYLE BUSCH: Thanks, Matt. I don't know what he is talking about in reference to everything going on (smiling).
It's a matter of putting together, like I said, a couple weeks ago. You get in your racecar, put your helmet on, do your business as you're supposed to. You worry about making the racecar go faster.
These guys that I work with on the 18 team, the 11 team, all the Joe Gibbs Racing team, I'll include the 20 as well, we work with those guys a lot, they've been able to focus on what needs to be focused on.
Sure, sometimes at the shop there's time where you have five or ten minutes of giggling or laughing or whatever. Once that's over and they start working on things, they come up with some really good ideas and we've brought some good racecars to the racetrack here lately.
We just need to be putting ourselves in the right place at the right time more often.
I can't say enough about the fab shop, body shop, everybody there that's been giving us good aerodynamics, Mark who is working really, really hard in the engine department. Seems like the pieces may not all be there being the best of everything, but we have one or the other, we have pieces of that. We're able to run competitively.
Sure, it's tough for some of the family members. Maybe they go home and they're like, Gosh, you guys are in the news or whatever. You have to put that to the side, not let it bother you, work on what's ahead and what's going to make your team better and faster.
Q. Kyle, is that some of the stuff you're seeing with what Denny has been able to do? Certainly he's put together over a longer period of time some top 10s, moved up in the points.
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, I mean, if it wasn't for my mishap at Charlotte, I think we'd be doing pretty good right now. I had a problem there that I just was trying to get too much with not enough, lost a car there.
But, you know, we've been steady. Seems like when the green flag flies, we're a contender. We just need to be putting ourselves in the right place at the right time more often.
Today we thought we had that there, except the second to last restart we got bottled up, didn't quite go as expected. But we were able to rebound at least from possibly running sixth to getting a good third.
Q. Is that what you're seeing out of Denny?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't know that I've not ever seen Denny struggle. He does do a good job at being able to steadily run well all the time. If it's seventh through tenth or top fives, he seems to be really, really good at that, always has been. It hasn't been long periods of time where he struggles with 23rd places, 28ths, 30ths. You don't see that very often out of those guys.
KERRY THARP: Matt, Kyle, thank you very much. Good luck at Sonoma.