Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, comes into tomorrow's UAW-GM Quality 500 in sixth place in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. Kenseth, who leads the series with four victories this season, held a Q&A session in...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, comes into tomorrow's UAW-GM Quality 500 in sixth place in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. Kenseth, who leads the series with four victories this season, held a Q&A session in the Lowe's Motor Speedway infield media center before Saturday's first practice.
MATT KENSETH --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus
YOU DO WELL HERE AT CHARLOTTE.
"Yeah, we usually do. It's one of my favorite tracks and it's always challenging. We seem to run better for the 600 than what we do for the 500. Being at night seems to suit our setups and the way I drive a little bit better than during the day, but we'll work on it and, hopefully, we can get a good setup and get a good run tomorrow."
HOW CRUCIAL IS PRACTICE TODAY?
"It's probably good that qualifying got rained out for me because we usually don't qualify very good, so we've got a good spot to start and should have a good pit position. Hopefully, we can be up front right away and lead some laps. We got all of our qualifying practice in, we just didn't get qualifying in so it didn't really affect anything. We'll just practice like normal today, but the second practice will probably be a little more important than the first one because the track conditions do change a lot."
WHAT'S BEEN THE REASON FOR ROUSH RACING'S TURNAROUND THIS YEAR?
"It's hard to say what the reason is because there isn't really one thing we're doing different than what we did last year, it's just a combination of a lot of little things. The biggest area is probably our engines. They've improved the horsepower a lot since last year and that's made us more competitive with the one-engine rule. It's helped us out in qualifying a lot and it's helped us out in racing. That's been probably the one biggest thing and then we've been getting smarter with the bodies on our car. We've been able to get the aerodynamic balance more to what I've liked and we've been figuring out some of these new setups. It seemed to take us longer than a lot of other teams to get off the stuff that worked three years ago and get onto the stuff that's making us work right now. It seemed to take us longer than most people to adjust. My expectations for the year, I really don't know what they were. I was expecting to do a lot better than last year. We ended the season last year on a really strong note. We had two or three top fives toward the end of the year and we ran really well a few times, even though we didn't get the finishes. I was hoping to carry that momentum into this year and, hopefully, be a top 10 team so that was kind of my expectations for the year. I was hoping to be in the top 10 somewhere."
DO YOU FEEL THAT WINNING SHOULD BE WEIGHTED MORE IN THE POINTS SYSTEM?
"Not really. I think that the way they do the points right now is the right way to do it. I don't remember a points race that's more exciting than what they've had this year with so many different leaders. I think it's gonna go right down to the wire, so I think the points system is right. I don't think you can necessarily reward a guy for winning the most races that isn't consistent, but I think it's a season-long deal and it's something we work at for 40 weeks. I think you've got to reward the driver, the team and the owner that builds the most reliable equipment and does the best job and makes the least amount of mistakes on an average through the 36 points races that we run. I think that's the guy that needs to be rewarded, not the guy who can win four or five races and make a whole bunch of mistakes and not do a good job in the rest of the races and get good finishes."
IS IT HARDER TO KEEP YOUR CAR ADJUSTABLE HERE?
"Not much. The only thing that's really less adjustable than in the past that is probably different here is last year NASCAR took away any front spring rubbers that we could run. That's the biggest thing, especially in the 600. We'd always start with a big spring rubber in the right-front for a bunch of rate in there, so as the night went on and the track got tighter, you could pull the rubber out of it and make the car turn better. That's the biggest difficulty is we can't work with the front end as much as we used to. Whatever your guess is today at noon, whatever we decide to put in the front of the car as far as springs and swaybar. All of the front end things you're pretty much set with for the race tomorrow, so you've still got a lot of stuff you can adjust with the rear springs and spring rubbers and track bars and wedge -- all the normal stuff you usually have and the cars still respond to that the way they used to."
WHAT ABOUT THE RACE HERE IN MAY. DID YOU FEEL GOOD FOR MARK BECAUSE OF ALL HE'S DONE FOR YOUR CAREER?
"Well, the answer to the question is basically no (laughing). There's really no mixed emotions. I was happy to see him win, but I wanted to win that race bad. He's won thirtysome races. People talk about letting people win, but I don't think there's anybody these days in this sport that would give one away. We race 36 weeks and the most anybody has won is four races, so it's hard to win these races. There's no way I would ever give one away, especially since that would have only been my third career win. I was a little disappointed after the race because when we had the restart with 40 or 50 to go, I felt like I had a better car. He got away and then we started catching him pretty good. Then we got into heavy, heavy lap traffic and I could never quite get past him. So I was a little disappointed we lost actually."
HAVE YOUR FOUR WINS SURPRISED YOU AND WHAT ABOUT NASCAR'S POST-RACE INSPECTION ENFORCEMENT?
"The four wins surprises me a lot. Going into this year, I never expected to win four races. I just hoped to be able to win one and have a chance at being in a position to win races, so that's definitely been a huge surprise going into the year, especially with the way we ran last year. The post-race inspection thing, the roof thing is one of those weird things. When they started doing that and starting fining cars more and more, the deal is we're running such soft springs now compared to what we ran three years ago, that they settle and the cars lower. They go through (inspection) before the race and they're fine. We don't lower the car during the race, so, obviously, the springs settle. We never used to have that problem when we ran the setups we used to run three or four years ago. We had a lot stiffer springs in the car and the cars never moved around like that, so that's just something we all had to learn to adjust. When we go through tech inspection, we go through a quarter-inch high before the race to make sure our car is going to meet (the proper height) afterwards. It's a tough thing. In my opinion, if they would have rolled all 43 cars through after Rockingham, half of them would have passed and half of them wouldn't have. So just to check the top five and to fine them and take points away from them, that's a tough thing, but, yet, I understand what NASCAR's doing. They have to draw a line somewhere and they have to make it black and white. They can't really have a gray area, so as long as they're consistent with it, I guess I don't have a problem with it."
HOW DO YOU SEE THIS POINTS RACE THE REST OF THE YEAR?
"It's hard to say. It's been such a weird year because everybody's had so many problems. There really haven't been that many cars run consistently good all year and not had a normal race where they've finished 17th, which is really not normal compared to the last few years. Usually, the championship runners have been in the top five all the time and, if they break or crash, they finish in the back. This year, we haven't really had that so it's hard to say. I think with Tony being ahead right now by seventy-some points, if he doesn't have a mechnical failure or an accident or something like that, all of the rest of the tracks are really, really good tracks for him and I think that he's gonna be real tough to beat. But there are still some guys in there. If Mark runs as good as he ran here last time and can keep it together and keep it consistent, I think that he'll have a shot at it too. There are still four or five guys in it that are pretty tight."
DO YOU THINK DALE, JR. AND YOURSELF CAN HAVE THE SAME RIVALRY AT THIS LEVEL AS YOU HAD IN BUSCH?
"I hope someday that we can race each other for a championship. That would be really awesome and my goal is to someday win a Winston Cup championship. It's a tough thing and it's a long year. There's so much competition and you never know what year you're gonna be on and what year you're gonna be off. It's hard to stay on top of your game all the time. You can look at the 18 car and see that. They won the championship two years ago and this year they've struggled a lot. In the Busch Series we both ran really well for two-and-a-half years, but it's a little tougher to be that consistent over here. I hope it can happen someday. In this day and age, I don't know if we'll have a deal where we're both racing for a championship multiple years, but I hope that we can some day."