Daytona 500 media day visit: Kenseth and Ambrose

Ford Racing press release

MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion

Press conference: Matt Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Press conference: Matt Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Photo by: Greg Aleck

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO GET TO WHERE YOU WERE A YEAR AGO TO GET TO WHERE CARL WAS? “I’m trying to word this the right way, but I think we performed better than Carl down the stretch, we really did. I think most races we ran better than him. At Homestead he was a tick better than us – a couple other races, but, really with David blowing up at Talladega really hurt us. That was probably a 15-spot swing and then we had Martinsville and Phoenix I wrecked out of both of those and that really hurt us, but just off of performance I thought we could outrun them. We weren’t as good as Tony, so we still need to get better, but I thought our performance was pretty good down the stretch. If we can build on that and make it a little bit better, and I can do a better job behind the wheel, I think we’re capable."

WHAT’S YOUR CONTRACT SITUATION? IS THIS YOUR LAST YEAR? “I’d rather not talk about contract stuff. I know some drivers like to get all that stuff out there, but I’ve done a pretty good job throughout my career of not having that ever be out there. I don’t think it’s ever been brought up or ever been a focal point and, honestly, I’d just rather keep it that way."

IS IT THE LAST YEAR OF YOUR DEAL? “Like I said, I’d rather not talk about it. You can ask Roush and if they want to talk about it, they can, but I don’t really have a situation or anything. I have never really spent any time thinking about it to be honest with you."

IS THERE A RACE THAT STANDS OUT IN YOUR MEMORY? “You have days that you think are better than others. Honestly, the most exciting, fun race that we’ve ever had that I think of is the day we won our first Nationwide Series race at Rockingham. I was able to pass Tony in the last corner coming to the checkered for the win. It was our first win. Everybody on our team had never been to Victory Lane before. It was Robbie and his dad and his family owned that team and that was their first win. We had no sponsor on the car and didn’t know if we had any money to go race the next week. That was just such an exciting day that I don’t think you could ever replace that day. That was a really neat day."

WILL IT BE ANY DIFFERENT WITH THREE CARS THIS YEAR AT ROUSH? “I don’t think it’s really gonna be much different. We don’t know yet because we haven’t really done it, but I don’t think it’ll be much different because you still have both RPM cars that are in all of our meetings and share everything, so you’ve still got five teams there. I think that’s plenty. The only downfall of downsizing that I can think of is that you lose some personnel and when you lose personnel they obviously go to different teams and they know what you’ve been doing. If you do have any kind of an advantage, you probably lose a little bit of that."

DOES SHRINKING HELP? “I think there’s a number that’s not enough and I think there’s a number that’s too much. I don’t know what each of those numbers are. I know from a business standpoint they always think bigger is better. I always think from a performance standpoint, not necessarily smaller is better, but I definitely think you can be too big."

WHEN YOU WON THE DAYTONA 500 DID IT MATCH YOU EXPECTATIONS? “It was a lot bigger, honestly. I don’t want to word this the wrong way, but I always think of it as just another race. I know it’s a big race, but it’s a plate race and we get the season going and it’s one race in a series, but all the fanfare and everything we did the next week was almost as big as winning the championship, which really surprised me."

WHAT HAVE BEEN THE BIGGEST CHANGES IN NASCAR THE LAST DECADE? “I think switching to the new car. Even though it’s a different version of that new car, I think that was by far the biggest change and the biggest impact there was on how we do business and how we race. How you can and can’t get an advantage. I think that was by far leaps and bounds bigger than any other change that there has been since I’ve been around."

ANYTHING FROM A SAFETY STANDPOINT? “I think the car and everything NASCAR has done to help make the car safer and even up the competition has been good. They did a great job with that, but I think the HANS device, the SAFER barrier, the new, good seats and that new car are the four things that I think of right away when I think of safety."

HOW DO YOU BALANCE WINNING AND STAYING HUMBLE? “I don’t know if you’re supposed to be anything, but I just think everybody is different. There are all different kind of personalities in this sport and I think that’s what makes it exciting. I don’t think you want everybody to be the same. Everybody has a different personality and I think that shows through on the track and off the track, at the track and away from the track. I think everybody is different."

WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MORNING BEFORE THE 500 AND HOW DO YOU GET READY? “I don’t do anything different for the 500 than I do for any other race. Race day morning is typically fairly busy, hopefully doing sponsor appearances and things like that. Then you just have your normal stuff like driver’s meeting and chapel, team meeting, driver’s introduction and then you go race."

ANY CHILL TIME? “We’re down here for a week and a half, so there’s a lot of time to chill out. By the time the Daytona 500 rolls around, you’re ready to race."

WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX? “When the kids get here I’ll play with them and spend a lot of time with Katie and the kids. When they’re not here it depends. Sometimes I like playing video games. Lately, I haven’t. I’ve been more into reading more lately, so I enjoy sitting down and reading a book and hanging out."

ANYTHING MAKE YOU STAR-STRUCK? “There have been a lot of cool things I’ve been able to do throughout my career. I’m thankful to have gotten here when I did and have some success. We’ve done so many neat things from going to the White House to ringing the opening bell on Wall Street. We’ve just done a lot of really cool things."

WHAT STANDS OUT? “Probably after we won the championship going to the White House and meeting President Bush and being part of that. That was probably the coolest thing."

DOES EVERYBODY HAVE AN EQUAL CHANCE TO WIN THIS RACE OR DO SOME HAVE BETTER ODDS THAN THAT? “I don’t know. I think it depends a little bit with what these rules do with the two-car tandem and all that stuff. If we have the two-car thing, it’s hard to say everybody has exactly and equal shot, but it’s pretty true. I think you saw it last year to after some guys got wrecked out. I think there were some teams up front that almost had a shot at winning that, to be honest, they’re not gonna have a shot to win Vegas. So I think it definitely has everybody pretty even.”

***

MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion

Marcos Ambrose, Petty Motorsport Ford
Marcos Ambrose, Petty Motorsport Ford

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN YOU WIN A RACE AT THIS LEVEL? “Well, a lot of people start talking about it so that’s a good thing. I like talking about winning races. It’s had a huge impact on my life. I can’t describe how just one day, one lap can make such a difference in your life. I got paid more. I got more respect out there on the race track. The sponsors love it. The teams love it. The fans love it. I got more fans out of it, so it’s been great. I can’t for one second believe it could make such a difference, but it does and to win on the main stage is important, but I didn’t realize how important it really was."

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO BE TREATED ON THE RACE TRACK DIFFERENTLY? “Normally, you win a race and you’ve got a lot of hoo-ha going on for a couple of weeks and then it all comes down and goes away, but it never really went away. After the season finished I went home, took my family to Australia and everybody wants to talk about it there and we come back here and the sponsors had big meetings, so you go and see all the friends you’ve made along the way and they want to talk about the success, and then you come to Speedweeks and you get classified as a winner, so it’s cool, it’s great. That’s what I get paid to do, so I need to do that and it’s just a relief that now you can say you’ve achieved that goal for the people who have put a lot of money and effort behind you."

DO YOU FEEL GUYS RESPECT YOUR TRACK SPACE MORE OUT THERE? “No. There’s no respect out there. It’s a dog-eat-dog world no matter what you’ve done this week or last week."

IF YOU NEVER WIN ANOTHER RACE OR POLE WILL THE MOVE FROM AUSTRALIA BE WORTH IT BECAUSE OF THAT CUP WIN LAST SEASON? “I didn’t need to win Watkins Glen to feel good about my choice. It’s been the right choice for me. I’ve done something with my life that very few people get to do. Racing is my passion and I’ve lived my passion. I’ve lived my dream and I’m still living it. Not many people can say they wake up and they’re living out their dream. I wanted to be a professional racecar driver, I wanted to race for a living and I’m doing it, so it’s a good thing."

HOW GOOD CAN RPM BE THIS YEAR? “RPM can be superb. We’ve just got to put our head down and get it done."

ARE YOU PREPARED FOR SPEEDWEEKS? “We’re up against the super teams and we know that it’s gonna be tough, but there’s no reason why we can’t win races and contend for the Chase. AJ had a great year last year in the 43 and I had a great first year with the team as well. We want to pick up on that and get some more reliability and get our average finish up a little bit and if we can do that, we’ll be right up there with them."

IS WINNING ON AN OVAL A PRIORITY FOR YOU? “Yeah, winning the Daytona 500 is the number one priority. I want to get up there and get after it."

PETTY CARS HAVE BEEN GOOD HERE. “Petty cars have been great. We’ve got good pieces. Our 500 car has windtunneled really well, so I’m real excited about it. We’ll just see how the rules play out here. We don’t quite know what’s gonna happen with the drafting rule, with the communication between drivers, with differences in spotters now and the communication up there. They’re gonna have to play a major part in the outcome. With the radiator pans and the way they’ve changed the opening and the cooling of the radiators, if it’s a hot day or a cold day it could completely change the dynamic of the event."

WILL THE SHOOTOUT ANSWER ANY OF THOSE QUESTIONS? “No. I think it’s gonna be at night and the field will only be half as thick as it will be in the main race, so I think it may be an indicator, but it won’t show you what’s gonna happen.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags ambrose, ford, kenseth