Daytona 500: Winning team press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Jack, it took you a long time to win your first two Cup championships. Taken obviously a long time to do this. When does it finally set in? Are you able to appreciate it now? Is it the end of the season when you ...

Continued from part 1

Q: Jack, it took you a long time to win your first two Cup championships. Taken obviously a long time to do this. When does it finally set in? Are you able to appreciate it now? Is it the end of the season when you reflect on it? How big a deal is this?

JACK ROUSH: I've never been through an enshrinement. They're going to enshrine the car I guess tomorrow morning or later tonight or something. When all the team gets around the car and we put the car we incarcerate the car for a year over at the museum, I'm sure it will set in at that time. That will be a big deal.

We've had other cars in there. We had Paul Newman's Nobody's Fool Mustang, which was the 10th 24 hour race we'd won here. It was in there for a period of time. That kind of put an exclamation mark at the end of our road racing that we were able to celebrate that victory with Paul, and to have the car under glass there for a period.

So to have this DeWalt Ford Fusion in the Daytona USA for a year is going to be a big deal. It's going to give me some closure. Plus, we have to try to put it behind us, because we got some unfinished business on the West Coast we have to try to deal with in the next couple weeks.

Q: Matt, take me back to when you were a little kid. I know you had the typical, you know, wanted to race, posters in your room, probably playing with little cars in the dirt. Did you, in those days, ever dream about actually winning the Daytona 500?

MATT KENSETH: No. I mean, not back then. I mean, my uncles raced, my cousin raced, my dad started racing a little bit later in life, when I was 13 or something like that. You know, I always enjoyed it and everything. Yet when you grow up in Wisconsin, Daytona seems a long, long, long ways away.

 All the races weren't really televised back then.  I used to watch Daytona
all the time.  Watched the Busch Clash, the Daytona 500.  It was usually
snow up there.  I remember watching that.  It seemed a long ways away.

I was fascinated with cars and engines and speed and competition and all that, but really didn't think I'd ever get a chance to do this for a living. Until about an hour ago, never really thought I'd win the Daytona 500 either.

Q: Matt, during the off season a lot was made about the fact that you, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, had not won in 2008. In the first two weeks you guys all won. What does that say about the champions coming back?

MATT KENSETH: That's pretty cool. I hope it keeps happening. I thought about us not winning. That was disappointing. But it's really hard. It's really competitive. Everything's got to go right to be able to win these races. You get people like Carl that win nine. I don't know how many Kyle won. Jimmie.

When you get them guys that won over half the races between them three, it's really hard. Everything's got to go right. You got to have you got to have everything line up for you. It's pretty cool to be able to win this race, but it doesn't make or break your season. We know there's a lot of work to do coming up.

We're really going to enjoy it this week. I think we're already looking ahead to California, Vegas, Atlanta, the tracks we know we got to perform at all year to be a serious contender.

Q: Precious little in this sport is ever predictable, but usually within a few 'green white checkered' laps, the distance of the race is dependable. A lot of times when rain is closing in, when you listen on the radio, it gets a little hysterical because all the variables are off. Everybody is having a hard time coming up with when to go, what's gonna happen. How difficult was that for you, Matt and Drew, because this is your first time in the Daytona 500 making these calls?

MATT KENSETH: Well, for me, it's different than any other race, except for Talladega. Because if you're at Pocono or wherever, if you got the fastest car, you're just going to go ahead and pass that guy in front of you.

Here, the way the draft works, you really had to think if you were doing the right thing. There were a few times tonight where I didn't do the right thing and everybody stacked up another line and took the momentum and shuffled you back 10 spots.

The last thing I wanted to do was be running second and go for the lead and make the wrong move and not have the proper momentum and not have anybody go with you, finish 10th or something like that. It was something to think about a little bit.

I knew I wanted to get the lead. I knew when I made the move, I needed to make sure I had enough momentum where I was going to get all the way to the lead.

DREW BLICKENSDERFER: You know, our decision was fairly easy. We put it in a place to where we felt like we were fast up there. We hadn't gone even a third of our fuel run yet.

The fortunate thing I have is Chip Bolin has set on the box for the 17 for probably close to 300 Cup races. He's been through all of it with Robbie Reiser, and did it himself last year. We're bouncing ideas off each other the whole time, talking about if and what if things.

It was fairly easy. I think the way this track is, if we were gonna come get tires, we were gonna wait till we could make it on fuel anyway the way everything played out. It wasn't a very tough decision, whether to come or to stay.

Q: Matt, about a week ago you were talking about how it's been a depressing off season for you because you've seen friends lose their jobs. It's fair to say you'd be considered one of the more blue collar drivers in NASCAR. Is it maybe satisfying for you that you can kind of inject some good news into the blue collar fan base of NASCAR?

MATT KENSETH: Yeah. I mean, I think everybody's kind of tired of watching the news, the grim news that there's been pretty much all winter. Whether you're a sports fan, football or racing, when that starts, it gives you something else to think about, something else to do. It's easy to take stuff for granted when everything is going good all the time.

But I thought it was a great race today. The stands were really full. I know everybody's been trying to help out to make it not just more a more enjoyable experience for the fans, but also make it more affordable.

It feels really good to get the win. I'm glad we started the season off on a high note like that.

Q: Could you react to the fact that you waited for 17 minutes in your car, the No. 17 DeWalt Ford, to wait to hear whether or not you were going to win your 17th career triumph on the 20th anniversary of Darrell Waltrip's 17th win in the No. 17 at Daytona.

MATT KENSETH: I'm just glad that Ken Willis wasn't saying it was boring or anything bad about me. Yeah, I'm glad all the numbers lined up for us. I don't know if I believe in all that, but I'm glad that they all lined up. It makes a good story line.

Drew is known for being the luckiest guy around, so I was happy to have him on the box, too.

Q: Matt, for every winner, there's a guy that the luck goes the other way. Elliott Sadler was in here a while ago kicking himself. You talk about making wrong moves. He was trying to block. Seconds after you pass him, it rains. Do you have a little bit of a pang for Elliott? Where were you in that wreck? How did you manage to get out of it?

MATT KENSETH: Well, in the wreck, I don't know. 18 got wiped out. I nosed into somebody a little bit. I actually thought it would have been split or done something, but didn't really do any damage. We were probably more lucky there than anything, to be honest with you. We kind of just shot straight through it. The seas parted and we came out.

Man, I've had that feeling a lot of times where we've had fast cars and I haven't maybe done the right thing. There's other times where your car is not as fast, you make the right moves.

I haven't had the pleasure of seeing it a lot of times, but I don't think it's so much that Elliott didn't make any right moves, it's just our car was faster, I thought. We were able to get a pretty big run on him, even without a lot of people, get underneath him.

Those cars seem like they all handled good all night, but they didn't have quite as much speed. For a short run like that on new tires, I felt as good as you can feel about trying to make a pass at a plate race.

Q: Matt, when Kevin was in here, he was kind of reflecting on the fact that a couple years ago a push by you helped him win his Daytona 500, was considering the circumstances, that he kind of played a role in getting you past Elliott Sadler. Is that the nature of plate racing for you guys, that sometimes things that you do for another person may not show up right away, but maybe sometime down the road?

MATT KENSETH: You always hope so. There's a couple things to keep in mind. The year Kevin won it we were eighth, ninth and tenth, Kevin and I and Burton. We lined up and started going with three or four to go. We didn't have anything to lose.

You know, you always try to make the right decisions, not hang somebody out that's been working with you, whatever. You try to help people or your teammates, do all that stuff the best you can.

But at the end of the day you try to help people when you can help 'em, and it doesn't hurt your effort. You also want to do what's going to be best for your car. Had a big run. Could have gone with Elliott. We probably would have both been clear, had the faster cars.

I was glad it was Kevin. I remember when I gave him the huge shove on the backstretch and he was able to win the 500. I pushed Dale Jarrett past Tony for his win at Talladega. I've been the pusher a few times and been able to help a little bit, but never been lucky enough to have the shoe on the other foot. It really felt good tonight to be in that position and for them to pull behind me and push me by him.

Q: You mentioned your dad, who let you do this, who encouraged you. I don't think he's here today. Have you talked to him? Do you miss him not being able to be a part of this?

MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, I haven't had a chance to talk to anybody yet. Yeah, I wish my dad was here and I wish my son, Ross, was here, my sister. You always wish your buddies, your family and friends, were there when you have a big moment to share it with them.

My dad never dreamed it would come to anything like this either. We started it for something constructive for a father and son to do, to keep me out of trouble, for us to find something that we hopefully would enjoy, be able to spend quality time together. That's really why we did it. We did it for fun.

We didn't have a lot of money to go build real fancy racecars. We just started racing sportsman cars for the fun of it. From there, I kept getting very, very fortunate to meet the right people to give me a chance to drive their stuff that we could afford to build.

Q: The Daytona 500 is called the Super Bowl of NASCAR. For the first time you can say you went to the Super Bowl and won it, and the Packers didn't make the playoffs. How is this going to be playing back up in Cambridge? And what does it mean to you that you're the second Wisconsin driver to win? What did Kulwicki mean to you and your life?

MATT KENSETH: Everything has been pretty quiet in the off season. Pretty quiet in Cambridge, like everywhere else. I hope everybody's fired up back there, celebrating and having a good time. Yeah, I mean, I never really knew Alan. I never really got to meet him.

Obviously what he did was pretty spectacular. I don't know if in this day and age anybody could do that again. To be able to come down and do it the way you wanted to do it and win a championship was pretty cool when you knew it was the first Wisconsin guy to come down from the north and win a NASCAR championship.

That was something pretty big for the state, and certainly something that I paid attention to.

Q: When you survived that wreck, the 18 didn't. When you realized the 18 was out, did that make your mind say, This could be my day?

MATT KENSETH: You know, you knew your chances were better. I mean, whenever there's a wreck and you're not in it, you know your odds are a little better of winning. Really that's what it is at a plate race. If you're at Michigan or something, you're running second or third, you're running second all day to him, he wrecks, blows up or something happens, then all of a sudden you kind of get a spring in your step. Man, we've been second best to him all day and he's out, we're going to have a shot.

At a plate race, it's not really like that. If you don't get in the right line, everybody lines up somewhere else or what have you, even if you have the right car, if you don't end up making the right move, people don't make it with you, you still won't win.

So certainly I felt like our chances improved a little bit, but not as much as if it would have been at a standard racetrack.

Q: Matt, wild celebration tonight in the RV lot or?

MATT KENSETH: Oh, man, I'm going to go paint it plaid, just like you said (smiling). Going to New York tomorrow night and paint the town plaid. Wasn't that your quote?

Q: You got a long memory.

MATT KENSETH: Like an elephant (laughter).

I was hearing about the schedule. Sounds like a pretty busy week. I don't know if there will be a lot of celebrating this week. Probably most of it was in Victory Lane an hour or so ago.

You know, I'm looking forward to the week. It's not always my favorite thing to do, but I'm really looking forward to going around and actually people calling me the Daytona 500 champion. It's pretty awesome. I'm going to enjoy it the best I can and try to find some time to celebrate when we have time in our schedule for it.

Q: Can you talk about some of the changes you've had at your team. You have a returning spotter and a new crew chief. Talk about all that.

MATT KENSETH: Yeah, Mike Calinoff came back to spot. He was pretty much the original spotter with the 17 team. I have a certain comfort level with him doing that. Drew came over from he was doing the Nationwide deal the last couple years and finished off Carl's deal last year. Came over to do the Cup thing obviously.

So we had a crew chief change. Chip stayed with what he was doing, doing all the car stuff. Just didn't have to do all the crew chief duties to go along with it.

I've really, for me, been very optimistic the last couple months. I've been really fired up for the season to start, more so than a year for quite a while, for the last few years. I feel really good about it. I feel really good about our group.

The over the wall guys, the whole group, I feel really good about it. Feel good about our equipment. Carl, Greg, won all them races last year. We know the cars are fast enough, the motors run good enough. We just got to figure out how to dot the Is and cross the Ts.

Q: Starting this race you were 39th. By lap 30 you were in the top 10. Lap 40 you were third. What was going through your mind at that time? Did you see this as a possibility at that point?

MATT KENSETH: Well, starting in the back, unless there's a wreck, isn't really a big disadvantage at a plate race the way the draft works and all that stuff. Actually, I hate to say it helped us, but we did get to work on the car a lot more. We were in a lot of dirty air, in traffic a lot.

We did two pit stops by lap 25, so we got to put some tires on and look at our tires. We got to be in different situations: three wide, bottom, middle, top, kind of see what the car was handling like. Probably helped us with our adjustments.

If we started in the front, running around the bottom, we might not have known what we needed to adjust. That helped us keep up I think with our adjustments a little bit better.

KERRY THARP: Gentlemen, congratulations on winning the Daytona 500.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Darrell Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Paul Newman , Elliott Sadler