The Roush Racing trio of Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch represent three of the five Ford teams present during the first week of testing at Daytona International Speedway for next month's Daytona 500. All three visited the speedway's ...
The Roush Racing trio of Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch represent three of the five Ford teams present during the first week of testing at Daytona International Speedway for next month's Daytona 500. All three visited the speedway's infield media center to discuss the 2003 season.
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus:
YOU WON 5 RACES LAST YEAR. HOW DO YOU BACK THAT UP? "We lost a couple of pit crew guys and tire changers, so we've got to get those positions filled and running good again. But, obviously, with all the rules changes everybody is really starting from scratch. We had to cut every body off every single car we had, even our favorite cars, and we had to kind of start over. These days what kind of makes or breaks a car is really the body, so we had to start over in that area like everybody else. So there are a couple of unknowns, but, basically, a lot of things didn't change and, hopefully, we can come back and do the same job we did last year."
HAVE YOU MADE ANY GAINS AFTER 2 DAYS OF TESTING? "Not very much. The first day we found of couple of little things and gained a little bit of speed and got a little bit better, but we didn't really find anything. Again, with all the rules there are very few things we can do so we just keep trying to change little tiny things and fine-tune the car here and there. We need to get a lot better to be where we want to be, but we're better than what we were at this time last year."
WHEN YOU LOOK AT IMPROVING YOUR TEAM DO YOU LOOK AT SPECIFIC RACES OR AT THINGS OVERALL? "Both. You look at the tracks where you perform the worst and those are the races you're gonna want to do better and perform better at. But some of the things that cost us points - me making mistakes or parts breaking or just dumb like like having a flat tire - I have to do the best job to not make the mistakes I made last year to cost us points, and the people building the pieces that broke last year have to do a good job of trying not to break those pieces again. You really can't do a whole lot about luck sometimes, so my goal is, if we're as competitive as were last year and can win a couple of races again and do a better job of not making the mistakes and finish better on those days we have 35th-place finishes. That's kind of my goal is to have a better, consistent finishing average."
IS THERE A CERTAIN TRACK YOU NEED TO IMPROVE ON? "We actually ran better at flat tracks last year than I though. It used to be that flat tracks and road courses were our worst problem. At the road courses, we didn't get a good finish at either place but we ran really well, so I'm gonna try to concentrate on them again and, hopefully, get good finishes. Martinsville is usually a big problem. One time we ran really good there and the next time we ran really bad there after they changed the corners and stuff, so that's probably one of the tracks we struggled at too. All of the tracks we were fairly competitive. At the restrictor plate tracks we weren't very competitive, but I don't feel there's much I can do about that. We just have to keep working on our cars and working on our engines. There's very little I feel I can contribute to those tracks, especially when it comes to qualifying and getting to be competitive and getting up to that lead group."
WHY IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ROBBIE REISER SO SOLID? "Robbie and I started racing together in '97 when I started driving his Busch car. We always got along pretty good. He always gives me what I want or what I ask for and I try to do the same for him. We just have a good relationship where we get along good. There are no egos there. We just work well together. He does a good job of building a team and getting all the cars done and being prepared when he comes to the race track."
HAS THE BODY LOCATION AFFECTED YOU ON THE TRACK YET? "I haven't run a car at an open track yet, so here it's not gonna make any difference. I don't think the location is gonna be a big deal for us. I think the templates that squared everything up is gonna change more than anything. We built five or six cars and sent them to the wind tunnel and they're all almost identical. Basically, what we're headed toward is kind of like an IROC series and I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. All of the cars aerodynamically should be very, very similar at the mile-and-a-half tracks or Rockingham or Vegas. When we get there, I think they're gonna be very similar. I don't know if that's gonna be good or bad, but they're gonna be a lot more similar. I think the competition is gonna be even tighter than it was last year. Instead of having 15 cars that can win a race, I think you're gonna have 20-25 cars that can win a race now."
DOES THAT PUT ALL THE RELIABILITY THEN OF RUNNING UP FRONT? "No. It's gonna be the same as last year. It's gonna be track position, getting up front, your pit crew. It's gonna be a little bit of everything, but they took away one of the things that maybe we had an advantage on, maybe we didn't. On the bodies they took away a lot of creativity and ingenuity from the guys that put the bodies on and the guys who go to the wind tunnel. I think it's going to be the case that they took a lot of that away because there is very little that we can do. Everybody is gonna be maxed to the new templates and I think everybody is gonna be pretty close to the same aerodynamically."
WHAT OTHER TESTING WILL YOU DO BEFORE COMING BACK HERE IN FEBRUARY? "I don't really know. I don't know if we're gonna test again before we come back here or not. I'm taking my Busch Series car to Las Vegas and testing there before we start our deal. We're doing 15 races over there with Bayer, so I want to get a good start there. We're gonna test Talladega before we come here and then we're gonna test Las Vegas before we go out there. I'm not sure if we're gonna take our Winston Cup car anywhere else before the season starts or not yet."
DO COMMON TEMPLATES MEAN MORE OR LESS TIME IN THE WIND TUNNEL? "I'm not sure of the answer to that one yet. I hope we would be spending less. As close as our cars are so far with the first five or six we've built, I think that means we'll have less cars than what we had before. We used to have a car we'd run pretty much at Bristol and we'd have a Martinsville, Richmond, Loudon-type car. And then we'd have cars that would run Atlanta or Michigan. I think the cars are gonna be close enough to where you can take your Bristol car to Atlanta and your Atlanta car to Indy. I think your cars are gonna be a lot more similar and it should probably eliminate some of the cars. Instead of us having 15 cars, we'll probably end up having 10 or 11 cars just because we won't use them all. You'll probably find a favorite car and the aerodynamics should be pretty close to the same, so I don't think you'll have as many variations of cars anymore."
DO YOU GO THROUGH INSPECTION DURING YOUR TEST HERE? "Yeah. They brought both cars. I don't know what they all inspected, but I don't know what they all inspected. They brought both cars to the room. I don't know if they checked them themselves or if they had them check them, but they went through and checked them out. We always do that just to make sure we are where we're supposed to be. If you come down here in preseason testing and you're a little off and you're not gonna make it through the room - if you're cheating a little or whatever on the body, whether it's on purpose or not on purpose - you're kind of cheating yourself. We want to always make sure that we're plenty conservative. We went through the thing down here before where we ran really well, but when we came back we didn't have what we thought and ran a lot slower. That's always embarrassing, so we'd rather run slower in testing and run faster when we come back here and race, at least compared to the competition."
HOW CLOSE ARE THE THREE ROUSH CARS THIS WEEK? "What you're seeing on the speed sheet is what I'm seeing. As far as I know, we're all running about the same. If you want to come back here and put tape on and do a couple little things to go qualify, I mean there's not gonna be but a tenth or two there. We don't really have a big bag of tricks at the 17 where we can come back and pick up a half-a-second. I wish we did, but we just don't. So what we run is basically what we can run. There's gonna be a tenth or two there, hopefully a little bit more when it comes to qualifying and you do the little things to get it trimmed out to run those two laps, but right now what we're doing is pretty much what we've got."
HOW FRUSTRATING WAS IT FOR JEFF BURTON LAST YEAR? "That's something you'd have to ask him, but Jeff is a great teammate. He's helped me tremendously since I've been over there. They ran really good at times. He doesn't have all the finishes to show for it, but they've had themselves in position a few times and had some problems. I know he was real fast at Kansas and then lost an engine. I think switching crew chiefs halfway through the year was a case where you're not gonna move a crew chief in there and win next week. It's gonna be a rebuilding process and getting to know the guys and getting the cars built the way he likes them. So, for him not starting off as strong as he wanted, to make that change during the middle of the year was probably smart for him so they could work together for half a year before coming into this season and getting off to a stronger start."
SOME DRIVERS SAY THEY'LL HOLD BACK TO SHOW IMPROVEMENT LATER. DO YOU DO THAT? "We're not that smart (laughing). We just come here and run as good as we can run. Ever since I've been at Roush, we've run really bad at restrictor plate races. Last year, we only took three provisionals and two were at Daytona and one at Talladega. The other Talladega race was started by points because of rain, so we haven't done a very good job of qualifying at these races, so we'll work as hard as we can to try and find all the speed in the cars that we can and go from there."