All eight Ford NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers participated in media day at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday. MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Taurus ARE YOU EAGER TO GET THE YEAR STARTED? "I've been really antsy to get started ...
All eight Ford NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers participated in media day at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday.
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Taurus
ARE YOU EAGER TO GET THE YEAR STARTED? "I've been really antsy to get started actually - more so than any year I can remember in the last three of four years. I've been ready to get down here and get started and get to racing. We've got a lot of cool things going on at Roush. Our engine deal has changed around a little bit and I'm really excited about that. I'm excited about the rules changes with the spoiler and the tires and all that. I could be way wrong and we may not start off running very good, but I just feel like we have better equipment and the rules are gonna favor us, I think, maybe more than they have in the past with some of our driving styles and how we set cars up. I'm looking forward to the year. I think we've got a better chance this year to run better than we ever have before since I've been at Roush Racing. You never know what's gonna happen, but during the winter I've been really excited about what I've seen go on and I think we're gonna have a good shot at doing some great things this year."
DO YOU WISH YOU COULD CARRYOVER 100 POINTS FROM LAST YEAR? "Yeah, that would be cool to be able to have some of them left, but they would be erased after 26 anyway. I still would like to have that cushion to try to be in that top 10 after 26 races, so, yeah, that would be a cool thing. Maybe you should talk to somebody about that (laughing)."
IS THIS POINT SYSTEM SOMETHING YOU THOUGHT WAS NEEDED OR WAS IT SOMETHING WHERE NASCAR SAID THE CHAMPION ONLY WON ONE RACE SO WE NEED TO CHANGE IT? "I don't know. That would be a question you'd have to ask them. We as drivers or teams don't really have anything to do with the rules or how they come about or what they end up being. I think it'll be alright. I think it'll be exciting. The last 10 races will be cool at least for the guys in third through 10th in points to have a shot at the championship. The top couple of guys, if they have a big lead, probably won't like giving all of those points back if they've had a great first two-thirds of the season, but the rest of the guys are gonna be excited because they're gonna have a chance at the championship at the end of the year. Our goal is to be in that top 10 so we can have a shot at it again."
IT SEEMS IT WORKED ALL THESE YEARS AND THE PRIMARY REASON FOR CHANGE WAS THE FACT YOU WON ONLY ONE RACE. "I think they were looking to build more excitement at the end of the year. We have a really long season. It would probably be easy for the average sports fan at the end of the year to maybe get a little bored with the races with football coming on, especially if the championship was getting a little boring, so this will definitely spice that up and make people want to watch and be able to see who is gonna win that championship the last 10 races and see who is gonna have a chance at it before the 26th race and who is gonna make that top 10."
WHAT CHANGED YOUR MIND ABOUT THIS. WHEN IT WAS FIRST ANNOUNCED YOU DIDN'T SEEM TO BE IN FAVOR OF IT? "It's changed a little bit. First of all, after something is done, it's done. Those are the rules we've got to work with and that's what we've got to go by and use, so that's the approach I'm taking. I wasn't anymore or less informed than the media was about it, so my first reaction was my first reaction. I didn't know about it. I didn't know what they were planning. I didn't know what they were trying to do and I was under the assumption they were gonna do something different. I thought the system was gonna be different, so when I first heard it, it wasn't what I was expecting and what I was prepared to talk about. Also, whenever you look at a change, you always look at it from the previous year. I know some people were real excited about it because they were in the top 10 and dropped out at the end of the year and they would have known they would have had a shot at it. I wasn't excited about it because after 26 races, we had a 400-and-some-odd-point lead and I felt like they would have been stealing those points from me. When I think about it, years like last year are few and far between and we might never have another 400-point lead in our lives after 26 races. So it's kind of cool to know if you're in the top 10 that you can have a shot at that championship. If you can just stay in that top 10, you're gonna be within striking distance of that leader and have a shot at it with 10 to go. If I look at last year and they year before that, it would have been a great rule for us in 2002 since we won two out of the last 10 races and would have had a shot at the championship. We didn't because we had some problems earlier in the year."
WILL LEADING STILL BE THE PLACE TO BE WITH THESE NEW RULES CHANGES? "That's always important. It probably is gonna be slightly easier to pass and get around somebody, but you're still gonna want to be in front and you're still gonna want to lead laps. There are bonus points for leading like there always has been, so you're still gonna want to be up front and have yourself in a position to get away. It's still gonna be better to be in front of a car than behind them. You're still gonna have more air on the car. No matter how small they make the spoiler or how small you make the car, it's not gonna be as important to be in front but you're still gonna want to be in the front. It's still gonna be important to get the pit stops done and get your car out front."
WHO DO YOU SEE AS THE FAVORITES THIS YEAR? "It's hard to say until the year gets started. If you looked just at the end of last year and based that on this year, which isn't always a great baseline, but Jimmie Johnson was super-strong at the end of last year. I'd be looking at him and Ryan Newman, obviously, is very fast. He won a lot of races and a lot of poles, so he's a guy to look at but you never know. There are 20-25 guys and teams that could come out of the box and be strong and be the guy to beat."