This Week in Ford Racing November 11, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Ford Taurus, clinched the first NASCAR Winston Cup championship of his career, and the first for car owner Jack Roush, last weekend with a...
This Week in Ford Racing
November 11, 2003
NASCAR Winston Cup
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Ford Taurus, clinched the first NASCAR Winston Cup championship of his career, and the first for car owner Jack Roush, last weekend with a fourth-place finish in the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400 at the North Carolina Speedway. Kenseth and Roush spoke about their championship season along with crew chief Robbie Reiser, during the weekly NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference.
ROBBIE REISER , Crew Chief - No. 17 DEWALT Ford Taurus
HOW'S IT BEEN THE LAST FEW DAYS BEING THE NASCAR WINSTON CUP CHAMPION? "Really no different than it's ever been. We've just got a lot of work to do in trying to get ready for Homestead."
HOW TOUGH IS IT GOING DOWN THERE TO A NEW TRACK AND ALL YOUR NOTES ARE OUT THE WINDOW? "It's like Kansas or Chicago, we just go down there and take a guess set up at it and use the Wednesday testing to our advantage to get the car tuned in."
WE'VE ALL BEEN TALKING ABOUT GOING THROUGH THE SEASON AND HOLDING OFF EVERYONE AND THE TENSION INVOLVED WITH THAT. FOR A CREW CHIEF, HOW MUCH TENSION IS THERE FOR YOU? "Really it's not much different than what we are faced with every week. Basically we prepare each week to go to the racetrack to win and the points are an issue, but on the other hand you have to run for points all year so you take one race at a time and do the best you can with what you've got."
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN YOU AND MATT GOES BACK TO WISCONSIN. WHAT WAS IT THAT YOU SAW IN MATT KENSETH THAT MADE YOU WANT TO HOOK UP WITH HIM? "We had raced against each other quite a bit and at the time I probably had four or five years more experience than Matt did. When Matt came to the late model series up there he was able to run with the leaders right away and he showed that he had raw talent and he was able to do a lot of things that most young guys couldn't do. That's what caught my eye."
DID KNOWING WHAT HE WAS ABLE TO DO BACK THEN HELP YOU THROUGH NOT ONLY LAST YEAR, BUT THIS YEAR AS WELL, IN MAKING CALLS ON THE TRACK? "I definitely have a lot of confidence in him and we're able to work off what he's telling us and usually when you make changes off what he's telling us it usually goes in the right direction."
DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO A CHANCE TO ENJOY THIS CHAMPIONSHIP? "Well, it don't really work that way. The problem is that we got done with the championship on Sunday at 6pm, and by 5am the next morning we were into work here, working not only on Homestead, but everything on 2004. We've pretty much got to cut the bodies off all the cars and start over, so in nine weeks we have to be ready to go to Daytona and that doesn't leave much time to look back at what you did. It's pretty much what you've got ahead of you."
IS THAT DISAPPOINTING OR IS THAT JUST THE LIFE YOU LIVE? "I thought it would be a bigger deal than what it is. You kind of win it one day and you're back to work the next day trying to win the next one. It takes some of the fun out of this whole deal to tell you the truth."
YOU'VE WORKED FOR 40 WEEKS TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW. THERE'S GOT TO BE SOMETHING INSIDE OF YOU THAT SAYS WE'RE THE CHAMPIONS AND NOBODY ELSE IS. "The thing is that the season is so long and if you leave your guard down too long next season isn't going to be a very good year. You pretty much gotta have to wipe the smile off your face and get ready for next season."
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY? "Yeah, pretty much. You've got to stay at it. The sport doesn't really have a season anymore, it's year-round. It just keeps coming, the competition is difficult and it doesn't let up."
IS THAT A DISAPPOINTMENT? "Yeah. I'd like to see us enjoy it a little, but it doesn't really have much enjoyment."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOUR RELATIONSHIP HAS EVOLVED FROM THE EARLY DAYS TO TODAY? "Basically most of the head-butting was over how to run a race team. If you look at my background, I grew up in the Midwest where my Dad owned his own businesses and when we got involved in racing we owned our own cars all the way to the point where we got to the Busch Series. As we worked through the Busch Series with Matt driving in '98 and '99. When I came to Roush Racing I'd pretty much done my own deal the whole way, so when you come into somebody else's company you get a whole different idea how it works. The companies I was involved with to that point were pretty small, so when I came to Roush Racing I had to learn how the organization operated being that it was so large and had so many more people involved. Jack and I didn't see eye-to-eye on a lot of things and I think it took a while for me to learn how to fit in around here and I think it took Jack a while to learn that I was really trying to help him and not trying to hurt him. We just went round and round the first two years until some of that wore off and Jack saw that what I was doing was helping the team and he saw some things there that would help his organization and I think we're better because of it."
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JACK NOW? DOES ONE GO TO THE OTHER MORE FOR ADVICE OR TIPS HERE AND THERE? "I think right now we have a very good working relationship. I think there's times when he wants to see the other teams operate in a certain manner so he'll look at ours. There's times when I need advice as to where we're going in the future that I'll talk to Jack because he's seen so much of the sport for so many years and I just think there's a mutual respect there now."
HE'S ALWAYS BEEN MORE TECHNICALLY- AND BUSINESS-ORIENTED THAN SOME OF THE OTHER OWNERS OUT THERE. "He's very dedicated, he knows how he wants his business run, but I will tell you this; he really allows us to run our own teams. In the first two years there was a lot of head-butting because he didn't allow me to do that, but he does now. I can build the cars that I think I need, I can hire the people in the positions that I think I need, if I want to make a change in the procedures that we have here at Roush he'll listen if he thinks it's a good idea. When he doesn't think it's a good idea, he'll sometimes allow me to try it to test it and prove to him that it works or doesn't work. He lets me do a lot more things now than when I first came here."
PROBABLY A LOT MORE NOW, WOULDN'T YOU THINK? "Well, I think we've got it to the point now where maybe we're not changing so much anymore. We don't have to ruffle so many feathers if we want to do something because I think we've kind of opened some doors here."
DID YOU AND MATT COME TO ROUSCH RACING RACING AS A 'PACKAGE DEAL' OR WERE YOU BOTH HIRED SEPARATELY? "In 1998 Matt got signed to a Rousch contract that was for the test driving program where he did some stuff for all the teams here. Around that time they started lining him up for a Winston Cup ride that would start in 2000 and I think more than anything Matt felt sorry for me and being that we had the Busch team and he felt that was some help to get him in, he brought me along as a thank you for getting him involved with the Busch car. I don't think Jack even knew who I was at the time and I just happened to be the puppy dog that was hanging around when Matt was standing there."
IS THERE ONE OR TWO SPECIFIC REASONS AS TO WHY YOUR TEAM HAS BEEN SO CONSISTENT? "I think if you take a look at it, we've been doing this for four years at Rousch Racing and we haven't really had a lot of changeover in personnel and the guys have been really loyal to this team. We lost two tire changers last year, but other than that it's pretty much been the same group the whole way. When you get a group of people that are focused and get the experience they need, I think it helps build your program a lot stronger and those guys are committed to making sure everything's right every weekend."