Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, comes into this weekend fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. He spoke about this weekend's championship finale and the improvement his team has made the last couple of...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, comes into this weekend fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. He spoke about this weekend's championship finale and the improvement his team has made the last couple of months.
WHOSE POSITION DO YOU LIKE BEST OF THE TOP THREE TITLE CONTENDERS? "The leader. I think you always would rather have the most points going into a race, no matter what, than being behind. It's not a big lead, so anything can happen."
HOW WOULD YOU HANDICAP IT? YOU'VE ALWAYS SPOKE HIGHLY ABOUT JIMMIE JOHNSON AND HIS TEAM. "They haven't been quite on the roll they've been lately, for sure, and that's hard to say since he's only 15 points out of the lead, but the 11's performance seems to be quite a bit better all year. The 11 has been real strong, and his performance has been real good lately, so I guess you would probably have to give him the advantage for performance so far, but this is a different track and a different weekend. The 48 has the experience of doing it the last four years, so I think it's an interesting mix."
DO YOU BALANCE RESPECT FOR THOSE GUYS WITH RACING YOUR OWN RACE? "You're not gonna give them anything. You're still gonna go race your own race and try to win and get the best finish you can get, but, certainly, you're gonna be as respectful to them as you always are and make sure you give them room and don't hurt their chances to win. I don't think they want anybody to give them anything and nobody will. Everybody still has their own agenda to finish as high as they can in the points and try to get a win or a good finish."
DO YOU EXPECT ALL THREE OF THEM TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO WIN THE TITLE? "Yeah. When it comes to being on the track I've never showed up and not wanted to win, so everybody shows up and gives it their all to get the best result they can."
HAVE YOU AND JIMMY FENNIG FOUND SOMETHING THE LAST THIRD OF THE YEAR TO BUILD ON FOR NEXT YEAR? "Yeah, I don't know about just us but all of our cars seem to be faster here the last few months. Lately, it seems like things have been going better. Our cars have been faster. Last week, I thought we probably even had a shot at it without having that pit road penalty on our last pit stop, so it feels like we're gaining some momentum and the cars are quicker and we're understanding each other probably a little better."
DO YOU THINK YOU'VE FOUND SOMETHING THAT WILL HELP LONG-TERM? "You hate changing stuff around all the time because it's hard to get any kind of consistency going. It's hard to build on anything when you're changing stuff all the time, obviously. We've always got along good, but it seems like the whole group right now is moving along. As an organization, our cars have been getting faster and all of them have been more competitive, so it seems like we're headed in the right direction."
HAVE YOU AND JIMMY STARTED TO CLICK MORE? "We've always got along really good. I actually started hanging out with Jimmy when he was Mark's crew chief in '98. Mark hooked me up with Roush Racing and I kind of followed him around and went to testing with him to try and learn things, so I've known Jimmy for a long time and we've always gotten along well."
DOES JIMMY BRING ANYTHING SPECIFIC TO YOUR TEAM? "Everybody has their own style and the things they like to work on more than others, and he has his certain things that he likes to do with the cars. He's brought some experience to the group and he's been there before. He's won championships and a lot of races, so he's got tons of experience and has seemed to help the group that way."
HAS WHAT THE GROUP DONE LATELY GIVEN YOU HOPE FOR NEXT YEAR? "Yeah, I'm more thinking about Sunday right now, but if we could have a consistent, good run and finish on Sunday, I think as a group it will help us. We seem to be headed in the right direction now, so, hopefully, we can continue that."
YOU'VE HAD SUCH BAD LUCK IN THE CHASE PREVIOUSLY. DOES THIS CHASE FEEL LIKE A BREAKTHROUGH? "It's been a disappointing few years for me and probably for the team as well. I feel like if we can get through Sunday without problems and run as good as I feel we're capable of, and finish fourth or fifth in the points, I think that would be kind of a highlight for the year or something to hang our hat on and something to look at and say, 'It seems like we were off, but we did finish in the top five.' That would great to do that, but 11th is still possible too, if things go wrong, but that would be good for us. If we could get a top-10 or a top-five on Sunday and run competitively like we have here the last few weeks and finish up well in the points, I think that would be good for all of us."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR 400TH CUP START ON SUNDAY? "It's just a number. It means you're old and you've been around for a long time, but I am proud of that. I walked in here last night and I thought about it a little bit. I thought of Robbie and his dad and his family giving me a chance to run his Nationwide car to start with. Without that, I probably wouldn't have any starts, and without Mark Martin's help, so you kind of look back and think of that stuff for a few minutes. But when you get ready at the start of the race, it's just another race."
DO YOU SAY TO YOURSELF, 'WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE?' "Yeah, but I do that all the time. My kid is 6'3" and 17 years old. You wonder where all that goes. It goes by really fast, that's for sure."
IS THIS CHASE CLOSE BECAUSE TEAMS HAVE LEARNED WHAT STRATEGY WORKS BEST? "I don't think it matters. I don't think anybody has adjusted their strategy, it's just that some years are closer than others. There are a lot of points to be gained or lost, especially lost every week. If you have problems or something goes wrong and somebody gets on a roll with no problems, plus it's competitive, so it's just the way it has worked out this year."
-source: ford racing