Homestead: Winning team post race interview

An inteview with: Jack Roush Matt Kenseth Robbie Reiser JACK ROUSH: "We of course enjoyed winning here in front of the home crowd for Ford Motor Company. I went to work for Ford in '64 and I've been around Ford Motor Company as an employee or...

An inteview with:
Jack Roush
Matt Kenseth
Robbie Reiser

JACK ROUSH: "We of course enjoyed winning here in front of the home crowd for Ford Motor Company. I went to work for Ford in '64 and I've been around Ford Motor Company as an employee or as a racer for 50 years. I really expected that Greg would be the man of the hour for us as he'd won the last three races and we were off just a little bit. The car that he won two of those three races was the same car and we damaged that car in a tire test earlier this year at Charlotte, so we didn't have that car and I think that's played a little bit of a mind game on Greg. But Robbie Reiser and Chip Bolin and the Ford Motor Company staff -- Scott Almond and all the guys that stand behind the technologies that have gone into that DeWalt Ford really came to the front today.

"There's a revolution occurring. Time was when I started 20 years ago at this, engineering was something that was kept on the back burner and if you absolutely got cornered and couldn't figure out what to do you would ask the engineer what he thought and the crew chief would make a decision to either laugh or to try it. But today this thing has gotten so complex and there are so many great engineers doing so much predicative and analysis work that you have to have that going for you. The best application that we've got of the technologies that Ford has given us is with the 17 car and that really showed bright today.

"We got behind. I listened to Jeff Gordon there talking about how he'd missed his championship here by one spot. I guess Matt moved up to fourth. That certainly wasn't what we hoped for and what we expected as we started the year. We got blindsided and didn't do as much testing with the car of tomorrow. We had four or five really bad races with that early on just because we didn't have as much information as some of the other teams did -- the Hendrick bunch being at the front of that -- but, anyway, I misjudged that. That was my fault. We didn't take advantage of the laxity NASCAR had of not enforcing the testing policy that they had indicated they were gonna impose on us, so I got behind there.

"As far as the championship is concerned, we just got beat this year. We did not run as good as the 24 or the 48 did throughout the balance of the year and the chase. They've raised the bar for us and we see what we need to do. We've been there before and we know what we need to do. The 17 on the race tonight had great pit stops. We had an alternator failure. We had a backup battery system that allowed us to finish the race without changing the alternator or changing the battery, so that worked out good. Matt thought he had a flat tire. He announced that he had a flat tire just as the green came out after the last caution there, and, of course, everybody's heart sank as we thought about coming down pit road and taking a tire and what that was gonna mean to the result after he had been as good as he had been all day. But they've run good more than reflecting on the number of races they've won this year, but the best preparation and the best application of the tools that Ford has given us has manifested itself with the 17 and that's the reason that they rose to the top tonight."

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A TEAM THAT WENT OUT ON TOP WITH ROBBIE MOVING ON?

JACK ROUSH: "That's the stuff of editorials. You hear that comment a lot. I don't think that we're going out and Robbie is going up, the team certainly isn't disassembling, but Robbie has been vertically mobile recognized by me within the organization. He's ambitious. He's at a point in his life when he wants to do more things and be as productive as he can and he can impact not only the 17 team, but the policy and the structure and the efficiency and the effectiveness of all of our five teams and that's what's gonna happen next year. He will bring tools to the general managership position that I haven't had in my prior general managers. He comes from a strong industrial background. His dad had a trailer-building business. He worked with his dad in the business. He ran his own race team. He drove the race cars for himself before he ran his own race team. Matt, of course, was a driver of his for awhile in the Busch Series before he came to us.

"Robbie will be able to focus on all the ins-and-outs of the things that happen on the shop floor and on the things that go wrong with pit crews and the things that they might do. He's been critical and supportive at the same time of what we've been doing with the other teams. He didn't have the prerogative and the opportunity to go fix them because of the way we were organized, but he's gonna be able to use all of his experience to benefit all the teams. Chip Bolin is one of our senior engineers. He's one of the best guys we've got on the seven-poster. He's certainly been at the basis of any kinematics changes for front suspension throughout the year and for the last several years, so he's in a position now to not only know what to do and what needs to be done technically with the car, but also to benefit the team and to set an example for his kind of technical leadership at the top what the benchmark for all of the other Roush teams should be."

CAN HENDRICK BE CAUGHT AND HOW FAR BEHIND ARE YOU GUYS WITH THE COT?

JACK ROUSH: "We think that with the progress we made on the car of tomorrow challenge that over the winter we'll be able to close any gap. As I listened to what Jeff said, how loose you set up the car and how much risk you're willing to take with the way you drive the car from the point of view of loose has always been fast, and whether you achieve loose today by having more air-pressure in a tire or less air-pressure is one of those things that we're going through a revolution with with the engineering and with all the tire data that we have available. The things that used to be universally true aren't universally true today and you have to take the chance to believe the data to go take advantage of it. The 48 did and tonight the 17 did and I think we'll be able to incorporate that into our thinking more universally going forward. This is a momentum sport. You have things going for you for a while. I know when the 17 won in 2003, won the championship, he didn't mean to win a race that year. He had enough points that it didn't matter if he won a race. They finished top five more than anybody ever had in history and, of course, won their share of laps led and that sort of thing throughout the race. But, at the same time, they had all those great finishes. We didn't have a flat tire. We didn't run over some debris. Somebody didn't put oil on the race track in front of us. We didn't crash. Matt didn't run into the pit wall, which he did at Dover one year, so all those self-induced things we didn't do and the things that you're hapless and vulnerable for, those things didn't happen. I wouldn't say that that's what happened to the Hendrick organization this year. They executed brilliantly, but they also missed more wrecks than my guys did that weren't anybody's fault, and they'll have to give some of those back going forward and hopefully we'll be able to reap the benefits of some more Cinderella years where nothing will go wrong."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE 17 FOR 2008?

JACK ROUSH: "They certainly have a lot of momentum going forward. They're going to go into winter well. There won't be a great deal of anxiety about the fact that, 'Gee, we missed it. We don't know how to make these cars go fast.' I think the thing Robbie would tell you and the thing Matt would tell you and certainly the thing I believe is the application of the technical side is the single thing that made the biggest difference in how the 17 was able to progress through the year. They were eventually able to get data on the car of tomorrow and use it well. Matt even got a pole. He's not been a guy to run up front. He's qualified very well and that just wouldn't happen unless you had really great stuff. We're looking forward to carrying the energy and the momentum of the 17 forward with Chip still being -- the difference between what's gonna happen as far as the cars are concerned, Chip would make a recommendation to Robbie on what he thought needed to be done and Robbie would generally bless it. If he was wise, he would bless it and now going forward Chip will be able to make those decisions without asking permission."

WERE THERE ANY CHANGES THAT KEYED THIS RUN?

JACK ROUSH: "On the car of tomorrow thing, I hired either five or seven people, I forgot how many. But we put together a test team that was organized specifically to test these cars in Iowa and out in Arizona and Texas and Tennessee and Kentucky and other places that didn't have NASCAR tracks, we went and followed the path of the other teams that had gotten ahead of us on the car of tomorrow and tested our cars outside the NASCAR-defined box. That was the big thing that helped that."

WHAT HELPED THIS RUN?

JACK ROUSH: "One of the things we had to balance was we had really good mile-and-a-half cars and had good superspeedway cars, so we had to actually turn our back on those a little bit and disadvantage ourselves a little bit through the middle of the year and toward the end of the year by not having done as much with that car as we tried to catch up for where we were behind. So the load that I put on everybody by not authorizing and funding the testing really hurt us a little bit everywhere in the middle of the year, but this obviously wasn't a car of tomorrow race car and it was a favorite car that Robbie can comment on, but I'm sure it was a favorite car that they saved for this realizing it was the last race. But as it turned out, I would say we were a little short on the really special cars in the car of today variety as the year wore on as a result of some wrecks that we weren't able to get back to where they were and the lack of testing and emphasis we put on those, but going to next year we're only gonna have the car of tomorrow and as much as I wasn't in support of that car as it came on, I do look forward to carrying the energy and the momentum that we've had through the testing and the simulated predictive things we've done in the shop. I look forward to having that at every race, where we can not go from one car to the other car and kind of lose track of what we had going for us the last time we run one program or the other."

WHO GETS THIS CAR?

JACK ROUSH: "Robbie was lamenting the fact that Lumpy will probably get it as an ARCA car. So we'll have to think about that. That quarter-panel is seriously damaged. I think we'll probably take that out of Matt's pay, but, on the other hand, we didn't own the tire anyway. They just leased us the tire and we got the whole use of the tire as it worked out, but, no, that car will wind up staying in the livery somewhere. We've got an ARCA program organized for Ricky Stenhouse for next year and we're still working on sponsorship for that, but we have made a commitment with Ford to run him in the ARCA Series and that will almost certainly be one of the cars that will appear there."

MATT KENSETH: "I guess we had five really good runs to finish the year off and that feels good. We really ran strong throughout the chase. I think our performance obviously wasn't quite as good as the 48 and maybe the 24, but I think our performance was as good or better than any other chase closing the season out, so it's pretty awesome to get up to fourth from where we were five weeks ago. Tonight we just had a dominant car. It felt that good yesterday in practice and Robbie and Chip were telling me that was four-tenths off. I told them I didn't know how to make it any better, so I think we just left it and ran it today. We made very few adjustments. It was just a pretty dominant car on the long run all day. They could really make a run at me for about 20 laps and then after that we could start making some distance. It was a really fun race, even though we were out front a lot. The track and the way my car was loose, especially kind of getting into the corner, you really had to stay on top of it every lap and try to hit your marks just right and kind of sliding around, so it was a lot of fun."

ROBBIE REISER: "I'm glad it's over (laughing). No, not really. I want to thank all the DeWalt people that have been with us the whole time. When this is all said and done I didn't get fired. We're all friends. I get to go back to work tomorrow, basically getting to do the same job just from a five-team aspect instead of a one. Chip Bolin is gonna be able to take our team and make it a lot better than I have it right now, so I'm looking forward to all that stuff. It was an honor and a privilege to work with Matt. Matt has been great to me, great to my family, just a great friend and to be able to do this at the top level and do it the way he wanted me to do it, and do it for so many years, it was a real privilege. Working for Jack and all the people at Roush Fenway is a lot of fun and I enjoy it. I'm looking forward to the next step and that's all I can really say. I like to race and I'm not gonna miss this part of it at all."

WAS THERE A BATTERY PROBLEM EARLIER?

ROBBIE REISER: "We'll be working on that right away. In my new job, I'm gonna be on that. I've had enough of that."

WAS THERE A BATTERY PROBLEM EARLIER?

MATT KENSETH: "For some reason this year we've had some alternator issues, some alternator wires, leads, what-have-you, and about halfway through the race we lost our alternator and with Jack's instruction and then looking into it, we had two batteries. So through all the ones we've had fail this year, I think we figured it out, how many minutes does one battery last?"

ROBBIE REISER: "One hundred and 70 minutes."

MATT KENSETH: "One hundred and 70 minutes, so when the first one went out, we were right at halfway so I thought we were gonna be OK. The only thing that kind of hurt was we couldn't run our brake fans and bead blowers and radiator and air-conditioner. That was probably the worst part. We couldn't run that, but, other than that, it was gonna be OK so I just kind of switched it back and forth. The flat tire think, I used to do that to Robbie all the time (laughing). But I'm always kind of paranoid, especially when we're leading, and I must have had a big chunk of rubber on it or something. It was kind of shaking and it just didn't feel right before I came to the green, so when I got to turn one I was glad there was air in it."

ROBBIE REISER: "Let me tell you, over the years we've had flat tires and blown motors and all kinds of stuff going on in the last 20 laps when we were running well, so it doesn't surprise me."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP THROUGH THE YEARS?

ROBBIE REISER: "First of all, a lot of the fighting was blown out of proportion. Our fathers didn't get along (laughter). Matt and I just raced against each other. In Wisconsin you could run five nights a week if you wanted, and there was a couple of drivers that towed to all the different race tracks and Matt and myself were one of them. We just raced against each other all the time and I was a couple of years older, so I had a little more experience and I didn't like it that he was coming in and trying to beat me all the time, so we didn't get along. I guess through the years I've probably been the tougher side of our relationship, so that's kind of the way I was on the race track and Matt didn't appreciate it at times, so we went back and forth. But it was never to the point where we didn't talk to each other, we just didn't hang out. When I had the opportunity to keep the Busch team going and I needed a driver, in my mind there was only one guy to put in that car that could go out and win and that was him."

MATT KENSETH: "I really liked it when I started working with him, I tell you that. He's a lot of fun to work with and it's way better being on his side. He's settled down a little bit through the years. Well, I guess I can't say that, but if you're a NASCAR official, you can ask any NASCAR official that's been in his pit when things haven't gone right -- or maybe some other drivers. It's great having him on your side that's for sure."

HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO WIN THIS RACE WITH THE CHANGE COMING?

MATT KENSETH: "Yeah, they're all big races. There's not a Nextel Cup race that's not a big race to win. They're hard to win. We haven't won since February and, honestly, when I get into a month or two that we haven't won, I mean you kind of wonder if you're ever gonna win again or if that last one was your last win, so you have to enjoy every one because you just don't know what's gonna happen in the future. So it feels good to pull it off. If some people would have just got better and we couldn't get our car better and they beat us in the middle of the race, then that's the way it was gonna be, but if I would have got beat in that last 10 or 12 laps, I'd probably be semi-suicidal tonight because we've lost a lot of close ones. We had a good car and Jimmie snuck up and beat us at Texas and Phoenix and Atlanta (laughter). Anyway, you guys get the picture, but we've lost some close ones this year. There have been times when we won some close ones through the years, but we've lost a lot of close ones and when that happens on the track, me as a driver, I always feel bad because I feel I let those guys down. If we had a bad pit stop or something broke, you feel bad for losing but not as bad as when you're on the track and you get passed and beat for the win. You feel extra bad about that, so it definitely feels good to close it out with a win."

HOW DOES THIS CARRYOVER TO 2008?

MATT KENSETH: "I hope it carries over. I think that, especially the last five weeks, obviously there were a couple bad weeks in there, but I think our performance this year in the chase without our problems was good enough to win any other chase besides this one. Obviously Jimmie and Jeff set a new standard. It was just unbelievable how good their average finish was and the things they were able to do. I don't know how you can beat that. You've got to be pretty darn good to beat that, but, overall, I thought our performance was great throughout the chase. We had a period kind of during the year where maybe we were a little off, but we started off pretty strong. The thing I'm most fired up about is I see the direction of the company going in the right way and I feel like we're gaining momentum. This year we had a new head engineer come in and we had some new driver-crew chief combinations and all that stuff has kind of worked for a year and we've been adding people, so just the momentum of the whole company feels like we're gaining on it. Greg won a few weeks ago and Jamie won his race this year and Carl's won a couple times and David has been really strong, so I just feel as a group that we're really gaining on it, so that really makes me excited for next year."

WAS IT STRANGE DOING A BURNOUT AND HAVING ANOTHER CAR DOING A BURNOUT NEXT TO YOU?

MATT KENSETH: "I couldn't see him because I thought I was on fire, and I couldn't breathe. That's the only reason I got out. I honestly thought about that. After we took the checkered flag I was like, 'I should just go to Victory Lane because Jimmie won the championship.' It's about the race winner today, but it's really Ford Championship Weekend and it's about the champion and I didn't really want to go out there and share the stage or take away attention from him and then I started thinking, 'He's won 10 races this year and he's burned up 12 sets of tires in the last four weeks and he won the championship last year,' so I figured it wasn't a big deal for me to go out there and do a burnout and then take off. But I did hear him. Right when I was getting done I saw him over there, so I feel good for Jimmie and Chad. They've been the dominant force here lately, so it was a great win by those guys."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE AVERAGE FINISH FOR JEFF AND JIMMIE IN THE CHASE?

ROBBIE REISER: "I knew that one of these years somebody was gonna put it all together and have 10 perfect races and that's basically what the 48 did. Hopefully they don't keep that trend up and we can turn it around and do something like that."

DO YOU HATE SEEING THIS CAR GO?

ROBBIE REISER: "No doubt. For anybody that works on these cars and puts their heart and soul in going stock car racing, the current car allows us to work on it. We can put bodies on the way we want and the rules are a little more wide open than what we've been dealing with and it lets you be a part of the car basically. The COT car takes a lot of that away, so for guys like me that like to work on the cars, I'm sad to see it go."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Jack Roush