Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, met with media members outside his hauler prior to the first Cup practice session Friday at Michigan International Speedway.
THE TRACK JUST ANNOUNCED A REPAVE COMING HERE AFTER THE AUGUST RACE. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? “I don’t know. I think that some of the tracks, like Daytona that came apart, and Martinsville, from the driver’s seat you don’t want them repaved because you like it when it gets slick and the tires slow down and you have to manage the car and drive the car a lot more than a freshly paved race track. They know better than we do what condition the asphalt is in and how long it will stay down and that type of thing. I hate it when they repave tracks because I think you can pass really good on tracks that are wore out and it is more fun as a driver to manage old tires versus new tires and all that stuff. Obviously sometimes there is a need to repave them tough.”
TRACKS DO CHANGE WHEN THEY GET REPAVED THOUGH AND TEND TO BE ONE GROOVE FOR AWHILE AND THIS IS NOT A ONE GROOVE RACE TRACK. “Yeah, I don’t know if this place will really turn one groove because it is a little different. It is flatter on the bottom and the track is incredibly wide. A lot of the new pavement at tracks like Charlotte for instance, the groove was higher than before they repaved it with this particular car, depending on the tire they bring. The last race in Charlotte we were all stuck on the bottom. Depending on the tire, hopefully the track will still be wide and we will still be able to race good on it.”
FUEL MILEAGE IS ALWAYS TALKED ABOUT HERE AT MICHIGAN. ANY CONVERSTAIONS YOU HAVE HAD WITH YOUR TEAM ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO ONCE THE GREEN FLAG GOES OR IS IT CIRCUMSTANCIAL? “There isn’t a lot the driver can do if you get in a last run and are a couple laps short or something like that then you can try to slow down and save that. You have to have the fuel mileage to start with before you can do that. If you are getting less fuel mileage than everybody else when the race starts and everybody is running hard, when everybody slows down then you are still going to be getting worse mileage than they are if they are trying to slow down. There is not a lot you can do as a drive. I haven’t had a lot of discussion with Jimmy about that. We just try to put the fastest race car we can on the track on Sunday and hopefully circumstances come down to where we are racing for the win at the end on speed.”
THE NEW GAS CAN, WE ARE 14 RACES IN WITH IT, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT THAT THOSE GUYS GET ALL THE FUEL IN THE CAR? “It is really important. We have had that mistake a couple times. One time we were able to recover from it. At Charlotte we weren’t able to recover from it and took a car that was leading all day and put it in the back of the pack and finished mid-pack. It is really important and I think it is a lot harder for the gas man than it ever was. It flows slower and the pit stops are still the same speed as far as changing tires. It is more important than ever to get it plugged in cleanly and immediately so you aren’t leaking fuel. That position has become a lot more important than it used to be.”
KEVIN AND KYLE ARE OFF PROBATION NOW. WHEN GUYS ARE FUEDING AND YOU AREN’T INVOLVED, DO YOU LOOK AT IT AND ARE YOU AMUSED OR DO YOU HOPE YOU DON’T GET COLLECTED IN SOMETHING THEY ARE DOING? “When I am on a race track I don’t concern myself with any of that. I usually have more than my own share of problems that I have to figure out or take care of or work on to be competitive and win. That is what we worry about. After the race with that stuff, anybody that says it isn’t fun to watch is probably lying. It is always fun to watch conflicts and feuds and rivalries and different stuff going on that makes news. I hate being involved in it though.”
A YEAR AGO PEOPLE WERE ASKING WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE FORDS. NOW PEOPLE ARE SAYING YOU GUYS ARE FASTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE. IS IT ALL THE FR9 ENGINE? “It is the entire package. The engines certainly improved over the winter and the cars are greatly improved from last year. I think we still have some work to do but we have been very competitive this season showing up to the track and being pretty fast every week which makes it a lot more fun to come to the track.”
JACK IS TIED WITH THE WOOD BROTHERS FOR MOST WINS AT THIS TRACK. IS THERE EXTRA EMPHASIS FOR YOU GUYS WITH ROUSH INDUSTRIES AND FORD BEING LOCATED HERE? “There is no extra emphasis from my standpoint because we do the best we can every week no matter where we are at. You never show up and don’t want to win. This just happens to be one of the tracks where we perform better at than maybe some other track. It is one that I have always enjoyed since I first came here. I made my first Cup start with Roush here and have always enjoyed coming to Michigan. More times than not we have been fairly competitive here.”
YOU EVER SENSE ANYTHING DIFFERENT WITH JACK WHEN YOU COME TO THIS TRACK? “No, not really. I don’t but maybe somebody that sees him more during the weekend would, but I don’t.”
Everybody in the garage is always learning.
DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO GOING TO A ROAD COURSE NEXT WEEK? “Nope, not really. To say road course would be saying oval. All the ovals are way different and road courses are way different. Sears Point is kind of a difficult track with the two wide restarts and how narrow it is. It has gotten to be one of the more exciting races to watch, I think, when you go back to watch it with the two wide restarts and all the crazy stuff happening. There are a lot of people two and three wide at a track that is really single groove everywhere. A lot of stuff can happen there which is exciting but I wouldn’t say it is my favorite race of the year.”
IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE A ROAD COURSE CUP WIN ON YOUR RESUME? “I hope not because I don’t have one and the chances probably aren’t really great. You never know, anything can happen and we try as hard as we can every year. I haven’t done the best job, especially at that track. I feel like I do a little better job at Watkins Glen. Sears Point has been a little bit of a struggle for me.”
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE IN THIS TRACK BETWEEN THIS RACE AND THE AUGUST RACE? “I don’t think there is a big difference from this race to August. It depends what it is like Sunday. The weather could be just like this in August if it is like this on Sunday. Not a lot changes in that little bit of time. As long as they come back with the same tires and rules it won’t be that different. Everybody in the garage is always learning. If you have something that works good this time it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work next time.”
YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN KNOWN AS A CONSISTENT DRIVER. DO YOU THINK THIS YEAR FOLLOWS THAT FOR YOU WITH NO REAL HIGHS AND NO REAL LOWS? “Not really because we have two wins and you can’t get higher than that. We have had a couple DNF’s in the plate races, so we have been on both ends of the spectrum this year. We have been consistent and our performance has been better than it usually is but maybe less consistent than we normally have been. You want both. You want performance and consistency.”