Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, is only one point out of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points lead heading into this weekend's race. Kenseth, who has finished in the top 10 of all five races so far this season, spoke ...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, is only one point out of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points lead heading into this weekend's race. Kenseth, who has finished in the top 10 of all five races so far this season, spoke about returning to Martinsville before Friday's practice.
WHAT'S THE OUTLOOK GOING INTO THIS WEEK? "I don't really know. Every week is a little bit of a surprise. Last year, we weren't very good at Atlanta and Bristol, and we've really improved our program for those tracks this year, so this week and Phoenix, I think, will be a big test for us, especially Phoenix. I'm looking forward to getting on the track here this weekend and seeing what it's like. Todd Parrott loves this track and he's had some success here with all of the other drivers he's been with, so I'm hoping for better things."
WHAT ABOUT PHOENIX? WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO LEARN THERE? "I think as an organization that tracks like Phoenix and Richmond and probably even New Hampshire were probably our worst tracks last year. We really struggled at those places, but I think Jimmy Fennig being in research and development and trying to test some of these flatter, shorter tracks that we can get to where we don't race will hopefully help us a little bit. Again, that was one of our tough places, so that will be a good test for us to see how we stack up and how we've improved our program."
HOW DO YOU KEEP THINGS GOING GOOD WITH TODD PAST THIS FIRST MONTH TOGETHER AND HOW HAS TODD IMPACTED THINGS? "I agree with you. I was joking with Todd and telling him that we're still on our honeymoon period. Everybody asks how it's going and I'm like, 'Well, we're still kind of on the honeymoon, so we'll see how it goes.' It's been going really well. I've enjoyed working with him. He's got a lot of experience and the guys really look up to him as a leader, and he's got some great leadership qualities about him. I've enjoyed the first few weeks. We've been running pretty well and as an organization we've been running a lot better than the way we ended up last year, so I'm looking forward to it. It's been fun and, obviously, it's very early in the season. We've had a couple of off weeks with rest and all that stuff, so you really see what it's about here in a couple of months."
HOW HAS THIS CHANGE AFFECTED YOU? "There were a lot of things after Daytona that I really thought about and there are certainly things I need to do better. I realize every race of every year that there are things I can do better and improve at on the race track, but I tried to look at some of the off the track stuff, too. Maybe try to work a little harder on camaraderie with the team and keeping them upbeat, and interacting more with the team and trying to get to the shop more - take the guys out to dinner more often - and maybe try to keep the group a little bit more upbeat so it doesn't feel so much like a job sometimes. That's especially important when you're not performing well. When people are winning races and things are going good, it's easy for everybody to be happy and giving their best everyday, but when things aren't going as well sometimes you've got to put a little extra work into it. I've tried to be a little more conscious of that and trying to be a little more positive on the radio."
THIS IS THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE MOTOR SPEEDWAY. WHAT STANDS OUT TO YOU ABOUT THAT PLACE? "They've improved the track from what it was when they moved the banking around and got the groove to the middle. Those type of tracks aren't my favorite. If I had to pick my favorite type of tracks, I like the more high-banked tracks because I seem to do a little better and more comfortable at those places, but it's certainly been a real popular track. The one thing you think about whenever you go up there are all the sellouts they've had in a row and all the great fans up there in that area that show up to support the races and enjoy watching us."
YOU COME ACROSS AS A PATIENT PERSON, BUT HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO DEAL WITH THE FRUSTRATION OF THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS? "I haven't always done the best job at being patient. Certainly time never stops moving and as you get farther down the road and later in your career you can't ever get that back, so there's a certain amount of patience you need to get things turned around to be where you're at, but, on the other hand, I think maybe sometimes I've been too patient and been way too reluctant to make changes or try different things, or maybe dig in there deeper and be involved more even in the parts of the thing the driver shouldn't need to be involved. It hasn't been easy. It's easy when things are going right and you're being successful. That's when everybody can be in a good mood, but when things go bad it's hard not to push the panic button or to get too down or get the whole thing torn apart. You just have to keep working on it every week and you really try to put that week behind you as soon as you can and move onto the next week and start thinking about what you've got to do because we can't do anything about whatever happened in past weeks or seasons. You just try to learn from them and try to get stronger moving forward."
DO YOU TRY TO STAY EVEN KEELED? "I try to be pretty even keeled about it, no matter how good or bad it's going. It's tougher when things are going bad because you lose your patience and you feel like with the people that we have assembled and the equipment we have that we should be able to do better than what we've done the last couple years. I feel we should be able to do a lot better and I think they feel like that to, so it's hard to remain patient when things aren't going right, but you just have to keep working on it."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT MINDGAMES DRIVERS CAN PLAY WITH EACH OTHER? "I have no idea what's been said or what's going on. I haven't paid one bit of attention because I'm more worried about our own team and our own car. When you win races you get the most points and the most bonus points and I think you just focus on going out and trying to beat your competition. That's all I've every really tried to do is worry about our team and what we can control. I can't really control what the other teams and cars do, so I've never really gotten to into that before or paid that much attention to it. I think you just have to figure out how to beat those guys and figure out how to make your cars faster. You have to learn how to execute better on pit road, on adjustments, on the track, so I think that's really what we focus on."
ROUSH FENWAY DOESN'T HAVE A STERLING RECORD HERE. DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE BEHIND AS SOON AS YOU COME THROUGH THE GATES ON FRIDAY? "I usually feel like I'm behind at about 2:00 on Friday or whenever we get through with the first practice. The thing that's cool about this sport is we go to so many different sizes and shapes of tracks, and almost everybody has strong suits and weak suits. There are certain tracks that are more of a struggle and you've got to work harder to try and make it happen than you do at some other tracks, and this has certainly been one that has been a struggle and a source of frustration for me, but you just keep working on it. You come here and try to bring the best stuff you can, work as hard as you can, and hope for a good result."
-source: ford racing