NASCAR Nextel Teleconference July 6, 2004 Guests: Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth Part 3 of 3 Operator: Our next question comes from David Caldwell from the New York Times. Caldwell: I have 2 questions related to the points chase. Have there been...
NASCAR Nextel Teleconference
July 6, 2004
Guests: Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth
Part 3 of 3
Operator: Our next question comes from David Caldwell from the New York Times.
Caldwell: I have 2 questions related to the points chase. Have there been any specific instances this year where your strategy has changed since the points system has changed?
Caldwell: Have you started to think about those last 10 races and doing any preparations for the last 10 races?
Kenseth: We started thinking about the last 10 races the day the point system was announced honestly. We've sort of done some preparation. We're trying to design some new stuff on our chassis and some new stuff on our bodies, some testing and starting to get ready to know what we want to build for the last 10, but with the bad races we've had the last four or five races, we've got to be careful not to be out of the top 10. If you get too worried about the last 10 and don't worry about these, you're going to be out of that top 10. It's too competitive to be acting like that, so we need to stick to it and work hard to stay in the top 10. We haven't used any tests really yet. We've used one one-day test and then the Daytona test is mandatory of course, so we've tried to save our tests and we're going to try to test at a lot of those tracks the last 10 races to have ourselves ready for that. There's going to be a balance there and that's something we're going to have to figure out this year because you can't get everybody burned out testing when you've got to concentrate on racing the last 10, but there are a couple of tracks in there that I feel like we've always been sort of weak at the last few years, that we need to spend the time and test and try to be good at them. But, first and foremost, is to make sure that you're comfortably in that top 10 so you have a chance to run for that last 10-race championship.
Operator: Our next question comes from John Sturbin from Fort Worth Star Telegram.
Sturbin: Are you kind of shocked that only 10 guys right now are in position to go for the championship? You said earlier that 10 is quite a bit. I would figure there would be quite a few more.
Kenseth: No, not at all. I was pretty confident there wasn't going to be more than 10. I mean, last year I think that even though we had an exceptional year. I felt like last year, I think, but I'm not sure. I think we were seven hundred-and-some-odd points ahead of 10th at the 26-race mark. So I'm not at all surprised at that. We never planned on having more than 10. I didn't think there was hardly any chance that there would be more than 10 cars.
Operator: Our next question comes from Jay Hart from Morning Call.
Hart: The first question I want to ask is about the mile ½ tracks. Are they different? Do you mind racing so many mile ½ tracks. Is Chicago different from the other mile ½ tracks?
Kenseth: They're all a little bit different and a little bit unique. Charlotte is a lot different than Kansas. It's a lot different with the tri-ovals and Texas is a little bit different, so they're all a little bit different. Some of them are really, really great and lend to awesome racing. Some of them don't lend to quite as good a racing, but are still good race tracks. I like them all. They're all a little bit different of a challenge to run at. Charlotte and Atlanta are probably my favorite two mile-and-a-halves by far. Chicago, Texas, I really like Texas, but Chicago and Texas are probably a little bit more difficult to pass at just because they're really, really fast the way their designed and you can really get around their quick and it makes it tough to pass other cars. But they're all good and they all are just a little bit different.
Hart: A lot of talk has been about finding a second groove at Chicago. What is a groove; explain that to us for people that don't know?
Kenseth: Basically, when you get to a new race track and it has new asphalt, all of the asphalt on the whole track is brand new and asphalt has maximum grip when it's new. When you have new asphalt at a track, you're going to run around the groove that is the shortest, so you're going to run right by the white line because that's the shortest distance around the track. If all of the asphalt has the same grip, you're obviously going to run the shortest way around there to get around the track the quickest. What happens through the years and through the laps of racing is that you start wearing out the bottom of the race track where all the cars are running and what that does is it wears the asphalt out and leaves the stones in there. It has less area on the tire basically I guess is how I can explain it. It kind of looks like sandpaper. When it's new, it looks like a sheet of paper - it's smooth. When it gets wore out, it looks like a piece of sandpaper and has all these little pieces sticking up pushing on the tires, so you just try to move up and find some of that new asphalt that hasn't been run in yet. The new asphalt, making more grip on the outside, will compensate for the longer distance going around there. Therefore, you can kind of work in a second groove and run side-by-side.
Operator: Our next question comes from Herb Gould from Chicago Sun Times,
Gould: Jeff Gordon is obviously coming on, your thoughts on somebody who has accomplished what he has over his career and how you see him as a rival the rest of the way.
Kenseth: I don't know. I mean his accomplishments and his career kind of speaks for itself. If you open up the book and look at the stats, there's not a lot you can say about that. He's obviously one of the best and he's going to go down as one of the greatest in history. They have the potential of putting it together at any time and put a run together like what they're doing right now and that's dangerous for everybody when you have to race against somebody like that. He can get a run put together, especially with this new point system, at the end and he can just drive away from the whole thing and just dominate the series. So they have that potential to do that at any time and it doesn't surprise you when they put things together like that.
Gould: How would you describe the package that makes a team successful? How much is the driver, how much is the equipment, how much is the breaks of the game?
Kenseth: There are a lot of lucky breaks or however you want to put it that goes into this sport. Not running something over and getting a flat tire - just all kinds of different things; like we were in the wrong place at the wrong time at Daytona when a car broke right in front of us and got in an accident. So some things like that can happen that are out of your control, but most of it is all about the people. I think it's more about the team and the equipment that they build you more so than the drivers. I think everybody over here is a great driver and in the right equipment can go out and win races and contend for championships. So I really believe it's about the people and how hard they want to work, how good the communication is and how dedicated they are toward the team. I think it's real important. Like in our case, we've kept the same team basically together for four or five years and Robbie (Reiser, crew chief) has been leading them the whole way and a lot of those guys have been there and been really loyal toward our team and that's gone a long way towards our success.
Operator: Our next question comes from Steve Richards from Performance Racing.
Richards: I have a question about NASCAR's proposal about the green/white/checkered. What do you see as the positives or the negatives of the green/white/checkered finish?
Kenseth: The positive is you would see a green flag finish. That's the positive. The negatives are putting us in a two-lap shootout at the end of the race. Depending on the track, depending on the situation, depending on which car you're driving and where you are on the track can be a dangerous situation for all of us drivers. Some crazy stuff could happen when you group everybody up for two laps at the end of a 500-mile race and say, Have at it boys. So that's one of the drawbacks. Another drawback is that our races are 500 miles long. A lot of them are 500 miles long, 400, 500, 600 miles long, and when you do a fuel strategy and have everything timed out just to the end of the race and, all of a sudden, you can get a caution at the end and maybe run six or seven laps longer than what the distance is, you could have somebody who did their strategy perfect out there leading the race and running out of gas or not winning because of that. So I have mixed feelings on it. If somebody is driving away from the field and has a three-second lead with three laps to go and there's a caution, well, he had a three second lead and was going to win the race anyway. Let him win the race. Who cares if it's under caution? But, yet, on the other hand where there are some races where you're side-by-side and it looks like it's going to be a nail-biter down to the finish and there's a caution with three laps to go, well then that's very disappointing. I don't know. The only other drawbacks I can think of too is it seems like with all these new rules and lucky dog procedures and all this stuff we've got going on, every time we create one of them we seem to create more problems around it and more confusion around it and it's hard to work through that. It seems like they're trying to do a lot right now in a little bit of time and it's getting kind of confusing I think for the fans, for the drivers and for the teams to figure it all out.
Richards: Do you think you're getting pressure by the fans and or the media to make a change for change sake?
Kenseth: I don't really know. I don't know the answer to that question. They've always been good about not making knee-jerk decisions and I think when you do make a knee-jerk reaction you have the potential to create a lot of problems with out it. I don't know. I guess I'd like to see what the fans like to see, but I think 9 out of 10 times the guy who is in front - if there's a caution with two laps to go - is probably going to be the winner anyway. He worked all day to get it and if he's in that position, he deserves to win the race and I don't think deserves to have a two-lap dash and maybe get run into from behind or whatever and not win the race when they've been leading all day and were in position to win it. But, like I said, on the other hand, there are certain instances where it would be a really great race and it gets spoiled by the caution. So I can sort of see both sides of it and I have mixed emotions on it. I can see where sometimes it would be fun and maybe could benefit you and it could be a great race, but I can see where it could maybe be a disaster, too. So it's hard to tell. Every situation might be a little bit different.
Cronin: I was wondering about the safer barrier in Chicagoland. I know you guys like them for the safety aspect. What about the possibility that narrows what is already a narrow groove at Chicagoland.
Kenseth: That won't have any affect on that at all. We've run so far on the bottom of the track at Chicago that there is 50 feet that we haven't even thought about using yet, so that 30 inches isn't really going to make any difference. They've done a pretty good job. There are some tracks that maybe need to be tuned up a little bit, where the entrance and exit of the corner maybe blends in a little smoother so it doesn't take away some room. At Chicago, the entry won't be a problem but I don't know where it ends up on the exit. Anytime you can put them in, it makes it better and makes you feel a little bit better and a little bit safer out there. You're running awfully, awfully fast at Chicago. To me, it seems like the second-fastest track that we run at as far as how it feels and there are situations where you could hit that wall pretty hard. So it's a good place to have it.
Cronin: The comfort factor in your mind when you go to a track with it as to apposed to one without?
Kenseth: It's not a big difference, but when you get used to looking at it every week and then you go somewhere where it's not on the corner, you maybe think about it more than you used to. You used to just think about, well, all the walls are cement. That's just the way it is and that's the way it's always been. Where now when they're making the SAFER barrier and you go somewhere where they're not up yet you're like, Ooh, I wish they had SAFER barriers. Obviously, they're putting them at all the tracks. NASCAR has done a great job of going forward and getting all that stuff implemented and tested and getting it put up at all the tracks to make all the tracks safer. So it's definitely a good feeling anytime they make the environment safer. The cars, pit road, the track, whenever they make any safety improvements it always makes you feel a little bit better.
Cronin: Is there anything else you'd like to see safety wise on the top of your head that should be brought in now?
Kenseth: I can't think of anything off the top of my head. I think they've done a good job of trying to address issues as they've come up and I also think they've done a good job of trying to look ahead to issues that could possibly come up that maybe aren't there yet. So I think you're always looking at trying to make the inside of the car safer. We tried to make it a lot safer for your head and neck and all the injuries that were occurring. And then got to looking at fire and how hard it is to get out of the cars and now they're trying to get it to where it's safe inside but we can still get out when they're on fire and how to get the fires out. But I think they're trying to stay a step ahead of everything they can to keep them safe.