Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, has two victories, six top-fives and 10 top-10s in 15 career starts at Michigan International Speedway. He heads into Sunday's race in second place in the standings, and -- starting with a ...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, has two victories, six top-fives and 10 top-10s in 15 career starts at Michigan International Speedway. He heads into Sunday's race in second place in the standings, and -- starting with a victory at California -- has finished 14th or better in each of the season's last 13 races.
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT DALE EARNHARDT JR. ANNOUNCING THIS WEEK THAT HE WILL JOIN HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? IS THIS A CASE OF THE RICH GETTING RICHER? "I don't know about that. I think when Dale Jr. decided to leave he obviously was going to look for the best fit for him and the best chance to win races and championships. For the past five years, Hendrick has really been the most successful organization and been the most competitive, so I think for him wanting to be with a Chevy team and wanting the best chance to win races, that was probably it."
RACING HERE ON SUNDAY, THIS IS CLOSE TO WHERE YOU GREW UP (WISCONSIN), AND MICHIGAN ALWAYS MEANS RACING ON FATHER'S DAY. YOUR DAD HAS BEEN A BIG PART OF YOUR RACING CAREER. IS IT SPECIAL RACING AT MICHIGAN ON FATHER'S DAY? "Yeah, it makes it a little easier travel-wise, at least. The last four or five years my son and my dad have been able to come here and the three of us have been able to spend the weekend here. It's fun. It's still at a race track, but it's cool that all three of us get to be together on Father's Day."
YOUR THOUGHTS ON DALE JR. AND KYLE BUSCH CURRENTLY DRIVING FOR TEAMS FOR WHICH THEY WON'T BE DRIVING NEXT YEAR? "It happens every year, it's just you guys make a way bigger deal out of it because it's Dale Jr. I've never seen so much uproar about a driver going to a different team. It happens every year with several different drivers, but just because it's him it's a lot bigger deal."
MORE ON HIS REACTION. "Obviously, Dale Jr. is one of the most, or the most popular driver in the sport, so whatever he does people are obviously are going to pay more attention to. And going over to be teammates with Jeff Gordon is kind of a big deal, I'm sure, to the fans because if they're not rivals, the fans, at least, are probably rivals. So, I think that's probably a big deal for the fan base, a lot of people are paying attention to it, but for me it's not that big a deal. We see it happen every year. We see people come and go and go to different teams and do all of that stuff."
AS A TEAMMATE, HOW STRANGE IS IT TO HAVE A TEAMMATE THAT YOU KNOW IS LEAVING? DOES THAT CHANGE THE RELATIONSHIP YOU MIGHT HAVE? "Not really. We just went through it with Kurt [Busch] a couple of years ago. Kurt was a champion and the year after that he decided to leave and go to Penske, and ran the last 15 races or whatever it was. We all knew he was leaving and it didn't change. I mean, you become friends with somebody whether he's a teammate or not a teammate, you're still going to be friends with the guy. You're still going to work with him when he's on your team, whether he's staying the year after or not."
TO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR SUCCESS AT M-I-S? "Good race cars. I really enjoy the race track. We've had good race cars here in the past. It's a really fun track for the drivers. I think it's fun track for the fans, as well. There's three or four grooves on there, and you can get down in the corner, and depending on how your car is handling, you can choose different grooves, choose difference pieces of asphalt to try to make your car handle and look for grip, so it's a lot of fun as a driver."
HOW DID YOUR DAD INFLUENCE YOUR CAREER AND WHERE YOU ARE TODAY? "I started racing with my dad like most kids did, like most people who ended up here. We just were out doing it for fun. We didn't have a lot of money to go racing a lot of places. My dad's brothers, my cousin, Steve, and all them guys all raced out of the local tracks in Wisconsin, and we started going to the races and watching, and my dad bought a car and I started to learn to work on it, and it of went from there. When I was 16 I started driving a little bit, and just got very, very fortunate, meet a lot of people along the way and get a lot of opportunities."
TWO VICTORIES HERE. IT'S BEEN A GOOD TRACK FOR YOU. "Yeah, it's a great track. It's one of my favorites -- I think it is for most drivers. It's the only track that's real wide like this where we've got some options with some different grooves."
YOUR FIRST START HERE WAS IN A BUSCH CAR 10 YEARS AGO, IN 1997. WHAT DID THEY TELL YOU ABOUT THIS TRACK BEFORE YOU GOT HERE, AND WHEN YOU FINALLY RACED HERE DID YOU FIND THAT INFORMATION TO BE TRUE? "I don't think they really told me anything about the track. I guess, before the first time I raced a Cup car here, we came and tested and Mark [Martin] gave me a lot of advice about what to do, what not to do, what to run on the car for set-up, stuff like that. So, we just came and tested for a couple of days and then I made my first Cup start in a DeWalt car here in '99. It's just a big wide open track. There's a lot of room here. There's a lot of room to catch yourself if you make a mistake."
IT SEEMS LIKE ALL THE DRIVERS LIKE THIS TRACK. DID YOU LIKE THIS TRACK RIGHT AWAY? "Yeah. I think drivers like tracks where there's options, you're not stuck in one groove -- you know, if you're faster than someone, you've got a lot of room out there, a lot of grooves out there that are close to the same speed where you can do some passing."
-credit: ford racing