Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus, held a Q&A session in the Michigan International Speedway infield media center prior to Friday morning's practice to discuss the late-race events of last weekend at Pocono. MATT ...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus, held a Q&A session in the Michigan International Speedway infield media center prior to Friday morning's practice to discuss the late-race events of last weekend at Pocono.
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus
Part 1 of 2
"First of all, I want to apologize to you guys for leaving last week. I always like to talk to you guys because you guys are always good to me, but my mom always told me if I didn't have anything good to say to not say anything at all, and I didn't have anything good to say."
WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK IN THE FINAL FEW LAPS?
"I've always tried to live by the rule of race people how you want to be raced, but after awhile, if you keep doing that and don't get that favor returned, sometimes you quit doing that and start racing the people how they race you. Kevin and I have had a couple of incidents. They haven't been that big of a deal, but we've had a few. At Dover in the Busch race I wasn't quite clear. I slipped in front of him and he stayed in the gas just enough to wreck me and knew what he was doing. When we came off the tunnel turn, I still had two or three feet on him at least and he just came up like I wasn't there. So, instead of wrecking him at 175 miles an hour, which I didn't think was the right thing, I did get into his back bumper a little bit and I turned him sideways a little bit down the backstretch. Then before he lost control and wrecked, I let him go and wound up passing him. After that happened, the caution came out and I started slowing up for the caution and he caught me pretty fast and spun me out and I lost all of those spots. So I went back and did the same thing and that's where I went wrong. Before that, I didn't do anything wrong. He wasn't clear when he came up on me and with 95 percent of the field I would have lifted out of the gas and gave him that two or three feet, but he never gives me that two or three feet and that was still my lane. I wasn't done with that lane. He wasn't clear to move up and he moved up and ran into my left-front and got him picked off the ground doing that. I didn't think that was wrong. I think, if anything, I did him a favor by letting off the gas and not wrecking him - which I don't think he would have done to me. He would have wrecked me. It's just disappointing that all that happened afterwards. I probably shouldn't have went back after him, but I felt like at the time that if I didn't go back after him I was still gonna lose my spots. I was gonna lose my spots for sure. We were told that because if you don't maintain the caution car speed, you lose the spots that you lose by sitting there spinning out. I thought if I was gonna lose those spots, then he was gonna lose his, too."
HE SAYS YOU CHECKED UP ON HIM AND THAT'S WHAT TOOK HIM OUT. DID THAT HAPPEN?
"No. That's what his claim is under caution. You look at all the tapes. I mean, yeah, he's catching me and I'm slowing down and he's speeding out, but the caution came out. In the beginning, I think the caution came out approximately when we were in turn three maybe. I don't know exactly where all that happened, but I started slowing down and he came after me because he was mad we got together down the backstretch and I didn't get all the way out of the gas for him. When he caught me, I was slowing down, yes. I did not brake check him and spin myself out at 100 miles an hour under caution. I think I can do a little better job than to spin myself out under caution. But I was on the brakes and I was slowing down, but he definitely got in the back of me at the same time I was doing that to get me spun out."
HOW HARD IS IT TO DETERMINE IF SOMEONE MADE A MISTAKE ON THE TRACK VERSUS IT BEING ON PURPOSE?
"You always take it as a mistake when you can talk to somebody reasonably. I could go up to somebody and say I was wrong or maybe you say you were wrong or talk about it and work it out. That's never been the case with him. There have been times, maybe before, when we've been able to work it out but not the last few times. There are times when you know it's a mistake and there are times when you know it's not. When you get spun out under caution, it's certainly not a mistake. Moving up on me in the three feet on the backstretch, he knew I was there. But he usually knows you're there and comes up there anyway and takes it for granted that everybody is gonna lift.
"If I move up on him and need that two feet he's not gonna give it to me, then I'm not gonna give him his two feet anymore either. That's just the way it is. You have to race everybody a certain way. Most everybody out there would give you that two or three feet, but there are always those one or two guys that aren't gonna give you that two feet. I'm tired of giving it all the time. If they're not gonna give it, then that's still my lane too. A lot of guys, you would just lift in the middle of the tunnel and let them go up to the wall and let them get on their way and make time. But it was toward the end of the race where we were racing hard and I got shuffled out on that restart and that was still my lane. I still had two or three feet and that's basically how it all started."
WHAT ABOUT THE SKID MARKS AND MEASURING THOSE?
"I heard a little bit about it and it's kind of stupid. There were so many skid marks out there and so much stuff going on that I don't know how you can find anything out from that. Obviously, I was slowing down because the caution was out and he was in the gas because he was trying to catch me, so I was on the brakes a little bit. I did not brake check him. I did not have all four brakes locked up. I was slowing down and he was speeding up to come and run into me under caution, which we're done racing when the caution comes out and he spun me out under caution. I don't know. I've done a lot of dumb things in my racing career, but spinning out under caution I don't think is one of them that I can remember doing."
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN ON PROBATION? No, I haven't. IS IT A BUMMER?
"It's very disappointing. I thought that we both could have been more grown up and settled this thing a long time ago and I've certainly tried. But it hasn't worked out. What I did after the caution came out and when I went back after Kevin, I'm very embarrassed about and I think I totally did the wrong thing. It was not a professional way to act for my sponsor, for my team, for any of those guys. That was definitely not the right thing to do and that was not professional, but up to that point, I don't feel like I did anything wrong. I feel like I didn't do anything wrong. I felt like I could have wrecked him if I wanted to - the way I got wrecked at Dover when he was on the right side of me. The way Jeff Burton got wrecked at Bristol when he was on the outside of him and only had two inches. There are a lot of times he doesn't lift when anybody pulls up in his lane and I did end up lifting. I had his wheels up in the air halfway down the backstretch and I could have turned him into the fence. Obviously, I'm not gonna take a chance on hurting someone or wrecking at 170 miles an hour. I'm just gonna let him go and I went back and passed him. The reason we got together is because he took my lane. It's not for any other reason."
DO YOU CHANGE THE WAY YOU RACE WITH KEVIN?
"Not really. Hopefully, we can just get running a little bit better so we can outrun him and not have to race him as much. I don't foresee any continuing problems, but you never know. I'm gonna race the style I've always raced. I don't worry about one car out there. I'm gonna race as hard as I can to try to win and try to run up front the best I can. I'm not gonna focus on one car. If he races me clean, I'm gonna race him clean. I said that in the trailer and didn't really get a response from him. I'm happy to call a truce and give everybody plenty of room to race. I have no problem with that, but I expect the same thing in return. If he doesn't want to give me any room, then I'm not gonna give him any room. I'm just gonna race him the way he wants to race me, so it's really up to him. However much room I get, that's how much he's gonna get."
WHAT'S HAPPENED THE LAST FEW TIMES WITH HIM?
"I don't know. I guess I don't want to drag that all up, but we've just had a couple little minor run-ins here or there where we really haven't seen eye-to-eye or there was a lot of maybe me trying to go settle something. There maybe a lot of talk that maybe wasn't really gonna get anything settled. There was a lot of name calling and silly stuff like that and just couldn't get it really settled. That's beside the point. That was all in the past. Like I said, last week what I did under caution after I got spun out was totally wrong, but up to that point I didn't feel like I really did anything wrong."
WHEN DID THIS START WITH YOU TWO?
"I don't know. I can't say there's been something going on forever. I mean, everybody has things they get into each other here or there or whatever and all get it settled. Maybe our relationship changed a little bit last year towards the end of the year when we were both racing for points a little bit and there were little things going on here or there. Maybe you couldn't tell, but it's not like we had this big ongoing feud going. I watch the races every week, too, and I see how much room he gives or doesn't give to other people. I'm not gonna race him dirty. I'm not gonna run into him on purpose, but yet on the other hand, if I still have a lane and he's gonna pull up into my lane, that's my lane. That's not his. He's gonna have to earn his whole keep and he's gonna have to clear me by 100 percent of the car. If he's not gonna give me an inch, I'm not gonna give him an inch. I'm not gonna do anything dirty or do anything to harm anybody. If somebody is gonna race you so hard for every single inch, then I'm gonna race him that hard, too. There's nothing wrong with that if it doesn't turn into being dirty. If you slide up into my lane, it's still my lane."
YOU SAID YOU DIDN'T GET A RESPONSE TO YOUR TRUCE, SO IS IT SETTLED?
"I don't foresee any problems. I'd like to think - even though I maybe haven't been the last few weeks - but I'd like to think I'm a little smarter than to let a feud affect what our big goal is. The only people it really hurt last week was ourselves. It hurt both of us and I'm smart enough to realize that and I hope he's smart enough to realize that and we can go on and try to be smart and race for our goal. We're both trying to race for a championship. We're both trying to stay in the top 10 in points. We're both trying to win races and all this did last week was hurt both of our chances for those two goals. It's silly. We're both professionals and we both should be smarter than that. We should be able to just go on and go racing and not worry about it anymore."