Matt Kenseth Talladega II Friday media visit

Ford Racing press release

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, is currently in third place in the Chase, seven points teammate Carl Edwards for the lead. Kenseth, fresh off a win last week at Charlotte, may be the hottest driver in the sport currently and took time to talk with media members Friday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Matt Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Matt Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

HOW ARE YOU GUYS PICKING A DRAFTING PARTNER THIS WEEKEND? “We are just making the same plan as we had at Daytona. David (Ragan) and I worked together and it worked out really good. He won the race and we helped him get there. Obviously we can’t probably expect those kind of results again but it seemed like we were on the same page. When you pick a partner for this two car thing it is nice having worked together for a whole race. You almost have to be on the same page and have kind of the same ideas and somewhat the same style and thoughts as to what positions you want to get yourself in or not get yourself in. It seemed to work well there so we are going to start off trying to do that again and hope nothing happens to either one of our cars to have something separate us.”

AFTER THE TRAGEDY IN LAS VEGAS THIS WEEK, HOW DO YOU GET BACK IN THE CAR AT A PLACE LIKE TALLADEGA? “First of all you always hate to see anything like that happen and the first thing I think about is his family. I didn’t know him and don’t know a whole bunch about IRL except being a casual observer on TV. When you see pictures of his wife and kids on TV it is just heartbreaking, especially knowing that you have a family like that at home. As far as the danger getting in the car, I think comparing what happened there and what we do is kind of apples and oranges. It is still auto racing but there is certainly a whole lot of differences. Also there is that danger aspect that is always out there and that isn’t something you really think about. When you get in the car you just go race. If that was something that I did think about then I would find something else to do. That is not something you spend a lot of time thinking about when you are racing at the track. Certainly it is something you think about when you are building race cars. I think NASCAR is constantly trying to make the tracks, pit road, our cars and everything safer for the drivers, crews and fans all the time. You just keep working on those things and other than that you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it.”

NASCAR SEEMS TO BE TRYING TO MAKE SOME SLIGHT RULE CHANGES TO GET AWAY FROM THIS TWO-CAR PACK RACING AND PUT THE CARS INTO ONE BIG PACK. REGARDING SAFETY, WHAT KIND OF CONCERNS ARE THERE IF EVERYONE GETS PUT BACK INTO A BIG PACK AGAIN? “I think there are probably pros and cons to each of them. I think since restrictor plate races have started there have been the same arguments and pros and cons no matter how they do it. The bottom line is the two tracks we have are two big. You can’t run an open race or style of race like Michigan or something like that. The two car thing, I think there are still wrecks and when there are wrecks they are smaller ones. It is usually one guy spinning someone out. Is that safer than 20 cars wrecking? I don’t know. When you go to a big pack at least you have a little bit of control over your own destiny where you can go, where you can guide your car. In that two-car pack the pusher can’t see anything so he is trusting the guy in the front to drive him through the right spot. If you are the front guy being shoved into a wreck, pushing as hard as you can without the guy being able to see is probably not the safest situation either. We have to just see what they end up bringing for rules. I don’t foresee this race being much different than the last one. We will plan the same strategies, do the same things this week and see what they come up with for Daytona.”

DID YOU SPEND SOME TIME IN THE BACK OF THE PACK AT THESE TWO-CAR TANDEM RACES OR HAVE YOU STAYED IN THE FRONT WITH DAVE? “I have to be real honest with you, the only one I can really recall are the two Daytona races. I don’t really remember what happened here last time. David and I at Daytona, there was one time we fell back a little bit where it was getting kinda crazy in the front and we were getting caught in the pack. We had a good pit stop and got ahead of a bunch of them and stayed up pretty far toward the front most the night.”

IS THAT SOMETHING YOU ARE COMFORTABLE WITH, FALLING TO THE BACK? IF SO, THERE ARE SOME RACE FANS THAT SAY THAT ISN’T REAL RACING, HOW WOULD YOU EXPLAIN IT TO THEM? “I think that you could question this type of racing. Two cars, you can’t do anything by yourself. It is a team thing and that is different too. I don’t know. We didn’t really do that last time. What happened last time at Daytona was that everybody had that idea and they were all fighting so hard to get to the back that we just went to the front and there were only like four or five groups that wanted to be in the front. Really you look at it and you don’t want to get in a wreck. It is 500 miles and the way the last race went, you could get to the front in 20 miles so you don’t want to wreck that first 480 miles, so you are kind of waiting and wherever it is the busiest you try not to really be. If I had my choice I would try to run in the front the whole time.”

IS THERE MORE GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND AT A PLACE LIKE THIS AS YOU ARE ANALYZING AND THINKING ABOUT THINGS? CAN YOU GIVE US A SENSE OF WHAT YOU ARE THINKING AND YOUR PROCESS IN THE CAR AS OPPOSED TO LIKE LAST WEEK AT CHARLOTTE? “It is a lot different. When you had the big pack here you spent a lot more time thinking. There was really no physical aspect at all. You weren’t going to spin your car out. You were more spending time thinking about what was going on in front of you and around you to see which line is moving or if you see something that might be a wreck. You were more like that in big pack racing. This two-car racing brought back some of the physical aspects. It is actually kind of easy to spin somebody out or get spun out. If you start spinning out a lot of times the back guy doesn’t know and keeps pushing you. It has brought more of that back into it, where you are trying to look at the race track and make sure you don’t get in a bad spot where the guy behind you will get you turned around or whatever. You spend a lot of time thinking about that and not getting separated from your pusher or if you are pushing you work hard on trying to stay locked up.”

HERE IS DOESN’T MATTER TO SOME DEGREE WHAT YOU DO TO THE CAR, AS FAR AS CHANGES, IS THAT RIGHT? “Yeah, you spend less time thinking about what you are going to change on pit stops and things like that. Charlotte you are thinking about the next corner and you have a few seconds to do that. You are thinking about your approach and that. This is different, it is thinking about strategy and having a car in the right place and not getting in a wreck and that type of thing.”

HOW MUCH ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT THE STANDINGS AND WHAT DO YOU DO TO KEEP THAT FROM BEING A DISTRACTION? “I haven’t really thought about it, very little. You can’t help but think about it a little when you are asked about it. You realize you are in the Chase and running good but I honestly don’t spend much time thinking about it at all. I am glad we are in the mix but we are only half way and there is a ton of racing to do and it really doesn’t matter until we get to Homestead where we are. It is still the same approach, one week at a time, finish the best you can every week and the points kind of take care of themselves.”

YOU ARE THE GUY WHO GETS CREDIT FOR FORCING THIS PLAYOFF. ARE YOU PROUD OF THE WAY IT HAS TURNED OUT? “I will take credit for anything anyone wants to give it to me for. As long as it is good of course.”

WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF MARTINSVILLE FOR YOU AS A DRIVER? “Probably over the years, besides the challenge of getting around Martinsville at a competitive page, probably the most challenging part for me is being calm and using my head and thinking through things and not doing something because you are mad. More so than any other track, I am not sure why. For me a lot of times I get credit from you guys about not doing something stupid that is probably a place I have done more stupid stuff than any other track. I don’t like getting run into and I don’t like running into other people. It is bound to happen there and it is such a small little track. There is no room to move and there is not an outside groove where you have another choice to pass. It is one of the tracks that takes all the patience that I have usually. Especially when your car isn’t running good because I hate getting passed and you feel like you are getting passed all day and you are in the way and that is frustrating. The first thing is getting the car to go fast all the time and be smooth and drive it like I am supposed to there and after that is being patient and using your head to get the best finish you can.”

WHAT MAKES THAT TRACK UNIQUE? “Several things. How tight the corners are. The curves in the bottom and how narrow it is. There are a lot of things that make it unique. It isn’t close to any of the other ones. It is like racing around two light poles in the parking lot somewhere. It is two little drag strips and two extremely slow corners with one groove. It is a very unique track thankfully.”

THEY CALL IT THE PAPERCLIP. IS THERE A NICKNAME OF A TRACK THAT YOU LIKE OF THE FEW THAT ARE OUT THERE? “Not one that I can say right now. First one that popped in my mind I am not going to tell you. All the promoters now are trying to make fancy nicknames I guess. I have certain thoughts about certain tracks. I guess the Monster Mile is kinda cool because they have that big monster trophy. That is pretty cool.”

KEVIN HARVICK IN THE PAST WHEN HE IS RUNNING WELL CAN BE OUTSPOKEN OR CAN BE KIND OF IN THE MIDDLE OF THINGS AND CONFRONTATIONAL. SO FAR THIS CHASE HE HAS BEEN QUIETER AND NOT TRYING TO STIR THINGS UP. DO YOU NOTICE THAT DIFFERENT, DOES IT SURPRISE YOU AND DO YOU MISS THE OLD KEVIN? “I haven’t really thought about it until you brought it up. I think everybody has their own, besides having their own personalities, their own ideas and strategy for getting things done. I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it but maybe nobody has made him mad lately. I don’t know. Maybe that is why he says stuff or does stuff, because somebody didn’t do right by him on the race track. Maybe things are going smooth for him.”

IN WHAT WAYS HAS YOUR CHASE EXPERIENCE HELPED YOU? “I don’t know that is has. You always like to think experience helps, which I think it does to a certain degree. Every year is a little different and unique. Honestly we haven’t really, even though we have made a bunch of these things, there is only one year where we were a serious contender where I feel like we are today as far as performance and having good finishes. Most the other ones, even though we made it, just off car performance we weren’t going to beat the other 11 guys and win a championship unless they had problems and things went great for us, like fuel mileage or who know what. This is a little unique because I feel like over the first five weeks we have been as competitive as anyone else, or a little more.”

WE EXPECT YOU TO BE RIGHT THERE AT TEXAS AND HOMESTEAD BECAUSE YOUR TEAM IS ALWAYS GOOD THERE. HOW ABOUT THE NEXT COUPLE WEEKS. WHERE ARE YOU AT WITH THAT AND STAYING CONSISTENT? “I think the bottom line is you have to perform every week no matter what size the track is and I think you need to run top-five every week to have a shot at the championship with this system and field of cars. After our first mediocre finish to kick the Chase off I really take it one week at a time and don’t look ahead beyond Talladega right now and trying to run up front here.”

DO YOU FEEL MORE PRESSURE ONE WEEK THAN ANY OTHER? “Not really. I guess when we left New Hampshire and finished sixth that was more of a relief than running fourth at Kansas because we expect to run better at a place like Kansas whereas New Hampshire I think our average finish was in the high teens. When you go somewhere that it feels like maybe is a weak track and you overachieve a little or get a lot better finish than the past you feel relief and better than you do at one of your better tracks. I think you need to run there ever week and we are only half through this thing. Every week you need to get those finishes.”

IF YOU MAKE IT THROUGH TALLADEGA AND MARTINSVILLE WITH GOOD FINISHES WOULD YOU START LOOKING AT WHERE YOU ARE IN THE STANDINGS? “I didn’t say I wouldn’t look at it. I said I wouldn’t think about it very much. I think that if you are the point leader by a good margin you would look at it at Homestead and figure out what you need to do and what is your worst case scenario. Jimmie (Johnson) has been pretty fortunate every year but last year to be able to look at it and do that and say, ‘Okay, we need to run 10th and it doesn’t matter what anybody else does.’ In a situation like that I think you would think about it. Other than that you don’t. You run as hard as you can every week and there are 42 other guys out there. If you can beat those guys or most of them then you will be in it at the end. You take it one week at a time and try to beat those other 42 teams.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags fenway, ford, kenseth, roush