Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, will be looking to bounce back from a 31st-place finish last week at Martinsville that saw him drop to fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. Kenseth held his weekly Q&A session at Texas Motor Speedway just before Friday’s practice session.
IN YOUR MIND IS THE INCIDENT LAST WEEK WITH BRIAN VICKERS OVER? “Yeah, for me every week is a new week. I think when you spend time worrying about that and concentrating on problems or making problems for other people doesn’t really help anybody or turn out good for anybody. I’m kind of over it. I’m looking forward to this week. Every week is a new week. You race people the way you’re raced and, in a way, I think that starts over every week.
ARE YOU WORRIED THAT FOR HIM IT MAY NOT BE OVER AND HE COULD TAKE OTHER ACTION AGAINST YOU? “No, not really. If he wants to spend his time focused on that, instead of running good, I can’t really do anything about that. I’m not really spending any time worrying about that. I think he’s got probably bigger problems than just worrying about me or trying to supposedly get back at me for something that he thinks I did to him.
AT THIS POINT IN THE CHASE WOULD YOU RATHER BE THE CHASEE OR THE CHASER? “I’d rather be leading. I think anybody would rather be leading. It seems like it’s hard to make up very many points, but it’s easy to lose a lot. I wish I wasn’t so far behind. I wish I was a little smarter and could start over last week for sure and do that week over, but the bottom line is you can’t. We’re down but we’re not out and we’ll just go race hard and try to get a finish this week and go from there.
HOW IS THE PRESSURE DIFFERENT WHEN YOU’RE LEADING VERSUS CHASING? “For me, it’s not. I think for some people it might be and some people may change their approach a little bit, but I really never do. I haven’t had the luxury for a long time of having a big lead and being able to worry about just hanging on to that lead, so I think you go race hard every week trying to get good finishes and go from there.
DID YOU TALK TO BRIAN THIS WEEK OR WAS THERE EVER A NEED TO TALK TO HIM? “No, I didn’t talk to him.
SOME MIGHT ASK WHY JEOPARDIZE YOUR TITLE HOPES AND RESPOND IN THAT SITUATION. CAN YOU EXPLAIN THAT? “Certainly looking back on it that’s easy to say and you’re absolutely right. If I was going to do it over, I would make different decisions and, even though he ran into me nine times, I would probably just forgot about it and lost that spot. We were kind of slipping back and, if there wasn’t a caution, take a 14th or 15th-place finish and move on to the next week. That would have been a smarter decision to make at the time for sure.
DOES ANYTHING EVER SURPRISE YOU ABOUT MARK MARTIN ANYMORE? “No. I thought when he retired, whenever it was, I didn’t really think he probably would retire and ever walk away from it. I don’t know, I’m kind of putting words in his mouth, but I think when Matt decided not to race that was something that turned a little bit of a light on and he was like, ‘Whoa, what am I gonna do if Matt doesn’t race?’ So I would think that probably had a lot to do with him continuing to race because that’s all he’s ever done and he loves being at the race track and competing and doing all that, so I never thought he wanted to get away from the race track.
SO YOU CAN RETIRE EARLY NOW THAT ROSS IS RACING? “No, I’m a lot different than Mark, but, who knows, if he keeps it up, a lot of us might retire before him.
WHAT WAS JIMMIE’S REPUTATION AS A DRIVER BEFORE HIS CHAMPIONSHIP STREAK? “I think Jimmie has always had a good reputation for being a fair and clean and hard racer, so I think he’s always had a good reputation.
DO YOU THINK ANY DRIVER COULD HAVE WON FIVE IN A ROW DRIVING THAT CAR? “I don’t know how you speculate on something like that. This sport really is a team effort. It’s not about just the driver, just the crew chief or just the crew or the owner, it’s about a combination and I think if you look back through history you’ve seen that. You’ve seen Jeff Gordon’s success with Ray Evernham and he’s certainly had a lot of success since then, but I think it would be hard to say that it’s been the same. I think you see Chad and Jimmie and that whole team being together, and I don’t think the success would be the same if that was split up any which direction for either one of them, but you don’t know that unless you see a change.” HOW HARD HAD THE CHASE BEEN THROUGH UP TO LAST WEEK? “For me, up until two weeks ago at Talladega, we had a disappointing finish there too, it’s been one of our better Chases as far as being competitive and having cars that are capable of running up front every week. But it’s been different. Carl has been able to get the finishes every week and doesn’t have any bad runs, but in years past it seems like Jimmie and that team has been able to do just a little better than what everybody else does and that goes back to that year I think Jeff Gordon had a fifth or sixth-place average finish and he was able to figure out how to beat that. And then there have been other years he’s been behind a little bit and had to put a string together of some wins and has been able to figure that out and come out on top. It seems like it’s been a little different this year and I don’t know if that’s because they’re not as dominant or the system is a little different, but it’s been a little different.
WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN OUT OF CARL’S GROUP TO BE ABLE TO POST GOOD FINISHES ON BAD DAYS? “I think Carl has done a good job of being smart and not tearing the car up and having bad things happen. The equipment has been reliable and hasn’t broke and they’ve been pretty fortunate. They’ve had caution flags fall when they needed. They’ve gotten several lucky dogs and other things to get them back in the race, so things have just been going their way, which all of us, at times, have had that happen to us and it’s fun when that lasts. They probably realize they need to perform a little bit better, but yet they’ve been able to get the finishes and they’ve done a great job of executing the races and being there on the last lap when it counts and pays the points.”