Roush Racing - Ford interview, part 1 2009-02-16

Matt Kenseth celebrated his first Daytona 500 victory with car owner Jack Roush and the rest of his race team on Monday morning as his winning No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion was wheeled into the Daytona Experience, where it will sit on display for the...

Matt Kenseth celebrated his first Daytona 500 victory with car owner Jack Roush and the rest of his race team on Monday morning as his winning No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion was wheeled into the Daytona Experience, where it will sit on display for the next year. Kenseth, Roush and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer also held a Q&A session with media members to discuss their feelings of winning "The Great American Race" for the first time.

WHO DID YOU CALL FIRST AND WHAT DID YOU DO TO CELEBRATE?

MATT KENSETH: "Mostly in this day and age it seems like I got mostly text messages and e-mails, but I talked to my dad. He was the only one I got a hold of on the phone. It was so late by the time we got home. I wasn't smart enough to be prepared and bring clothes and do all that stuff, so we actually flew home last night and flew back real early this morning. I haven't really done anything to celebrate yet. I just hung out with these guys in Victory Lane and got to do some of this stuff today, and so far that's about it."

SO YOU FLEW HOME LAST NIGHT AND CAME BACK TODAY?

MATT KENSETH: "Crazy, huh. I guess we left this morning about five. I had to make sure I was on time because I got yelled at for a half-hour last night to make sure I wasn't late this morning (laughing)."

WITH YOUR HISTORY WITH NASCAR WERE YOU WORRIED THEY OULD FIND A WAY TO WRESTART THE RACE AND STEAL THIS FROM YOU?

JACK ROUSH: "I actually had hoped they would restart the race. I don't like for races to end under a yellow flag circumstance or under rain. We've been a benefactor of rain probably as much as we deserved over the years or not. I was pretty upset, and I'm not gonna talk about it, but I was pretty upset about one of the wrecks that occurred last night. I was in a state over that and looked around and we'd won the darn race (laughing). Matt passed before the rain came with Drew's contrivance on getting him off pit road good. He had taken the lead and if it did rain, they were in a position to capitalize on it. Having this thing called at 7:30 really surprised me. Because of the state I was in, I had not considered the fact that it was gonna take three hours to dry it and when you did the math, it was three hours to dry it. It was still raining last night at 10 o'clock, so they looked at how much rain was there. NASCAR made another good decision to end the thing and let the fans get home and let the festivities conclude before midnight. But it really surprised me. I was not thinking about winning the race at that early juncture in the evening. I was looking forward to having Matt race to win because I knew that he had a fast car and I knew that David Ragan had a fast car that was still in good shape and that they'd done a nice job of repairing Carl Edwards' car. He was still on the lead lap and had speed left in his car, so I knew we were gonna be a factor. I'd expected the issue to be resolved later and I was disappointed it rained."

WHOSE PIT BOX WERE YOU ON?

JACK ROUSH: "I move around, but I was on Greg Biffle's pit box for most of the evening. You kind of work your way into a situation. I don't know if you've noticed, but these pit boxes stay full and if I haven't made a prior arrangement, I probably don't have a seat."

DID YOU FLY THE PLANE?

MATT KENSETH: "No."

WHY DO YOU THINK YOUR FRUSTRATION CAME TO A HEAD THE OTHER DAY?

MATT KENSETH: "I probably woke up on the wrong side of the bed was the main reason. The other reason is probably I was staring at the inside of the motorhome walls for too long and we just kind of struggled in practice. We wrecked that car in the 150 and felt like I didn't make the right moves or wasn't in the right place at the right time at the end of the Shootout and didn't get the finish I was hoping to get, so I was probably just a little frustrated. Like I said, I wrecked that car in the 150 and didn't run very good there and didn't really get our car to drive very good until Saturday, so I felt a lot better after Saturday. We finally got it to drive more how I wanted it to drive and feel more the way I wanted it to feel and felt like our speed was pretty good, too. So I felt a little better after that. Winning cures a lot of things and makes you feel a lot better about things and you kind of get a spring back in your step. We did good last year. We were able to make the chase and therefore you have a shot at the championship, but still we fell short of our expectations. After we won a championship, I think we aim to win one every year and we aim to win races and we weren't able to do that last year. When you don't win for a while, you kind of wonder if you're ever gonna win again."

HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO GET THE CONTRACT SIGNED BEFORE THE START OF THIS YEAR?

MATT KENSETH: "It really wasn't that important to me. I don't ever really make, I don't think, a very big deal out of it. A lot of times you do where you see other people kind of talking about it, but with me and Jack and our relationship, we've never really had that big, long, drawn out drama where you're gonna sign or not sign, or you're gonna get an offer or not an offer. Whenever they've come up to me we've just figured it out and moved on. More than anything, it's nice to get it done early and let the team know what you're doing and the sponsors know for getting that stuff renewed and doing all that stuff ahead of time. It gives you some lead time when you kind of end that thing all at once and you've got to get everything re-signed with sponsors and teams and all that stuff it's a little tougher to do. I've been thankful that I've been here for as long as I have been. I'm in my 12th year with Jack and it's been a long run and I'm looking forward to a lot more."

JACK ROUSH: "Aren't you gonna tell them what I said to you when you told me you'd signed your contract?"

MATT KENSETH: "He said, 'You did? What contract?'"

JACK ROUSH: "What I told him, I said, 'With the standing that you've got and the friend that you've been and the potential that you've got in this business if you decide you don't want to race with me, I think I'll just quit.' I'd have to think very seriously about it, but Matt is the tail end of the Mark Martin era. Matt would not have been on my radar screen if it hadn't been for Mark when he was struggling with Robbie to find sponsorship for their Busch program. Mark came to me one day and he says, 'I've been talking to Matt Kenseth. He thinks straight and he's really a good guy and you need to think about trying to help him.' So we organized to help them with sponsorship and kept them going for a while. Robbie got a little close -- they talk about butterflies getting too close to the sun and getting their wings singed and we finally got Robbie's wings singed and got him in the company and then Matt was stuck."

ANY THOUGHTS ON IF THEY'LL EVER BE ABLE TO PRONOUNCE YOUR NAME RIGHT?

DREW BLICKENSDERFER: "I'm OK if they mispronounce it. Drew's fine with me."

WHAT'S THE COMMUNICATION LIKE WITH MATT AND HOW HAS IT DEVELOPED? "I think it's OK. I think in the Nationwide Series we got along well. We understood what each other was saying and it's carried over. It's strange. When I worked with him before he talks fairly fast on the radio and he's real calm and quiet and I didn't have a problem picking it up, and then after the last six months working with a different driver I find myself now thinking, 'What did he just say?' And I keep asking Chip. Chip's been with Matt forever so he's like, 'He said 240,' or 'He said 220.' I've got pick that up again. It's a little strange, but when Matt talks on the radio I'm fairly comfortable with what he's saying and the tone of his voice and the language."

HAVE YOU HAD OTHER DRIVERS CONGRATULATE YOU?

MATT KENSETH: "Yeah, it always feels good to be accepted by your peers or for them to come and congratulate you and do that kind of stuff. I didn't really see a lot of people in Victory Lane and doing all that, but I think everybody was trying to stay dry and get home, honestly, after the thing, but, yeah, I certainly had a lot of calls and e-mails and text messages and that always makes you makes you feel good. That's one thing, you always hope to be respected by your peers, or most of them. That's one thing you always want to do is try to be fair and have that respect."

HAVE YOU TALKED TO JOHN HENRY?

JACK ROUSH: "The partnership is solid and is secure and certainly I think it's amicable in every way. But John was with us last night. He was in Victory Circle. He's not much of a champagne sprayer, but we're gonna work on that. He got his first bottle of champagne and had a chance to exercise that, and did the hat dance right along with Matt and he got his winner's trophy. It was his first win and we celebrated that with him. He's been a great partner and certainly has given me confidence to think that we can continue to do all the things we need to do with regard to funding around the team and the strategic decisions we would make on things we would buy for performance, but the thing you want to do in this business if you're a team owner, or an engineer, or a crew chief, or a driver is the first question you ask is, 'What's the right thing to do?' And then you don't want to have to ask the question of how much it costs and as it turns out right now, I only have to put 50 cents on every dollar that we put into the team."

YOU JOKED THAT DREW WON THIS IN HIS FIRST RACE AND IT TOOK YOU 20 YEARS. WHAT'S IT BEEN LIKE TO GO THROUGH THAT FOR SO LONG?

JACK ROUSH: "That was in jest, in case you didn't pick up on that. I had great success here. The first 14 times that I came to Daytona road racing I always took a trophy home -- every time we came. So as we started coming with the Cup cars and it didn't happen right away -- 'Well, it will happen next time' -- but I'd actually kind of put it out of my mind. I decided that I was snakebit and it was one of the things that I'd already had more success than I deserved and I would be denied this one, but I was actually in the NASCAR trailer trying to get the best take on the weather when they called the race. It was a surprise to me that it got called then and then, of course, I rain into Brett Bodine and he reminded me how long it was gonna take to dry the race track and what the race now had been, and then as the cars started to come off the track every single car, regardless of manufacturer, regardless of team affiliation, that came off the track congratulated me on behalf of what Matt had done. It was a humbling experience because I felt like that had I been on the other end of that circumstance, I probably wouldn't have been as generous or as congenial or as congratulatory as my peers were."

WERE YOU IN THE HAULER WERE YOU TALKING ABOUT THE WRECK AS LL?

JACK ROUSH: "I have resolved not to talk about that wreck. It's gonna be debated -- long and wild and weird -- but I was fraught with emotion over it. I wasn't believing what I was seeing."

DID JOHN HENRY GET A REPLICA OF THE TROPHY?

JACK ROUSH: "He got THE trophy. I'll get the replica."

DID YOU TALK WITH JOHN HENRY LAST NIGHT?

MATT KENSETH: "Hopefully, I'll get one, too (laughing). I'll take third or fourth. Yeah, I did speak with him just a little bit. I saw him right before the race and saw him in Victory Lane for a little while and he was on our pit box the whole race. Katie and Drew both told me that he stood up the entire race. He was on our box and stood up the whole time and was really into it and was really kind of involved in the race and was enjoying it."

YOU WON JOHN HENRY'S FIRST RACE AT CALIFORNIA. WHAT DID THAT MEAN TO YOU?

MATT KENSETH: "That was pretty cool when we won the first race at California after the partnership. To me, the partnership was more of an ownership thing, a marketing thing -- that type of thing. From what I saw for the company it didn't change anything that I was involved in. I'm more into nuts and bolts and making the car go fast and crew members and stuff and it didn't change any of that. So I didn't see a big difference. The rest of the people did, but the performance side didn't see a difference, which was a good thing because Jack has always given us everything we've asked for and then some. And you have to be careful for what you ask for because if it's not the right thing and he gives it to you, he'll probably remind you of that so you've got to be careful of that (smiling). Like if I asked for a drop-snout car or something and it didn't run (both laugh). Which I never did, but if I would have, but he'd always give us whatever we need, so that never changed. He never asks how much it costs. He says, 'Will it help us make you go faster?' And we're like, 'Yeah.' And he's like, 'OK, buy it.' So I didn't see any change there, but to win a 500 is really cool. It's pretty cool that the 17 group and the team that Jack and Robbie and everybody assembled is able to win that first championship and the first Daytona 500. That's pretty cool."

HOW DID THE ANXIETY OF SITTING IN THE CAR WAITING COMPARE TO RACING TO THE CHECKERED FLAG?

MATT KENSETH: "It's a little different. I've never been in that position before. I've been in the position a couple times during the rain where I thought that maybe we had the best car and we needed to go back racing because we weren't gonna win. We were third or fourth and never went back racing, so I've been in that position before but I've never won a race exactly like that before. It was a different feeling. When the caution first came out and it started raining you were kind of anticipating, 'Is it gonna rain harder? When's it gonna rain harder?' And when it does I was just kind of sitting there waiting. I assumed they were gonna probably call it because I knew it was supposed to rain quite a while, but yet you didn't know. You knew it was gonna have to get pretty soaked and it was gonna have to look like it was gonna rain for a long time, so I was pretty excited when we took the lead and the caution came out because I knew we had a chance right there. Everybody knew the weather was coming. Everybody was racing hard, positioning themselves for that, so, really, when we made that pass and cleared Elliott and had Kevin right on my bumper, I was pretty excited because I knew that it had the potential of being the winning pass, and then when the caution came out, I was a little more excited because I knew that that might be it. But, really, after sitting there for 15 minutes or whatever it was and they finally called it, more than anything, it kind of felt like relief. I was like, 'Man, I'm glad that was the pass and that's it.'"

IS THERE A SENSE YOU WANT TO SEIZE THE MOMENT AND YOUR TEAM IS ON THE TOP OF THE HILL WITH HOW LAST SEASON ENDED?

JACK ROUSH: "The team is at the top of the hill, but I'll start and talk about the rest of it. Their California car is finished and it's probably on its way out there. Their Las Vegas car is finished and it's on the way out there. The car that might be in doubt in terms of being finished would be the Atlanta car, but they were anxious to be here this morning and they're just chomping at the bit to get home and get after their cars and try to make some more speed into them so they can win."

SOME SAY YOU CAN GET ALL FIVE CARS BACK IN THE CHASE AGAIN?

JACK ROUSH: "I'd sure like that, but I don't know if anybody remembers, but it wasn't the best thing for me when we put all five cars in the chase. There were one or two rules changes that followed that that I'm still agonizing over (laughing). But we would like, obviously, to put all five in the chase and we'd like to have the assembly of Fords that are outside our Roush Fenway group also in the chase. So like every other team and every other manufacturer and every other driver, we're out there doing the very best we can. NASCAR, realizing that it takes parity and they've got to move the success around, don't want any team to dominate too much, but hopefully we can put an end to Hendrick's streak of winning these championships. It's time for Matt to get another one and if Matt can't get it, it's time for Greg to get his first. And if Greg can't do it, it's time for Carl or David or Jamie, so that's our focus is to make sure we go one race at a time, that we make our best effort to make our best showing to build toward the crescendo that will happen late in the year."

WHY DID YOU GO HOME AND COME BACK TODAY?

MATT KENSETH: "We didn't have our motorhome down here, so we didn't have hardly anything. I wasn't prepared for it kind of on purpose. One year I was kind of thinking, 'You know, they take you to all these places and don't let you go home afterwards. You're gone all week, so I'll bring some clothes down here,' and I think that was the worst 500 I ever had, so I told Katie I said, 'If it happens and we win, I'll worry about it then,' so I had to worry about it last night. So we just went and got all of our stuff. We haven't been home since Wednesday when we came back down here, and they're not letting us go home until after California, so I needed to go home for a few hours."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BEING ON SHOWS LIKE LETTERMAN?

MATT KENSETH: "That will be cool. You guys know I'm not really big and all into that. I don't mind doing it and fulfilling my commitments. I enjoy it somewhat, but it's not my main focus. Racing is my main focus, but as a kid I always watched Letterman with my dad. We always used to watch it. My dad used to watch it a lot and I used to watch it a lot. Of any TV show I could ever be on, I've always wanted to be on Letterman and the first two times I've been on there I've actually been somewhat disappointed because we did the Top 10 list. They put you in this green room and when Dave walks through there they shut the door and make sure nobody walks out and they hold it shut, so I never even got to meet him or anything or really talk to him. You just do the Top 10 list, he walks by, shakes your hand and you leave, so this time I think I get to sit down and talk to him. I'm not really sure. Maybe I've got to do the Top 10 list again, but I might actually be able to talk to him, so, anyway, that's the only show I ever really, honestly, wanted to be on. I was like, 'Man, that would be really cool to be on David Letterman some day,' so I'm looking forward to that."

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Brett Bodine , Matt Kenseth , Greg Biffle , Carl Edwards , Jack Roush , David Ragan , Mark Martin