Roush Racing - Ford interview, part 2 2009-02-16

Continued from part 1 CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHALLENGE OF KEEPING YOUR TEAMS COMPETITIVE AND CAN YOU SPECULATE ON WHERE ROUSH FENWAY WOULD BE IF YOU HADN'T BEEN ABLE TO WORK THE MERGER WITH JOHN HENRY? JACK ROUSH: "As far as the environment...

Continued from part 1

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHALLENGE OF KEEPING YOUR TEAMS COMPETITIVE AND CAN YOU SPECULATE ON WHERE ROUSH FENWAY WOULD BE IF YOU HADN'T BEEN ABLE TO WORK THE MERGER WITH JOHN HENRY?

JACK ROUSH: "As far as the environment is concerned, I'm a proponent of getting as much fuel economy for my Roush Fenway cars. Of course, I'm not too anxious to share those secrets with the other guys, which I should be if I was, I guess, the man I might be from an environment point of view. Roush Industries is involved with a lot of things industry wide that are aimed toward improving the environment. We've got propane vehicles. There's a certain amount of propane that results from the production of natural gas and gasoline and diesel fuel, and we've got enough propane to meet 15 percent of our needs that's available to us without importing more fuel if we just turned it toward using it to power our cars with. So we're real anxious to do that. We're involved with battery projects. We help Ford with a number of their cars that are environmentally directed. We've got one nitrogen car program going on right now. I don't see alternate fuels of that nature coming into play for NASCAR, but certainly there is a concern over looking at the schedule so that we don't have to travel more than necessary, and obviously the no-testing program will save a lot of gallons of fuel as we don't move our trucks and don't move our cars around. As far as John Henry is concerned, he's been a great partner. He has not given me any task that I wouldn't have already accepted as it related to the operation of the business, and, to be honest, there has not been a circumstance where I've been faced with a challenge that I think I couldn't have met in the prior circumstance. So it's been fairly transparent and invisible to the team, and to me, but it's kind of like when you're on a school playground and you're a young teenage and you've got the seniors out there sometimes bouncing folks around. I enjoy having a big brother with me on the playing field here and if trouble does come, I think we can more easily face it ourselves than I could by myself."

NOW THAT YOU'RE A CHAMPION AND DAYTONA 500 WINNER. HOW DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO VIEW YOU?

MATT KENSETH: "That's kind of a tough question because people are gonna form their own opinions about you. Everybody is gonna do that, so, really, my goal has always been to try to do what's right and try to do what's fair. You're always gonna make mistakes and you're gonna have run-ins with people or not do the right thing once in a while, but, really, if your heart is in the right place and you try to do the right thing and you're a fair competitor, but yet competitive -- a fierce competitor but at the same time fair, which I think certainly can be done -- Mark Martin has done it for years and a lot of people have. Jeff Burton is a good example of that, so I think that's the main thing. As long as I go home every night and know I gave it 100 percent and I work as hard as I can on trying to win races and run the best I can, I mean that's what we've always done. Even when we won the championship we weren't laying back, not bringing our best stuff, not racing as hard as we can, that's just all we had and we ran good. We ran in the top four or five or six almost every week. That was all we had. I know that I give it my best and give it 100 percent every week and that's all I can really do. People are gonna form their own opinions about you."

JACK ROUSH: "Hopefully, Matt will get all the credit he deserves for driving the car. He's an incredible driver and as good in this business as I've ever seen or as I believe there's ever been, but he's horribly underrated as a comedian. You wouldn't believe how funny he is up close and personal."

MATT WON YOUR FIRST NASCAR CUP TITLE AND NOW FIRST DAYTONA 500. WHAT DOES HE MEAN TO YOU?

JACK ROUSH: "I've commented, I guess, twice on that subject. I believe he's as good at doing his job as anybody has been in this business, nor will be. He's the driver that I would have liked to have been if I would have had a different path as a youngster and had the dad that he had and had the genes that he's had and worked as hard as he had. Those are wonderful complements that I think will follow him through his career. I think if I pay attention to Matt and figure out either by watching or by listening what he needs, I think that he can do his business. I'm embarrassed that we didn't put him in the situation where he could win races last year. There's a lot of luck that happens on the race track. It was lucky that he missed with one car in front of him being wrecked out of the race and one car behind him being wrecked out of the race, there was incredible luck that he got through that and was able to win this race, and that it rained just when he got past Elliott Sadler and not before. So you've got to be lucky to have the results you'd like to have, but Matt works hard. He deserves it, and I didn't do what I needed to to have his program have the depth that it needed last year to be able to settle the deal in spite of the fact that it was just a year when we were fraught with bad fortune. If I can't make Matt happy with this hardware; if I can't make Matt happy with his team; if I can't make Matt happy with regard to the relationships with sponsors we negotiate, well then clearly I'm not doing my job and that will be the report card that will mean the most to me is if I'm able to keep Matt feeling that I would do the same for him as I'm sure he would do for me."

IS THIS WIN MORE EVIDENCE THAT YOU'VE PUT ROBBIE IN THE RIGHT POSITION IN THE ORGANIZATION?

JACK ROUSH: "You wouldn't believe how many times Robbie has approached me and said, 'Jack, I want my old job back.' This past year has been agony for him as he's taken on the different role and had the broader responsibilities, but we're a promote-from-within company. The time would have come shortly when Robbie would have felt that he wanted more responsibility. As he looked back from having received that responsibility at the simpler time when he only had to look at one car and worry about one pit crew and worry about one driver and one crew chief, which was himself -- when he looked back at that there was some romance there and like for any of us that grow up and get more complicated lives, we think about how nice it was when our lives were simpler, but he had a lot of withdrawal symptoms last year that really caused me to think that he might not make it, that he might not stay the course and be willing to take all this responsibility, but he's done a great job with it. I had a conversation with him. Of course, his dad was his hero and I'm sure he feels that his dad would want him to do what he's doing if he had the opportunity. He's in the slot now. He's hooked up to the wagon and he's gonna carry it for a long time and carry it real fast."

MATT KENSETH: "I think Robbie is a real big part of the organization. He's obviously a big part of the 17 team. He helped assemble that team originally and he kind of did it in a different way than maybe a lot of other crew chiefs did it. We were kind of new coming in there and he didn't find any people that were, for the lack of a better word, recycled I guess -- people from other teams that have had a bunch of experience and been around. He picked people that he thought could do the job and wanted to go race and wanted an opportunity at the highest level of stock car racing and gave a bunch of people opportunities that maybe weren't in the sport before or maybe wouldn't have got the opportunities in other ways. That was really smart because he put together a bunch of guys that were really hungry, really wanted to win and really wanted to work for him because he gave them that chance. Robbie, I don't know that there's a wrong job for Robbie or a job that Robbie can't do. He's a tremendous organizer and motivator and leader and leading the whole organization, I hate to say leading the organization because Jack is the organization leader, but on a daily basis at the shop leading the shop and all the teams and all that stuff, instead of one team, is an advantage to the whole organization and makes us all more competitive."

HAS THE WIN SUNK IN YET?

MATT KENSETH: "That's a great question. It probably sunk in about halfway. It's funny. I think it's been five years, at the end of this year it will be six years since we won the championship and sometimes I'm not so sure that really sunk in all the way -- really. You're always thinking about the next race, trying to win the next race, trying to think about winning the next championship. I mean, you're always out there trying to be the best. You're trying to figure out how to beat everybody and how to be the best you can be and how to try to win and beat all these guys and sometimes I try not to focus too much on past accomplishments or things you didn't accomplish you try to always learn and try to be better the next week, so I think, really, all the stuff will sink in the most the day you're done driving or maybe if you get a week in the offseason and you sit down and watch old tapes or something of some races or when you won the championship, or if I'm talking to my dad, or talking to Katie about it, or talking to Ross about an old race it sinks in more, but time just goes by quick and it's starting to sink in and with all the stuff we've got to do this week, I'll probably enjoy it more than any other single win."

WHAT CAN YOU SAY TO YOUR FANS WHO WATCH THIS SPORT TO GET AWAY FROM THEIR TROUBLES AND ENJOYED YOUR WIN?

MATT KENSETH: "I hope so. I've been very, very fortunate. All of us have been very fortunate. Without the fans, there wouldn't be a sport. Without fans watching us run around in circles, we wouldn't be able to run around in circles and race each other, so we're all really fortunate with that. The fans make it happen. The fans buy the sponsor's products, which in turn sponsors buy the tickets to build these big race tracks. I've been very fortunate to have a very loyal and strong fan base. Being from Wisconsin, if anybody has spent much time up there you can find a lot of Green Bay Packer stickers and a fair amount of 17 stickers and the fans up there are pretty passionate and they're pretty much behind their home teams and I'm lucky enough to feel like I'm part of a home team from Wisconsin. I greatly appreciate the fans support in good times and in bad."

WOULD IT BE GOOD TO PACK YOUR PLAID JACKET FOR LETTERMAN TONIGHT AND WHAT AS A GREAT THRILL MEETING COLE TRICKLE OR RACING AGAINST DICK WTRICKLE?

MATT KENSETH: "First of all, the plaid jacket, I wouldn't want to give him the satisfaction of wearing it. I brought it up last night and that was enough. Racing against Dick Trickle, for sure. It's cool when celebrities come to the races and stuff and you get to say hi to them and meet them. It was cool that Tom Cruise was there yesterday and that's pretty cool because everybody has seen him in movies and seeing Gene Hackman walk by was actually probably as cool or cooler for me, but Dick Trickle is a Wisconsin short track legend and he's obviously done some good stuff down here, too. Just as a driver and what he could do on the race track and how he worked on his cars and did that stuff, a lot of short track racers looked up to him. He was mostly gone in racing stuff down here by the time I started racing, but he'd come back occasionally and run some short track stuff and the stories just never go away. The Dick Trickle stories never die. You hear them up there all the time when you go up there short track racing still, so that's pretty cool."

HARVICK SAID YOU HELPED HIM IN '07 SO HE WOULDN'T MIND SEEING YOU WIN. DO YOU KEEP A SCORECARD OF WHO HAS HELPED YOU AND WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT HARVICK ON YOUR BUMPER?

MATT KENSETH: "He was only behind me for a straightaway before the caution came out. Yeah, you kind of keep a tally in your head, somewhat. You don't on purpose, but mostly it's dictated by -- you're not gonna go help somebody if it's gonna hurt your effort, so, really, a lot of it is dictated by that. Who has the faster car? Which lane is moving the fastest? Who has the most momentum? Those are really what dictate your decisions. You're not gonna see a guy passing the leader going way faster than the leader and you're like, 'Oh, I don't really like him. I'm gonna go behind this guy,' and he's slower. That's not really how you do it, but, certainly, if there are two pretty equal lanes and you have somebody that's really worked with you well before and helped you out before, and you have a choice and it's a pretty equal choice, and you think people are gonna go where you go, you'll probably be more inclined to help that person maybe before the next one, so that was really cool that he was behind me there that last lap and helped push me by Elliott. I remember giving him that big push a couple of years ago, so that was pretty cool that it worked out like that."

ARE YOU GUYS EVEN NOW?

MATT KENSETH: "I don't know if we keep score like, 'I'm one up on you,' or 'You're one up on me.' Although that would be a good kind of score to keep -- better than the other kind -- but I don't know. Kevin is a great racer. He's really good at this plate stuff and I've probably learned some stuff from him. I enjoy racing with him and it was cool that we ended up together last night."

HAD MATT BECOME THE FORGOTTEN GUY AT ROUSH FENWAY?

JACK ROUSH: "The thing that really happened is we put teams together with people that hopefully have great skill sets, but not everybody that presumes to be a crew chief or presumes to be an engineer or would like to be a car chief or mechanic -- not everybody has got the same template over their skill sets, so it's my job to figure out -- when I look at the excellent effort coming from a number of people, what's it take to make it complete? So when we looked at the 17 team last year, I didn't have the complementary skill sets that were necessary to put it back into championship form. And I created that hole by being responsible for the advancement of Robbie Reiser, so I was slow to figure out what we lacked and to figure out how to help Chip and how to help everybody on the team come together and do the best they could with getting their cars ready. I know Matt gave me an explanation yesterday that we had him in the third car. The first car was pretty nice. The second car didn't handle as well. These cars of tomorrow are all the same, the difference is what you bolt onto the car. The fact is the second car we qualified and ran it in the twin 150 and there was a huge change in the suspension that occurred between that and I think we didn't get is as right as it was when it left the shop. Car three comes down and it's right, the same as car one was and car two was when they left the shop. What that means is that in spite of the fact all the crew got to stand around this car and got their picture taken last night and celebrated this morning, the little elves back in the shop that put those three cars together -- one after another in the shop -- were exactly what they need to be were the guys that stood behind -- that Matt and I are being carried on the backs of those guys for building a great car for Matt. The responsibility of looking at the people and looking at where the strengths are and being able to have the right people with the right strength to be able to do that is mine and I didn't do it as well as I did last year. I'm gonna stop beating myself up over that, but I've got to remember that because the next time we create such a hole, then the responsibility is mine to make sure that we backfill it correctly."

WOULD JACK HAVE EVER MADE AN UNDERWEAR JOKE TO YOU 10 YEARS AGO?

MATT KENSETH: "Ten years ago Jack didn't really talk to me yet (laughing). I was pretty shy and pretty scared of him, so I didn't really volunteer a lot of conversation either. It was mostly yes sir, no sir."

JACK ROUSH: "There was the time when we were getting beat pretty bad on the straighaway and, of course, I was building the engines and he confronted me. His face was as red as a tomato and his jugular was out on the side of his index finger and he says, 'Jack, what are you gonna do about these engines?'"

MATT KENSETH: "That was eight years ago (laughter).

JACK ROUSH: "I would fired the engine builder, but he was me."

HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO MARK MARTIN?

MATT KENSETH: "I did not yet. Even though Mark turned 50. We had his 50th birthday party a couple months ago, he's like most other people these days. He's big into texting, too, so I had a text for him. One of my first ones was a congratulations note from him and I got one from Arlene, too, so they sent notes of congratulations right away and I still talk to Mark quite a bit. We probably actually talk as much now or more than when we were teammates. He's always lived down here, so when we were teammates it wasn't like we ran into each other at the shop in Concord, so I still see him a lot. We still park our motorhomes next to each other and he usually comes over and hangs out."

JACK ROUSH: "I heard from Mark by texting as well last night. He's still a great friend."

MATT KENSETH: "You can text, too?"

JACK ROUSH: "I can say yes or no or thanks. The one liners. All you have to do is just push the button. I can do that. (laughter)."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dick Trickle , Elliott Sadler , Tom Cruise , Mark Martin