MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 USG Ford Fusion (finished 2nd) I'm happy and I'm disappointed. Whenever you're leading with three to go, you're always disappointed when you don't win. That's been a couple of races here in a row that's happened to us,...
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 USG Ford Fusion (finished 2nd)
I'm happy and I'm disappointed. Whenever you're leading with three to go, you're always disappointed when you don't win. That's been a couple of races here in a row that's happened to us, got passed on the last lap. So, I was disappointed in that, but overall, if I look back at the day, it was a great day for us. I don't think we necessarily had a second-place car most of the day. It was good Friday when we unloaded, and tonight when it got dark it was pretty good again. But during the day we weren't really any good at all. So that was probably a little bit of an advantage at the end. We probably had top-three or -four car, and took two tires at the end and this week they got four and beat us with it, last week they got two and beat us with it. So, it's hard to figure out, but they made the right call and had the best car at the end and got through there."
WHAT EFFECT DOES THE TRACK SURFACE AGING HAVE ON THE RACING, AND HOW YOU AND THE 48 COULD RACE SIDE BY SIDE DESPITE THE 48 HAVING FOUR NEW TIRES AND YOU HAVING TWO NEW TIRES? AND WHY DID THE TWO-TIRE STOP LAST SO LONG?
"Two reasons it lasted that long. The first reason is I got a huge head start. The second reason was he was being pretty careful. Those are probably the two reasons. As the tracks age, it's definitely gotten wider. It used to be a really bad one-groove, hard to pass -- you're running so fast here and with the flat transitions in and out of the corner, you just get real aero-tight behind people. So, as a track ages, and they done a great job smoothing out some of the bumps, and making that a little bit better. The outside groove has been able to come in and you've been able to run side by side. With these cars I had to run the top, I was loose anyway, and if Jimmie got outside of me I was going to be looser, so I just tried to stay close to him and upset his aerodynamics as much as I could to try to hold him off. That's really the only reason I held him off as long as I did. If I probably gave him some breathing room, he probably would've gone right by. I just stayed in there as long as I could."
THERE'S A LOT OF TALK ABOUT POINTS RACING. THAT WASN'T THE CASE TODAY.
"Not to be smart, but that's what we do every week. The thing with me and Denny probably shouldn't have happened, and if it was -- the 48 and me probably wouldn't have raced that hard with 80 to go you're going to that race hard for the lead when there's 20 to go because you've got to do everything you can do to hold them off, and to try and get that win when it's in front of you. It's every week. It doesn't matter really where you are in the points. I think the only that would change is if he was at Homestead and had a 50-point lead, or something like that, I'm sure he would've backed out of it and pulled back behind me. But we've raced together for a long time and I think he was probably pretty confident that I wasn't going to wreck him, and we raced each other really hard. I didn't give him much extra room at all. I thought of the points thing, I thought maybe he would back out of there, that one time he back out with five to go or something like that, but he was just a lot faster."
DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE POINTS?
"It did enter my mind, but it entered it kind of backwards. I wasn't like, 'Man, that's the points leader, I'm going to give him a bunch of room and whatever.' I'm like, 'Man, I'm going to race the heck out of him and crowd him and hope he backs back out of there and thinks better of it and says, man, is he aggressive going for that win, I better back out of there so I don't get myself in a bad spot.' So, yeah, I thought about it there, actually kind of in a way to tale advantage of him, I guess, or of the situation. But he had a lot faster car, and like I said, we've raced each other a lot.
"He knew I wasn't going to give him a lot of extra room with five to go, but he knew I wasn't going to wreck him, either. So,I think we raced as hard as we could race for that position. It wasn't that different in the spring. It was only how many races in. Me and Jeff Burton, and Jeff and I are great friends and we raced as hard as we could race for 10 or 15 laps and he finally passed me on the last lap, too. We couldn't have raced any harder for the lead with out wrecking."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE SAME THING HAPPENING TO YOU IN BOTH RACES AT THIS TRACK THIS YEAR?
"There's a couple of things. It is disappointing. When you're leading with two or three to go and you get passed, it is disappointing. We've had three top-fives in a row now, and I'm happy about that. We seem to be getting back to where I want again, and I'm also firm believer that if you get get yourself in position to win enough, you're going to win races. It's easy to say after you've just lost one, but you hate losing any of them, but there's also times I think you go through that, you get yourself in position to win and maybe the other guy has a little trouble or whatever happens and hopefully you'll win a couple that maybe you shouldn't have, and it all kind of balances out."
DID YOU HAVE ANY MECHANICAL PROBLEMS OVER THE LAST THREE LAPS?
"He ran me down from a long ways back, I don't know how much faster he was, but I was steadily losing grip which is normally -- I drove it real hard on to the track to get as big of a lead as I could, and I was a little too loose putting two tires on and kept losing more and more grip as I was running, and on four tires he just had more grip."
AT THE END, WHEN YOU WERE GETTING SIDEWAYS, HOW HARD WAS IT TO HOLD ON TO THE CAR?
"I Felt like I was sideways the whole time, so I can't really remember the one time. The one that sticks out is when jimmie and I were side by side in off of four, and I just about spun out -- and that would've been bad because I was looking at his right-rear quarter panel and it probably would've been really bad for him and really bad for me. So I was glad that I was able to gather that up and keep rolling. We were just loose and on two tires and just driving over my head to try to get up there as far as I could."
JIMMIE KNOWS YOU'LL RACE HIM CLEANLY. ANOTHER DRIVER MIGHT NOT RACE HIM CLEANLY. DOES THAT GIVE HIM A BIT OF AN ADVANTAGE WHEN HE RACES YOU?
"I don't know. I Think you try to race people the same all the time. And he was a lot faster and I don't think anybody could've made it any harder on him. To tell you the truth, I didn't give him a lot of extra room. I Wasn't going to run into him or do anything crazy, but I certainly didn't give him a lot of room. We were battling it out for the lead. But, yeah, a couple of battles for them, and come to think about it, I guess he won them all, so he probably was feeling pretty good about it as fast as he reeled us in."
IS THAT THE CURSE OF BEING A NICE GUY?
"What are you going to do different? Wreck? Nobody wants to wreck. There's really not a lot I could do different."
WAS THERE MUCH DISCUSSION BETWEEN YOU AND CREW CHIEF ROBBIE REISER REGARDING TWO OR FOUR TIRES ON THAT LAST STOP?
"Not really. I guess this is how dumb I am from the seat -- last week when we got four I thought for sure we should've gotten two because there was only three or four left, and this week I was like, 'man, if we're going to pit, just put two tires on it or stay on the track -- one or the other.' four never even crossed my mind. I Just didn't think that many people would do it with 30 to go, but obviously I was way wrong. There was only three of us that tried it, and that was kind of the kiss of death for us. I Think if there would've been five of us that tried it and it went green to the end like that, it would've took jimmie long enough to navigate by them extra two or three cars and we probably would've gotten a big enough lead and it probably would've worked out.
"He was just too close to the front, and he was quite a bit faster on four. We couldn't really run that much faster on four from some reason. So, no, I never really even thought of four that last stop."
YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU AND JIMMIE HAVE RACED AT THE END FOR WINS BEFORE, AND HE'S WON. CAN YOU QUANTIFY WHY? OR EXPLAIN WHETHER THERE'S ANYTHING YOU SEE THERE THAT'S A TREND?
"Since that group got together, in my opinion, from watching outside and from racing, that is the strongest team, driver, crew chief, group, everything-all-together unit, that is the strongest unit in the garage area. And in my opinion it's been that way for four years. He's only won one championship and he's on his way to a second in those four years, but they've been the team pretty much every week -- I can't think of a track that I go to, that you don't think of the 48 being up there challenging for a win or making strategy calls or pushing the rules to the limit or whatever it may be. I think he's won at every kind of track, except for maybe road course. They're unbelievable. I Think they're the best, on top of their game right now."
IS THIS JOHNSON'S CHAMPIONSHIP TO WIN?
"Anything can happen with the point structure with the way it is now, even though how far he's ahead, but just on performance, and jeff has had an awesome year, an awesome consistent year, and if would've been a normal-before-the-chase-type thing, obviously, that would be the championship team. But, just off pure performance, the 48, in my opinion, more times than not, has everybody covered, including the 24. But jeff has been there several times and he's real smart and smooth and one little slip-up from the 48, and he'll be right there. Jeff doesn't make any mistakes."
-credit: ford racing