The Ford Five - Week 5 of the Chase to the Championship October 11, 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Taurus, has three top-five finishes in the four NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series chase races,...
The Ford Five - Week 5 of the Chase to the Championship
October 11, 2005
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Taurus, has three top-five finishes in the four NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series chase races, but still finds himself eighth in the point standings. He trails leader Tony Stewart by 116 points, mainly due to a couple of blown tires at Dover that resulted in a 35th-place showing. Kenseth spoke about his chase chances during Tuesday's "Ford Five" teleconference.
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DeWalt Taurus
WHAT HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE TRACK AT CHARLOTTE? "I tested there with a Busch Series car and the track was in pretty good shape. They dragged tires and got a lot of rubber in the track and the Cup cars put rubber on the track, so it was in pretty good shape. But it's rained here for about the last week straight - hard. There's been a lot of rain, so I'm sure the track is gonna be real green and all of the rubber and everything has been washed off it. I think it'll be OK. I don't think that it's gonna be, obviously, the Charlotte speedway that we knew from a year ago when it was all perfect. It's gonna be different than that, but it's gonna be much better than it was in the spring. The re-ground one and two, and ground the bottom of it, so the bottom groove was about the same speed as the top groove. I think there are gonna be two really good grooves there and I think we're gonna have choices of which groove to go in. It's pretty fast. It's probably a little too fast to put on a great race. We're probably running a little faster than we need to be and stressing the tires more than we need to be, but I think it'll be OK. I think it'll be much better than the spring. I still think it would be better if they started over and re-paved it and got it back the way it used to be, but I think it'll be much better than it was in May."
CAN YOU WIN THE TITLE WITH CONSISTENCY OR ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE TO START TAKING RISKS? "The way you phrased that it's hard to answer. We run hard every week and you try to be consistent where you're trying to finish up front every week. I think to have three top-fives in the three races that we've finished, I think that's awesome. If you could win every week, you would. I heard somebody say something kind of silly the other day; they said they should make it 500 points to win. Well, the fact of the matter is, for instance, we ran second at Richmond. It could have paid 10,000 points to win and I still couldn't have won the race. I couldn't catch the leader. You're trying to win every race and you're trying to run as hard as you can every race. You run as fast as your car will take you and that's really all you can do. We are eighth in points, but the good part about it is we're real close to second. Everybody from second back to 10th is all really close right now, and if Tony Stewart has a little bit of a bad day there are gonna be a lot of cars right there."
IS IT TO A POINT WHERE IF TONY KEEPS RUNNING THIS WELL THAT THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO CATCH HIM? "Yes and no. Whatever the lead is right now, 80 or 90 points or whatever it is, that's not really that much for having six races to go. That's only 25 spots or so on the race track, so I don't think that's that much. From first to last is 150 points or whatever it is, and that's twice what the deficit is, so it's certainly manageable. There are at least eight cars still in it and probably more than that. Really, I think anybody in the top 10 can still do it. Obviously, if he runs in the top five every week from now until the end of the year he's gonna be very difficult to beat if not impossible to beat, but I think that would be pretty tough to run in the top five every race for the rest of the year."
COULD MARTINSVILLE BE A WILDCARD TYPE OF RACE? "It could be - any of them. I've looked at, when I started the chase, I looked at a few tracks. It's kind of funny because I look at Loudon and I'm like, 'Well, Loudon could go either way. Even though we have good finishes there you never know what can happen there.' And then we finish really well. And then I was like, 'Dover is one. We should do good there. I'm not too worried about it,' and that's where we got our worst finish. And then you say, 'Talladega is one that could be a disaster,' and we have a great finish there, too. So I think the fact that you just don't know when disaster is gonna strike for anybody - when you're gonna have a flat tire or break a part or whatever - that could happen at any track. I think Charlotte is probably a little bit of a wild card just because of the 600. It was, in my opinion anyway - except for the last lap - kind of a disaster of a race. They had a lot of crashes. A lot of people wrecked themselves and each other. We just had all kinds of trouble there. It was real hard to pass, so I think there's a little bit of feeling that we're not sure what's gonna happen, and, yeah, I think Martinsville is probably the other one. Martinsville is a track where it's tough to run good. You can have a bad day at Martinsville pretty easy. It's a little bit like Bristol, so you're not sure what's gonna happen there either."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON NASCAR POSSIBLY LIMITING THE NUMBER OF TEAMS AN OWNER CAN SUPPORT? ARE YOU WONDERING HOW THIS WILL WORK OUT? "No, it's kind of the last thing I'm worried about, honestly. I don't know how NASCAR would break up a five-team deal. If you've got five teams with contracts with sponsors and contracts with drivers and contracts with employees, I mean, how are you gonna do that? So until there is more clarification and until you know what they're really thinking, I think it's a little early to get too worked up about it. There are a lot of rules and there are more rules every single day and more things going on, and the sport is changing a lot. It's changed a lot in the last few years since I've been around here and it continues to change a lot more. So I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I see their concern with the multi-car teams, but yet on the other hand, I don't know how you're gonna stop it. You can stop it with paperwork and make them be in different buildings, but how are you gonna stop sharing technology. You have the 0 car. Is that a Hendrick team? No, but they use Hendrick chassis, they use Hendrick engines, they use Hendrick technology. You have the 10 and the 01. Are they Hendrick teams? No, but they use Hendrick engines, they use Hendrick chassis, they use Hendrick technology. So how are you gonna stop it and where is it gonna end and how are you going to police that? That's the question and who knows how they're gonna go about that?"
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE KURT BUSCH REQUEST THAT CAME OVER THE RADIO ON SUNDAY, WHERE HE WANTED TO LEAD A LAP? "I think we always try to help each other all year and I think it wouldn't be that different, even when Kurt goes to a different team. I'm good friends with Kurt, and I think it's always been like that. Mark Martin was friends with Ernie Irvan and if Ernie wanted to lead a lap and they were at Michigan 10 years ago, Mark would pull over and let him lead a lap because he was his buddy and he would try to help him or let him get a lap back. It's not really anything new. It's just something that people are making a story about. We just kind of had a different way of looking at things there. Kurt has helped me a lot through my years here - a lot. He's probably been one of the most generous teammates that a guy could have. He'd draft with you and he'd give you room if you needed it or help you lead a lap if you needed it or whatever all through the season. You certainly always like to repay that, but we just had two different ways of looking at it. Being in the chase, I think you have to race all 10 of those cars. You don't want to get beat at the end of the year by five points no matter whether it's a teammate or not a teammate, and I think you have to pick and choose your battles and how you're gonna handle things. I probably could have handled that better. That's probably something we should have sat and talked about when the chase started and all five of us were in it. It probably would have been a good idea for all the drivers to sit down and say, 'OK, how are we gonna handle these things?' Because being a big team and everything, I don't think you ever want to have team orders. You don't want to have anything turn into where NASCAR does have to police things. You still have to race every car for yourself and get the best finish you can. I think we need to work as well as we can together on the track, work together all week, work together testing and sharing information and helping each other, but when it gets down to running for a position at the end of the race or getting as many points as you can, I think every team has to make that decision themselves."
RESTRICTOR PLATES HAVE BEEN FLOATED AS A POSSIBILITY THIS WEEK AT CHARLOTTE. HOW WOULD YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? "It would help to have a bigger wreck, probably (laughing). No, I don't think that you need to run restrictor plates at Charlotte. It's real fast. It's probably not faster than what Atlanta was when they first paved it however many years ago that was. I don't think that would make things better, I think it would make it worse. I think if you put restrictor plates on there it would turn into a race like Daytona or Talladega. Maybe some people want that, but I don't think most of us probably as drivers do, so I think it'll be OK. It's always really fast when you go qualify, when the track is clean. When you get a bunch of cars out there and the track rubbers up, hopefully it'll slow down a little bit so it's not so hard on tires and handling will come into play. I think it'll be OK. I think it would be great if they just re-paved it. Use the company that paved Homestead and Richmond because they did just a fantastic job of paving tracks. If we re-paved it and started over, I think it would be good. I loved it the way it was, but everybody likes something different, so I think it'll be OK."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO KURT ABOUT THE ISSUE ON SUNDAY? "I talked to him and Jimmy about it yesterday and I think the thing that probably upset him, and I understand it, is when we used to catch each other and you'd be right on somebody - and not necessarily a teammate but almost anybody - instead of abusing your car and having them abuse their car, you'd kind of get out of the way and if they wanted to lead, let them go lead and slow yourself down so you don't have a problem. I think what I probably did wrong is when he was all over me I probably should have let him lead a lap just because we were both abusing our cars. He ended up blowing a tire and I ended up losing some track position because I was running so hard and my car didn't handle the way I thought it would and it ended up getting real tight. So that was probably the biggest thing about that. In the past when we would catch each other, and you're all over somebody, you would let each other lead a lap no matter who it was and that didn't happen on Sunday. He used his car up real hard to stay with me and I used mine up real hard to stay in front of him at the same time. Things happen when you're in the car and the racer comes out in you and that's what it's about is racing. I was looking behind me and I saw five chase cars behind me and I certainly didn't want everybody to get up there and get a bunch of points that they didn't have to, so that's what led to my decision."
WHO WAS YOUR FAVORITE DRIVER GROWING UP? "I don't know. When I first started watching NASCAR racing it was kind of ironic. My dad was a big Mark Martin fan because he liked how clean he was and how much room he gave everybody and all that kind of stuff. I was actually a Dale Earnhardt fan for a couple of reasons. The main reason I was is just watching him race. I just always admired how he raced super-hard every lap - whether it was the first lap or the last lap - whether it was for first or for 15th he was always racing hard and I always admired that. Plus, my dad didn't really necessarily like him because he was kind of a bully and he would run people over and stuff and my dad didn't like that, so the other half of the reason was just to bug your dad. I think all kids are like that. They kind of go back and forth with each other. I always admired him a lot. Tim Richmond, Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip - those guys that you really watched from the outside looking in always looked like they were just driving their car as hard as they could every lap and I always admired that."
WHAT'S THE MOST UNUSUAL FAN REQUEST YOU'VE GOTTEN? "I've had some strange ones. Probably one time this guy was going through an autograph line and pulled his girlfriend's underwear out of his pocket and wanted me to sign them so that was probably strangest."
Like a majority of other crew chiefs, most of Doug Richert's No. 16 National Guard/Subway team resides in the Charlotte area, so when the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series comes to Lowe's Motor Speedway it provides a number of benefits. Richert gave his top five reasons as to why this Saturday night's race is good for everyone.
Sleep in your own bed - "It's always great to be able to sleep in your own bed because we don't get the opportunity to do much of that on a regular basis."
Shops guys get to go to the track - "Guys that normally don't get to go to the race track have an opportunity to go and see other cars and how their shaped or what parts and pieces other teams are introducing. It gives them a chance to see how somebody else is doing it because maybe somebody else is doing it a little bit easier or a little bit better. It gives them the opportunity to see these things and maybe advance our program some."
Sunday off - "Any time off is good time off."
Spend time with family - "It gives a lot of the wives and girlfriends a chance to come to the track and see what these guys go through, but it's also an opportunity to have some fun."
Entertaining environment - "Lowe's Motor Speedway is fun to go to because it's not just the race. I mean, how many air raids and helicopter crash zones have you ever been to besides Charlotte?"
"THE FORD FIVE" Quick Fact:
Alan Kulwicki, by leading one extra lap (103 to 102) over fellow Ford driver Bill Elliott in the 1992 season finale' at Atlanta, received a much-needed FIVE bonus points for leading the race -- which turned out to be the difference in what at the time was the closest points race in history. Kulwicki won the driver's championship over Elliott by just 10 points. Had Kulwicki not gotten those FIVE points, the two drivers would've tied for the championship, and Elliott would've won the title based on more wins.