The Nextel: Winning team press conference

MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus DID A BEER CAN HIT YOUR CAR AFTER THE RACE? "I didn't say that in an interview. I probably said it over my team radio, but I didn't say it in an interview. You can't make everybody, but I had a full...

MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus

DID A BEER CAN HIT YOUR CAR AFTER THE RACE?

"I didn't say that in an interview. I probably said it over my team radio, but I didn't say it in an interview. You can't make everybody, but I had a full beer can hit the car. I don't like stuff hitting the car, but there's nothing you can do about five or six individuals I guess."

TWO TEAMMATES GOT INTO IT NEXT TO YOU. WHAT DID YOU SEE?

"All I saw was Greg coming on the outside. I got real loose off of turn four and Greg was pretty close to me, so I quickly pulled to the bottom. I saw him up to about my door at the finish line and I saw Kurt right behind him and then there was none. I drove off into one and looked and there was nobody there, so I didn't know what happened. They just told me they got together and got turned or something. I didn't know what happened. I just knew he was right beside me and the next thing I knew there was nobody around."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PASS ON NEWMAN?

"It was weird because all night my car was pretty aerodynamically tight. I couldn't get turned behind people and we didn't do anything to free the car up and that set of tires was looser or the track got looser than anything we had all night, which was a good thing when you're behind somebody. The same places Ryan would get loose, I would get loose. I just couldn't get a run on him and when I could get a run on him and get alongside of him, Ryan is very, very smart and knows how to get you in a compromising position where you can't finish a pass, which is what you should do. He would just get real close to me and get air off of me and I couldn't finish the pass without sliding into him and I didn't want to slide into him and slide him up three grooves and do all that. I wanted to pass him clean and thought we had the better car with tires on, so I just kept waiting and waiting and trying to get behind him to make my car tighter to build air-pressure in the right-front and I got a real good run on him off four and he was only about halfway to the white line and then he started sliding. I had my car right in a spot where a lot of times it will pack air in the left-rear wheel well and get him pushing. He started losing the groove and then he turned sideways and I was a couple inches away from him and just stayed right there and he got sideways enough where I knew I was gonna clear him, so I just stayed in the gas and cleared him right there. That's what I needed to do. I needed to be in front of his car by the time we got to the next corner, so he wouldn't pull my car sideways and I could get away. We had much better tires on our car and it just took 15 laps to be able to set him up and get that pass I needed."

GREG COMPLAINED ABOUT NOT HAVING THE ENGINE KURT HAD BECAUSE HE WASN'T AS HIGH IN THE POINTS. IS HE JUST TALKING ABOUT THE CYLINDER HEAD YOU THINK?

"I don't really know. I know mine ran like Jack the Bear, though. I don't really know. I don't know what everybody had. Doug Yates and everybody has been doing a great job in Mooresville. If it was a cylinder head thing - Elliott Sadler and I think one other car - I think maybe Elliott and Jarrett both had them last week and none of the rest of them had them. That's just the way it is. You can't build 12 engines the first week and have them all done. It takes time to get research and development done and I don't know who all had them tonight. I had one I know. I don't know who else all had them for sure. I know a couple guys that didn't have them tonight I don't think, but they're not a lot different than what we had. It's a little better. It's not a lot better, but it's a little better."

NOTE: Sadler was the only Ford to have the new cylinder head at Richmond last week. Five cars were scheduled to have them in tonight's race - 6, 17, 38, 88, 97 - based on the highest standing Ford's in the point standings.

IT SEEMS THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR PITTING FALLS ON THE LEADER.

"I was very, very surprised Ryan didn't pit. We all pitted - most of the people pitted, except for two cars, in the second segment and he didn't pit there either, and then he didn't pit again. So I was really surprised and I was even more surprised he was able to run that fast on tires so old and not run out of gas. That's a long time to run on gas because they didn't count cautions in that last 20, so that was very, very surprising to me. I would have liked to have been the leader. We were gonna come and get tires no matter what. We just had to be smart and have good pit stops, which we did to get back in that position. That invert thing is kind of funny. It's tough to pass here and they're all good cars. When you know they're gonna invert six to 12, you kind of want to run six to 12, but I have a hard time doing that. I wanted to run hard to try to win that first segment too and some of the guys that dropped back a little bit got good starting positions for that second one and it was hard to catch them and overcome that."

HAD YOU NUDGED HIM WOULD YOU HAVE BACKED OFF?

"That's tough to say. The first thing I can say is I wasn't gonna hit him. Yeah, you can have accidents, but I wasn't gonna hit him and knock him out of the way to win and I wasn't gonna slide him up five grooves to win because that stuff comes full circle - whether it's done to you and you do it back or you do it to somebody and they do it back. That stuff always comes full circle. We've got to race and respect these guys every week and I respect him too much to do that and I don't think he'd do me like that, so I didn't want to do him like that. I was gonna get as close as I could to him and try to get him out of the groove, but I wasn't gonna run over him and spin him out or knock him out of the way. We were both so much on edge that if I would have hit him, he probably would have spun out. We were both running as hard as we could. That was a fun race. I don't ever remember being nervous inside a car since we won the Coke 600 here in 2000 and my heart was pounding out of my chest those last 20 laps racing so hard to try to catch him, so that was fun. He came over afterwards and congratulated me in victory lane. His hands were shaking. He could hardly hold his Gatorade, so we both had to race pretty hard for that one. When you can do that and race clean and put on a good show and run that hard, it makes it a lot of fun."

DID YOU SENSE THE CARS WITH THE NEW CYLINDER HEAD HAD MORE CLOUT?

"I thought the thing ran really good for whatever reason, if it was that. But our stuff has been running good every week. I thought it was the best piece we've had so far, but I think that this was probably the best car we've had so far, too. They've been doing a lot of development on it, so this stuff has been running terrific all year. I've been really happy with it. We were aggressive with some things tonight because this was a night that you go for it. Hopefully, we learned some stuff for the 600."

IS IT BETTER TO WIN WITH A TEXTBOOK PASS? DOES THAT MAKE IT EVEN BETTER?

"It does for me. This is a really special win for me for a couple of reasons. I was real excited to win the first two races this year. We've run good, but we haven't run like we ran the first two races. We haven't been the guy to beat and leading all the laps and dominating races like we kind of did at Rockingham and Vegas, so it feels good to come out and do that. It feels good to still kind of vindicate ourselves after some of the criticism we got last year, although it really doesn't bother me too much. But, still, to come out at a race where you run wide open the whole race, it's not real long runs where we just creep up there and find our way to a top five at the end of the race. You had to run hard all race long. It's a short race. It's no-holds-barred. Everybody brings their best stuff and my team just did a great job of preparing the best stuff. They had the best pit stops on pit road last night in qualifying and tonight in the race and they got the car to stay up front. I'm just really proud of those guys and really excited for the win."

IS THERE A FEELING OF SATISFACTION.

"The answer to that last question, I guess I skated around it, but, yes, it does feel better to win it like that and it does feel good to be able to come from behind and race with him so hard for the win for all those laps in a row and be able to make the pass with no contact and neither one of us hitting each other and putting on a good race. Those are the kind of races you dream about winning is where you come down to the last couple of laps and be dueling somebody and running as hard as you can. That's fun to watch and it's fun to be a part of, too. I don't remember the other question, but the answer is probably yes (laughing)."

JACK ROUSH , Car Owner - No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus

HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO TALK TO GREG OR KURT?

"No, I haven't."

WHAT WAS YOUR TAKE ON THE INCIDENT?

"I think that Kurt misjudged. It looked to me like Kurt misjudged, unless he was meaning to knock Greg out of the way, which I don't believe he was. He misjudged and he ran into the back of him. This is a fairly fast race track and you do get a bit of draft and based on there being a car on the outside of him and him being behind, I think Kurt got a bit of a pull off of Greg. He sucked up into a vacuum there and I think it was much easier for him to get close to him than he figured and he hit him and didn't mean too. I'm hoping that he's apologized and I can put some salve on this thing and get everybody happy about it come Tuesday."

WHAT WAS YOUR TAKE ON THE NEW CYLINDER HEAD?

"It's an increment of power improvement. If I looked at what we had last year and said, 'Where did you start relative to last year when Robert and Doug and I put our two programs together?' We probably picked up x horsepower, which still left us somewhat in arrears of where the Chevrolet and the Dodge have been on chassis dynos, and I think the cylinder head we had here probably represents another increment of about the same. It's not huge. It's probably half the deficit we had to the Chevrolets and the Pontiacs and the Dodges when we chassis dynoed them last."

IS MATT MORE AGGRESSIVE THIS YEAR?

"I think so, but you can come back and say is he - certainly nothing he did on the race track was overtly aggressive. He was a gentleman and I think he raced the way he would like to be raced by everybody that would be out there. So he hasn't given up that yet. That seems like for drivers that get their reputation or go up a notch and are presumed to be more aggressive, they run into people and they have little regard for the folks around them. Matt hasn't changed. He's a really nice guy. He's a guy that you enjoy having dinner with and if you're another competitor I think you'd feel good seeing him in your mirror or having him alongside of you. He hasn't lost that. Last year, we were disadvantaged by the fact, let's say that our engine program clearly wasn't where the Chevrolets and the Dodges were. By Robert and Doug and I putting our programs together we helped that some. We got a new Taurus. The sheetmetal we had for Taurus hadn't been changed since '97, but there were two changes for the Dodge, I think two changes for Chevrolet, and our Ford every year they brought us new templates that diminished whatever it's aerodynamic proponents were the year before. We changed the nose and changed the tail to get caught up on that. I believe we have a competitive Ford aero configuration body that we didn't have last year. That more than anything else is responsible for the fact that Matt and Mark and Greg Biffle - when we've been snakebit with this program, whenever I've been able to not have a failure, some component that would fail or something would come off the race track and take a belt off or a part that would break that had never broken before. We had that happen in a transmission and an oil pump both, where we had never broken those parts. Sure enough, you've got a part that broke and you come back and look at it and there's something you can do to improve it. Until you've failed one, you didn't have a reason to go look at that part. Anyway, we've had trouble with Greg's program that has put him where he is in points, but the fact is he's running much better than he did last year and, except for that, he would be in the top 10 in points."

DID YOU UNDERSTAND GREG'S CRITICISM ABOUT NOT HAVING A NEW ENGINE BECAUSE OF HIS STATUS IN POINTS?

"If we have limited parts, there is a consideration for where a particular program is with regard to points. We're limited on the number of blocks that are available from the Ford Motor Company right now and we certainly haven't defined the new engine in terms of what the piston is and the cam is and a whole bunch of things. We need to get some miles on them for us to support eight programs. All of a sudden you have to build 50 engines. I've got to figure out and Doug's got to figure out what they combination is and what the recipe is that will be good going forward. We had enough engines for all of our cars but two here in that configuration. There was risk with those. We haven't run those like that. We haven't run them with the rpm that we ran tonight, so if they'd all fallen out, you would have looked and said that those four programs are disadvantaged because they had something that was new. So that's always a trade that you've got when you're doing development in something like an engine or some other drive train component if you reduce the weight on it, if you do something to improve its performance until you've demonstrated durability, there is a question. As a for instance, if you were down to the short strokes and had a program that wasn't threatened by performance, you would be very conservative with regard to risk. Tonight was a night when it was no-holds-barred. Whatever we had that we could throw under the bridge we did. Originally, I thought that a week ago we would only have one engine that would be configured and, ultimately, we had five that were. The fact that we were able to get the extra pieces to that same formula was a result of Doug and the guys working long hours to get there. Do I believe that Matt could have won without the engine? I think Matt could have won with the engine that Greg had if he would have been in the same situation. I don't think the relatively small amount of horsepower we had tonight made the difference in winning or not winning, but it certainly made it easier to maintain contact with somebody on the straightaway and to not have to make it up in the corners. It was clear that Matt had an equal straight line speed based on his tire's superior corner performance around the 12 car late in the race."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Greg Biffle , Elliott Sadler