This Week in Ford Racing August 5, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, extended his NASCAR Winston Cup Series points lead to 286 over second-place Dale Earnhardt, Jr., with a runner-up finish...
This Week in Ford Racing
August 5, 2003
NASCAR Winston Cup
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, extended his NASCAR Winston Cup Series points lead to 286 over second-place Dale Earnhardt, Jr., with a runner-up finish last weekend in the Brickyard 400. And while Kenseth has been getting a lot of attention lately, his crew continues to go about its business in a workmanlike manner. As teams prepare for the road course of Watkins Glen International this weekend, a track Kenseth tested recently, crew chief Robbie Reiser spoke about the mindset of his crew and how he's handling the attention that goes with being a championship contender.
ROBBIE REISER, Crew Chief - No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus
HOW DID THE TEST AT WATKINS GLEN GO?
"The test went real well. We tried a lot of different stuff. We weren't real fast or anything, but we pretty much did a parts test. We worked on brakes and some things that Matt didn't like at the road course at Sears Point, so we kind of went there just to try some things and help him."
THIS TEST WAS PLANNED BEFORE THE YEAR, CORRECT?
"Yeah, all of our testing was actually planned at the beginning of the year, so we aren't doing anything different because of the points. We just went to Watkins Glen and Sears Point because we struggled so bad at the road courses. I don't know what our best finish is, but it's not been very good."
SONOMA WAS ACTUALLY THE BEST FINISH WITH 14TH.
"Well, at least our testing is paying off, but that's the reason we went to Watkins Glen and we went to Sears Point because our road-course performances haven't been that good."
IS MATT GETTING MORE COMFORTABLE WITH ROAD COURSES?
"I will tell you this, I think Matt Kenseth is able to drive road courses. I think it's taken us some time to get to the point where we can supply him with a car that is competitive on the road course. I think as a team we've been working together to try and get it where we're more competitive."
YOU JUST CAN'T AFFORD TO THROW THE ROAD COURSES AWAY CAN YOU?
"There isn't a race in the series you can throw away anymore because it's so competitive. We have to look at each and every race, so we look at the road courses just like we look at going to Charlotte or anyplace else."
YOU HAVEN'T BEEN INVOLVED IN MANY WRECKS THIS YEAR. HAS IT HELPED YOUR CAUSE BY NOT HAVING TO SPEND A LOT OF TIME REPAIRING DAMAGED RACE CARS? YOU CAN TWEAK ON WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE.
"There's no question that whenever you don't have a bunch of tore up stuff you don't get yourself behind and that helps further your advancement on the cars. We've had some wrecks and we've had to fix some stuff, but, all in all, it's been a good year. I don't think there's anybody that's been able to win a championship that went through a year where he wrecked a bunch of stuff. We're probably just on the same course that other people have been on."
HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED THIS POSITION? MATT SAID THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS HAVE STARTED TO BECOME BUSIER.
"I think for our team it hasn't been all that different. It's been business as usual. I think for Matt, he has a lot more involvement with the fans and all the outside people, so he sees things from a different set of eyes than we do. We pretty much come to work, do our work, and then go home at night. When we leave the race tracks, we go back and work at the shop, so we don't really see the outside world, and we don't get that involved in it all."
BUT THE GUYS HAVE TO BE EXCITED WHEN THEY COME IN THE SHOP OR GO TO THE TRACK CONSIDERING WHERE YOU ARE IN THE STANDINGS, RIGHT?
"I think our season has been business as usual. I don't think the guys are into the point deal as much as what people would want to believe. I think they are totally focused on what they want to do every week, but I can't say that I see those guys getting caught up in the points. Maybe I'm not looking at it right, but I haven't seen those guys get all wound up over the points. They're more interested in trying to come here and win races than worrying about where they are in the points right now. They realize if they do well, the points will fall into place. I know everybody gets sick of hearing that, but that's really how we've taken this role."
HOW HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU ON RACE DAY WITH THIS POSITION? THERE HAVE BEEN A STRING OF RACES RECENTLY WHERE YOU HAVE HAD CRITICAL FUEL CALLS. DOES THE POINTS POSITION ENTER YOUR MIND WHEN THOSE CALLS HAVE TO BE MADE?
"Yeah, I think we don't want to make a big mistake. There's no question about that. At Daytona we weren't really conservative, it was what we had to do. At Loudon we took a chance and came out of there with a real good finish. We went to Pocono and the problem with Pocono is it's such a big race track that I couldn't take the chance of running him out (of gas). That's why I pitted. I know a lot of people will second-guess that decision, but if I had a crystal ball and could have looked into it to know what was gonna happen those last 30 laps, I probably would have pitted differently. But being that we've just got to go do it, that was the choice and that's why we did what we did."
DO YOU LOOK AT WHERE DALE, JR., OR JEFF ARE ON THE TRACK AND CONCENTRATE ON STAYING WITH THEM?
"It's pretty easy to answer that because if I was looking at Dale, Jr. in Pocono, I would have stayed out. He was really the only one of the points guys that was still left in the race, so I could have stayed in his tire tracks and finished third. But, at the time, I couldn't make it and I wanted to pit early enough that I didn't get behind everybody. There were 10 cars that had already pitted under green, so I didn't want to get ourselves too far back because I wanted to have a shot at winning it. We ran up front all day long, so there was no reason why we couldn't have won that race. That's why we pitted that way, but when the cautions fell the way they fell, it put us in a bad spot."
FROM THIS POINT ON WILL YOU BE MORE COGNIZANT OF WHERE THOSE TWO CARS ARE ON THE TRACK?
"I don't know. Maybe if there are three races to go I'll look at it, but right now our job is to win races. Whatever we have to do as a group to win races that's what we're gonna do. That's the way we've approached this season and that's the way we're gonna approach each race. We're going there to win."
ARE YOU GOING TO BE ONE OF THESE GUYS WHERE YOU MIGHT HAVE A 200-POINT LEAD GOING INTO THE FINAL RACE AND STILL THINK SOMETHING WILL GO WRONG?
"I don't know. You've got to be smart about it. We didn't get here by making mistakes. We got here by doing things and having things work out for us. A lot of people say, 'Well, you guys are lucky.' But in a lot of cases you make your own luck. At Pocono, we made our own luck there and the week before at Loudon, we made our own luck there. What I've been trying to tell our guys is to just go each and every week and do the best we can and when the weekend is over we'll take a look at where we're at. I hope that's how we approach it until the end of the year."