NASCAR Sprint Cup Series post race press conference at Dover International Speedway
An interview with: Matt Kenseth, Jimmy Fennig and Jack Roush
THE MODERATOR: We welcome the winner of today's race, Matt Kenseth. Joining him are Jack Roush, owner, and Jimmy Fennig, crew chief.
Matt, this is your 20th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win, tying Speedy Thompson for 34th on the all-time list, second of the season, first coming in Texas in April.
Talk a little bit about the race, the strategies going into it and the finish.
MATT KENSETH: Obviously, it was a great day for us. It was pretty exciting for me to be able to win here at Dover, especially the way we did it. It seems like we've lost more that way than people getting in front of us, then we won. Really turned out good. I was happy we were able to pull it off.
The race was really a struggle for us. When the clouds were out, before that rubber built up on the track, I thought we had one of the best cars on the track. We were pretty fast. I think we drove to maybe third or fourth from 24th where we started, felt real good about things. Then all of a sudden the sun came out, the rubber started building on the track. Our handling got way, way off.
Jimmy made some great adjustments today, made some great pit calls under green, short-pitting a little bit, getting us ahead of the competition. Got us five or six spots, that got us into position to get two tires at the end of the race.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Matt, how difficult was it to get to Mark and how difficult was it to pass him?
MATT KENSETH: Well, it was difficult. The hardest thing today for me, besides that rubber building up under green, was I don't know if they couldn't or wouldn't or how it worked, but they really didn't get the rubber off the track before a restart. What would happen, if you were stuck on the bottom, the leaders took off, no matter where you restart, you get that stuff stuck on your tires, you had to run through it for two laps, it was so much slower. One time I restarted third, and I think we were back to eighth by the second lap. I couldn't get up.
Marcos had a bad restart, got us way back there. I was really concerned about that. Mark took the top. I was hoping he took the bottom because he likes to run the bottom. I would have felt a little better about it. But I got behind him and I was able to run up on him, with the new tires, be able to get the gas down that early, were able to get a good run on him.
Q. At the end there, did you have a bit of safety in numbers, Mark staying out, creating a bit of a barrier against the others?
MATT KENSETH: That definitely helps. You know, I think that was probably part of our thinking with four, is we were going to come out, most likely, behind the three or four guys we were running behind. A few guys were going to sprinkle in there on two. That would have been tough to do in that many laps.
That always helps. It's always nice to have a little buffer because the other guys that got two were all running behind us. I felt like we probably had a better car than most guys that got two if I could just get a clean restart. So, yeah, that helps.
Q. Matt, I noticed on days like this, track position is so important. As you mentioned, you were strong early. I noticed that you were very strong back in the pack early in the race. I didn't notice so much that you fell off earlier. What I mean is, was the whole key to your race the starting position? Should you by rights have been running up there with the guys that run 324 laps?
The Goodyear tires are great.
MATT KENSETH: There were times in the race where I felt like we had one of the best cars. There were times, Jimmy knows better than me on lap times, but a 7th to 14th or 15th place car. For a while, it felt like we fell back. There were times in the race where we ran really good, other times we didn't. In the end, they were able to make some good adjustments to get it better at the end.
The Goodyear tires are great. Didn't have any failures or anything today. The last couple years, we talked to them about, when it builds the rubber up, it makes it hard to pass. I knew one of the front three cars most likely on the restart was going to win the race. The rubber would build up and made it almost impossible to pass. At least for me it was compared to early in the race.
The last few races here you've seen that track position was pretty important at the end of the race.
Q. Matt, you were saying earlier that the call for two tires was not finalized until you were up on the jack. How close were you to the point of no return there two versus four?
MATT KENSETH: Jimmy would be able to answer that one better. We came in. I know we were both thinking about the same thing. In the back of my head, I was thinking, ‘Man, I should almost just drive by pit road and start in the front, see what happens.’ But I saw the guys in front of me.
I looked at everybody in the mirror, I saw everybody on the apron, I thought it wasn't going to be good for me if I did that and restarted and finished about 15th.
We came down pit road. As I slid into the stall, I said, Jimmy, are you sure you don't want to try two?
He didn't even hesitate. He's like, ‘Two tires, two tires,’ in plenty of time before the guys took off. It was not problem. It went smooth, almost like we planned it.
Q. What kind of confidence do you have now with two victories knowing that those wildcard positions are out there in case you need them to make the Chase?
MATT KENSETH: I mean, it's going to be important. You want to have the wins to have the wildcard if you have to fall back on that. I think Jimmy's goal, Jack's and mine and the team's is not to worry about that. That's the last thing on my mind right now. On my mind is to try to be up there and leading on points going into the Chase, trying to make the Chase, be in championship form, be able to put together some more wins and go out there and race for a championship. We don't want to slide in off of wins if we're 18th in points or something. We want to go out there and race like this every week.
Q. Jimmy, could you answer the question about will this allow you to take even more chances now that you kind of know you have two wins, get a chance at the wildcard? Matt, would it be ironic if you got in the Chase on a wildcard on wins after it seemed like the whole Chase was set up after your 2003 championship?
JIMMY FENNIG: Well, I guess I look at things different. You know, I'm the type person that we're here to win and that's what it's about. If you're not winning and you go into the Chase, your team ain't able to win races or your equipment's not good enough to win races, to me you don't belong there. It's all about winning in my book.
MATT KENSETH: I was thinking about the win thing a little bit, not necessarily because of the Chase or how they created or anything like that. Until five weeks ago, it's been two years since we won. When I see that, honestly because we haven't won in a while, you start thinking it's not a 12-person thing anymore, it's a top-10 in points, which is fine, so we got to make sure we're in the top 10.
So it's nice we're able to do both. Hopefully we can be solidly in the top 10 and have some wins at the same time.
Q. Matt, I guess looking at the last three races, what kind of momentum were you looking for here to try to regain that momentum? Was there a point early in the race where you thought, This is a long race, we can get back up there? That pit stop kind of paid off, this is where you hope to be to try to take a gamble like that.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, the last three weeks have been really frustrating for me. I don't think I've done a very good job. Talladega, I don't think we can do anything about that. I mean, that was just dumb luck. Certainly at Richmond, being involved in that wreck, if I would have been a little bit more aware of my surroundings, I could probably have figured out how to avoid that.
Certainly last week, too, even though the car beside me was low and all that, I didn't do a very good job there. Kind of ran into the side of the 9 a little bit. Had a slow leak in the tire. Half hour into the Southern 500, we're three laps down. The last three weeks have been really frustrating.
But our cars have been really fast. At Richmond, I know for sure it's been the best car I had at Richmond since they introduced the COT car, which is really encouraging.
If you're running good, you feel a little bit better about it. It gives you some hope you can have days like today.
Q. Did anybody realistically have anything for the 33 or 48 if that last caution hadn't come out and brought pit strategy into play?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Couldn't really see them, so I don't know what was going on up there.
But I will add to that. Nobody had anything for the 99 last week when the caution came out either.
THE MODERATOR: Jack, tell us your thoughts on Matt's second win of the season?
I didn't start till I was 46 years old, when I started my Cup program.
JACK ROUSH: I actually wanted to comment on that last question. I'll start with that.
If anybody was watching the lap checkers, Matt drove from 23rd to the top five. As hard as it is to pass, as hard as it is to deal with this Car of Tomorrow, struggling there, when I saw that, I figured the 17 was the equal of the cars running up front based on my look at it.
They didn't back into this thing. They deserved to be up there. Jimmy made the gutsy -- between the two of them, they made the gutsy call for two tires. As many times as they've been burned by it, I was surprised they did that.
It's just my pleasure generally to be with this team. This is my 24th year in Cup. I didn't start till I was 46 years old, when I started my Cup program. Of course, that was Mark Martin. When I was watching Matt and Mark race out there today.
MATT KENSETH: How old are you?
JACK ROUSH: I was 46 years old.
MATT KENSETH: I was just trying to count (laughter).
JACK ROUSH: At any rate, the reason that Matt Kenseth came to my attention back years ago was that Mark said that Matt was a guy that asked the right questions, that had the right attitude about his racing, and he was a really good person that I needed to have a conversation with and see if we could get him involved with our program.
Matt and Mark have got that connection past the race teams out of mutual respect. I was sure that was going to be okay for both of them. The thing that had me concerned, I was afraid they were going to find themselves at loggerheads, You go first, no, you go first, no, you go first.
I was afraid either one of them be afraid to race as hard as they need to, or the other one to let the issue be resolved.
Q. Jimmy and Matt, can you talk about your relationship. From what I understand, Matt made that call. How long did it take you guys to get comfortable with each other before Matt could make that call instead of Jimmy?
MATT KENSETH: Jimmy made the call. I was just suggesting it. He called the crew off to do two.
I've known Jimmy for a long time. He might tell you when he grabs the mic that he's not comfortable with me. It didn't really take very long for me. You go through a little bit to understand what somebody is about, you know, how loose is he, how urgent does he sound, how much should he adjust when he hears me talk like that, whatever. It does take a little bit to learn that.
I've always really respected Jimmy and I really enjoy working for him. He's got a no-nonsense racing approach, which is fun. That's how I grew up racing, too. We have a lot of fun racing together. You can tell by the big smile, right (smiling)? Did you hear all the cameras flash real quick (laughter)?
JIMMY FENNIG: I enjoy working with Matt. This ain't the first time I worked with him. I worked with him with the Busch cars. I enjoyed it back then. Right now, you know, like Matt says, it takes a little while to know how you can read 'em. You know exactly what he's looking for in a racecar and you can give it to him.
I think everything's going good right now and we'll just keep going from there.
Q. Matt, just wondering, we're about 11 races into this season. Considering you've won twice, looking at your performance this season, where would you rank it as far as what the season might have the potential for? Do you seem as strong as you have been in years past when you won races or the championship or is it too early to judge yet?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I think for sure this is the most competitive we've been since this car was introduced, however long that's been. The whole organization has been building better, faster racecars.
Doug and them guys have done a wonderful job having the off-season to work on the FR9 to get us some more power. The durability along with it. That's made a big difference, as well. It's the full season that Jimmy and I are doing the Cup thing together, had the wintertime to get things how he wanted it at the shop, build the cars the way he wanted it.
I feel good today obviously because we're sitting here. Who knows what next week is going to bring. I feel pretty good about it now because even some of the bad finishes we had, we still perform much better than we have in the past. We perform better at more places than we have. It really feels for sure like we're on the right track.
Q. Matt, you made your debut here, won two races here now. What about this track brings about the success in your racing?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I don't really know. Like any track, you have to have a fast racecar first. It's always been a track I really enjoy. Every week somebody asks me what my favorite track is when you go to hospitality. I tell them this one every time.
I really enjoyed this track. It's one of those tracks that's a challenge to get around fast, whether you're racing someone or not. I look forward to the challenge. It's fast. You have to attack it. It's just one I've always really liked.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations on your win today. Thank you for your time this afternoon.