All-Star: Pole winner interview

MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion (Qualified 1st) -- "Actually, I haven't seen the timing and scoring, but I think our laps were pretty competitive. Robbie told me my first lap was real fast. I didn't really do a great job getting on...

MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion (Qualified 1st) --

"Actually, I haven't seen the timing and scoring, but I think our laps were pretty competitive. Robbie told me my first lap was real fast. I didn't really do a great job getting on pit road. I left a little bit of time there probably, but they had a great stop like they always do. It feels great to get the pole because all-star week is really about not so much the drivers, but there's a lot more emphasis on the teams and the crews and the over-the-wall guys than what there usually is, and I think that's important because this is a team sport and you can't win without all of them. These guys give me better stops than I probably give them in performance on the race track and they've had better stops than what we've had for cars lately, so I'm pretty fired up about this pole because the car felt great on the track and we had a great stop when we needed it, so it feels good."

WHEN YOU'RE IN THE CAR DO YOU GET SURPRISED AT HOW FAST THE STOP IS?

"You know, this is how spoiled I am because I'm surprised when they're slow. That's how good they are, but I will tell you one thing compared to four or five years ago, when they drop that jack on the right side and they're on their way to the left side, you better have that thing in gear and be ready because that left side is not up very long. That's how I can really tell a good stop. The right side, it's hard for me to tell, but when they have good stops it seems like the jack just gets up on the left side and it's already on its way down and you've got to be ready to go. This year we made a little bit of change. We've got Dave Smith back to changing rear tires and we changed the rear carrier around, so we've changed a couple of things around there and our stops are so smooth this year and they're so timed out, it's like you know when everything is gonna happen. I can almost let out the clutch and leave -- I know exactly when the jack is gonna drop almost, it's just everything is really smooth and pit road, I think, this year is probably better than its ever been for us and it's always been good for us. I've been very fortunate to have really great over-the-wall guys all my years of racing, but this year especially. They are on it."

DO YOU FEEL YOU CAN MAKE A TITLE RUN?

"I hope so. I think you need it all. You need to have it all right. Last week was proof of that. The 11 probably had the best car and didn't win because he didn't have a great pit stop, so there have certainly been races where they've put me in position to win. There's been some days, not nearly as many as the good days, but there have been some days where they've been off a little and we had to make that up too, so it works both ways.

"You try to help each other and it truly is a team sport, but they've been so good on pit road this year that it has made my job a lot easier and I certainly realize that and I'm certainly very thankful for that, but I guess where we are as a team on performance, I think we're getting better. We are a top 15 team on lap times and on speed on the track most of the time -- top 15 and top 20 -- and with attrition and other things that happen and with our crew being exceptional, we've been able to run in the top 10 most of the time. We know we've got to be better than that to win a championship. The 24 and the 48 and even the 11 in the COT races, they're in the top three every week, so you're not gonna be able to run 12th and 13th all day and finish seventh and win a championship and we realize that. That's what our goal is every week, so I guess that's more not me being pessimistic, but me being, 'We've got to keep working on these cars. We've got to make them better.' We've got a championship team. We realize that, but right now we don't have championship performing cars. We've just got that little bit more to go to make it better. They're working really hard in engineering. We've hired some new people and we're making headway. I'm feeling really good about it right now because it's May and I think the pace that we're at will be as good as we're gonna get, you know September, October, somewhere in there, it feels like we're gaining on it and hopefully we'll have our best stuff when we need it."

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO QUALIFY LIKE THIS ALL YEAR AND WITH NO INVERSION DOES STARTING UP FRONT HELP?

"On the serious side first, it's not really practical to have a pit stop every week for qualifying. These guys don't even come to the track until Sunday. Usually it's just here. They're right next door. But on the not-so-serious side, Newman's been lobbying for points for qualifying -- well, until this year when he used to win the pole every week -- and I've been lobbying for having pit stops in qualifying ever since we won the pole here three years ago or whatever because we had a pit stop in qualifying. Man, I could actually win a pole if we had a pit stop everytime qualifying, so, yeah, that would definitely help me if we could do that, that's for sure. I realize I'm not the best qualifier out there, although we did have a pretty good car tonight. It wouldn't have been a pole winner, but I think our first lap was pretty fast. Robbie told me it was a 28.80 or something and I don't know what everybody else ran, but my car felt really good, but certainly it's mostly about that pit stop and getting on and off pit road."

DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE SOMETHING FOR THE 48 TOMORROW AND DO YOU LIKE THIS RACE BETTER IF YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE A CHANCE TO WIN IT?

"You like every race better if you feel like you've got a chance to win it. That's what it's all about. It's all about winning here. The pit stop competition, the pole tonight and the race tomorrow, it's all about winning. You don't really think about second very much when it's over, so, yeah, it's about winning. My honest answer for if I think we've got a shot at him tomorrow night, I really don't know. I thought our test was terrible. I didn't think we ran good at all. I thought today we ran exceptionally well. As soon as we unloaded off the truck we went to the top of the board and the car handled good. It did a lot of the things I wanted it to. I didn't even really want any changes, so Robbie and Chip went back from here and they made a bunch of changes on the car after our test and they've really improved it, so I feel like we're way ahead of where we were at the test, so I don't know if that's gonna be enough to beat those guys -- the 24 and the 48 right now, especially those two, they're just on fire. I don't think anybody's been running with them, so hopefully we can."

ROBBIE SAID THIS WEEK THAT HE THOUGHT THE PIT CREW COMPETITION WAS GOOD, BUT TONIGHT IS THE NIGHT OR ON RACE DAY. THEY LOOKED FIRED UP. THIS MEANS A LOT TO THEM, RIGHT?

"Oh yeah, for sure. I think they're disappointed from the pit crew competition. We can all see it. They can see it when we come in the pits sixth and go out third and stuff like that every week. They know they're beating the majority on pit road more times than they're getting beat. Our team is not really built for that pit crew competition. I'm not picking on them because it just amazes all the time they can do it, but my jack man is forty-some years old and he's less than 200 pounds and just coming off knee surgery and for him to run all the way across that auditorium and grab that car and start pushing it, stuff like that is hard and we don't really have the team for that. We train more for what we really do each and every week and I think the Rockingham competition really showed us that. We won it a couple of years in a row having great stops and it was a real pit stop just like this was today. We won two of these poles by doing the same thing and having a real live pit stop the way we really do it on race day, so that's when those guys really shine is by doing that. When the pressure is on and it's time to get it done, when the race is on the line, that's when those guys shine. When the pressure is there and they're in a real situation, that's when they get it done everytime."

-credit: ford racing

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Series NASCAR Cup