Atlanta: Kenseth - Ford Friday interview

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, is fifth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings. Kenseth held a Q&A session prior to practice on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion IS ...

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, is fifth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings. Kenseth held a Q&A session prior to practice on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion

IS ATLANTA STILL ATLANTA? "I think so. I think it's the same pretty much because we're running the same cars. You always see a great race here, so I don't foresee anything different this weekend."

IS THERE ANY CHANGE IN HOW YOU DRIVE THIS TRACK WHEN IT'S COOL VERSUS WHEN IT'S HOT? "You drive whatever the car will give you for grip and the tires will give you for grip, so it should be a little faster. Usually when the track is real green like this and nobody has been on it, it'll be faster and actually have more grip at first. You're a little more aggressive and you drive the car a little harder when you have more grip."

YOU'VE NEVER BEEN A STRONG QUALIFIER HERE. IS IT BECAUSE YOU WORK ON RACE SETUP IN PRACTICE? "I just stink at it. For a track that I like as much as I like it, it's probably one of my worst qualifying tracks. Honestly, my biggest problem is that we do our practice during the day and we qualify at night and to go out there and cut a lap at 190-some miles an hour at night. The track is very white and you can't really see the white line on the apron and I have a really hard time here. I don't know why. I think my vision is pretty good, but when we qualify here at night it's very hard for me to tell a difference between the race track and the apron, especially down in turn three and four and it just looks a lot different. If you look through all of our notes, almost everytime I get back I tell them the car was more times than not a lot better than I qualified it just because I have a hard time seeing where I'm going. The track drives a lot different at night and we don't really get any practice. You get one shot at it all taped up with stickers on and it's hard for me to do for some reason."

DO YOU HAVE ANY WAGERS ABOUT WHAT MARK IS GOING TO DO? "Yeah, but as the weeks go on I keep feeling less and less like he'll do it. At Daytona I would have bet anything that he would have kept going, but, for some reason, he's kind of sticking to his guns and I'm gonna leave him alone about it. We'll see if he does it or not. I'm a big fan of Mark's. Let me put this the right way, but I think it would probably be Mark's best chance at a championship if he just kept running but he didn't care about the championship and he didn't worry about it. I think from watching Mark over the years, the more he worries about it, and the more he cares about it, and the more he gets his stomach in a knot about it, the more problems that they've had. I'm not saying that they're of his own doing, but it seems like when he's real relaxed and not even thinking about the points or anything this year, I mean, this is the best start he's ever had to a season. He's got a new group. He's just letting them do their deal and he's just getting in the car and driving it and they're doing great. I'd maybe try to figure out how to keep that formula going like that."

HE SAID HE HAS NO DESIRE TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP ANYMORE. DO YOU BUY THAT? "No, he's lying (laughing). I think he's got a desire to win a championship, I don't know if he has a desire to run a whole season and go through the grind and have his stomach in knots and being up all night because he worried about losing 10 points the last week. I believe in that he doesn't have any desire to do that, but if you're in the middle of the mix and you're there and having fun, your cars are running good and you have a shot at a championship, you still have a desire to win it. I don't know if he has the desire to go through the whole year with the stress and all that stuff, I buy that, but everybody still has a desire to win one. If they're in the middle of it and they've got a chance to do it, everybody still wants to try and do it."

IT'S THE COUNTING POINTS THING? "Mark gets himself, as we all do, really worried about it. It's not as bad now with the chase. If you can solidly get in the top 10 within five or six races before the chase and you feel like you've got a good shot of making it unless things go wrong, but when you're right on the edge of the bubble of that thing and then you're fighting them for points the last 10 or 12 races, whatever it is, it's stressful and it eats on you and he's been doing that for 19 years. He's had chances to win championships. Before the chase, it was a season-long deal. The way Mark was and the way I was and everybody, if you've got a chance for a championship and you're in the third race of the year -- in a season-long thing -- and you get a flat tire, that just eats at you all year because you're like, 'Oh man, I just lost 40 points there,' or whatever it is, so I think he's just probably sick of that part of it."

IS YOUR BET WITH MARK? "No, he's way too cheap to beat (laughing). When he goes to Vegas, he goes straight to the room and goes to bed."

WHO IS YOUR BET WITH?  "I can't tell
you that.  It's top secret."

WHAT DO YOU STAND TO WIN? "Nothing. It's just more jabbing at him a little bit. I'm leaving him alone now. Whatever he decides to do is cool. I'd like to see him run just because I think this year he's probably got a shot at it as much or more than any other year, but whatever makes him happy and whatever he's having the most fun doing, that's what he should do. But you never know. You never know until you take a week off. He might take a week off and really be like, 'Man, I'm glad I took a week off,' or he might be the most miserable thing you've ever seen because he had the week off. For the last three years, every year at the end of the year, there's always been talk about Robbie doing the general manager thing and taking time off and he's sick of the schedule. For three or four years I've heard how he's tired of the schedule and he can't stand it and wants to get off the road. Now that he's had this time off, he can't stand being at home and he can't wait to get back on the road, so everybody is different. Once you get used to traveling all the time it's hard to quit doing it."

MARK COULD MISS BRISTOL AND STILL COME BACK TO MAKE THE CHASE. "Yeah. I told him he should go to Bristol and see how it goes and then skip Martinsville or Talladega. Bristol is kind of fun. Martinsville and Talladega aren't."

DO YOU MISS NOT HAVING HIM FOR A TEAMMATE? "No, because we spend pretty much the same amount of time together right now as we did then. He lives in Florida, so it's not like we ever saw each other during the week and he never really came to the shop. Our motorhomes are still parked side-by-side, so I still see him as much as I saw him when he was a teammate, so it really doesn't seem much different. We don't sit and talk about car setups, but, other than that, it's about the same."

DO YOU THINK NOT WORRYING ABOUT POINTS IS THE KEY TO DOING WELL AT THIS SPORT? "I think the key to it all along is to not let the highs be too high and the lows be too low and try to stay somewhere in the middle, and try to have fun doing it. If you don't do that, I think it's easy to not do well."

IS IT FUN? "There are times that are more fun than others, but most of the time it's fun."

WHAT'S YOUR OVERALL IMPRESSION OF LAS VEGAS NOW THAT IT'S OVER? "The track, since I first got on the track the track is fine, it's just that the conditions were terrible because the tire was so hard. Goodyear was scared of having tire problems and getting somebody hurt, so they did the right thing and they brought a hard tire, but it's hard to find a solution when you have new pavement with all that grip and we're making all this downforce these days and horsepower and all that stuff. It's just that our cars are so fast, they've got to find a tire that holds together. But the track is great. The track is gonna be better as it ages, but the track is really good. We've just got to get on a tire that's a little bit softer and we can control a little bit better."

BUT YOU LIKED THE TRACK? "Yeah, the track was great. I thought it was really wide right away and I think as it ages a little bit it will get better. This place, when they first did it, everybody was like, 'It's way too fast. You've got to run around the bottom.' It was way too fast, but as it's aged I don't think you ever hear anybody say anything about this track, except for how great it is and they can't wait to come here, and I think Vegas will be similar to that."

-credit: ford racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth