Bristol II: Pole winner interview

MATT KENSETH POLE-WINNING PRESS CONFERENCE WHAT HAPPENED TONIGHT? "I got lucky, I guess (laughing). We had a really good car in practice. I was real happy with what we did. We didn't do any mock up qualifying runs, but we had a really good...


WHAT HAPPENED TONIGHT? "I got lucky, I guess (laughing). We had a really good car in practice. I was real happy with what we did. We didn't do any mock up qualifying runs, but we had a really good car and got a really good draw. We went out late and just did everything right. It feels good. We've got a great car for the race and it will be good to be starting up front."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE RACE TOMORROW? "Every week we talk about track position and how important it is and, obviously, it's as important or more important at this track than any other track. It's difficult to pass. There's always trouble that you can get yourself in, which can happen anywhere. It can happen when you're up front, too, for that matter. It's definitely important to be up front. There's really no openings on pit road, so there aren't a lot of good pit stalls, so it's good to get that first pit stall and have an opening leaving all day no matter where you're running. That's a good thing. To try to get out front and try to lead some laps - at least the first couple, hopefully - and get some bonus points to continue our surge toward the top 10. We're running out of time in a hurry, but yet we've made up some ground, too, so we've got to keep trying."

ARE YOU SURPRISED TO BE ON THE POLE? "Yeah, for some reason I was pretty confident before we qualified. For some reason we were all kind of joking about it, but I'm definitely surprised it was a pole. I didn't expect that, but I did expect to qualify pretty well tonight. My teammates all qualified pretty well. Greg went real fast for how early he went and I thought we could run a pretty good lap. I'm surprised that was the pole for sure and surprised it was that fast, but I expected to be somewhere respectable."

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A SEASON LIKE THIS BEFORE WITH FEW HIGH POINTS? "We've had seasons a lot worse than this. Last season we started off really strong and won a couple of races, but the last half of last year wasn't very good and 2001 was absolutely miserable. So I have had some years that haven't been great. This year has had some good points. We've run really, really well at certain tracks and had a lot of bad luck. There certainly have been tracks where we haven't run well and haven't done a good job and maybe haven't made good decisions - that type of thing - but there have been some places we've run really good. This place in the spring we just kind of hung around all day with 40 or 30 to go. We were running third and got a flat tire out there running under green, so we've had a lot of weeks like that, too. So statistically our season doesn't look that good, but I think it's been a little bit better than that, and it definitely has been showing promise the last three or four months. If you took the Poconos out of there and Watkins Glen out of there, we've done pretty well since probably mid-June or something like that."

HAVE YOU HAD ANY CHANCE TO WORK WITH THE NEW FUSION YET? "No. There are a few interesting things coming up. You've got the new model change coming out, which, it might surprise me, but in my mind that's not gonna be a big deal. NASCAR has all these common templates and they've got all these things going on. You're gonna have a nose and a tail change, so it's gonna be a little more efficient and it's gonna be a little bit better, but it's gonna be very little and the windows are gonna look a little different, so, really, I think all the cars are pretty close to the same. I don't think it's gonna be dramatically different than what we have. I haven't really got to look at it that much yet. We haven't worked with it. We haven't built anything or put it in the tunnel. We haven't really had any involvement in that. Ford kind of did that, so I don't really know exactly what we have there. I guess the biggest thing everybody is kind of talking about now is that new car deal they're coming out with in a couple of years. I think that's gonna be a huge change, which everybody is gonna have to do. But as far as next year's model, I'm not really worried about it. I'm not thinking it's gonna be way better than what we have. I don't think it's gonna be way worse than what we have. It'll probably be about what we have, maybe just a little bit better, and it's gonna look a little bit different."

ARE YOU HAPPY AT ROUSH? THERE HAVE BEEN SOME RUMORS? "I haven't been reading anything. That keeps me in a way better mood. I'm happy over there. I think the thing with Kurt surprised a lot of people and I think, for some reason in this sport, especially with what's happened with Kurt and Jamie, obviously, people speculate more and there is a lot of rides that people are maybe looking for an experienced driver or looking for somebody. So I think that's what starts the rumors. I'm very happy at Roush. Kurt's thing - I sort of understand it but I sort of don't. They just won a championship and a couple of races this year, and are in the chase for this year pretty much guaranteed unless they really have problems. I really enjoy it over there. We have great stuff. I don't think you could ask for better equipment with Doug Yates and everybody doing engines. They're just second to none out there and Jack gives us everything we need to compete, and I can't think of anywhere else where I'd go and be more competitive right now. Everybody has a little bit different of an agenda, but for me it's competing and it's running good and it's winning races and being competitive. That's what all of us guys that started off on short tracks, that's why we started racing was for the love of the sport and for the love of trying to win and do good. If I look around just from the outside, I don't see anywhere where I would do that or have a better chance at winning than where I'm at."

ANY THOUGHT ON WHERE YOU NEED TO FINISH TOMORROW? "Honestly, a guy could sit and analyze that as much as they want. We've already won 23 races or something this year and you could look to any race and say this is the race we lost the points or this is the race we did good and gained points or whatever. In all actuality, you run the best you can run every week no matter where you are in the points, no matter how you've been running all year. You do the best you can every week. You finish as high as you can every week for the circumstances that you have. There's nobody that can take a 25th-place car and win with it, but the thing you do have to make sure you do is you don't take a winning car and finish 25th with it. Really, where we're at in points - and not so much being 100-and-something out of there - but having five or six cars in between you, we basically have to almost win every week and lead a lot of laps and hope other people have misfortune."

WOULD YOU ANTICIPATE MORE DRAMA TOMORROW? "I don't know. I don't think so. There will be more to talk about if you see one of the guys that fall out or something, so there might be more drama, I guess, watching it or reporting about it or writing about it or watching the TV and that stuff, but as far as in the car it won't be any extra drama. You're running as hard as you can run. If something happens to you, it happens to you. If it doesn't, it doesn't. We're so far out that I don't really worry about the points. I feel like since we had our last terrible Pocono - we had two of them - but since we had our last terrible Pocono I felt like we were pretty much out of it. Surprisingly, we've made up a lot of ground and we're a lot closer than I anticipated we'd be, even after a very, very mediocre at best at Watkins Glen, so it does show me that if some people have some problems and you can lead some laps and finish in the top five, you can get a lot of points and you can gain a lot of points. So I think that's our goal is to get our stuff running as good as we can every weekend and try to lead laps and finish as high as we can."

IS IT HARD ON THE TEAM WHEN RUMORS ABOUT THE DRIVER LEAVING START? "I don't think so. I don't think it does at all, really. Look at Jamie and Kurt's situation. They've got a year-and-a-half of working with guys and they told them they are leaving for sure, so I've said I wasn't leaving and I'm happy. So I don't see how rumors would really affect that. Kurt could have won the race last week. He led the most laps and was in position to win until he got off a little bit on that last long run, so I don't think that affects that at all, especially these days. As big as the business is, everybody is pretty professional in the garage area and everybody is out there to do a job. It's truly a team sport. They're part of that team and they don't want to not see that car finish good because maybe their driver is leaving or whatever it may be. In my situation, I'm not worried about it at all because I'm happy where I'm at and I'm certainly planning on being there."

IS IT MORE IMPORTANT TO RUN WELL OR WIN SOME RACES THE REST OF THE YEAR? "I think both. I don't think you could say more important - one or the other. It's important to run good and be consistent and try to have shots at winning, but there have been a couple of races this year - Chicago and Michigan - where as far as beating the competition we won, but we weren't the first one across the finish line and that's frustrating. Yeah, you really want to win, but you want to win every week. As long as our performance is up more than what it's been and we can run up front and be up in the top five and lead laps and do all of those things, the wins will eventually come. I think the main thing is to have our performance better than what it has been, and it's been looking like it's been better on average. It's still not as consistent as we used to be in '03 and some of the other times when we had real good years, but it's getting better."

SHOULD THERE BE A FORMULA IN THE POINTS FOR WINNING RACES AND THAT COUNTING MORE? "No. There is a benefit. There are 10 extra points everytime you win, so there is a benefit for that and that's five more points than it used to be until last year, so I think there is. It's not football where it's one team against another. It's one team against 42 others and there has to be a way of ranking that. It's not just all about winning every week, it's about doing a good job at each and every race track - all the different shapes and sizes we race at. We don't play on the same field and we don't play one team every week. It's a lot different, so I think you still have to rank that. A team that's running sixth every week is certainly more worthy than a team that finishes 25th every week and lucks out in a race or circumstances and wins a race. They're certainly better than that, so I think you have to award teams for their performance and they're consistency as well."

IS IT ODD YOU HAVEN'T WON A RACE WHERE YOU'VE STARTED BETTER THAN 17TH? "Really, I used to look at that statistic a lot and be kind of superstitious too, but when you haven't won in a year-and-a-half you don't look at any of those statistics because you've been starting all over the place and haven't won. I looked at that, but really through those years this year has been much better for qualifying, at least it feels it has been on average. But if you look through those years our qualifying was horrid, so it wasn't that we didn't win starting farther forward than that, we just never started farther forward than that hardly in all actuality. I used to be really superstitious about starting up front. We always had trouble. When we won the pole at Dover, we blew up in practice and had to go to the back because we put an engine in it. A lot of times we start up front we have problems early, but we started fourth at Chicago and led all day long. I felt good about that. I can't remember where we started last week, but we finished up well. I don't really worry about it that much. I think it's more because we never qualified that well."

DO YOU KEEP ALL OF YOUR EMOTIONS INSIDE PRETTY WELL? "You don't live with me. If my wife was here you wouldn't be saying that. I think you have to keep somewhat of an even keel, especially when you're dealing with your team and your guys. You always need to try to be upbeat or at least if you have a bad day to go to the shop on Monday or Tuesday and try to fix it. You definitely want to try to fix what your problems are, but remain upbeat and positive and keep everybody going. I definitely have highs and lows. They're probably not as big as a lot of other drivers. My happiness probably doesn't show through as much as some other drivers maybe when they win and my frustration probably doesn't show as much maybe as some other drivers when I'm having a real bad day. But I still definitely have them and maybe it doesn't show as much from the outside. I think that you have to keep an even keel as much as you can. I really believe that helps you with your consistency because when you're having a bad day, if you just lose your mind it's gonna be a worse day, where if you're having a bad day and you just keep working on it and plug through it and get through it, you can at least salvage something decent from it."

DO YOU KICK YOURSELF WITH THE WAY THINGS STARTED THIS YEAR? "No, because I don't think the whole first half of the season was all my fault. I'm sure there are some things I didn't do right, but it's a team sport and our cars weren't running as good. We've had flat tires. We broke stuff. We've had all kinds of stuff happen. I don't think it was all driver induced. I mean, if it were all driver induced, yeah, I'd be kicking myself but I don't believe it all was. I'm sure some of it was, but, really, as long as everybody is putting in 100 percent and we're working as hard as we can work and they give us competitive equipment - which they have - we just have to figure out what to do with it. I'm happy. They're giving us everything we need to win with, we just have to keep trying to put that together and figure out how to win with it."

-ford racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Teams CIP