No. 17 DeWalt Taurus Press Conference JACK ROUSH , Car Owner "Robbie brought a great car here. Normally with Matt, when he finishes a practice session and says he really doesn't know what he needs to do, he asks them if they want to use the...
No. 17 DeWalt Taurus Press Conference
JACK ROUSH , Car Owner
"Robbie brought a great car here. Normally with Matt, when he finishes a practice session and says he really doesn't know what he needs to do, he asks them if they want to use the remaining time for something that Robbie or Chip wants to try - the engineer - they get it going pretty good. But, anyway, to start from the pole. This is only Matt's second pole since we've been Cup racing together was pretty amazing. I had a feeling that if he could stay up front, if he didn't get snookered by staying out when he shouldn't or coming in when he shouldn't - that if he could maintain track position he was gonna be really good tonight and that was all Robbie Reiser determining when they came in. The holding and folding and the gambling part or the raising gambling part, that was Robbie. Robbie and I don't see eye to eye every once in a while on pit road, but tonight he was at his best and I stayed out of it so it worked out OK."
ROBBIE REISER , Crew Chief
WERE YOU CONFIDENT TONIGHT? "I'm never confident. I mean, this has just been a struggle. A lot of times we start races I think we've got a good car and we don't, so most of the time the first 20 laps I sit back and watch what's going on and, hopefully, we've got a decent car and tonight we seemed to have one."
IS THE 17 TEAM PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME? "As far as peaking at the right time, that's exactly what I've been telling the guys that fortunately we hadn't peaked and we had our peak in front of us. If it was high enough and it came soon enough we might have a chance. I'd all but written off our chances to get in three races ago, but Robbie and the guys didn't lose the faith and they've kept it going. I was building toward next year all the way, but they've got it turned around now. It's gonna be a horse race when they go to Richmond."
HAS THIS TEAM BEEN BETTER ALL ALONG? "I think in the first part of the year Jack was ready to fire me. It was probably the best team I've ever had and that's a lot to say considering we won a championship in 2003, but this group of people that we've got right now they don't get down, they keep working. Obviously, this was a good testament of it tonight. This team hasn't run that well this year, but the last couple of weeks it's been really coming around and these guys have stuck into it and I don't have one guy that has spent the season complaining. They've pretty much just gone to work. The month of May was really tough on this team. We got way behind with some of the car setup and some of the things we had going on, but we were able to turn it around. The last two months have been real strong for this team and these guys are behind it 100 percent. I think when everybody had us written out of the chase that was more of a challenge than anything else and they wanted to step up to the challenge and turn this thing around. There are a lot of guys on the 17 that have been there a long time and those guys have a lot of pride and they aren't gonna go down without a fight."
MATT SAID HE HAD WRITTEN THINGS OFF TOO. "That's fine. I'm fine with everybody writing us off, but that's what makes us tick. The guys that work on the team that's what makes you tick. When people tell you you can't do something, then you want to do it."
"I'd like to comment on what happened to us at Michigan. We really didn't get beat. I don't consider we got beat on fuel mileage at Michigan. The thing that we needed to do to prove what mileage we had and be able to do what we might have done was to give up all of our track position late in the race - give up the track position and assume there would be no further cautions on the next-to-the-last caution, and we decided not to do that. That's not the way we race. Three times out of four you'll get bit doing that. We didn't want to win that race the way it had to be won. All five of our cars led the race and we didn't break a part. I stepped away from Michigan as satisfied as I could be. Normally when we win a race, even like tonight, we've got Carl Edwards that didn't do what he might have based on the fact that he had two collisions up front and lost the water out of his radiator late in the race. I've got to sleep with that tonight or not sleep with it, but after Michigan I had absolutely nothing to be sad about. We were very happy about that race. We ran well and we'll win a lot of races with the kind of strategy we had there and with the fuel mileage we had."
IS MATT THAT CALM BEHIND THE SCENES? "He's as cold-blooded as any driver I've ever worked with. A lot of times when you try to sit down, I'm constantly mulling things over and trying to figure out where is there a weakness, what do we need to do to change things. Many times when things aren't going well as they were this year we didn't make any major changes, but I had my finger on the trigger all the time. I'm ready to make a change if I can understand that there's a consensus that says we've got a weakness in an area, but Matt stuck with all of his guys and he stuck with the strategy that we had. He's got the maturity to know that this is a cyclical business with ups and downs and he was not gonna give up on the good thing he thought he had going when it was down and he was gonna wait for it to turn and it has. He's been right."
DO YOU SEE MATT AND JEFF GORDON BUILDING MOMENTUM TO MAKE THE CHASE? "I haven't paid near as much attention to Jeff Gordon as I have at Matt and I think probably what their prospects are in either case is the stuff of editorials and more your business than mine. But it is important that we peak right. It is important to carry momentum into the chase. If we manage to get in there with the 17 car, I'd be happy to be in 10th place if we can do that. We'll only be 50 points behind and having done that, I would certainly think that we'd have a very good possibility of being successful with Robbie's confidence in his guys and with the maturity that Matt has. In 2003 when he won that championship, it was not our best year for our engines in terms of we didn't have our new D3 cylinder head and I hadn't made my arrangement with Robert Yates yet to get our engines where they are today. We had a Taurus that hadn't been changed since '97. Except for every year from '97 to 2003, NASCAR gave us a new set of templates that made it less car than it was before, so our engine wasn't great and our car wasn't great and the guys overcame that with great pit strategy and great judgments on Matt's part for the things he'd do in the car. This year we've got a great Taurus and a great engine and if we can just get a shot at this thing, it would be awesome."
HAVE THE CREW GUYS BEEN POSITIVE ALL YEAR? "I think that's the beauty of this team right now, yeah. I think those guys were behind it 100 percent. Sure, it wasn't going right, but they're all racers that are on the 17 and those guys realize that there are peaks and valleys and they all realize that we were gonna have to work at this thing to get it turned around. Last year when the different setups came in and we were pretty conventional in our aero package and there were some guys running in our company that were running better we had to look at what they were doing and it kind of sent us down a different path and one that was kind of the wrong direction for what we were doing with the 17 car, so it took a little bit to turn that back around and get it straightened out. Matt has been really patient with us during that time. I don't know if Jack has been pretty patient, but Matt has been pretty patient and believing what we're doing and the things we've got to do. Matt has always believed that we as a race team is as good as we're gonna be together and not apart. It's a strength of his that he understands that."
WAS THERE ANY FINGER POINTING? "I don't think there's ever been any finger pointing. A finger gets pointed at me, but rightfully so, I'm responsible for the way the team runs and the way the team performs. If it doesn't perform well, it's my responsibility. Thank God we started to turn it around here because I'd probably be on the outside looking in, but it's all about the race team."
YOU'RE 11 POINTS AWAY FROM HAVING HALF THE CHASE FIELD. "Once they realized what they were doing, I called Mike Helton when they came out with this strategy for this chase last year and I said, 'Mike, right now there has been a lot of criticism on multi-team programs and it's growing and getting stronger and it's gonna continue to do that.' I predicted last year that we'd put all five. We should have put all five of them in the top 10 and people are gonna say I'm predatory, but we missed a great opportunity to get them all in last year with the brand new Taurus that we didn't capitalize on. Robbie hit on it. We did not have the latest strategies for springs and aero utilization of the angle of attack of the car. We weren't doing that the way some teams were doing that last year. We were a little confused with what the new Taurus had to offer, but over the winter when we looked at the data of things gone right and things gone wrong, it became real clear what we needed to build and we built a lot of cars. Robbie and Matt sat down and got busy with their springs and shocks and got on the same page as the competition and the best of the Roush cars and we've got a really nice group of cars that can go do pretty much on any given day what anybody can do in the business. If we don't put them in the top 10, it's gonna be because I've done something to screw them up and I sure don't want to face that."
MATT KENSETH , Driver
AFTER POCONO WHAT HAPPENED TO TURN IT AROUND? "First of all, we haven't made it yet. I thought before Daytona, when we got out of Sears Point and went to Daytona, I said all along I thought we could make it, we just couldn't have any big problems. But there are a couple of hurdles there why I was saying the last few weeks I thought we were out of it. We messed up both Poconos real bad and did so terrible. We were in the late thirties and we were 200-and-some points out and not just 200-and-some points out, but we had six cars in between us and 10th. That's hard to do. To gain points and have a great day, that can happen with the equipment that we have and all the stuff that we have, but to have five or six people have trouble and have a great day for several weeks in a row is a difficult task. We've been a lot more competitive, I think, since around June. There have certainly been some races that we haven't been competitive and we messed things up, but on average we've been much more competitive. I felt like, in a way, we won Michigan on performance last week. A couple of guys made it on gas, but we beat all the cars that were out there on performance and I felt great about that. At Chicago it was the same thing and this weekend we just had an awesome car. They looked at what we did in the spring here and figured out what they did wrong with the car and put it all back and got everything pointed in the right direction and working right and it showed. You could make changes and it would change the car. We just have awesome engines and we have great cars and if we can do the right things to them and not mess them up, they can run like that."
I DON'T THINK YOU GOT PASSED ON THE TRACK TONIGHT. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU HAD A CAR LIKE THAT? "We had a car like that at Pikes Peak. That first Busch race we ran at Pikes Peak we had an awfully good car. We had a car this good, and I can't say it was better, but at least as good at Chicago and ended up getting behind on track position and didn't win it, but we had car that was that dominant. It was just awesome. This car was pretty much the same thing. If we would have had 150-lap run, I think we would have been not as dominant as we looked. I think we would have been a little slower at the end of the run, but this car was really, really fast for a 70 or 80-lap run. We were all over them for 20 or 30 or 40 laps. It was a lot of fun to drive it like that."
DID YOU GET PASSED? "Not that I know of. Not that I'm aware of. I think the farthest back we were all day was sixth place when some guys stayed out and we worked our way back to the lead. We had a great car, especially on fresh tires. Robbie did a great job calling the race and all of the cautions kind of fell in the right place for that. There were some 10-lap cautions. We'd run 10 laps and have a caution, so we knew we were gonna stay out and then we'd run 30 or 40 laps and with us being the leader - a few guys that did stay out just got killed. They didn't get tires - so everybody knew they needed tires if you ran 30 or 40 laps and everybody came down with us and that made all of our jobs down there a little bit easier. Usually at this place you'll have 15 cars stay out and you'll have 15 cars pit and you get yourself way behind, but everybody knew that they needed tires tonight and that made it a little bit easier."
HOW BIG WAS YOUR SPOTTER TONIGHT AND WHAT ABOUT YOUR CHANCES THE NEXT TWO RACES. "The spotters are probably most important at Daytona and Talladega and then at Bristol they're important too to watch for accidents. Things happen in a big hurry here. There's only so much they can do, but they're definitely important. When you're in the front, that's the easiest job they'll ever have. When you're out front and you're catching people from behind and passing them that's an easier job for them. I never like to get overly confident about anything, but I think unless something goes wrong, which it certainly could easy enough, I think that we'll be very competitive at California. We have a car that we ran at Chicago and Michigan and it performed good enough to win both of those races and I think it will perform the same at California. Now that doesn't mean you can't have a flat tire or a bad pit stop or a broken part or eye bracket or something like that, but I do think that we'll go there and be competitive enough to run up front and, hopefully, challenge for a win. I just believe that car is a really, really, really good car. It's been really great at both of those tracks and if we put the right stuff into that, I think it will run up front."
Continued in part 2