Continued from part 1 MATT KENSETH: DO YOU BELIEVE IN PEAKING? "I don't know how I can answer about sports teams for sure, but I know in our business that momentum is very important. It's a weird thing. If we do make the chase and we do get...
Continued from part 1
DO YOU BELIEVE IN PEAKING? "I don't know how I can answer about sports teams for sure, but I know in our business that momentum is very important. It's a weird thing. If we do make the chase and we do get to the top 10, I'll feel really good about it - not just because we made the top 10 because, to me, it's not just about making the top 10. I mean, if I'm gonna finish seventh in points or 12th in points, honestly, I don't really care. If we make the top 10, I want to make the top 10 with a chance at winning a championship. Last year we made the top 10, I felt like in my heart that we weren't gonna run for a championship anyway. I didn't think we were running good enough. I just didn't feel like we had our ducks in a row to do that and we ended up finishing eighth with some mistakes I made and so on. This year, the way we've run the last couple months if we were more consistent, but our performance is so good that I feel like if we could slide our way in there right now, we're on a high note and I do think momentum does carry for a while. You could see it with Greg at the beginning of the year and, yeah, he's still running really great, but in the beginning of the year he couldn't do nothing wrong. If we're lucky enough to get in a stretch like that and carry that on for a few races in the chase, I feel like we're running good enough to be a threat. It's only five points a position and if we can get in that, I think we could be a threat to challenge everybody with the way everybody is running right now. That's what I feel the best about."
NICE TO TALK ABOUT A WIN OPPOSED TO THE OTHER STUFF? "I don't know if anybody has read or kept track of my interviews, but I basically haven't commented on anything outside of our press release as it relates to Kurt and the dilemma that we've got in dealing with that situation. The structure that surrounds our business, we need rules for the technical aspects of it and we need rules and guidelines and make commitments that work for our business and I guess we're gonna have some trials with those things right now to see if the structure we've got with our business works so we can make guarantees. But I'm looking to Kurt being in my 97 car for Newell Rubbermaid, Sharpie and Biaggio to the extent that they negotiate with one another and get happy with it in 2006 and then we'll make new plans for 2007."
ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT RICHMOND? "Yes, I'm thinking about Richmond, but I'm not thinking about it because of the chase. I'm thinking about Richmond because we're going there Monday and Tuesday to test our Cup car and Wednesday to test our Busch car, so that's why I'm thinking about it right now. I've been trying to think of ideas of things that I can add to try to think of some different ideas to test also because we're gonna be testing there. That's the only reason I'm thinking about it. We're closer right now, but you've still got to have everything go right. I don't want to downplay it too much, but we've got to go to California and all do our jobs again like we did tonight and like we did last week and go there and get a great finish. If we can get a great finish and run like we did at Chicago and Michigan last week, and have a good solid top five or top 10 car, then I'll start thinking about Richmond a little bit more. I am thinking about testing there, but I'm more thinking about California and taking that really nice car that we've got there. We as a group owe that car a win, so I would like to go up there and run good at California and, hopefully, challenge for a win."
DOES THIS REMIND YOU OF MATT IN WISCONSIN? "The way he ran the race tonight was the way our race team operated for a lot of years. We just worked together. We didn't get excited when things went right or went wrong, we just dealt with whatever situation we had. Tonight was pretty dominating and that's the way you want to run a race team. Matt, as long as I've known him, that's the way we operate. Usually when we don't operate like that, that's when we've got trouble."
WHY HAVE THINGS BEEN ROUGH FOR YOU AT TIMES ON SHORT TRACKS? "I don't think it has been. In 2003 when we won the championship, we had the best average finish at the short tracks, and I think we did in 2002 also. We won Richmond and won Phoenix, so I don't think we have honestly. We have at Martinsville, but I feel like at the rest of the short tracks, besides Martinsville, I think short tracks has been one of our strong points. I think we have a really great record here at Bristol. We hadn't won, but we have a great record. In the spring we had a bad finish, but we were running third and had a flat with 10 to go. I think we've done fairly well."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT STARTING WITH ROBBIE? "When I started driving Robbie's Busch cars, we never went and practiced or tested or anything. My first race with Robbie was kind of trial by fire. I met him in Nashville, Tennessee and that was my first racing experience with Robbie and his first experience with me racing together. Let's not talk about when we raced against each other. We get along much better racing together than against each other."
YOU SEEMED AGGRESSIVE OUT THERE. "I think I was pretty patient. If anyone was watching the part of the race when I was trying to watch Mike Wallace, that took every ounce of restraint that I had from not punting him. I was under him and he cut me off several times and Rusty was two seconds behind me and caught me and was ready to pass me, that's how bad it was and I never laid a fender to him because we had such a good car. It would have been silly to get into somebody and mess up your fender or have them slide into you or whatever. I knew I had a good enough car and I knew I was gonna get by him. I was like a bad doctor, I was running out of patience."
THANKS FOR PROVING YOU CAN WIN FROM THE FRONT. "The reason we never won from the front was that we never started there. We've always qualified so bad."
IS IT MORE CRUCIAL TO HIT YOUR MARKS HERE? "Maybe a little bit, but I think that every track is different. Everybody has their own little niche where they're maybe a little better at or a little worse at, but I've always been a believer that there are a lot of really great race car drivers in the garage. I think almost anybody out there in the right car could win the race, so it's about the equipment Jack provides us and the guys putting it together and trying to communicate well enough together to put the right setup in it to get it to run that good. These cars, they are tough to drive but they are easier to drive when they're driving good. When you can get them to handle that good and run up front, that will be one of your easier days usually. It's just different. There's a lot more going on here. Things happen quicker. It's maybe a little easier to lose control of your car and stuff like that, but it's just different. I can't say it's really easier or harder than most tracks. There are some tracks that are definitely simpler, where the groove is right on the white line and it's nice and smooth and big and wide - that are maybe a little easier to drive - but every track has it's own little thing."
WHAT IS MIKE WALLACE'S DEAL? "He's just trying to stay on the lead lap. It was no big thing. Everything was alright. I was just a little impatient because there was gonna be an accident. When I was catching people to lap them, there was always a common denominator. I'm not saying any of it was his fault, but he was fighting very, very, very hard to stay on the lead lap. When people got under him he'd come down a little bit and it just seemed like there was a lot of contact there. I didn't want to mess my car up so good and I didn't want to make a mistake and scrape something off. It's his job to run that car as hard as he can and try to stay on the lead lap and do that. It just seemed like it was a little extreme the one time I caught him. It was just a little more difficult than I would have made it for anybody."
WHAT DID YOUR CAR LOOK LIKE AFTER? "I just had a couple teenie little bumps. I think Jeff bumped me a little bit on the last corner there. I got a terrible restart. I'm not gonna complain about having too much power, but I'd just spin the tires through every gear. I was a little bit psycho on that and trying to get the tires to hook up and spinning the tires. Jeff got real close to me and then Carl was coming out of the pits or doing something. I'm not sure exactly what he was doing, but I got under him going into one on the restart and Jeff was right up behind me. There was a little tense moment there, but other than that, one time there was a wreck and I just barely bumped into the back of Dale, Jr., but I don't think there's a scratch on the car that I saw."
ARE YOU SO FOCUSSED ON THE CHASE THAT YOU'RE ELEVATING YOUR PERFORMANCE? "I don't think it has anything to do with the chase, I think it has to do with racing. I think all of us are disappointed with the way we raced this year and we've all been working hard trying to get our deal turned around. We go to California, we go to Richmond, we go to any races, even if we don't make the top 10 we're gonna try to win those races. That's what we do. That's our job. It would be great to get in the chase and go for the championship, but, ultimately, every week we go we try to win races and win championships. That's what this is all about."
"If I can just add to that, exactly what Robbie said. I think a lot of the pressure and a lot of the stuff about making a big drive, that's all kind of media induced and fun to watch and fun to keep track of - it's fun for everybody to watch points and all of that stuff, but, for us - at least for me and I know Robbie - we approach these races the same every week. Making the chase starts at Daytona. It didn't start two weeks ago or a month ago - whenever we started running better. Growing up short track racers you approach every race the same. You show up every week with your best game and your best stuff and work as hard as you can and get the best result that you can get that day. At least for me, I don't think it matters if we're 30th in points or third in points, we'd run things exactly the same as we are right now."
ELABORATE ON WANTING TO WIN AT DAYTONA AND BRISTOL? "I think the Daytona 500 is something everybody would like to win. It's just different. It's a plate race and there's just so much more luck and car and just a lot more stuff involved. There are definitely people better at drafting than others and this and that, but there's not near as much driver input there and driving the car and all that stuff at other race tracks. I like Indy too, but Robbie has always really wanted to win Indy, so that's one of the reasons that's on the top of my list. Russ Strupp and some of the guys that have always been on our Busch team, the top of their list was always to win the Bristol night race, so that's why I thought of that. It's a big race. It's a really cool party atmosphere. For the first three years I raced, we were racing in the Busch Series - a little house on the lake, we used to race here Friday night and have a little party on Saturday night and watch the Bristol race and hang out up there. Some of those guys are still the same group - Robbie and Russ and Todd (Millard) and a few of those guys. We always wanted to race here and then when we raced here we saw how cool it is. It's really a spectacle to be here and see all these people and all the crowd and all this stuff. It's something we always wanted to do was win this race."
HOW DOES THIS RANK? "I think this is definitely a race a lot of people want to win. Here and Darlington - the Southern 500. It doesn't quite have the same significance as when it was on Labor Day, but that was always a really tough, hot, long, slick race. That was a very difficult one, so I think the Southern 500, Bristol, Indy - the World 600 in Charlotte - those are probably four of the biggest races that I'd want to win."
WHAT DO YOU THINK WOULD HAPPEN IF ALL FIVE ROUSH GUYS MAKE THE CHASE? "I don't know if it will be an advantage or anything like that. I don't think it will be anymore or less of an advantage if we were in there or not in there. However many tests we have left, we're certainly gonna use them no matter where we are in the points and try to run the best we can the rest of the year - no matter where we end up, whether we make it or not. Right now, we all work really good together. I've got four really great teammates. They all communicate really good together. The crews seem to be working together better than ever and they're building great race cars over there. Everybody is doing a good job working together. It's a lot of fun. I have a lot of fun with all my teammates. They always try to help you out and we try to do the same thing back, if you can, but there's not a lot you can do on a race track. If you're all racing for the same spot and all racing for the points, you're not gonna do a lot to help each other out, you're gonna try to take care of yourself first, but, certainly, if you can help them without hurting yourself, you're always gonna try to do that no matter where you're racing with your teammates."
HOW TOUGH WAS IT EARLY IN THE SEASON SEEING YOUR TEAMMATES RUN WELL? "First of all, when your teammates are winning you're very happy for them, but in another way when they're winning and you're not winning, you start looking at yourself. You're certainly not jealous of them or anything like that, but maybe you get down a little bit on yourself or wonder why we're not winning and they're out running good. On the other side of the coin, there have been years like 2002 and the beginning of 2003 where we've run really well and some of our teammates maybe haven't run quite as well. So it all kind of works in cycles. All five cars can't be winning every week, although that's what we aim for and that's what Jack would like to see. This is a pretty cool year. Mark won the all-star race and all the other four teams have won races also, so all five of Jack's teams have been to victory lane and that's a huge accomplishment for a car owner and as an organization. So it's fun to be part of. I really enjoy working with those guys and happy to be driving these cars for sure."