Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings after posting four straight top-10 finishes to start the season. He spoke about his team's improved performance just before ...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings after posting four straight top-10 finishes to start the season. He spoke about his team's improved performance just before qualifying for Sunday's Food City 500.
"I'm looking forward to racing here this weekend. This is one of my favorite tracks, but since they went to this car and reconfigured it we've really struggled. We seemed to be better in practice today. We made a lot of changes in race trim that made a big difference on the car, so I'm looking forward to see how we stack up compared to everybody else. I think Atlanta was a really good test because we didn't perform particularly well there last year, and this will be another one, so I'm looking forward to it."
DID YOU NOTICE THE SAFER BARRIER EXTENSION IN TURNS TWO AND FOUR? "You could tell off four it's narrower. I think as long as we're spending the money on SAFER barriers when you put all these people in here, we should just put them all the way around every track on the outside and inside. Then you wouldn't have to worry about it and there wouldn't be all those weird transitions. I know that they really don't want to spend the money for them, but that would make the tracks safer anyways. It's kind of weird because you come off and there's the SAFER barrier and then it goes away from you and the wall is half-a-car length away from you and then it comes in again. I wish they would just put it all the way around everywhere."
WILL IT BE AN ISSUE? "It's a little narrower off four. You're gonna hit the wall sooner than you did before. Everybody is kind of in the same groove getting ready to qualify, so we'll see how it affects things more during the Nationwide race when the groove widens out a little bit."
YOU'RE SECOND IN POINTS, SO DO YOU GO INTO A DEFENSIVE MODE AT THIS TRACK TO TRY AND KEEP THAT SPOT? "No. We really approach every race the same. We really try to bring our best stuff and qualify the best we can and race the best we can. We don't really approach it any different. It used to be you could kind of approach this place a little differently, but it has really changed a lot with this car and since they reconfigured the track. So now you race it more like you race anywhere else. There are a couple of grooves and you want to be there the whole time, whereas before you knew there was gonna be a lot of wrecks and a lot of attrition. As long as you stayed on the lead lap and got your car in position those last couple of pit stops, you were gonna probably have a good day by just staying out of trouble. But it's not exactly like that anymore because you've got to race hard and try to get that track position from the beginning all the way to the end."
YOU SPENT SOME TIME WITH HEATH CALHOUN, A PARALYMPIAN FROM THIS AREA. HOW WAS YOUR MEETING WITH HIM? "I got to meet Heath at Daytona. He was part of the Crown Royal 'Your Name Here' Contest and he won the contest, so they're naming the Richmond race after him in May. It was really cool to meet him. I turned on TV the other day and saw they were having a special on him competing out there, so I don't know how his first runs went, but I think it's pretty amazing he's out there competing as well as what he's done for all of us."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE PROGRESS OF COLIN BRAUN AND RICKY STENHOUSE JR. IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES? "Not really because I haven't been over there. I haven't run any Nationwide races and, as of today, we don't have a sponsor for any Nationwide races, so, to be honest with you, I'm a little bit away from that program more than I was last year when I was running races and competing and working with those guys. With Drew going back over there and Mike coming out of there, and then Ben going three as well, there's just been a little bit of a shake up and some different stuff. I've been watching them race every week, but I don't really know if we're ahead or behind where we were last year."
WHAT'S BEEN THE BIGGEST CHANGE ON YOUR TEAM SINCE TODD CAME ON BOARD? "It's only been four weeks and three races since we moved the team around and changed it up a little bit, so it's hard for me to say what the biggest difference is, but I think everybody's attitude, including mine, has been a little bit better. It's probably put a little spark in the thing. Everybody is working real hard and getting along, but, like I said, it's only week four. But it's been going well so far. Everybody has really been pulling on the same end of the rope."
HAVE YOU LEARNED ANYTHING ON HOW TO APPROACH A SEASON AFTER WATCHING WHAT JIMMIE JOHNSON HAS DONE THE LAST FOUR YEARS? "I'm probably the wrong guy to ask because I didn't even make the chase last year. There are 43 cars out there and they're the best and the ones you have to beat. You have to finish in front of them every week to beat them. It's really an easy formula, but nobody has been able to do that. They're good all year round. I don't think there is any strategy from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. They won two out of the first four, and at the end of the year they're winning races in the chase, too. So it's not like they just ride around all year and then go beat everybody in the chase. They're the car to beat, in my mind, every week."
-source: ford racing