MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 USG/DeWalt Ford Fusion (Finished 3rd) "We had a pretty steady day. My pit crew just did a great job. We kind of had, I thought anywhere from a third to a seventh-place car most of the day and they got me out in front and...
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 USG/DeWalt Ford Fusion (Finished 3rd)
"We had a pretty steady day. My pit crew just did a great job. We kind of had, I thought anywhere from a third to a seventh-place car most of the day and they got me out in front and gave me the opportunity at the end. I just couldn't get it done. I just got real aero tight behind other cars. I had a big lead and when I caught Dale Jarrett I couldn't get him to move out of the way and I didn't want to run into him and cause a wreck or anything like that. I just couldn't get him to move and I just got real tight behind him. I got slow and then Kurt waited a couple of laps and knocked the crap out of me, so that was about my day. At the end I ran into Jeff Gordon. That was my fault. It was an accident and I didn't mean to do it, which is what everybody says, but I really didn't. We kind of got slowed up with a lapped car on the outside and I just drove in too hard and couldn't get stopped and got into him. The very ending wasn't that good, but, overall, it was a decent day for us."
SHOULD DJ HAVE MOVED?
"That's a tough question to answer. Should he have for who? For me? Yeah (chuckling). All I can say is if I was in that position and the leader was behind me, no matter which one of the other 42 cars it was on the track, I would have got out of the way. Now is that saying he had to get out of the way? No, that's not saying that. That's everybody's prerogative. He can do whatever he wants. I could have run into him and wrecked him and kept going. I saw another leader to that to a lapped car earlier today. When he wouldn't get out of the way he just wrecked him. Anybody could do that. I just thought that of all the years we've raced together and as fair as we've been, I thought with 15 to go when he knew he wasn't gonna have a chance of winning the race that he would have moved out of the way and respected the leaders a little bit more. If he would have, we would have won the race. I have no doubt. I could get away from Kurt, it's just that I got so slow behind Dale. My car got real aero tight and I just couldn't get it done. He has as much right to the race track as I do no matter where you're running, but usually there's kind of an unspoken respect when the leader catches you, especially at the end of the race."
WERE YOU SURPRISED WITH JEFF'S REACTION WHEN HE GOT OUT OF THE CAR?
"I'm not gonna get this started too much. I've got a couple of things I could say, but I would be hot too. He raced hard all day long and he worked for his third-place finish and he got it unfairly taken away from him in the last corner and finished 20th or whatever. I would have been ticked off, too. I probably should have known better than to go over there, but I just think that when you do something wrong you should try to be a man about it and go apologize -- even though I knew that wasn't gonna do any good. That wasn't gonna bring his finish back, so I should have probably known better than to go over there to start with. I really didn't mean it and I know he probably doesn't believe that, but we kind of got slowed up with a lapped car and I got in there too hot and I just couldn't get slowed down. When I did hit him, I got off the gas as much as I could. I didn't think I hit him that hard, but I did. I must have because he didn't save it, so I was equally as disappointed that he wrecked as he was. I didn't mean to do that and I felt bad about it and I was just going over to tell him that I didn't mean that. It made no sense for me to do it. I didn't have a reason to be mad at him and go hit him. He moved me out of the way, but I was so slow at the end of the race that he should have moved me out of the way."
WOULD THE SAME THING HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU AND KURT WERE STILL TEAMMATES?
"I don't know the answer to that. I really don't. All I can tell you is the only thing I know for sure is that if the roles would have been reversed I absolutely would not have done that to him. I almost wrecked the car. It was as close as I came to wrecking and I worked hard for that spot all day and I didn't think that I should have got a cheap shot taken at me at the end of the race like that. I feel bad about that. I wouldn't have done that to him. Maybe I should do that to people and maybe I'd have more success. I don't know. Maybe I'd be sitting there, but I wouldn't have done it. I didn't think it was the right move at the time. I thought I was going slow enough that if he could have got off the corner as good as me, he could have got under me a little bit and I would have had to give him the spot. I didn't think he had to run me over as hard as he did."
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE FOR THE LAST 5 LAPS TO FADE AWAY AND THEN REALIZE YOU'RE IN THE POINTS LEAD?
"I don't want to say I don't care about the points lead because I do. Our stuff has been running so good this year and I'm just so thankful for the great team that I have and the opportunities I have and the pit stops we have. I feel bad. I feel like I keep letting my guys down. They keep getting me the lead at the end and I lose it like I did at Vegas. I just couldn't do any more. All day we had anywhere from a third or fourth-place car to a seventh-place car, I thought. We just had really good track position all day, so it's great for those guys and for our whole team to be in the point lead. We've had super-competitive cars each and every week. They've been a lot of fun to drive and you just wish sometimes you didn't have the conflict at the end of the race and you'd go home feeling a little bit better than having people mad at you. We did pretty good all day until the last couple of laps."
KURT SAID HE WAS HOPING YOU WOULDN'T BE TOO MAD AT HIM. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT'S RIGHT AND WHAT'S WRONG IN THE LAST 10 LAPS?
"It just depends how you want to be treated and respected, I think. What I always try to do since I came down after meeting Mark and meeting Jack is I always try to think in my head -- and I'm not perfect at doing this. A lot of times I don't do what he would have done, but I always try to think, 'Would Mark Martin have done that?' If Mark Martin would have done that, then that was probably a fair move. If Mark Martin wouldn't have done that, then it probably wasn't a fair move.' That's kind of the way I look at it. Everybody is different. There are some people that would do that and then there are some people that wouldn't. I was slow and I was holding him up those last few laps, but it was almost a wreck. I don't know. Of course the guy holding the trophy is gonna feel good about it and hope the guy is not too mad at him and the guy who just got his butt kicked is gonna be feeling bad."
CAN IT BE A BOOST TO BE IN THE POINTS LEAD COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?
"Yeah, for sure it is. Last year we just had to scratch and claw and fight to get our cars running good enough to get into the chase. Although after five weeks being in the point lead is no guarantee at all of making the chase, but it certainly puts you in a better position than wherever we were after Bristol last year -- 30th or something. They've been doing a good job. They've been doing a good job preparing the stuff and, right now, I feel like they're the team that deserves to be in the point lead -- not just off performance but the whole thing -- off of pit stops and car preparation and everything they've done. They've given me cars as competitive as I could ever ask for for five weeks in a row and that's a really amazing job."
WERE YOU SURPRISED JEFF GOT AS PHYSICAL AS HE DID?
"Yeah. I was surprised. If I thought he was gonna try to take a swing at me or something like that I probably wouldn't have gone over there, so, yeah, I was surprised."
DO YOU SOMETIMES YOU THINK YOU SHOULD NOT BE SUCH A CLEAN DRIVER?
"No, one of my problems is I probably care too much about what other people think. I always have. I always like to race people the way I like to be raced and I don't always do a good job of that. I've made tons of mistakes. I've made a lot of mistakes and spinning Jeff out at the end was definitely one of them. But as good of a relationship Kurt and I have had and as good a friends as we've become, and as much as we've always respected each other on the track -- teammates or not teammates -- I couldn't have done that to him. I was just barely away from wrecking the car. If he would have drove in the corner and moved me up the track and passed me like Jeff did to Rusty here with that famous move I'd say, 'That was pretty cool. That was a good, clean move. He hit me and moved me out of the way. I didn't almost wreck.' But he hit me so hard I did everything but wreck. I don't think I could have done that to him and brought my trophy home and felt good tonight and been smiling and sleeping but that's just me. Everybody is different."
WERE YOU AWARE OF THE ACCIDENT AT HOMESTEAD IN WHICH A DRIVER WAS KILLED? HOW DO YOU FEEL GETTING A CAR KNOWING SOMETHING LIKE THAT?
"That's a really tough question to answer. I heard about it this morning on the news when I was in the hauler getting ready for the race. That's always tough even if you don't know him or you don't know anything about that kind of racing or watch that kind of racing. It's still hard, especially with those cars. You always know the dangers there and things can go wrong."