Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, and Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Ford Fusion are all in the top 10 of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings after...
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, and Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Ford Fusion are all in the top 10 of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings after four races. All three drivers held Q&A sessions during Friday's rain delay.
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
IT MUST FEEL GOOD TO COME BACK TO A PLACE YOU WON AT THE LAST TIME. "It feels good. Whenever you come back to a place you've had success at you definitely feel a little more confident and you feel a little better about it, but I will say that there have been years or even during the season if you race in May and race again in October, where we've gone to race tracks and run really well in the spring or the year before and come back with the same car and the same setup and it doesn't necessarily run. So I feel good about it, but you always have to keep an open mind and work on your car and try to make it better. The rules change. We've had a model change on our cars with the Ford Fusion and track conditions change. All of that stuff changes a little bit so you still have to work real hard at it and it might not run like you think it's supposed to when it gets here."
HAVE YOU DONE ANY SHORT-TRACK TESTING WITH THE NEW FORD FUSION? "Really, with the testing policies I don't think going somewhere else you're really gonna learn a lot, so we haven't really done any. We've just done whatever the mandatory tests have been."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE DIFFERENT FEEL THIS PLACE GIVES YOU? "Everything just happens in a hurry. It takes a while to get your mind adjusted to it and your reflexes get adjusted to it. Whenever I come here it always seems to take five or 10 laps to get out there and run. The first time you come in it feels like you're still doing laps while you're parked, so it's just a really different place. It's a short track, but it kind of drives like a speedway because you're going so fast. The speeds are really fast for how small the track is and how tight the corners are, but, in my opinion, once the race gets going it's like any other race -- you're gonna do the same things you do every other week. You're gonna try to get your car fast enough to be able to pass. The talk about not passing and knocking people out of the way, but that's not really what you try to do. You try to get your car faster than everybody so it has traction and it will turn and it will do all of the things you want it to do so you can pass cars. We were able to get our car to do that last year and most years we would be able to do that OK -- not necessarily good enough to win but OK to be competitive. When the race starts you just have to try to be smart and be there at the end and keep adjusting on your car."
A GOOD START THIS YEAR. DOES IT TAKE A LOT OF PRESSURE OFF? "Probably not a lot. It's early in the season and it's been a great start for us. We've had cars that have been competitive enough to be in the top five or to win races with all the right circumstances all four weeks and that just amazes me. We've had wonderful cars every week. Last year we had a couple of flat tires and were still able to get a good finish, which feels good. Even though we ran better than we finished, we didn't have the disaster. At Daytona, even though we crashed, we didn't have a 35th-place finish. We still got a decent finish out of it so it's been a wonderful start. The cars have been top notch -- a better start than any year we've had as far as a four-race average, so I'm looking forward to the season."
YOU WERE OUT WITH A SHOTGUN THE OTHER DAY. "That was a winner's circle deal for Bristol. They had a bunch of media out there and they all got to do a little skeet shooting together. That was fun and it was different than just going to do a press conference."
ANY TEMPTATION TO BRING THE SHOTGUN TO THE TRACK? "No, absolutely not (laughing)."
ARE BRISTOL AND MARTINSVILLE A CRAPSHOOT? "I think Bristol is a lot different than Martinsville. I wouldn't compare Martinsville to anything. As dumb as it sounds, I think Bristol is kind of like going to Atlanta or Charlotte or Texas or somewhere like that. It's really fast and you have to save your equipment to the end. It drives a little bit like a speedway in a way, so there's a lot of stuff that goes on here but it's a really exciting track. I really enjoy the challenge. You always worry about maybe getting caught up in a wreck or somebody else's track, but I really enjoy the challenge and really enjoy the track."
CAN YOU TAKE ANYTHING FROM BRISTOL TO MARTINSVILLE AND RUN WELL? "Me? No. (laughing). Most people? I don't know. Martinsville and Bristol are like black and white. They're the same size on a piece of paper. They both a half-mile, but other than that I don't think anything is the same. To me, it's the same as asking if Charlotte and Loudon are the same. They're just so much different, to me, besides the size that I don't compare that. We have a different car we take to Martinsville. We usually take the car I like the least to Martinsville, but we're taking a decent car to Martinsville that we ran good on the flat tracks, and then here we've just got one car that we've run here the last six or seven races that seems to like this place alright, so we've got a different car that we only use at Bristol."
WHAT KIND OF A DRIVER EXCELS HERE? "I don't necessarily think it's the driver. It's like any other week. It's who can get their car running the way they need to run and turn the way they need it to turn to still have traction and do all the things that the race car is supposed to do. If you have that, then you'll be able to run here. If you don't get in any trouble the first 350 laps and your car is handling good, you've got a good shot."
A GUY THAT DOESN'T GET RATTLED WHEN HE'S BEING BUMPED FROM BEHIND, IS THAT WHAT IT TAKES TO DO WELL HERE? "I think it goes back to any other week, you've got to get your car to handle good enough to be able to do that. Anybody can run into somebody and pass them. I think you've got to get your car to handle good enough where you can get a run off the corner and get under somebody. That's a hard thing to do. There's not a lot of room here and you've got to have your car turning good to get your nose pointed the right way, but then you've got to have a lot of traction to be able to get in that hole. I think you've got to just keep working it and know when to give somebody some room and know when to be able to take it. You have to work both ways here. If you don't give and take here, you'll probably end up stuck in the fence somewhere."
EIGHT OF THE TOP 10 AFTER ATLANTA THE LAST TWO YEARS HAVE ENDED UP MAKING THE CHASE. IS A FAST START REALLY AS IMPORTANT AS WE THINK IT IS? "I think it's important, but I think after even four races if some things go wrong like they did with us and we got in at the end, but after four races you kind of got a mix of tracks and you've got a good idea of what teams have gotten their stuff running over the winter and which ones are still struggling a little bit. I think that's it more than anything and I think over the four races Robbie and the guys have done a great job of having competitive cars put together."
PATIENCE RUNS THIN HERE. IS THIS A PLACE WHERE THERE CAN BE PAYBACK? "I suppose it could happen in certain instances. I don't think that's necessarily the case with anybody who is probably gonna be in the top 10 at the end of the year. I don't think it happens with guys who have a lot of experience or with guys like Mark Martin and people like that who know they need to be there at the end of the year. To get caught up in those kinds of situations is really silly. When things are over you need to work that out with that driver and go on and race and not think about wrecking people back and doing all that stuff because that's not gonna be productive for anybody, including the guy who is wrecking the other guy. It's not gonna be productive for him in the long run either, so I think you really try to approach it like any other race. Yeah, tempers do flair here. It's a tight track and things happen, but I think you've got to go into it with patience and with the attitude that if somebody is faster than you and they get under you, if you get knocked outside and lose 10 spots, so be it. If he's faster than you, you've got to give him that spot. If you try to protect that spot, it's gonna end up worse for you, so I think you've got to know how to give and take and try to be there at the end of the race."
HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED PRACTICE HERE? "Some people need it worse than others. Some people are gonna come here and have their cars pretty close. We don't know who that is, really, but some people are gonna have their cars pretty close when they get here and other people maybe don't have a lot of time here and maybe have a new car trying a different setup and need some practice. I think it depends. I think some people need it worse than others."
HOW ABOUT YOU? "I don' t know what our car is gonna run like, but I would hope that we would need it probably a little less than maybe some of the guys that haven't run here a lot. We do have the same car and the same setup we ran last fall in the car, so I would think it would be close enough to be able to adjust once you got in the race. It's a long race."