Homestead, FL (November 16, 2003) - The celebration of the 2003 Champions: Roush Racing No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus Part 1 of 2 MATT KENSETH - 2003 CHAMPION "Overall, if you look at our year as a whole and not think about today's race...
Homestead, FL (November 16, 2003) - The celebration of the 2003 Champions: Roush Racing No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus
Part 1 of 2
MATT KENSETH - 2003 CHAMPION
"Overall, if you look at our year as a whole and not think about today's race or pick out one or two races, it's been a really great year for us. We've been able to run up front. We've been very competitive. At the beginning of the year, especially, we had lots of chances to win races. We were only able to win one, but we had a lot of opportunities. We put ourselves in position to win and led some laps and ran real good. We've been able to take days that looked like they were gonna be bad days and we had trouble like flat tires and stuff like that and turned them into top 10 runs. I think that's what a championship team is made of. I'm really proud of Robbie and all the guys for rallying around. Even last week it looked like we were gonna run 30th and we got a fourth-place finish out of it because of the job they did in the pits and the job they do on the car. I'm just really proud of my team. I think they did a great job of figuring out last year what we lacked as far as trying to run for a championship and did a good job of improving our weak areas. Robbie and our team, along with everybody at Roush, we had some failures last year and we didn't have as many this year. We fixed some areas where we had problems in and that helped us a lot."
JACK ROUSH , Car Owner
THERE WERE NO FORDS IN THE TOP 10. WHAT DOES AT SAY?
"My expectation for success this year wasn't as great before the year started as it had been previously. Our car is dated and our engine is not cutting edge today in 2003. NASCAR has given us a new set of templates - a new nose and new tail for our Taurus configuration for next year. I knew we weren't gonna have that this year. We hadn't expected it and we didn't ask for it. It wasn't our turn and our engine has issues. Anyway, we made it through on the strength of the team - consistency and a good year. We were lucky not to lose tires or run over debris and lose the air in our tires at a bad time. We didn't have the problem we saw today of having right-front tires give out on tracks that are hard on right-front tires, and the pit stops were just awesome all year. Matt, in the early part of the year before the Chevrolets and the Dodges with their new configurations got their legs under them, we won our races and we led our races and it was wonderful. That was a surprise to me. Where we are today is pretty much where I expected we would run. Ricky Rudd had an engine problem and Matt had an engine problem today. Those aren't characteristic. We've got to go back and find out what happened, but the fact is - considering this was kind of a free race for us - we did some things to our engines for the 21 and for the 17 that were different than what we were running all year and that may be why we had trouble or it may not, but we need to know about that. We'd done the bench testing and it looked like it was OK and we took a chance. Everybody held hands when we did that because we've got to get better for next year. Given the fact we've got a new cylinder head from NASCAR going into next year and we've got a better tail and better nose for the aero function, my prospects and expectations for next year is that we will run as a five-car team better on average next year than we did this year and I think Fords will generally run better, too. If you look at the number of Fords that have qualified on the pole this year and the number of laps led in the second half of the year, it's real clear that something changed and what I think changed was the Chevrolet and the Pontiac and the Dodge really figured out how to capitalize on what they had in terms of aerodynamics and they did a better job with the engine than we did. We've been constrained with a 1992 cylinder head and everybody else has got something newer. We've got the same architecture to work in next year as far as cylinder heads are concerned as everybody else, so next year will be a no excuses deal for us. We'll make the power and we'll have a body that I think will be competitive at every place we go."
ROBBIE REISER , Crew Chief
DID IT ALL EVEN OUT TODAY - FINISHING 43RD?
"Basically, we were fortunate to be in this spot. We came here being in that position and we were able to try something new and, obviously, it didn't work. But it's helping us learn for next season and that's what we used this race for. I think being in the position we were in, why not?"
DID YOU GET TO DO THE HONORS OF SPRAYING MIKE HELTON WITH CHAMPAGNE?
"I want you to know that I had several half-full bottles of champagne offered to me and I did not pick one up and didn't do anything. On the other hand, this guy to my right here (Reiser), there's gonna be people looking for him from now on (laughing). He did some really bad things (laughing)."
"All I can say is I went for the biggest bottle (laughing)."
YOU'VE COME FROM THE BACK SO MANY TIMES THIS EAR. IS THAT SKILL OR LUCK?
"I've learned two things today. I've learned we finished last and I've learned I'm a pretty bad qualifier (laughing). If anybody else has any bad news, go ahead (laughing). I think, honestly, a lot of racing from the back - I'm certainly not gonna say it's an advantage because it's not - but there are certain times where I think it helps us to a certain extent. We worked on the car a lot to work in traffic and we're racing around other cars so we know what our car is gonna handle like in dirty air in that type of situation. If you do get behind toward the end of the race, it might help us a little bit. But I think learning how to race in the back came a lot from racing up in Wisconsin because when you qualified good up there, you had to start in the back. In the south, when you qualified good, you'd start on the pole and you could maybe lead every lap, but up there you had to learn to pass cars and race with traffic and I like racing with other cars. I'd rather start on the pole and lead all the laps, don't get me wrong, but I do like to race with other cars, especially when our car is handling good. We can kind of size up the field a little bit more and see what's going on."
WHAT ABOUT THAT BURNOUT?
"I'm kind of like Jeff Burton in one way in that I don't usually like to tear up Jack's equipment or tear off quarterpanels because the way Robbie and I grew up, we had to fix our own stuff and pay for our stuff. So I've never been big on that. I was in there getting ready and all my guys pushed the backup car down there and were like, 'Are you gonna tear it up or do some burnouts or melt it down or something?' I was like, 'Ah, I don't think so. I think it's kind of overrated.' They said, 'You know what you should do is go nose that thing up against the wall. I can't remember who was telling me that, but they said just ease the nose against the wall and just do a big burnout against the wall. Nobody's ever done that.' I said, 'Well, if nobody's ever done it, I guess I'll do it.' So I figured I'd make a little smoke that way. I couldn't move the wall either."
YOU ARE THE LAST WINSTON CUP CHAMPION. WHAT WILL BE GAINED AND LOST WITH NEXTEL?
"I think what they'll gain is simple, they'll be able to advertise to more markets. You'll be able to advertise to kids. You'll be able to market the sport in ways that Winston probably couldn't market it being a tobacco product. What we're gonna lose are great friends and sponsors and people that you've seen in the garage area every weekend that have been a big part of this. Winston has sponsored NASCAR Winston Cup racing longer than I've been alive and just in the little time I've been here, they've done tremendous amounts for this sport. They've sunk tons of money into it. They've marketed us. Like I said, they've become friends. They've done things to get along with you and make it really fun at the same time as trying to grow the sport. I'm really gonna miss those guys and I'm sad to see them go."