Charlotte II: Kenseth - Ford Thursday interview

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Ford Fusion, is second in the Chase for the Nextel Cup going into this weekend's race. Kenseth spoke about the Chase and other issues before Thursday's practice. MATT KENSETH-17-Carhartt/DeWalt Ford...

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Ford Fusion, is second in the Chase for the Nextel Cup going into this weekend's race. Kenseth spoke about the Chase and other issues before Thursday's practice.

MATT KENSETH-17-Carhartt/DeWalt Ford Fusion

ARE YOU SURPRISED BY HOW TIGHT THE POINTS RACE IS? "Not really. Everybody has had just a little bit of trouble, and that's kept everybody pretty even from getting way out in the lead. If Jeff wouldn't have had his flat tire last week he'd have a good lead, but everybody has had a little bit of trouble and it's pretty tight."

WITH TALLADEGA BEHIND YOU AND MARTINSVILLE AHEAD OF YOU, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON GOING THERE? "It's always been one of our weaker tracks, but I'm still just approaching it one week at a time and do the best job we can every week and not really worry about it. We were all worried about Talladega, but then we went to Kansas, which should have been one of our strongest tracks, and just ran awful. You never know which track is going to jump up and bite you, or you're not going to perform well at, or you're going to have problems or whatever. I think you just have to take it one week at time and do the best job that you can and see how it ends up."

DO YOU THINK THAT THE PEOPLE WHO DON'T MAKE THE CHASE ARE ABLE TO USE THE FINAL 10 RACES AS TESTING FOR NEXT YEAR? "I don't think so. I don't think it really helps at all. I think the more you see that is if a driver is 16th or something like that. The cars itself, you work on them as hard as you can all year. Testing is limited by NASCAR, so there's really not any extra there."

WITH ALL 43 DRIVERS HAVING A DIFFERENT AGENDA ON THE RACE TRACK, DO YOU THINK ABOUT JUST TAKING CARE OF YOUR OWN VEHICLE OR WHOM YOU ARE RACING? "I don't really think about it like that. I think everybody is out there to finish the highest they can. I don't h think it's any different whether you're in the Chase or not. I think everybody should treat each other the same as they have all year long. If you earn respect early in the year, you're probably still going to get it right now, or vice versa. I think it should be the same. Everybody treats the top 10, top 20 the same, and everybody is trying to position themselves in the points as best they can, whether that's for 12th, or 20th or 30th, everybody wants to do the best they can every week. If there's not pressure when you're on top to try to win, there's pressure to keep your job and pressure to keep your drivers happy."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE LAST-LAP INCIDENT LAST WEEK? "Everybody is going to be critical of it a little bit just because it's his teammate and it was Dale Junior and it was the last lap. Only Brian really knows. I would have a really, really hard time believing that he did it on purpose. I think he was probably trying to help his buddy and his teammate and just made a judgment error. You're so close and you're pushing for everything you can on the last lap. Jimmie switched lanes and probably slowed his car down a little bit, and Brian hit him in the wrong angle and pushed him around. I can't imagine that he tried to do it. I think it was just a judgment error."

AT WHAT POINT DO YOU START FOCUSING ON POINTS AND FIGURING IT IN TO YOUR STRATEGY? "Well, I still think the strategy is simple: the higher you finish, the more points you get. I look at it when I get and home and see where we are compared to everyone else, but on the race track, so far, I don't even think about it. I think about piling up the biggest pile of points we can, and not worry about how many the other nine are piling up and make our pile as big as we can make it. I worry about that every week, but I don't say, 'Well, geez, Jeff Burton got five more than us this week.' I don't really look at it like that. When you get down to the last race or two, if you're still in contention to win, you'll maybe pay a little attention to it, but really at the end of the day there's not a lot you're going to do about it. You're going to run the best you can with you car and finish as high as you can finish."

IS THAT YOUR THINKING EVEN WHEN IT GETS DOWN TO THE LAST RACE? "I think at the end of last race there's obviously certain situations where you maybe try to be a little careful and try to not get yourself in a bad predicament. I think that until you get to that point that you're going to be out there and trying to finish as high as you can."

AFTER MARTINSVILLE, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE FINAL FOUR TRACKS? "I feel good about them. I have confidence for all of those tracks; we've done well at them in the past. I thought Kansas would have been one of our strongest tracks in the Chase, too, and it was the worst we ran all year long. You just never know and you've just got to keep working on it. I certainly feel good about all of the tracks. Martinsville has always been a struggle for me, but I feel good about the rest of the places if we can get everything right."

IF YOU'RE IN THIS POSITION AFTER MARTINSVILLE, WILL YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOUR CHANCES TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "Yeah, I'll feel good about it. I'll feel we have a shot at it, and those are good tracks, and on our good days, we can race with anybody at those kinds of tracks. Anything can still happen. Look at Jeff last week and his flat tire. That's just dumb luck. That can happen to any of us at any time."

IS THERE ONE THAT STANDS OUT FOR YOU? "We've done pretty well at all them at times, and we've done not so well at times, but I'd say all four of them are pretty equal for us."

WITH THE ANNOUNCEMENT LAST WEEK, HAS IT BECOME A DISTRACTION? "Not yet. There hasn't been at all yet. Robbie has always been very, very good about keeping the 17 focused on the 17 and tune out some of the outside distractions. So far it hasn't really been a problem."

DO YOU THINK THE POINT SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE CHANGED? "I don't know. I think it works pretty good how it is. I don't know what they're thinking of doing different or what they would do different. I think it works pretty good. It still rewards consistency, but yet there's a reward for winning. It's still basically the same system they used forever, it's just a 10-race season."

HAS IT CHANGED THE SPORT? "Not really. I think a lot of people, including myself, probably overanalyzed it when it first came out, or maybe overreacted just because I was in the position I was in the year before. Certainly it gives more people a chance to win championships. It doesn't penalize you for making mistakes earlier in the year and it lets you get caught back up and have a shot at it with 10 to go."

INAUDIBLE. "I would never take a dig at Mark. He's done about everything there is to do. He's run 35 to 40 races over by Jack's, so I think everybody knows Mark can get it done behind the wheel. It's hard to win at this series. It's hard and Mark has always been very, very, very good at finishing up in the points almost every single year. He doesn't make hardly any mistakes. He doesn't get his car wrecked. He doesn't do silly things to lose points, so he's real good at that. Even if he doesn't have the car that's a dominant car, he'll still be in there in the points because he's smart."

DO YOU HAVE ANY SENTIMENTAL FEELING TOWARDS MARK'S CHANCES FOR WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "Well, obviously, I hope that Mark has a shot to win it when it comes down to the end, but it's certainly not going to affect anything that we're going to do. We're still going to race him as hard as we can and race everybody else as hard as we can and try to win it for ourselves. But certainly, if we can't pull it out, I'd certainly love to see him win it."

WITH ONLY TWO ROUSH DRIVERS IN THE CHASE THIS YEAR, HAS IT CHANGED ANY PRIORITIES AS TO WHO GETS WHAT? "No, I'd say it's the same. Nobody that I know has really been out asking for cars, so we've got a couple that we really like that works really well and we've never really borrowed cars from other teams. We've just always taken our own stuff and worked on it as best we can. As far as sharing information, the last two or three years, we've always shared all information that everybody has within Roush. I think everybody is working on that."

NO ONE HAS SEIZED THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR. HAVE THE DRIVERS FIGURED OUT HOW TO RACE THE CHASE, OR IS IT CIRCUMSTANCE? "Circumstances because I don't think there's anything to figure out. Whoever finishes the highest every week gets the most points. The best average finish over 10 races is going to win the championship. It's really not hard to figure out. If you make a mistake or you have a flat tire or you run bad one week, you're going to not get as many points. I don't think there's really much to figure out about it. Your testing schedule is set; you don't really have much say over that. You just go out and run as hard as you can very week and see where it ends up at the end."

DO YOU THINK ANY OF THE CHASE DRIVERS CHANGED THEIR MINDSET TOWARDS CONSISTENCY INSTEAD OF WINS? "Maybe some people's approach to the races change. My really doesn't. I can't think of a race that I've ever been in that I've had a car good enough to run third and I was like, 'I think I'll run fifth instead.' You know what I mean? I've never been in that spot. It just doesn't make any sense to me. I think when you get down to the end, like Jimmie's spot last week, obviously if he would have known the outcome, he probably would have run second, if he'd known that would have happened when you're at Talladega or places like that. Other than Talladega, where you get shuffled out of line or something like that happened, I don't think your strategy changes. If you can catch somebody, you're going to try to pass them."

DO YOU THINK YOU GOT LUCKY WITH YOUR MULLIGAN WHEN YOU RAN OUT OF GAS BUT STILL FINISHED THE RACE? "I don't believe in the mulligan thing. It still can happen any week. You've got to do the best you can every week, and once it's over, even if it's a disaster or whatever, you have to put it behind you and move on to the next week. There's nothing you can do about the first four, the only thing we control is the next six and we have to work on that."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth