Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 R&L Carriers Ford Fusion, comes into this weekend's 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings after a 10th-place finish at Darlington two weeks ago. Kenseth came into the Lowe's Motor Speedway infield media...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 R&L Carriers Ford Fusion, comes into this weekend's 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings after a 10th-place finish at Darlington two weeks ago. Kenseth came into the Lowe's Motor Speedway infield media center to discuss the issues of the day.
HOW DO YOU APPROACH THE EXTRA 100 MILES IN SUNDAY'S RACE? "You try to stay on the lead lap and survive. It's a long race that starts during the day and the track is gonna change a lot from when we start to finish as we all know since we start so early. It's really my favorite event of the year, probably. It's usually a challenge to start during the day and end at night, although a lot of tracks have kind of copied that and there are now several races, I guess, that do that. But it used to be the only one that did that, so there are a lot of challenges that go with it and it's always interesting to be halfway decent at the beginning and still have a car that will handle right at the end."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BECOME A FATHER FOR THE SECOND TIME AND WHAT KATIE IS GOING THROUGH RIGHT NOW? "I don't know. I haven't really gone through much yet. She's been the one doing all the work and carrying the baby and doing all that, so, I don't know. It'll probably be a good time to ask me in a couple months once we start going through all that again, but it's been an exciting time in our life. Obviously, it's gonna be a lot different. Ross is gonna be 16 on Monday, and then we'll have a baby in a month-and-a-half, so that's gonna be interesting."
DO YOU KNOW IF IT'S A BOY OR GIRL? "I don't know yet."
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE THAT MAKES THIS RACE SPECIAL? "We won our first race here at the 600, so that makes it kind of special for us, and that used to be the only race of the year when you'd start and it was usually hot and sunny, and you'd end at night in such a long marathon. Like I said, there are some other races that do that now, too, but it used to be the only event like that, so it was unique and 600 miles also makes it unique. It's the longest event of the year, too, so it's just one I always look forward to. It was always a real challenge, especially before they re-paved the track and it was real bumpy and stuff. It was a real challenge to hang onto your car early in the day and still have it adjusted right where it would run fast at night. To be any good at night, you had to be super-loose and sideways during the day and it was just always such a big challenge."
DO YOU THINK THIS RACE IS TOO LONG? "It depends what you're looking for. I think you could get the same amount of action in a shorter race, but I think having one race that's 600 miles and unique and special and having one race long like that, I think, is all right. I don't know, maybe it's because I've been around a while, but I think a lot of races could be shorter and you'd get the same results and they might even be more entertaining. Like Darlington, I'm not sure we have to race four-and-a-half hours to have the same effect. I don't mind them being long, don't get me wrong, the longer they are the better I usually like them. Like at Darlington, for instance, it took us that long to get our car back to being halfway decent and we still needed more time to get it better, so I enjoy the long races, but I think you could have just as good or better of a show if most races were a little shorter."
DO YOU EAT DURING THIS RACE OR DO ANYTHING TO KEEP YOUR ENERGY UP? "No, I haven't yet. I do everything pretty much the same as normal. If it's forecasted to be hot, I'll probably make sure I'm even more hydrated than normal. I'll drink a lot of Gatorade the days upcoming to the race and during the race I'll take in more fluids than I usually do. That's about it. I always try to get a lot of sleep and try to eat good the day before the race and be hydrated and that's about it."
HAVE YOU EVER EATEN DURING A RACE? "I never have eaten during a race that I can recall. I can't ever remember eating during a race. I was hungry at Darlington, though, now that you bring it up. I've been hungry before, but I've never eaten during a race."
DO YOU AGREE THAT ROUSH FENWAY HAS NOT BEEN AS CONSISTENT THIS YEAR? "Yeah, I think for sure we haven't been near as consistent. The year obviously couldn't have started off any better with those two wins, but then we went the next week and finished dead last. We didn't even make a lap before we broke, which is really uncharacteristic of the motor guys, and then the hard thing has been there hasn't been one issue to fix. It hasn't been a person or a problem or whatever. There have been days where it's just been really inconsistent on pit road and our cars have been OK, and there have been days our cars have been way off and we've been excellent on pit road. There have been days I've messed up on the race track. It's just been a little bit of everything. At Talladega, we were running second with six to go and got a flat tire when the caution came out. It's just been a lot of different things that have been wrong, but, certainly, at the end of the day all that really matters are your finishes and we've been too inconsistent, so, really, we've just been looking at all aspects of the program and just trying to improve every part of it and make it better."
ARE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW WELL MARK MARTIN HAS DONE THIS YEAR? "I'm honestly not surprised. I know you said everybody says that, but I'm really not surprised. Now, would I be surprised if it was with Ginn or with the 8 car with DEI last year and he was running the whole season? Then I would be a little bit surprised, but going over to Hendrick and having that equipment -- if you look at what all the Hendrick cars have done, including the 14 and those guys that are affiliated and how good they've been running, the 39, all of those cars have been just extremely fast all year long, so that doesn't honestly surprise me at all. I think Mark, I don't know if he would admit it or not, but I think he probably has a little more pressure on himself right now than he probably thought he would going over there and everything, so I'm really happy he's doing that well, but, no, honestly, it doesn't surprise me at all. He's always been really fast in anything that he's driven and, for whatever reason, especially when Mark gets either a new crew chief or a new team, it seems like he'd run really good for the first part of that, and a lot of times a lot longer, too, but especially when he changed things around it seems like he'd run really good, so it seems like him and Alan have really been able to click and get the cars running fast and I think everybody in the garage knows Mark can go fast if his cars are fast."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS LAST WEEK AND WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THAT EVERY WEEK? "We do have that all the whole race, except for 20 to go."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IT WITH LEAD LAP CARS ONLY? "No, not really. I think that the main thing is Goodyear helped us out with the tire this year and I really think the main thing that creates side-by-side racing is when the tracks are good for it and they either help us out with the rules package -- what we can do with our cars -- or with the tires. For some reason, this track was really wide. The restart didn't really have anything to do with Ryan and Jeff and Kyle racing three-wide all the way through three and four. That was a few laps after the restart, so it certainly mixes things up. Obviously, if you start single-file or you start side-by-side you're gonna be side-by-side a little longer, but I think that in a 500 or 600-mile race, where you race all day long, I don't know if lining them up double-file, especially when you get to some of the single-file race tracks, is necessarily fair for guys who have raced for four hours to get to second or third and then because he drew the short straw and got in the wrong lane on the last restart and gets shuffled back to seventh or eighth, I'm not sure that's the right thing to do when you've been racing that long."
DO YOU PACE YOURSELF IN THIS RACE? "I don't really race it any different. It used to be when I started that if you had a really good car, back in the day the competition wasn't quite as tight. I shouldn't say back in the day because it hasn't been that long, but it seemed like you used to have a period where you could sort of ride. You could run 80 percent. You could find a spot five car lengths in front of you and have five car lengths behind you and find a nice spot and log some miles and put a nice, consistent pace on the car where you weren't pushing anything, but, honestly, it's so competitive now that you run the whole race hard. You run it about as hard as you can run without going over the top of the edge and crashing, obviously, but you get pretty much everything you can get out of it all day. The pace doesn't really change like it used to. It might not seem like it at times when you guys are watching it that maybe everybody is racing as hard, but it really is. It's so competitive and everybody is so close to the same speed with these cars that everybody is pretty much hammer down from start to finish."
IS THERE A FAVORITE ON SUNDAY? "I think the All-Star Race is a lot different than the 600, although last year I know Kasey won both of them, but I think it's still pretty wide open. You've got to get everybody out there and it's a little different of a race. You run a lot different setup for your last 10 laps at the end of that thing than you would if you had to probably run 600 miles, so I think that the normal guys are probably still the favorites. Jimmie and Jeff are really strong and Tony, again, has been strong most of the year, so, in a way, it's probably the same guys. It's not like there was really a surprise winner there. There were surprise guys that ran good and bad, so I think it's probably the same guys you see every week are probably gonna be the main guys to beat if you're gonna have a shot at it."
IS IT BEYOND THE TIME FOR TEAMS TO MAKE CHANGES AND MAKE THE CHASE? "I think it depends on the situation and the team and everything. Really, the only one I can speak on is really my own and my team, and we've never really honestly been in that position. There have been years where we started off slower than we wished or maybe started off strong and maybe things weren't going as well, but I've always felt good about the people that we've had on our team, and I never really thought it was a matter of changing people out, it was maybe all trying to do our jobs better, including myself, and looking at the whole thing and everybody trying to do better. I feel good about the mix of people that we had and that we still have. I think we've got a championship contending team, we just have to dot our I's and cross our T's just right because it's that competitive. We always are evaluating and re-evaluating and trying to make things better, but I don't think it's a personnel issue."
YOU MADE A RUN A FEW YEARS AGO TO MAKE THE CHASE WHEN YOU WERE 16TH-18TH, BUT WHEN IS IT TOO LATE? "It all starts with the race car performance, so I guess you could look at your car performance. No matter how good your team is and the rest of your stuff, if you cars don't run, you're not gonna get good finishes, unless you're just extremely, extremely lucky. So that's the first thing I would look at, and if our cars were absolutely running terrible and we were all fighting and weren't getting along, I think you'd look at making some changes, but I think as a group at Roush Fenway we haven't been as strong as we need to be. I think we realize that as a company and we're working on that to make that better, and my past experience is you can't force it. That year we were so far behind and caught up we didn't force anything. We quit having flat tires and I maybe quit driving through the pit box, or didn't hit the wall, or have bad pit stops, or the cautions wouldn't fall when you needed them to fall. That type of thing, so sometimes you can obviously create your own luck a lot, but you'll also go through those runs where things just don't go right and it just doesn't matter. Like at Vegas, we broke on the first lap, and, like I mentioned before, at Talladega we had a flat tire with six laps to go. Sometimes there are things that are just out of your control and you can't do anything about. It aggravated you, but you also have to be able to look at it at the end of the day and just say, 'That's the way things are gonna go sometimes,' and hope things go better next week."
CAN YOU EVER REMEMBER WHEN HAVING A MEDIOCRE CAR BECOMES A RACE-WINNING CAR WHEN YOU GET THE LEAD? "There are a couple of things, and I've said this before, but racing is about the fastest car winning. When you put the fastest car in front of all the rest of the cars that aren't as fast, the fastest car is gonna drive away from the pack. That just makes sense and that's just how it works. Certainly, right now, if you get out front and your balance is pretty close, it is a bigger advantage to be out front than you'd like, but I also remember that year -- and not to take anything away from all those wins -- but I remember that year Ryan Newman won all those races and we were on that really hard tire with the old car and the old aero package, and the tire was just incredibly hard. The tire was so hard that when you got into dirty air you couldn't pass and they had that figured out and they would pit early and stay out on fuel mileage, stay out and run half-throttle, and when they'd get in front, their car seemed like it was a half-second faster and nobody could beat them. So there are a lot of factors that go into it. To me, I've been encouraged the last few weeks. I think at Darlington they had the other left-side tire that seemed to make it better to pass. I know at Dover last fall they brought that other tire and it was a great race for the win up front. I thought the races here this week were pretty good with the other tire that they brought here, and I thought the track was a lot wider. I thought that three-wide crazy pass for the lead, I don't think I've ever seen three cars run three-wide through the corner at Charlotte -- ever that I can remember -- going that fast. So I think that has a lot to do with it, too. No matter what you put on the cars or trucks for bodies, the front car is always gonna have the most air and that's always gonna be an advantage no matter what we do. Certainly, it seems there are times where it seems like it's bigger than we wish it was and you could pass a little easier. Like I said, I think they've helped us with the tires a little bit and it seems like it's maybe getting a little bit better."
-credit: ford racing