Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford Fusion, is fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings going into this weekend's race. He spoke about the weekend after making his Cup qualifying lap Friday afternoon....
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Black Ford Fusion, is fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings going into this weekend's race. He spoke about the weekend after making his Cup qualifying lap Friday afternoon. (Qualified 29th)
"Today has been a struggle for whatever reason. We haven't been very good right off the truck and we've just been struggling with it to find any speed and to get it to drive like I want, so it's been a struggle. The qualifying lap was actually better than I thought it would be, but it probably still won't end up very good going that early, but the car drove a little better than I expected."
WHERE ARE YOU GUYS AS AN ORGANIZATION AND WHY HASN'T FORD WON YET IN ANY OF THE THREE SERIES? "I think we're in a better spot today than we were last year at this time as an organization. I feel like our cars are a little faster, although, for some reason, to me anyway, it feels like every week is getting just a little bit harder. I'm not sure why, but it seems like we show up and we're not quite as fast and it's harder to find that balance and find that speed the last few weeks for some reason. So I think we're ahead of last year. I think the reason that Ford probably doesn't have any wins is we haven't got our cars to run fast enough, obviously, but all of your eggs are sort of in one basket, too. RPM and Roush are side-by-side. We use the same engineering department, the same chassis, the same bodies - all that stuff - so, really, all of your eggs are in one basket. If us as an organization is off and we're not hitting it right, it's gonna be hard for Ford to win, so we've got to figure out how to get a little bit better to get up there with those guys."
YOU'RE NOT ALL OFF. "There have been weeks where, if everything lined up perfect, we probably ran good enough to win. At Vegas, Jeff had the best car and Jimmie, and then we probably had the third-best car most of the day, so if the stars all align right and you can run in the top three or top five, then you'll probably win some races here and there. But every week we've just been off a little bit. I don't think we're light years behind, but it's just so competitive these days that it's just little things that get you over the top, so we've just got to figure out how to get some new things in the system and get them implemented in our cars and just get caught up a little bit more. I feel like over the winter we definitely caught up a lot from where we ended up last year, but I thought we were a long ways off when we finished last year. This year, it feels like we're at least a step closer."
A LOT OF GUYS HIT THE WALL TODAY. WAS IT DUE TO TRACK CONDITIONS? "It's obviously one of the toughest tracks that we come to. The speeds are extremely high. We only come here once a year. You can't test. It's hard. It's tough to get around here fast and in control and not hit the wall. The groove is so narrow that you're always running right up next to it and the speeds are really high. If one thing goes wrong and you step over that edge just a little bit, it's not very forgiving. It's very difficult to catch up from that, so I think it's been about normal. It seems like there has been a lot of them in the wall today, though, for some reason. Thankfully, we haven't been yet, but we still have a Nationwide race to run."
DO YOU EVER WORRY ABOUT QUALIFYING? YOU SEEM TO ALWAYS COME FROM THE BACK REALLY WELL. "Yeah, we always do. In the past, you can look at a lot of things and say, 'Oh, he can work his way from the back,' but the only reason is because we qualified bad. I think we've actually gotten better qualifying over the years, it's just we used to qualify bad with really, really fast race cars. We'd qualify in the twenties and on race day we'd have one of the top three, four or five race cars, whereas now I feel like our qualifying reflects closer to what our race cars are and what our race setups are for whatever reason. I don't think I'm an exceptional qualifier, but I don't think I'm the worst qualifier either. Like today, we worked on race setup all day. We never even made a mock-up run because we were so far off in race trim. If we would have been a little closer, we would have probably worked on it a little harder."
WHAT'S THE DEAL ON THE REAR SPOILER? IT LOOKS LIKE IT'S GRABBING THE WALL? "Yeah, that's one of the things we looked at. The spoiler is much wider than we used to run on our old cars and it hangs way off the bumper cover on both sides, and that's one of the things we noticed right away and talked about as an organization. We try not to get in the wall because if you get the right-rear into the wall hard enough, it'll hit that spoiler and move the decklid over, which makes it difficult. It's pretty wide and I'm sure if it does cause problems that NASCAR will look at that and figure out how to narrow it up a little bit. But they wanted to make it wide. They did a good job of matching the aero-balance so it's the same as it was with the wing with the longer quarterpanels and the wider spoiler, but still made it short enough where we can see. So they did a good job of matching all that up, but, who knows, maybe they'll decide we need a little less rear downforce down the road or something like that. The key is to try and not hit the wall."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE ALL-STAR RACE? "The all-star race if fun. The most fun part about it for me, really, is how much it involves the pit crew. You've got the pit crew challenge during the week and it really showcases those guys. I think this there is a mandatory four-tire stop before the final 10 laps, so, obviously, it'll be very important to have a really good pit stop as important as track position is, so that part to me is always a lot of fun. Going out to qualify and leaving pit road as fast as you can and coming off the track as hard as you can without speeding and doing a live pit stop, all of that kind of stuff makes the week a lot of fun because everybody gets to watch that one-on-one, and the crews get a lot of recognition that week. They don't ever get as much as they deserve, especially when they're doing well, and it's cool to be able to showcase them a little bit that week."
-source: ford racing