Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, held a Q&A session prior to Friday's practice at Daytona International Speedway. MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion WHAT'S THE BIG STORY GOING TO BE ON SUNDAY? "I don't know. I ...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, held a Q&A session prior to Friday's practice at Daytona International Speedway.
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
WHAT'S THE BIG STORY GOING TO BE ON SUNDAY? "I don't know. I suppose it will be the same as it's been the last four months -- is Dale Jr. gonna win the Daytona 500 with his new team. I imagine that's the story that will be the most covered."
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE RACES YESTERDAY AND WHAT DO YOU NEED TO WORK ON FOR SUNDAY? "Our team, we've just got to work on handling. We were a little off on that. We had pretty good speed. I thought the cars drafted good and I thought the races were pretty good, but we just have to keep working on how to get ours to handle a little better." HARVICK LED ONLY FOUR LAPS LAST YEAR, SO DOES IT CONFIRM THE THEORY THAT THIS RACE DOESN'T START UNTIL THERE ARE 20 TO GO? "Not really. I think the race is happening the whole time, it's just that with this type of racing with drafting and whether you have people pushing you or helping you or what lane you're in -- all that stuff comes into play here and Talladega and it really doesn't come into play at any other race track, so you just don't really know what's gonna happen until the end, especially if there's a late caution and you get everybody bunched up."
DO YOU HAVE TO RUN UP FRONT EARLY TO PROVE TO OTHERS THAT THEY CAN WORK WITH YOU ALL DAY? "If you go off of what you just said about last year's race, I would say no. But I do think that it does help to be in the front. A lot of times, people draft with certain guys because they're good at it and because they run up front or whatever. But you're gonna draft with cars that your car runs fast with and vice versa. They're not gonna want to run with you if your car is slow and they're not running with you and maybe they didn't see you all day. So I think you want to be up front and you want to try to get with some different cars and see how your car handles with their cars and how fast they'll run."
IS IT SILLY TO BE SETTING UP A GIBBS-HENDRICK SHOWDOWN ALREADY? "Well, not really. We have tested throughout the winter and they've run the shootout and the Gatorade races yesterday, so from what I see on the track, Dale Jr. is real good, the Hendrick cars are good and the Gibbs cars are unbelievably strong. Really, from sitting back and watching, unless some other people really get their stuff going, I really think it's gonna be somebody out of those couple groups unless something weird happens."
DO YOU SEE A DIFFERENCE IN THE POWER OF THE TOYOTAS? "I don't know if it's power, but the Gibbs cars are always strong anyway and then when they hooked up with Toyota this winter, I think that was somebody that everybody thought they were gonna be strong. When you put Kyle Busch in one of them cars, a guy who can make any car go fast it seems like, and when you get the three of those guys that's a really strong team. Yesterday, when we ran around Kyle in the 150, it was unbelievable how fast his car was. I mean, it made our whole line go faster, so they're pretty tough."
ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH HOW JUNIOR HAS STARTED? "No, I saw it coming."
HOW IMPORTANT IS FLEXIBILITY ON THE TRACK BETWEEN THE HIGH LINE AND THE LOW LINE? "You want your car to handle everywhere on the track, but a lot of it is always dependent on tire wear and where the rest of the cars are, and it's not so much which groove is faster on the track, it's where all the cars are. If the guy who is leading the pack and everybody decides to follow him, his car is looking better on top, then it's gonna look like the top groove is good. If the guy's car is handling on the bottom and everybody sticks to the bottom, it's gonna look like the bottom groove is good. So handling does come into play and you want to get your car to handle all over the track, if you can."
DOES IT SURPRISE YOU A COUPLE OF GUYS SEEM TO BE ABLE TO RUN ON THEIR OWN OUT THERE WITHOUT HELP? "Yes and no. I didn't really have any expectations or know exactly what this car was gonna do, so it seems like if you do handle good enough, if everybody is running the top for instance and your car is good enough, you can make some passes down there almost by yourself. But certainly there's that group of four or five cars that seem to be quite a bit stronger than the rest of the field, that can hang out by themselves a little longer than the rest."
ARE YOUR TIRE CONCERNS FOR SUNDAY GREATER OR HAS IT BEEN FIGURED OUT? "I think they're still pretty great. We had tire problems when we tested here, so we knew we were gonna have them when we came back. They didn't change anything to fix it, so other than the race track rubbering up a little bit, there's really nothing that they did to fix the tire, so we've got to keep working on our cars. Everybody is not having tire problems, so we've got to keep working on our car to get our car not to have them."
DO YOU EXPECT THE TRACK TO BE AS SLICKER OR SLICKER THAN THE SHOOTOUT? "I hope so. I think the slicker it is and the more handling that comes into play, the better shot we'll have at success. Our handling is not near good enough yet, but our car is not quite as fast as a handful of those guys, so I think if handling comes into play, you can have a car that doesn't have quite as much speed and still have a shot to win and a shot to do good, if handling is the key."
THE FORDS ARE UNDER THE RADAR SO FAR. DO YOU HAVE A FIGHTING CHANCE? "I hope so. I was pleasantly surprised with our car's speed, to be honest with you. We went up there and led a little bit until after that pit stop and we had a fairly strong car. We had some handling problems and that's really why we fell to the back. It wasn't really just because of speed, so I think if we can figure out a few of our handling issues, I think we'll be competitive. I don't think we'll be as strong as the Gibbs stuff and some of the Hendrick cars, but I think we'll be competitive."
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE COT SO FAR? "Yeah, so far. I've only run 150 miles, but I think it's put on a pretty good race here. I thought the racing was really exciting in the Bud Shootout and I thought the Gatorade races were good races, so I think so far, so good." DO YOU CONSCIOUSLY THINK ABOUT THE CARS AROUND YOU WHEN YOU DECIDE TO MAKE A MOVE TO DRAFT OR CHANGE LINES? "You try to see which lane is moving and you try to see the people that are around you and what you're committed to doing, but it doesn't really matter. If there's somebody leading a line and you're in the other line and that one is moving faster than yours, and they're all baling out to get in that one because it's faster, you're gonna bale out to get in that one too. Sometimes you don't even know who is leading it."
THE END OF THE RACE WILL BE IN THE DARK LIKE THE SHOOTOUT. DO YOU HOPE THE TRACK JUST COMES TO YOU AT THE END? "I wasn't in the shootout, so I don't really know about that, but we're gonna try to set up for a slick track. The old cars you could come and qualify bad and say, 'Oh man, I built my car to race,' because you could build more downforce in it, which, in turn, would make drag. You can't really do that with these cars. They're all pretty much set, so you're gonna work to make the car as neutral and as balanced as possible anyway for the slick track, and if it gets more grip at the end of the race, you're not really gonna do anything to make your car slower to make it handle better, where with the other car you could kind of decide. Do I want it for a hot track or do I want the car with no drag and no downforce to go fast when it has a lot of grip."
-credit: ford racing