MATT KENSETH, No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion
CAN YOU TOUCH ON DAYTONA AND WHAT IT MEANS TO HAVE WON THIS RACE? "Yeah, it is our biggest race of the year obviously, so when you can win that race it is one of the things you like to collect. You want to win every week, but if you can pick one, this would be one of them. It was great to win it."
WAS THERE A LOT OF TIME TO ENJOY IT AND WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALIZE THAT WINNING IT WAS A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE? "I don't know if it is life changing. I mean I guess professionally it is somewhat. It is cool to have. To be in that group of drivers that has won one is cool. Really, this sport is more about what have you done for me lately. You have to go back and do it the next week and the week after that. I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it. We had that week after and that was a lot of fun, but then we were off to California."
WHERE DID YOU WATCH THE SUPER BOWL AND HOW DID YOU CELEBRATE? "I watched it at home in my basement in my lucky chair. I sat in the same chair after they won the last three or four games or whatever. I had a few friends come over and put themselves through that. To watch a Packers game with me, I don't know if it is fun or not, but I am sure it is entertaining because I yell a lot. I just watched at home. I had a good time. I really wish Katie and I could have gone to the game. I didn't get to go last time because back then I just honestly couldn't afford it. After I got doing better and making some money I told myself that if they ever get back, not matter what the circumstances I was going to go. I did want to go with Katie, but she couldn't travel. Hopefully they make it back soon and we can go next time."
YOU ARE A PRETTY CALM DRIVER, ARE YOU A CALM FAN? "No, you know it is really the only thing that I get in to besides racing. The only other sport I get in to really. I am a big Packers fan and I enjoy watching the NFL. I enjoy watching a lot of NFL games and playing fantasy football. I just really enjoy that. I am a pretty loud passionate fan."
YOUR RESERVED PERSONA DOESN'T HOLD FOR A FOOTBALL GAME? "No. I am the guy that is standing up, cheering and yelling. I get into it."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH THE TRACK HAS CHANGED COMPARED TO LAST YEAR? "It is night and day. I think you can do anything now. The new surface has so much grip that you will be able to change lanes at the drop of the hat and put the car wherever you wanted to put it. You couldn't do that before because the pavement was so worn out and we had such big restrictor plates. We had a lot of speed when we got to the corner which made the cars a handful through the corner. I think it will be a totally different race and approach than ever before."
HOW DOES IT CHANGE FROM A DRIVING ABILITY STANDPOINT? "You won't have to wrestle the car through the corners like you used to have to do, but I think the racing is going to be very intense because everybody's car does handle and you can put it wherever you want."
IS THERE SOMETHING IN THE WATER AT ROUSH FENWAY WITH ALL THE BABIES COMING? "Well, I don't think it is just Roush Fenway. I think ever since NASCAR stopped the off-season and in-season testing. I guess we have all been at home too much (laughter). It is fun, there is a baby boom in NASCAR and I think it is cool that there will be a bunch of kids about the same age that can grow up together and hopefully be friends. It used to be like that. Everything works in cycles. When I showed up in this circuit, there were still a lot of kids around, but they were older. A lot of them were around the teens. All those kids got older and some of the drivers retired and then there were no kids around for the last four or five years really. Now it seems like all the guys that have been married for awhile and are getting to the point where they want to have kids."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE NEW PIT RULES WITH THE SIX MEN OVER WILL IMPACT STRATEGY IN RACES? "I think it depends on the track. You still need so much fuel to get to the end of the race. You are still going to have to pit. At a track like this it will be way more about fuel than tires. I don't foresee any tire wear or problems here. I think you could run the whole race on a set of tires with this pavement. Tires will be more important than fuel, but fuel will be important. Our fuel mileage is going to be a little worse with the FR9 and it takes a little longer to fuel the cars."
IT USED TO BE YOU COULD PICK UP SOME SPOTS ON PIT ROAD, WILL THAT STILL BE THE CASE DO YOU THINK? "I think that it is just going to be different. The fuel guy is going to be more important. How fast he can get to the car, get it plugged in quickly and not leaking. How fast he can switch from the first to second can without disrupting the rest of the stop. We used to fuel the car to stay out of the way of the tire changers because we could fuel the car much faster than they could change the tires. Right now, and this might change as we go along, you can change tires a couple seconds faster than you can put fuel in the car. I am sure everyone will work on getting fuel in the car as quick as they can and that will be the difference, more than the tire changers -- at least for a little while."
IS IT GOING TO BE TOUGHER TO MAKE THE CHASE NOW WITH THE NEW FORMAT? "I think it will be a little different. I think, I don't know, but I think that with this points system, if you drop out of some races and get those one, two, four and six points from being in the back, that is going to be really hard to make up points. I think the win thing is a good idea. I think that 10 is enough for the Chase anyway, but to have 11 and 12, as long as you are in the top-20 in points it helps those guys that maybe had an engine break or had a wreck at Daytona or Talladega or whatever and lost so many points that they couldn't overcome that, now they have a chance to get in by wins. I think that is a neat twist that they put in there that makes it interesting."
MARK MARTIN SAID EARLIER THAT BEFORE, HE THOUGHT IT WAS THE CAR BEFORE IT WAS THE DRIVER OF THE NO. 48 THAT WAS THE REASON FOR THE SUCCESS. HE NOW SAYS HIS TUNE HAS CHANGED. DO YOU FEEL LIKE JIMMIE HAS EARNED HIS STRIPES? "Has he earned his stripes? He has won five championships in a row. It is a team effort. When Mark first showed up at Hendrick and won the most races in a season than he has ever won in his career. Obviously they have good equipment and Jimmie is a great driver. There are four really great drivers over there and he has won the last five of them. It is like anything else, it is a team effort. You have to have everyone doing their job at the highest level to win championships. Certainly it would be hard for anybody to say that Jimmie is not the best out there, if not the best ever. Nobody has won five in a row and I think only one other guy has won three in a row. It is really incredible this day in age with this competition level and this amount of rules. It is an incredible accomplishment."
DO YOU WELCOME THE NEW POINTS SYSTEM? "Sure, why not. It will be alright. I hope it will be alright for us. I look forward to seeing how it goes."
ARE YOU HOPING THERE ARE ANY IMPROVEMENTS TO YOUR ENGINE FOR THIS YEAR? "You always hope they improve it, whether they change the rules or the parts or not. I think they are. Doug Yates, in my opinion, is the best in the business and he is always trying to give us as much power as he can and still be reliable."
NASCAR HAS TWEAKED WITH THE CHASE FORMAT AND THE POINTS OVER THE YEARS. IS THERE ANY PART OF YOU THAT WISHES THAT THERE WAS CONSISTENCY WITH THINGS? "To me it doesn't matter that much as long as it is the same for everyone. I think you always have to look to make things better, I am all about that. I also think that at some point along the line you need consistency so everyone can understand things. When you watch football, you understand how the people make the playoffs, how the wild card works, what you have to do to get in the Super Bowl. I think this points system is probably a step toward that, but we have to get it to the point where all the fans understand what is going on eventually too and get some consistency and keep things the same. That is what I think, but I don't know."
HOW BUSY ARE THESE COUPLE OF WEEKENDS FOR YOU ON THE TRACK? "It really is not that bad. I was talking to Katie the other day about it and I remember when we used to come down here how incredibly busy it was for me. Now it is honestly not that busy. When we were running better and had won the championship and all that, we had about 20 Nationwide races, the I-ROC series was still in business, so you would get your Busch car ready to go, your I-ROC car ready to go and you would run that race and practice and the Cup race and practice. This week, I don't think there will be as much practice because everybody's car is going to handle. I think we will go out and draft once or twice and everybody will be okay. There are so many rules and so much grip; I don't really know what you are going to work on that much. I could be wrong, and Jimmy could have a plan to run every lap of every practice. Not running Nationwide and I-ROC has made it not so busy."
IN REGARD TO THE NEW POINT SYSTEM, IT WAS ALREADY TRUE THAT BAD THINGS HURT MORE THAN GOOD THINGS HELPED, BUT IT SEEMS MORE-SO NOW AND IN THE CHASE IT IS REALLY GOING TO BE A CRUSHER IF YOU HAVE A 38TH PLACE FINISH. WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT THAT OR DO YOU JUST GO FULL STEAM AHEAD? "It is the same for everybody. The higher you finish the more point you get. So obviously if you can win every race you are going to win the championship, as dumb as that sounds. I have not taken a calculator to it like it sounds like you have, but it does seem like if you have one or two real bad races, worse than 35th, then you are going to be in big trouble. In the Chase, it used to be that you could have a bad race, like the year we finished second to Jimmie, we finished second in points and he had a couple real bad weeks and was behind, but then he stared finishing top-five for a couple weeks and we were running 11th every week and you get so many more points to be in the top-five and you could gain points that way. I think it will be tougher to do that now. I remember when they first came with the Chase, everybody was saying with only 10 races you couldn't have one problem and still win the championship, but we have proved that was not true. You can have a couple problems if you are a great team and still overcome it. It is what it is. It is the same for everybody. We just have to watch it, see how it plays out and go from there. The first year of the Chase, Kurt was going to wrap it up a week early, blew up in Atlanta and finished last and won the thing by just a couple points at Homestead with a wheel falling off and everything. He was going to wrap it up early easily in Atlanta, but he had a problem and it got everybody caught up. He was still able to win the championship though."
DO YOU THINK WHAT WE SAY WITH THE PIT-CREW SWAP LAST YEAR WITH THE 48 AND 24 COULD EVER HAPPEN AT ROUSH OR IS THAT OFF THE TABLE? "I think it could happen. It would be dumb not to happen if you had a guy that was running for the championship and didn't have the fastest, best over the wall crew, and one of your other three cars dropped out of the race, now it is one thing robbing them in the middle of the race, but if you own four teams and you have one drop out of the race and instead of six crew members you have 12 standing there and you know that those six are better than the other six, why wouldn't you put them in?"
YOU DON'T THINK THAT AFFECTS THE CHEMESTRY OF THE TEAM? "It didn't seem like it did. The team is bigger than one person. It is bigger than the driver or crew chief or six people over the wall. It is bigger than that. It takes everybody to make that thing work. You have to put your best foot forward and use your best stuff every week. If you are one of the guys getting pulled out, obviously nobody likes that, but at the end of the day it was smart. It probably helped them win a championship."
EVERYBODY IS OPTIMISTIC THIS TIME OF THE YEAR. WHAT DO YOU FEEL MIGHT BE DIFFERENT ABOUT YOUR TEAM THIS YEAR THAN OTHER YEARS? "Well, Jimmy Fennig has been here and we finished strong at the end of last year. I felt more confident at the end of last year than the 10 weeks before that. It seems like we are going in the right direction. We have had some change over the wall that hopefully will pick our over the wall guys up a little bit. We have had several changes and have to see how it goes. This year, I feel like maybe Jimmy will feel like it is more his own team. Chip has stepped up to engineering, and now Jimmy has built the team that is there now. It is different than it was a few years ago. I think he probably feels a little more comfortable with his own group and that will help."
-source: ford racing