MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion HOW DO YOU STOP JIMMIE JOHNSON? "I've been really happy for Jimmie and Chad to win three in a row. Really, I think they've earned it every year and they've deserved it. They've figured out how to...
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
HOW DO YOU STOP JIMMIE JOHNSON? "I've been really happy for Jimmie and Chad to win three in a row. Really, I think they've earned it every year and they've deserved it. They've figured out how to win in every different situation that they've been put in and I think they're the best out there. As a competitor, you always want to see the best team win, even if that's not you. That's kind of how I've always been. I always like seeing the fastest car win the race, not the car who milked it on fuel mileage and maybe didn't have the fastest car. It's the same with winning a championship. Even though the system is different than it was before, as a racer you still want to see the team win it that has been the best car overall for the season. I think it would really be hard to say Jimmie hasn't been the best car for the last four or five years at least."
THERE SEEMS TO BE THREE TIERS OF TEAMS OUT THERE NOW. WILL THAT CHANGE THE QUALITY OF RACING? "Everybody has a different opinion on it. Some people think if they get all the cars the same speed, that's gonna be the best racing you have. In my opinion, it's about the worst racing you can have. I think the racing was good last year and I think it will be better this year. I think if you get a bigger separation from first to last, in my opinion, it makes the racing better. I think if there's 15 cars on the lead lap at the end of the race and there's a caution with 50 to go, you're gonna see a lot more strategy and you're gonna see better racing for the win. When there are 30 cars on the lead lap, everybody is gonna do the same thing because they're scared of losing all that track position. I think it'll make it better. I think when there's more of a spread in speed, it makes passing easier and makes you be able to run side-by-side and catch a slower car and pass them. When everybody is almost the same speed and you get behind somebody, even if you're a tenth or two better and you get aero-tight and can't pass anybody it just kind of changes the racing. My hope is that no testing and the teams changing around a little bit, I think it will spread the field out a little bit and you'll maybe see some different winners and more passing. I think maybe you'll see a better race. That's just my opinion. I don't know, but that's always the way I've looked at it."
IS NOT WINNING LAST YEAR SOMETHING YOU HAD TO COME TO GRIPS WITH OVER THE OFF-SEASON? "Yeah, I mean once the season was over and we didn't win, I was pretty disappointed. We didn't make the top 10 and we didn't win, that was the first time in a long time we didn't do that. During the season, it's not something you can dwell on. It's just gonna make things worse if you sit there and torture yourself because you haven't been able to win a race. It's not gonna magically happen. You just go out and do everything you know how to do every week. Whenever you try to do more than you know that you and your car and your team is capable of, that's when you make mistakes and things go even worse. You don't put any extra pressure on yourself or the team, you just go out and do everything to the best of your ability and just keep trying to get better."
IT WOULD BE EASY FOR SOMEONE ON THE OUTSIDE TO SAY THAT SINCE ROBBIE WASN'T THERE THAT'S THE REASON YOU DIDN'T WIN. IS THAT FAIR? "No, I don't think that really had a lot to do with it. It was really a different season than we've ever had before. It was the first season with that car running it at all the tracks. It seemed like strategy and track position and qualifying and pit stops were probably more important than they've ever been and we were just never able to put everything together. There were a few races we ran good enough to win, but we just didn't have it happen for whatever reason. The spring Michigan race we had, I thought, by far the best car and led most of the thing. Dale Jr. ended up winning but ended up winning on fuel mileage and coasting past cars under yellow without the motor running. It was just a different kind of racing than we've ever seen before and this car has sort of brought that out. People will roll the dice for strategy to be in front because it's so important to be in front. At Dover we ran good enough to win and got beat by Greg at the end, so there have been a few races we were good enough to win, but we just didn't get it to happen. Everything has got to go perfect in order to do that."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE TIRES FOR THIS YEAR? "I hope they're softer. When you make them softer and make them wear out and drop off, I think the racing is always better. We ran this car four times at Dover now and I couldn't believe from the spring race to the fall race how much better the racing was -- bringing a little bit softer tire that wore a little bit more and had a little more grip. This car needs more grip with the tire because the car has so much less downforce. It's a taller car and it doesn't handle nearly as well as our old cars and that seemed to help us race a lot -- in my opinion -- at least at that track it did. I think that Goodyear was pretty conservative with the tire for this car when it first came out because they thought it was gonna be tougher on right side tires, so they brought harder compounds and I think the harder the tires are, the tougher it is to pass. Hopefully, they'll keep coming back and softening them up a little bit since they have a year under their belt."
HOW IMPORTANT ARE TIRE TESTS THESE DAYS? "The less testing there is, the more important the tire tests are, but it's always been they let you work on your car enough to get it to handle the way you want before you start testing tires because if your car is not handling the way you want, it's hard for them to get accurate tire data. I don't think it's gonna be much different. Actually, they've probably tightened it up a little bit. We used to be able to run two cars and now I think they're only letting you run one car. There's been talk of not having data, but I don't really know if they've really taken that off or not. If anything, they're probably letting you have a little less freedom than what you did before so nobody gets a big advantage."
WHAT'S YOUR ASSESSMENT ABOUT WHICH CARS ARE BETTER AFTER SOME OF THE TIRE TESTING? "I haven't really talked a whole lot about it. I talked with Jamie a little bit after Phoenix, but I don't think you're ever gonna have anymore -- unless the rules go massively different than they are -- a manufacturer advantage. All of the cars are so close together aerodynamically and they chassis dyno all the stuff to make sure they're all so close. I don't think you're ever gonna be disadvantaged because of what manufacturer you have. I think they're gonna make sure they all stay close enough to the same speed. I think they're trying to make it more about the teams and the pit stops and the drivers, more so than who has what manufacturer."
HAS CARL STEPPED THINGS UP WITHIN THE ROUSH FAMILY? "He's definitely put more pressure on all of us because he performed well, which is a great thing. If you know your equipment is good enough to win with and he was able to win all of those races, you know you've got the stuff, you just have to figure out how to put it together."
DOES HAVING 28 CARS IN THE SHOOTOUT CHANGE ANYTHING? "I think I've only run one of them. It used to be you had to win a pole to run in it and I haven't done that very often. I think with the pack being bigger, the racing will probably be more exciting. At a plate race, the bigger the pack is the more passing there is and the more excitement there is. I think it will probably be more important than any other year because there is no testing -- none of us have drafted, none of us have raced. I think it will be nice to get to the track with our group, especially us with a different crew chief and all that -- to be able to work together as a unit. We haven't been able to do that this winter because there hasn't been any testing. I think practice tomorrow will be pretty exciting too. Nobody has been on a race track for three months and we're gonna go straight out there and draft. I think that will be pretty exciting."
WERE YOU ABLE TO GET MUCH OUT OF THE SHOOTOUT BEFORE? "I think I've only run it once and that was a long time ago, so I don't know. It's definitely gonna be nice to be in it and, if nothing else, getting a little bit of rhythm and getting into a groove and getting used to doing pit stops and racing with the guys. I'm really glad I'm in it this year."
WILL QUALIFYING TELL US WHO IS GOING TO BE GOOD? "I don't think qualifying is really gonna mean much to anybody, except for the top two guys, but I think practice tomorrow everybody is probably anticipating more than they're probably letting on a little bit just because we haven't been on the race track. I think everybody is pretty excited to get out there and get some laps under their belt."
ANY FAVORITE HERE? "No. If you think about the same guys -- Dale Jr. always runs really good down here, especially in February, so I guess you always think about him. Other than that, probably the same guys. I know Tony is with a different team, but he always does extremely well at Daytona. It's probably the same guys that you're used to."
-credit: ford racing