Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, won the season-opening Daytona 500 and then followed it up with a victory the next week in Fontana (Calif.). Kenseth, who has three top-five finishes in his last six starts at Daytona ...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, won the season-opening Daytona 500 and then followed it up with a victory the next week in Fontana (Calif.). Kenseth, who has three top-five finishes in his last six starts at Daytona International Speedway, heads into this weekend's Coke Zero 400 in 10th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings. He met with the media prior to Thursday's first practice.
THE LAST TIME YOU LEFT HERE YOU WERE PRETTY HAPPY. "The last time I was here, I wasn't, because I got beat in the media go-kart race. But the last time I left this room -- yeah, it's cool to come back here. Obviously, winning the 500 was huge for us and really kicked the year off, and we were lucky enough to follow that up at California. Anyway, it's been really up and down since then. We've had some good runs, some bad runs and some not very consistent finishes, so I'm glad to be back here and hopefully we can get our car to handle and be up front and have a shot at it again."
WHAT HAS THE CHANGE BEEN SINCE THE START OF THE SEASON? WHAT IS THAT MISSING PIECE THAT YOUR TEAM IS LOOKING FOR? "For us as a group, I'm not sure. For us as an organization, I think we've been off on the short tracks and the flat tracks, places like last weekend, places like Richmond and Phoenix. Tracks like that I think we've been off at a little bit performance-wise. As far as us as the 17, if I just look at our team, we obviously started off real good, and after that it really hasn't been one thing. We broke the first lap at Vegas; we broke a part, which is really strange. There's been some races like Talladega where we were second with four laps to go, had ourselves in great position and then got a flat tire from a fender rub. Then we had a loose wheel at Charlotte. It hasn't really been one thing. We've just had a lot of things keeping us from getting us our finishes. Now, we haven't really been contenders to win races -- there have been a couple of races where we ran pretty good -- but we haven't been contenders to win races. I think we've been a top-10 car more times than not, but it seems like we keep turning top-10 or top-12 runs into 20th- and 30th-place finishes, from having problems, all kinds of different problems."
THE HALL OF FAME NOMINEES WILL BE ANNOUNCED TONIGHT. THE WHOLE LIST ISN'T KNOWN RIGHT NOW, BUT ARE THERE ANY RACERS THAT YOU EXPECT TO BE ON THAT LIST OF WHICH YOU HAVE A SPECIAL MEMORY? "I haven't seen a list, but even though off of today's standard -- we have people like Joey [Logano] won a race now and Kyle [Busch] winning races -- I'm probably middle-aged or a little older than those guys, but compared to some of the guys who on the first list of nominees, I'm probably fairly young to be familiar with their history or seeing them race or remembering watching one of those events. One of the first events I remember really watching was when Richard Petty got his 200th win -- this was down here in July. That's one of the first memories I have of live NASCAR racing, so the rest of that stuff is a little bit before me. I read up on some of it, the history and I know the names, but I probably don't know great details about their careers."
WHAT WAS THE TOUGHEST THING FOR YOU WHEN YOU MADE THE JUMP TO CUP RACING? AND WHAT IS TOUGH FOR YOU STILL? "It's changed. The hardest few things for me, probably, when we first came in was the races were a lot longer, just getting used to the people that you were racing against.
"There wasn't a whole bunch of people that went back and ran Nationwide Series, there were a few guys -- Mark [Martin] and Jeff [Burton] that you knew, but then there was a whole other group of guys that were legends, Rusty [Wallace], [Dale] Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Ricky Rudd, that whole group that didn't come back and race Nationwide, but I wasn't familiar with how they raced, and I hadn't raced against those kinds of guys. So, just to learn the different people was the biggest challenge. I had a big advantage of being at Roush and working close with Roush and Jeff Burton and the guys who had all of their stuff running really good and would share set-ups and share advice with me. Today's biggest challenge is all of the cars are so close to the same. You know, we're pretty close to racing spec race cars -- you can change the set-ups a little bit, but they're pretty close to being the same, exactly, aero-wise, and construction-wise they're pretty darn close to the same, too, so that's the biggest challenge about today -- it's really hard to get an advantage, it's really hard to do the little tweaks to the car to get it to drive the way you want it to drive. That's, by far, the biggest challenge of today."
REGARDING JEREMY MAYFIELD AND THE COURT INJUCTION FROM YESTERDAY; WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THAT NEWS, AND HOW COMFORTABLE TO YOU FEEL BEING ON THE SAME TRACK AS HIM? "I don't know enough about it to really comment much on it, to be honest with you. I don't really know. I just don't know that much about it. I'm comfortable. I haven't been uncomfortable with very many drivers -- there's a couple that aren't in the sport anymore that you probably knew something was going on that you weren't real comfortable with, but I don't really have a problem with, however they work it out, I'm sure if he comes back, I'm comfortable with him coming back. I'm sure he'll be tested all the time and do all that stuff. I don't really know that much about it. You probably know way more about it than I do, to be honest with you."
REGARDING THE HALL OF FAME NOMINEES: YOU FOLLOW OTHER SPORTS; DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON WHO SHOULD ON THAT LIST AND WHAT IT MEANS TO THIS SPORT? "I don't know who should be in the first group. It's not something I've thought about. Like I was just saying, I'm more up on history closer to when I watched it. When it started it was a little bit before my day. I think the Hall of Fame is really cool for the sport. When it first came out, I thought about it a little bit, and it really seemed like a big deal, and the more I thought about I think it's pretty cool. I watch NFL a lot, so I watch those guys get inducted every year. I watched Michael Irvin cry that year and you would think that wouldn't happen. The Hall of Fame's a big deal. I think someday when your career is over that'll be something that you'll hope that you'll be a part of where somebody can go and celebrate all of the different car owners and drivers, and, I'm sure, crew chiefs, everybody's careers. It'll be something that will be there forever. So, that'll be pretty cool for the sport to have that in Charlotte."
DO YOU FEEL THAT YESTERDAY'S RULING BY THE JUDGE DAMAGE THE CONTROL THAT NASAR HAS OR THE POWER OF THE DRUG TESTING PROGRAM? ARE THERE ANY CHANGES YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE? "I'm not trying to be not controversial, but I just don't all that much about it, to be honest with you. I really don't. I'm sure that they're going to figure out a way to make it so that whenever they make a ruling on something they're 100-percent sure that's the ruling, whether that's to have a second agency look at something or whatever it is, I'm sure they'll have a way to prevent this from ever happening again, when they get done with this, I'm sure they'll learn about the policy. I just don't know a lot about.
"I haven't studied the policy that much, besides the piece of paper that they gave us. I've been fortunate, I guess. I've been pretty much healthy my whole life. I don't have to take prescription medications. I don't take over-the-counter medications. I just haven't worried about it. I never had anything to worry about because I've never had anything to worry about, and if I did I think that I would make the phone call and make sure that they knew what I was taking and I would feel pretty comfortable that they're test results would be right. I don't know if they were or not. I don't know. I would assume that they would be, but I don't know."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE OTHER DRIVERS WILL TREAT JEREMY MAYFIELD WHEN HE RETURNS? "I don't know of any people, offhand, or many people that have ever had a problem with Jeremy. I don't if we'll ever know if there's a way to find out or not if it's right or wrong, certainly, for some reason, if it was wrong, you feel bad for the guy because he's been kind of crucified already. If he was in the wrong, then we'll all want to know that, too, and want it to get worked out right so there's no question of the drug policy going forward."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT CREW CHIEF DREW BLICKENSDERFER? HOW HAS THAT RELATIONSHIP GONE THIS YEAR? "It's gone really well -- a little harder on Drew that last couple of months, probably. I guess some things have not gone right and he's handled that well, so that's good. But, seriously, it's been really good. He's done better, really, than I could've expected. The first two weeks, obviously, weren't going to continue that pace all year. I knew sooner or later there things were going to settle down or the reality check. I think he's done really good. I think he's been learning a lot the last few months. When we first started, we just kind of took what we had and he took his time implementing certain things or getting used to the guys and doing all of that stuff. There's a learning curve to all of that and I think he's been doing really good. I think every week it's been getting better." ANY NEWS ON THE BABY FRONT? "No, not yet. Just still waiting on when decides to show up, I guess. Hopefully, it's on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday."
YOU'VE TRADITIONALLY SAID THAT WINNING RACES IS THE WAY TO GAIN THE MOST POINTS, AS TIGHT AS IT IS NOW FROM POSITIONS 10-14, ARE YOU PAYING CLOSER ATTENTION TO THAT. WILL THAT HAVE AN EFFECT ON THE WAY YOU APPROACH A RACE? "I don't really pay much attention to that. Yeah, I'm kind of aware of where we're at. I look at the standings every few weeks or something, somebody will say where you're at. But, if you run good and you finish good, you'll get the points to make it to the Chase. Certainly, it's a real big deal to make the Chase, and if you make it, you want to have a legitimate shot at a championship every year. We've been one of them the whole time. But, you want to get in, and we used to be really good at taking cars that didn't run that good and get better finishes than what we ran, and lately we've been doing the opposite of that for a long time, for the last couple of months, and that needs to stop and we need at least to get back to finishing where we run, and if we don't do that, we won't make it. I think we all realize that. We've got to get running better to start with, but we've certainly got to get finishing better. Like, last wee we ran 12th all week, which was nothing to be too excited about, and finished 22nd. We've been doing that a lot. Pocono, in third all day and finished 18th or something. We've got to figure out how to get that to stop. There's no way we're going to make it doing that."
ABOUT RESTRICTOR-PLATE RACING: AFTER TALLADEGA, CARL EDWARDS SAID SOMETHING ABOUT THE RACES BEING LIKE THAT UNTIL SOMETHING CHANGES. DO YOU FEEL THAT SOMETHING SHOULD CHANGE WITH THE RULES PACKAGE? "To what? That's the question. Everybody's like, 'The rules have got to change.' They'll say, 'Okay, what do you guys want to change it to?' Everybody's like, ' I don't know.' How are you going to fix it? Certainly the wreck that he had and even me being upside down on Saturday at Talladega, those are the guys that are probably going to make the comments. 'Man, we've got to change something because that's the guy who almost flipped into the grandstands.' I don't know. I don't know what you do. I just don't know what you do. When you've got tracks as big as this place and Talladega, you have to do something to slow them down or they'll really be flying up in the grandstands and they'll be upside down. You have to do something to do that for the safety of the drivers, the fans, the crews, everybody. Everybody at the race track, really. So, how else are you going to do it? I don't know what the answer. I think that when they designed this car, I think the best two things for this car was road courses and speedways. I think that got everybody on a more even playing field, and I think this car is really good for these tracks and for the road courses, especially. I just don't know what to do. They've tried different rules packages and the racing seems to be fairly exciting at the speedways with these cars. And you're going to have wrecks, no matter what the package was. They want to make it to where you can pass, and to make it pass you've got to make 'em to where they can suck up to the next guy, and if you get sucked up to the next guy and you're going to pass and the guy cuts you off and spins him out, whether you're going 190 or 195 or 185 I think the results are all going to be close to the same."
-credit: ford racing