Ford Note: Matt Kenseth and Ricky Rudd are not part of the Budweiser Shootout, but they still had plenty to talk about during Thursday's NASCAR Media Day. Kenseth is coming off a second-place finish in last year's standings while Rudd is...
Ford Note: Matt Kenseth and Ricky Rudd are not part of the Budweiser Shootout, but they still had plenty to talk about during Thursday's NASCAR Media Day. Kenseth is coming off a second-place finish in last year's standings while Rudd is returning to Robert Yates Racing after a one-year hiatus.
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS? "It's kind of hard to know exactly what to expect with the car of tomorrow and all the other stuff going on, so we didn't really end very strong last year and you've got that whole other car coming out for half the races, so I don't really know what to expect. It should be a surprise to everybody."
DOES IT SEEM BUSIER THIS SPEEDWEEKS WITH ALL THE CHANGES? "Speedweeks feels normal to me. It doesn't really feel any busier. We've had a lot going on this winter trying to test and get the car of tomorrow developed and do some of that stuff, but Speedweeks and all the speedway stuff seems the same as last year."
WHAT DID YOU DO WITH THE OFF TIME? "I really had very little. In December I had a couple of weeks to spend some time hanging out with the family, but, really, I've been so busy in January and the beginning of February that I haven't really had any time, so I haven't done much."
IS IT NICE COMING INTO A SEASON WITH YOUR TEAM PRETTY MUCH INTACT? "Yeah, for me it's hard to see it any other way because I've never come into a season and had a crew chief change or engineer change or any of that stuff. Chip and Robbie and have been with me the whole time since we started this team, so that's been the same every year. We didn't lose many crew guys this year -- really just one guy and we traded him out for one of our original guys who is going to be back changing rear tires again, so that'll be exciting. I think our pit stops will be a little more consistent, so I'm looking forward to that."
HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS IT WITHOUT MARK MARTIN ON THE TEAM? "I don't think it's really gonna be that much different because Mark is still racing and we'll still see him on the weekends. With him living in Florida it's not like he was a permanent fixture at the shop, so it's not like we're not seeing him around there, but it's definitely different with somebody else driving the 6 car. I think that will be weird for everybody out there, not just everybody at Roush, so that will be a little different, but, really, I'll talk to Mark and I'll probably see Mark as much as I ever saw him before. I never really saw him at the shop, so I'll see him at the track and talk to him during the week on the phone and I don't think that will change."
WHAT'S THE KEY TO YOUR CONSISTENCY? "I think that Robbie has done a great job of putting together a special group of guys and Robbie does an extra-special job of keeping everybody motivated and happy and working toward the cause and being racers -- not just a job, but being a profession and wanting to succeed. Robbie has always done a great job with that, so that's really the key to it."
THE ROUSH SPEEDWAY PROGRAM HAS IMPROVED GREATLY OVER THE YEARS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CHANCE TO WIN THIS RACE? "Definitely the last two years I felt like we've had a better chance to win at these type of tracks, but you still have to figure out how to do everything right and not have things go wrong. You try to make some friends and make the right moves in the draft, so there's still a lot going on. It's a long race and a long week. I feel like we should be pretty competitive. Last year we were very competitive in all the speedway races. I feel like we should be again this year. Our car still ran really well when we tested, but yet we didn't find anything that was better than our old car, so that's a good news, bad news thing. Usually people make their stuff better even though there are no rules changes, so we've got the same stuff we ran last year. It ran pretty good in the test, so hopefully it'll run good again."
WHEN YOU COME TO DAYTONA WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT? "The speedway stuff, for me, there isn't really a lot to think about. Until you get qualified and then maybe you start thinking about practice for the duels and the Gatorade races, and you start thinking about your setup for the 500 after that, but, until then, for me to get qualified here Sunday and practice Saturday there's nothing to think about. I mean, you don't do anything. You just sit there and ride around to get qualified, then you'll start thinking about race setups and stuff like that. But right now you don't really think about anything. You think about getting through this weekend and qualifying and stuff since we're not part of the shootout, and then start thinking about our race package for Thursday."
DID YOU DRAFT WITH THE TOYOTAS? "I guess probably I did, but they look so much like a Chevy that I couldn't tell. Until you put stickers on them and put Toyota on them, they look just like a Monte Carlo to me, so I couldn't really tell a difference."
WOULD YOU BE SURPRISED IF TOYOTA WON THE 500? Yeah, I would be surprised."
WHY? "It's their first race. I think they'll probably be capable of doing it, but the other thing that's different about Toyota is that a lot of the new teams are new teams. I don't really look at the brand, I kind of look at the teams. Bill Davis is established and they won the Daytona 500 a few years ago, so I guess it could happen, but I just think there's so much that goes into starting a new team. With Michael's deal, with new drivers and crew chiefs together, it's a huge undertaking. I would think the same thing whether they were driving Fords or Chevys or Toyotas. I think they would have a little bit of a learning curve first. Maybe they won't. Maybe they'll come out and run really, really good right away, but I think they got a lot of work to do to make that happen. That would be quite an accomplishment if they could."
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR YOU TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOUR DRAFTING ABILITY? "I'm still working on it. I don't feel like I am at all yet. It's kind of like you go through a race and you'll hit everything pretty right and you'll get a good finish and you're like, 'Oh yeah, that's not too bad.' And then the next race you'll go through and feel like every move you made was the wrong one. I think it's forever a learning curve and I think a lot of people will tell you -- Michael Waltrip will tell you that when your car is running good and it's fast, people will draft with you and you'll be in the front. When your car is not running fast, nobody is gonna draft with you because if your car is not running fast, it will make you look like you're not as good at it. It's still an art and it's still hard to do, but it's much, much easier to do be good at it when your car is fast."
WHAT'S THE HARD PART OF IT? "It's kind of hard to explain. I don't know how you explain it. First, you've got to have your car fast and you've got to have other people that will draft with you. A lot of it is up to other people. Certainly, you've got to try to get yourself position and have people in the right place and be willing to draft with you. Like Jimmie did a great job at Talladega of being in position to win the race on the last lap. He was patient. He probably could have pulled out of line with 10 laps to go, but then he would have been in front and maybe got shuffled back. He did a great job of positioning himself. He had a teammate right behind him. He did all that stuff right. Sometimes there's a little art to it about being patient and making your move at the right time and keeping your car in the right position, but most of the time it's harder than it looks."
-credit: ford racing