This Week in Ford Racing August 31, 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus, goes into this weekend's Pop Secret 500 at California Speedway fifth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings. He spoke...
This Week in Ford Racing
August 31, 2004
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus, goes into this weekend's Pop Secret 500 at California Speedway fifth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings. He spoke about preparations for the upcoming Chase for the Championship and which team is the one to beat when the chase kicks off at New Hampshire later this month.
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus
WHERE WOULD YOU PUT YOURSELF AS FAR AS THE CHASE GOES RIGHT NOW?
"I don't know. We're fifth right now and you want to stay as high as you can up in the points. Obviously, if disaster strikes we're in a pretty comfortable position to make the top 10, but more so than thinking about making the top 10 these last two races, we're thinking about running good and trying to get to victory lane and carry some momentum into the last 10."
WHY HAS THIS CHASE CAPTURED PEOPLE SO MUCH?
"I don't know if it's bringing more people in or if it's not bringing more people in, but, obviously, you're focused on the 10 spots because the top 10 are within 45 points with 10 races to go and they're basically evened up for all of the mistakes and problems you've had during the year. I think in the past people have always watched the championship battle. I think it's always been important to be in the top 10 and, obviously, it's a lot more important now. But people always watch the championship battle."
DO YOU FEEL THIS TEAM HAS BEEN IN ANY SORT OF SLUMP LATELY?
"Lately we've been running better over the last three or four weeks. During the middle of the year we weren't running quite as good as we should have been and had some problems and didn't get some good finishes. I feel like right now we're running better and our performance is better. We've had a few good finishes in a row. We were a contender at Indy even though we had some problems at the end, so I feel like we're starting to run better and getting some momentum for those last 10. We've still got to get through the next couple of weeks and make the top 10, but if we make it in and don't have a lot of problems, then you want to be running good and have as much momentum as you can."
DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE UNDER THE RADAR RIGHT NOW?
"I don't know. I get that question every year, but I don't think so. We won a couple of races, plus the all-star race, and we've had a great year. It's been more up and down than what we had last year. Last year we were just real consistent the whole time, whereas this year we haven't been quite as consistent. But lately it feels like we're getting that consistency back and I think if we can get running better than what we're running right now, hopefully, we'll be a contender."
A LOT OF PEOPLE PICKED RYAN NEWMAN TO WIN THE TITLE AND HE'S STRUGGLING TO GET IN THE TOP 10. IS THERE MORE PRESSURE BEING IN A SITUATION LIKE THAT?
"There's always pressure every week, no matter where you are in points. There's always pressure in this sport to do the best you can and you always want to be running good. There is probably pressure for him to get in the top 10 because of the gift of so many points that the 10th-place guy is gonna get, so there is definitely pressure to get there for him so he still has a shot to make something out of the year. But I think there's pressure no matter what."
WHAT ABOUT MARK POSSIBLY MAKING IT?
"Mark's got a lot of momentum right now. He's been running really well. I think the 24 and the 48 have to be the favorites. The 8 has some good tracks coming up in the last 10 too, so I think they're the favorites. But if you had to pick somebody else, I think the 6 is running right now as good or better than any other team out there. They don't have all the finishes to show for it because they've had a ton of bad luck, so I think if he can get in, he'll have a shot at it."
IF THE 24 AND 48 ARE THE FAVORITES WHERE DO YOU FALL IN?
"I don't know. I think we're right in there somewhere. I think right now the 24 has a ton of momentum. He's been winning a lot of races and he's been running really, really well, so I think he's probably the favorite. The 48, if they get their mechanical stuff fixed, obviously they've been really strong all year and last year, so I think those guys are the favorites because on average they've been running better than what we've been running. But if we can have our consistency and get some good finishes toward the end there, hopefully we'll be in it too."
IS THERE ANY CONCERN IN THE FINAL 10 THAT IF A COUPLE DRIVERS ARE IN AND THEIR TEAMMATES AREN'T THAT THEY START WRECKING OTHER PEOPLE OR BLOCKING?
"No, this isn't Days of Thunder. That's not gonna happen. First of all, everybody has way too much respect for each other in the garage area. We have to live with these people basically every week of the year for 40 weeks, plus it's dangerous. That's just not gonna happen. There may be teammates who can do little things to help each other - maybe let them have a position, although I wouldn't see that happening either. But there might be little things like giving somebody more room on the track or something like that, but nothing at all is gonna happen like what you said."
COULD WE SEE A TEAM ORDER SITUATION?
"I don't know. Every team is different. I couldn't see that on our team. If there was, I don't know of many people who would take them, so I don't see that happening."
HOW MANY OF THE FINAL 10 TRACKS WILL YOU TEST AT?
"I think we're testing five or six of them."
YOU SAID THE 24 AND 48 ARE FAVORITES, BUT COULD THOSE TESTS EVEN THAT OUT A LITTLE BIT?
"You never know. We haven't tested at all this year because we tried to save them toward the end of the year. That has gotten us a little behind by doing that, but, hopefully, we'll be able to use these tests and learn some things and run good at some of the tracks that we struggle at in those last 10."
SO MAYBE YOUR STRUGGLES DURING MID-SEASON WAS SORT OF A SACRIFICE FOR THE END OF THE YEAR?
"Yeah, I mean all year you have to make sure you're in the top 10, but we tried to focus for those last 10 races. We came out of the box strong and had ourselves in a good position. Then about a month and a half ago when we weren't running as good, we started thinking about going to test and do some other things to get going a little bit better, but since then we've been running OK. We're fairly solidly in there if we don't have big problems and we've had a lot of problems this year, but we're still only 260 points out so that's pretty good."
WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE IN THE LAST 10 TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"I don't know. I don't think that the consistency is any less key having only 10 races. I think it's more of a key having only 10 races because if you have one DNF, you only have nine races to make that up. The system is still thirtysome points for last and 190 for first, so that's a huge swing. I think the guy who wins this thing is gonna be the guy who can run fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh every week and doesn't have any DNF's. I don't think it's gonna be the guy who wins two or three races and drops out of two or three races. It's still gonna be the guy who is most consistent."
ARE YOU THE BEST AT RUNNING FOURTH, FIFTH OR SIXTH?
"Oh, I don't know. I don't think so. It's tough to run fourth or fifth or sixth. You try to win every week, but it's just more important to finish in the top 10 than to win one race and then finish last in the next because your equipment didn't make it until the end of the race."
WHAT'S IT BEEN LIKE AS CHAMPION THIS YEAR? ANYTHING DIFFERENT?
"It really hasn't been that much different to be honest with you. When you come back to the track at Daytona you start working toward the goals of this year and you just don't get a lot of time to really sit and enjoy it because you're always running and trying to work on running good this year."