Fort Worth: Winning Ford team press conference

MATT KENSETH --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus (Finished 1st) WHAT ABOUT YOUR RUN? "Yeah, it was a great run. It's a great facility out here. We were all worried about the track being a one-groove track and it really wasn't today, the outside...

MATT KENSETH --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus (Finished 1st)

WHAT ABOUT YOUR RUN? "Yeah, it was a great run. It's a great facility out here. We were all worried about the track being a one-groove track and it really wasn't today, the outside groove came in real quick, which I never dreamed it would have. You could run side-by-side. It was a great race track and we were able to start from the back and make our way to the front. I was real concerned about that -- having to start in the back by having a chance to get back to the front -- but we were able to do it and we had our car really adjustable. We were able to keep up with the changing track conditions today and that was the key."

WHAT WAS THE KEY? "Well, our very first run before the mandatory caution, we were able to run somewhere between 15th and 18th, something like that, and it wasn't that bad to pass. But later in the race, once I got up to the top 10 it was real difficult for me to pass and I had a hard time getting back past those people. At the end of the race, it was definitely a track position thing. If you could be in the front, you could run faster but, on the other hand, we did have a fast car and we could catch all of the people in front of us -- we were just having a hard time passing them."

ANY QUESTION ABOUT TWO TIRES ON THE LAST STOP? "I think they were voting down there. I wanted to get two. We always go the safe way. Our rookie year, we lost California that way. We led all day, led the most laps, and I got four at the end and got beat by two tires so I wanted to go for it once. I knew if we got four, I knew three or four of those guys were gonna take two tires, and if we got behind them I knew we weren't gonna pass them and win the race. But if we had two, at least we were gonna have a shot of getting away a little bit on the start and then at least then it would be my race to lose, so I wanted to be out front and see what we could do out there."

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus

CAN YOU REVEAL THE VOTE AND DID YOUR VOTE OVERRULE? "No, my vote doesn't count for anything during the race -- it's Robbie and Matt deciding what they want. I'll maybe write Robbie some notes and say, 'I see this or I see that,' but he has the final word and there's no recourse or no second-guessing. Robbie and Matt had their agenda worked out in terms of what they wanted to do. They had figured out how to keep the car dancing and to be in a position to win. There were a couple of different ways they could have won. If it had stayed green, they were in a position where they needed very little gas, and they were probably gonna take on two tires even with very little gas, but that was the one bit of strategy that Robbie had to sort out, it seemed by me. I was down there making sure he understood how little gas he needed, so he didn't make his decision on two tires thinking that it wouldn't cost him a penalty. With 25 laps to go or whatever it was gonna be -- I think it was 25-28 when they planned on coming in -- three seconds more on pit road would have gotten them two tires and I'm pretty sure that was Robbie was gonna do. At that point, they were three or four seconds in front, so he would have maintained that assuming they had a good pit stop -- through the stop. If the two tires had been better, and I think they would have than no tires -- then 25 laps wouldn't have been a lot for two tires to have made up three seconds, so I'm pretty sure that would have worked."

WHAT ABOUT WHEN JEFF WAS BEHIND YOU? "I was more worried about it on cold tires. I figured those guys got two tires because I saw how fast they came out of the pits, so I knew they had two and we were on equal tires. But I was worried about my restart and I was worried about the first two laps when they had the maximum grip -- about getting passed. I thought once the tires got warm, if I could get a little cushion in between us, I felt pretty good about it. It was tough to be behind somebody today and if I could keep on the bottom and keep the thing from pushing up off the corner, then I thought I'd have a shot at it. So, as long as he didn't get underneath me the first few laps I felt pretty good about it."

ROBBIE REISER, Crew Chief --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus

WHAT ABOUT THE LAST PIT STOP? "It was pretty much a group decision. I said, 'Do you think we should put four on?' And they all shook their head and said, 'No, two' so they overruled the deal and we took two."

YOU HAVE A NEW HAT. "This is a hat even I could like. I didn't have a 10-gallon genuine Texas hat, so now I've got one. The whole crew got one as well, so this is a real special moment to come to Texas and be able to win our third race and Robbie and Matt's second race this year. This is a real turnaround for us. We're really have a good time with it right now."

WHAT ABOUT YOUR COMMUNICATION? "The biggest thing between Robbie and I is we have a lot of trust in each other. When he tells me he does something I trust that at least most of the time he does it and he trusts me when I tell him something, he kind of knows what I need and what I want. One time during the race we only had four laps on a set of tires and I told him I had a little vibration and he trusted that, so we came in and did the safe thing and changed tires. We lost a few spots, but we did that. We've had a great relationship. We've been working together since '97 and he's been my only crew chief ever for Winston Cup or the Busch Series, so we've obviously had a good time together."

ON RELATIONSHIP WITH MATT. "Matt wrecked a lot of equipment in front of me all the time and I always had to drive through it and that made me mad most of the time (laughing). No, we've had a really good relationship. Matt is a hell of a race car driver. He's done a great job for us and he's a pleasure to work with and I enjoy working with him a lot because he's got the talent and he knows what he's doing most of the time. Once in a while I've got to straighten him out, but, no, he does a really good job -- not just as a driver but he's a real good friend of mine. We do a lot more than just racing cars together. With our Busch team and all the things we've been through, we've been through a lot of things over the last two years. Plus, when we raced short tracks we threw some things too, so it's a pretty neat deal."

WHAT ABOUT ALL FOUR TEAMS SO FAR? "The downside of four teams is that only one of them can win, so I'm really greedy. On a day like today I'm just devastated that we didn't have a better day with the 99 and that Kurt ran over three pieces of trash on the race track somewhere along the way and had three flat tires that gave him trouble. Kurt had a really neutral car that was balanced real nice and he just kept coming down pit road, so those things will be bothering me as much or more than the joy I feel for winning this race. We're just greatly relieved to have been able to deliver back to DEWALT and Pfizer and Rubbermaid and Citgo the kind of exposure that they counted on from us when they made their investment in sponsorship. For the most part, we haven't had the broken parts and we haven't had the wrecks and we haven't had the cautions come out at exactly the wrong time."

"When we've had an opportunity to win a race this year, we've been able to capitalize on it, and when we haven't been good enough we haven't. Boy, I've had years when you'd be good enough numerous times and you just couldn't capitalize on it for something out of your control. These are the happy days. These are the happy times as the German U-boat guys said in '39 and '40 when we were really having things go our way. I'm sitting some of this aside, putting it in the bank for when the bad stuff happens and we can't win, even though we were as good as we were today."

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAST YEAR AND THIS YEAR? "Talking about circumstances at the end of the race, a lot of it isn't necessarily something we always do right or always do wrong, a lot of it is just circumstances and luck. One thing I can tell you is our cars have handled much, much better than they did last year. Last year we were driving 20th-place cars most of the time and no matter what circumstances, yeah, you put in front with a 20th-place car and I'm still not gonna win the race. So, the car has got to be fast and you've got to have everything going your way. Everything worked out for us. It worked out good when Rusty and Tony were in front of me and there was a caution shortly after they pitted -- I think 10 or 12 laps and we were running third -- and they came in and pitted and I decided to stay out. That was a big key in us winning the race, I think, because it got me out front and it showed me and it showed Robbie on the stopwatch how fast that we could be if we were out front. I think that probably changed our strategy once we were out front and saw how good our car could really be. Then we just had to figure out how to keep it there."

WAS CLEAN AIR THAT MUCH BETTER TODAY? "It was definitely a lot better than being behind, for sure, especially when you got up to the front cars. But we were able to pass a lot of cars and the track got pretty wide, but you've got to remember that we're almost running 200 miles and hour and these cars are very dependent on aerodynamics to make them work. A lot of times I could be running four times faster than a car and catch them and get three car lengths behind them and couldn't get any closer to them. I'd slow down four-tenths just because I couldn't get the thing turned to go underneath him, so it definitely was a big advantage to be out front, but you still had to have your car handling right. If your car wasn't turning and doing the things you wanted, it wouldn't have mattered as much, but the place to be was definitely up front."

WHAT ABOUT AERO PUSH? "Basically, when we're running a straight line, say we have 300 pounds of downforce in the front and 600 in the back, when you get behind somebody it takes all of that downforce off the front. Basically, you've got 300 pounds of pressure that are pushing on your front tires and keeping your front tires turning and on the ground. When you get behind somebody, you take all that pressure off the front tires, but it doesn't take all that off the rear tires. The rear still has the downforce, but it takes all the downforce off the front and it makes the steering wheel really light and doesn't hold the tires to the ground."

ON AERO PUSH. "That pretty much explains it, but it just changes the balance of the car. We do a lot with springs and shocks and front valances and stuff like that to try to get the car to turn. That's kind of why last season we struggled a little bit. We worked on it and we've got that part of it better and our cars are able to run in traffic a lot better this year."

ARE WIND TUNNELS IMPORTANT TO MULTI-CAR TEAMS? "If you have a really good formula and a really good format, all you need to do is to figure out how to replicate it so everybody within the group that's sharing the information has the same thing. Mark and Kurt and Matt, pretty much, have agreed on what they wanted for an aero balance in the car.

"Jeff Burton has run something a little bit different and that worked for him great at the end of last year, but we're certainly showing the way for Jeff from the way Mark and Kurt and Matt are running this year. The one thing about aero push that I think might be most interesting to the media is that it provides the basis for great contention. Whoever is not doing real well is sure they've got the worst problem and, of course, I guess the only people that can really evaluate who has the worse problem are the guys sitting behind the steering wheel. The rest of us just watch it and say, 'Boy, if I had more there, we'd be better,' but it's got to be really hard to drive these cars. The big round cars that want to make all this lift, it's got to be really hard to drive them when they lose that layer of laminer air that stands close to the ground, that they're able to run their front ends into and to build the downforce. My hat goes off to them to be able to run off into the corner at 200 miles an hour or 190 miles an hour places like here and Indy and Atlanta, where you really rely on every nut and bolt -- the tires -- everything that's in the cars in front of you to not come apart so that you can get around there. They're really courageous. My hat's off to all the drivers."

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING BEFORE PITTING? "We were gonna pit with about 25 to go or something like that. If we would have come down pit road and the caution would have come out, that would have been a big problem for us. If it would have gone green to the end, I felt real good about where we were at. I think we had almost a six second lead, which is pretty big. The DEWALT over-the-wall guys have been doing a great job of getting me out of the pits fast. I know Robbie had two tires planned there, so I don't think anybody could have beat us as far as getting ahead of us with strategy or taking gas only or anything like that. We were still gonna have a lead once everybody pitted because everybody was gonna have to pit sooner or later. I think we had maybe seven or eight laps -- before some of the other cars had to pit -- we had to pit because someone pitted after us, so I think we would have been fine if it had gone green."

IS PRACTICE OVERRATED? "No, but it worked out good for us. I think when you can practice a little bit and your car is real fast, then you wish there wouldn't be practice so everybody doesn't have time to figure out their cars. Really, we kind of decided on our own what we wanted to put in the car and it was almost identical to what we ran in our Busch Series car yesterday, which was really, really fast. We kind of lost that race because of circumstances, we feel like, but we had a real fast car there too and we put that basic setup in our Winston Cup car and worked around that and it was real fast. We did that and took some of our knowledge from what we ran in Atlanta in the spring, so we brought the same exact car back here and the tracks are pretty similar."

YOU HAD TO GO TO THE BACK OF THE FIELD, WHERE DID YOU START? "What's the difference? We changed the engine before qualifying so we pulled in the back. I don't know, Robby Gordon might have been behind me. I guess our official starting position is 31st, but I didn't see anything behind me so if we weren't last we were second-to-last."

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING AT THE START OF THE RACE? "I was pretty nervous about it because I didn't know how wide the track was gonna get or how easy or hard it was gonna be to pass. Like I said, the first tire run before the mandatory caution we were able to pass a whole bunch of cars. I think we were 15th when we came out of the pits after our very first pit stop, so we made up most of the ground I was worried about before that, then I knew we were in a pretty decent position to go from there. So it worried me before the race started, but after we got up through there I felt like we had a car that was gonna be pretty competitive. But when you don't run up front and lead all day, you're never really sure that it's gonna be a winner."

DID YOU TEST HERE AND WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? "No, we didn't test here. Jeff Burton tested here, so we looked at a lot of his test data. I think we're all goal-setters. Robbie is probably more a goal-setter than me, but his goals are really, really easy -- win every week and win the championship -- those are his goals so his are really easy to figure out. You have to have goals. My main goal going into the year was just to be more competitive -- to run up front. Obviously, you want to win every week, but we wanted to win more races, but basically put ourselves in position to win races. Last year, we very seldom put ourselves in a position to win, so you have to put yourself in that position to win several time to win races, I feel like. If you're up there running with the leaders and you're running up in the top five and you've got competitive cars, you're gonna win your share of races, so that was my goal."

WHAT ABOUT NOW? "I just feel like we have more work to do, I think that we have good cars but I don't think we can rest and say as a team that we've won three out of seven races so we're good enough and can leave everything alone. I still think we need to work on stuff and we need to take every item that's in our race cars and make them the best we can make them. We had a great race car today, but I felt like there was still room for improvement where we could have been even stronger. So that's a great feeling. When you can win a race and know that you still have room to make your cars better, that's a wonderful thing."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT CLEAN RACING? "First of all, the track is so wide you don't need to run into everybody to pass them and, second of all, I don't think you'd want to run into anybody because you're going so fast it would mess up your own car besides wrecking him. These type of tracks aren't like that. If you're fast enough to get right up to his back bumper, you're gonna be fast enough to pass him. So, if you can get close enough to hit him, you're fast enough to pass him without hitting him. If you can get to him, it's not a problem to pass but sometimes it's hard to get right up to him."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Robby Gordon