Homestead: Kenseth - Ford Friday interview

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, will have a new crew chief in 2008 when Robbie Reiser assumes the general manager duties at Roush Fenway Racing. Kenseth spoke about the loss of Reiser and what it will mean to his ...

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, will have a new crew chief in 2008 when Robbie Reiser assumes the general manager duties at Roush Fenway Racing. Kenseth spoke about the loss of Reiser and what it will mean to his team.

MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON ROBBIE BEING PROMOTED? "I feel good about him being promoted. I think from an organizational standpoint it's gonna be really good for Roush Fenway Racing, which I think will also be good for the 17 team in the long haul. I know it's something he's kind of been interested in doing the last few years, but we've enjoyed working together and doing this for a long time too, so I think overall it'll make the company stronger."

MARK MARTIN SAID ROBBIE IS A REAL RACER AND IF HE THINKS IT'S GOING TO WORK, HE'LL JUST DO IT. "This is something I think everybody besides me and the 17 guys, I think it's something that company-wide that everybody has wanted for a long time. I think they know Robbie has great organizational skills and the things he can bring to the table from a global standpoint at Roush Fenway Racing to make everything better, so I think everybody in the organization has been looking forward to this day for a while, except maybe me and the 17 guys because we've worked together for so long, but I think overall it'll make the company stronger."

IS HE GETTING EMOTIONAL AT ALL THIS WEEK? "Not yet. I'm sure you guys will talk to him. He's been good. He's been in a good mood like he usually is and he's been working hard like he always does, so everything has been pretty much normal."

IT HELPS YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN RUNNING WELL THE LAST FIVE OR SIX RACES. "Yeah, we've been running really great. My cars have been really good the whole chase and we've actually had the finishes to show for them the last four weeks. Of course, everything Jimmie has been doing has been overshadowing everybody else as good as they've been running. It doesn't seem like we've run that good, but we've run pretty good lately so that feels pretty good."

ROBBIE IS THE ONLY CUP CREW CHIEF YOU'VE KNOWN. WHAT ABOUT BUILDING A RAPPORT WITH A NEW GUY? "I'm not really worried about it at all. Actually, right now at this point we have a lot of depth in the 17 team. I feel really good about that. We're planning on moving Chip Bolin up to be our crew chief and he's been with us for 10 or 11 years. He's been there the whole time that me and Robbie have been there. He was the original engineer when we started that five-race deal in '99 with Roush and he's more than ready and more than capable, so I'm not actually worried about it at all. I don't think we're really gonna have a different cast."

WITH THE WAY JIMMIE IS DRIVING NOW, WILL OTHER GUYS HAVE TO CHANGE THE WAY THEY DRIVE AND BE MORE AGGRESSIVE? "No, I don't think he's driving any different than he ever drove. You drive according to what your car is gonna give you that day. When you have the best car and it's faster than everybody else's, and things don't go wrong, more times than not you're gonna win. That's just the way it is. Everybody is out there racing as hard as they can and racing to win. Some days your car and conditions and circumstances work out better than other days."

SOME HAVE COMPARED HIM TO DAVID PEARSON WITH THE WAY HE HANGS BACK AND COMES ON LATE? "I don't know about that. I think a lot of that is circumstances -- pit strategy, qualifying -- all of that stuff comes into play. Really, when I think of Jimmie and Chad and the things that they've been able to do, I really think of Jeff Gordon and Ray Evernham when they were winning all those races. That's really who they remind me of."

DO YOU THINK ROBBIE WILL GET THINGS DONE? "Yeah, for sure. I think he'll make the whole organization stronger. With the way they're gonna structure the different positions and him being general manager and adding that building, I think will help all the teams a lot. He's very strong from an organizational standpoint and he'll make everything better."

DID YOU TALK TO ROBBIE ABOUT THE DECISION? "This has come up for a few years in a row. I don't know if it's ever been real serious, but it would come up several years in a row. Robbie and I have been really good friends for a long time. We've worked together for 11 or 12 years and he knows and what I've told him every year is that I'll support whatever decision he makes. No matter what we'll be friends, and I'll support whatever he does. He's done a lot for my career and we've had a lot of fun racing together and we're still gonna work closely together, so he knows he's got my support no matter what he wants to do. He's got to do whatever is best for him and his family and what he feels most comfortable doing."

DID YOU TELL HIM TO DO IT? "He didn't ask me, really, whether he should do it or not. He just knew he'd have my support no matter what he did."

HOW WOULD YOU GRADE YOUR TEAM THIS YEAR? "It's hard to give you a letter grade. It depends what you're scoring it against. If you're scoring it against the 48 and what they've been able to do, we'd probably be a B+, but I think my team has done really great. For what we have to work with we've been really competitive. We've been leading some races and been in contention to win, but just haven't quite been able to finish them off, so I think they've been doing great."

THIS IS THE LAST RACE FOR THE OLD CAR. HOW DO YOU FEEL? "Things change. Obviously, they're a lot more fun to drive than that other car, but when we're all racing that other car next year, you won't really think about this one as much anymore, you'll just think about trying to make that one work the best you can. Certainly that new car there are a lot less areas you can work with and it's hard to tune it to your specific driving style. What they give you aero-wise is what you have, so it's gonna be different. It's still an adjustment and we're still learning about it, so it's gonna be different. You'll miss the way these things drive, but once they're gone, you won't really think about it."

ARE THERE AS MANY UNKNOWNS WITH THE NEW CAR FOR NEXT YEAR AS THIS YEAR? "You've got to work with them every week, so I don't think you'll really think about it as much. There is a lot of off-season testing. You've got a Vegas test and a California test. There's a lot of stuff going on at the big tracks -- we just did an Atlanta test -- so, hopefully, we'll kind of have a decent idea by the time the season starts."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT DAVID RAGAN'S PROGRESS? "I think the biggest place he's probably improved is he's probably gotten more patient and he's gotten smarter. He doesn't wreck as much at the end more and his performance is getting better, so I just think overall you're seeing him mature as a driver."

DO YOU GUYS TALK A LOT? "A little bit, probably not as much as we used to have to in the day before the engineers all shared information and all that stuff, but I certainly talk to him a fair amount."

IS ROBBIE GOING TO MAKE THIS PARTNERSHIP GO SMOOTHER WITH YATES? "I don't know how to answer that question. I don't know that he's gonna have much to do with that."

YOU WILL WORK HAND IN HAND WITH THEM. ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT HOW THAT MIGHT WORK? "I don't really have details on how all of that is gonna work yet, so I don't know."

WHAT ABOUT BIFFLE'S DOMINANCE HERE AT HOMESTEAD? "Greg's good everywhere, but they've been good at these mile-and-a-halves. He's been especially good here at Homestead and been able to run competitively and be there at the end and do all the right things, so he's just had things go his way here."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HIM FOR NEXT YEAR? "I think the biggest thing for Greg is that he'll have the same crew chief he's worked with for about half-a-season. I think that will help -- to try and keep that group together and build on what they learned this year to make them stronger next year. I think that's the biggest thing that will help."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth
Teams Roush Fenway Racing