Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, clinched his first NASCAR Winston Cup championship last weekend at Rockingham. He discussed what the past week has been like during a Q&A session prior to Saturday's practice...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, clinched his first NASCAR Winston Cup championship last weekend at Rockingham. He discussed what the past week has been like during a Q&A session prior to Saturday's practice session at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
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MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus
SOMEBODY SAID YOU WERE CALLED 'MATT THE BRAT' AT ONE POINT BACK IN WISCONSIN. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
"The announcer up in Slinger used to call me that. He's actually a good friend of mine. He's actually the first guy I think I ever heard. He has a radio show up in Milwaukee and I heard it one morning. He was talking and it was like, 'Remember this name because you're gonna hear him some day. Just remember his name whatever you do because he's gonna be really good.' I was like, 'Why do you say that stuff about me on the radio?' He used to just call me Matt the Brat because I was younger than the rest of the guys I was racing against up there, and it rhymes. That's probably part of the reason he did it, but he's actually a good friend of mine up there and he's a cool announcer."
TRAVIS WON THE TRUCK TITLE AND HE'S FROM WISCONSIN AS WELL.
"Yeah, that's pretty cool. That was a cool ending for the truck race. I was really happy for Travis and I felt really bad for Ted at the same time. I would have liked to have seen either one of those guys win it, so it was cool that one of them did."
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE RULING?
"It's pretty black and white. You can't pass to the left until you get to the finish line, so I don't think there's really any gray area there or any controversy for NASCAR. It was pretty much a black and white call. It was just a mistake. He got up inside of him and you can't get inside of him anymore."
ANY REASON WHY WISCONSIN HAS PRODUCED SO MANY GOOD RACERS?
"I think one of the cool things about Wisconsin is you can race three or four nights a week at different types of race tracks weekly. There are different sizes and shapes of race tracks, and I think the best thing that helps you learn how to race up there is the fast cars always have to start in the back. In the south, whenever I've raced, the fast car is on the pole and a lot of times you'll see a guy start on the pole for a 40-lap feature and lead every lap. Whereas, up there, if you get a fast time, you usually have to start 12th to 14th and you've got to learn how to pass cars and work traffic and try to get to the front."
DOES IT FEEL ANY DIFFERENT THIS WEEK?
"A little bit. If we were running better, it would probably feel a lot different. It feels a little different because it's pretty cool when most of your peers and people you race against come up and congratulate you. That always feels really good, so it's sinking in a little bit. On the other hand, we didn't qualify well at all yesterday and we haven't really been running that great yet this weekend, so I'm still really trying to think about this race and running good and doing the things we normally do and, until the race is over and we get a few weeks off to let is sink in and think about it and enjoy it - and just be getting ready for next year instead of already racing all week this week - I think it'll be a little different."
IS IT NICE TO JUST BE HERE TO RACE AND NOT WORRY ABOUT THE TITLE?
"It does. It feels better to know that if we have a problem Sunday, it doesn't matter as far as the championship goes and the point standings go. It doesn't really matter that much. On the other hand, you want to go out and run good. We took a provisional and didn't qualify good and I don't want to come to the last race where we won a championship and take a provisional and run 20th. You want to come here and put forth a good effort. We always want to win. We're always competitive, so whenever you're not running good - no matter what the outcome of the points is - it's never really a happy time. You're always working to try to get it better."
HAVE YOU HAD ANY NEAT PHONE CALLS?
"It's nice when you walk through the garage and your peers and competitors congratulate you and you can see that they're happy for you. That probably mean more than anything."
IS THERE OPTIMISM KNOWING NEXT YEAR YOU WILL HAVE A NEW CAR AFTER WINNING THE TITLE WITH A CAR THAT MAY HAVE BEEN DISADVANTAGED?
"Yeah, I mean I'm optimistic about next year. I think the new car will be a little bit better. I think our engine program will be a little bit better. I think our stuff will be a little better overall. This year we started off pretty strong and we didn't really end up as strong as I hoped we would, so we've got some work to do over the winter to get our stuff better. There will be a little bit in question with the new rules - the spoiler and stuff - but that should be the same for everybody so, hopefully, we'll be able to make our stuff better and come out of the box strong next year like we did this year."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BIG GOALS LIKE WINNING AT DAYTONA OR INDIANAPOLIS?
"I don't know. Daytona and Talladega, it would be really cool to win the Daytona 500 just because you could say you won it, but I feel like that race is mostly out of my hands. If someday we could figure out how to build the best restrictor plate stuff - the best cars, best engines - and have one of the fastest cars down there, we'll have a chance to win the Daytona 500 if we do everything right. If we continue to have cars like we usually have in restrictor plate races, we have to be real lucky to win one of those races. I don't really think too much about that race. We work as hard as we can on it and what we have is what we have. If we show up and qualify 30th, we don't have a very good car and we've got to work on that. If we show up in February and qualify in the top 10 and we've got a real fast car all through the week, I'll be a little more excited about it and think we have a better chance at it. As far as the Brickyard, yeah, you want to win those races but we want to win every race. We want to do the best we can at every race. There isn't really one race we put more effort in than another, we just try to bring our best stuff every week."
WILL WE SEE TWO AND THREE WIDE AT THIS TRACK?
"I think so. I think we did yesterday in the truck race and there's no reason the truck race should be any different than other races, so I think it was really good. I think you could run side-by-side. You could pass pretty easy. If you were passing someone, you could pass them and not worry about being stuck behind them. I think that's real encouraging. I think the track is already really awesome, and I think it's gonna be better as it ages."
WILL THIS GIVE YOU MORE INCENTIVE TO WIN MORE TITLES?
"I don't know if it will give us better incentive for more wins. Honestly, I don't really think it's gonna change anything. I don't think it's gonna change our approach. I don't think it's gonna change our performance. I don't think it's really gonna change anything. You're always working hard to try to win. You're always working hard for that first championship. You're gonna work just as hard for that second championship. My guys work as hard as they can work. It really wouldn't matter where we are in points, we'd be working the same. I don't think there's anything they can do different. We're already working as hard as we can. Hopefully, we'll catch up a little bit during the winter with the new car and working on engines and stuff like that, but we're already working on the stuff as hard as we can."
RECENT CHAMPIONS HAVEN'T FARED WELL THE YEAR AFTER? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
"I don't know. I always usually see how you end the season to see how you're gonna start the next year. That's not always 100 percent true, but a lot of the time it is. Robbie has been working hard on 2004 cars already. We've already got three of them built. We've been in the wind tunnel several times with them to try to get a head start on that. So I feel good about that. I think our equipment will be just fine. I think a lot of times you've got to be careful over the winter not to let them wear you out and not do too much. You still want time to test your cars and think about your cars and concentrate on racing because that's what the real important part is. You have to try to be careful not to do too much."
WHAT ABOUT THE TIRES?
"Goodyear does a great job with the tires. Whatever they change is really fine by me. It's the same for everybody. That's the cool thing. When we go to the Goodyear truck and pick out tires, everybody has the chance to grab the same tires out of there. They're all built the same and we all can pick them out and sort through them the same. It doesn't bother me. Whenever they change something like that, it's the same for everybody so it doesn't really affect somebody more than another."
WHAT ABOUT ROBBIE?
"Robbie is the boss of it all, basically. He's the one who gets the troops rounded up and organizes the work load and keeps the guys pulling on the same end of the string. He makes them practice their pit stops. He coordinates the whole thing. Robbie has done a great job of building the team from nothing in '99 to start our five-race deal. He's hand-picked all those guys himself. He's gotten the pit stops where it is by himself. We've got a good pit stop coach now, but he basically assembled most of that group. He pretty much does it all over there. Without Robbie, I'm sure we would have never had the chance to win it."
DOES ROBBIE BEING A DRIVER HELP?
"Yeah, it helps. It probably helped the most when we first started, for sure. I could complain about something or say something and he understands what that's like because he's been there before. He knows that maybe you don't always mean what you say or he can kind of read through some of your frustration on the track to really know what's going on. He knows what it's like to be there, so that really helps."
YOU AND TRAVIS HAVE A LOT OF PARALLELS ABOUT YOUR SEASONS. DO YOU HAVE SIMILAR STYLES?
"I don't know. We race as hard as we could. Everybody has asked me what we're gonna do different to run better and to pull out all the stops in the race, but the problem is we have been. We've been racing hard and I think everybody is gonna see that. There's really nothing I can do to do better than the best you can. You can only run as hard as you can. Racing up in Wisconsin, especially when you started, you paid for your own stuff and I tried not to wreck a lot of stuff because we couldn't afford to wreck a lot of stuff. I think when you grow up working on your own cars, fixing your own cars and helping pay for what you wreck, I think maybe you're a little more respectful to equipment. That's one of the reasons I don't like to do the big huge burnouts and rip tires off and rip quarter panels out and blow up engines because there's a time where I had to pay for that stuff and I had to work on that stuff. I have a lot of respect for my guys that have to fix all that and do all that."