Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion is in third place in the standings heading into this weekend's race. MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion ON TESTING AT BRISTOL -- AND ITS NEW SURFACE -- EARLIER THIS WEEK. "It was...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion is in third place in the standings heading into this weekend's race.
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
ON TESTING AT BRISTOL -- AND ITS NEW SURFACE -- EARLIER THIS WEEK. "It was different, quite a bit different. It was okay. Obviously, I liked it the way it was because we were running well there and was kind of used to it. It's a lot different than what it was. A lot of things you used to be able to do you can't really do there anymore.
WITH A DIFFERENT CAR AND A DIFFERENT SURFACE -- YOU'VE DOMINATED THE NIGHT RACE THERE RECENTLY. WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU NOW FACE? "I think the car is the biggest challenge, and now we've got a new car and a basically new surface, so it's kind of like starting over for everybody. So, any kind of advantage or set-up -- you know, we had that one car we used to use all the time -- all of that stuff has gone out of the equation, so we're kind of starting over. It kind of feels like you're going to a new track for the first time."
CAN YOU RUN TWO-WIDE THERE? "I don't know. The Busch test that we did, we'd run for an hour and it would rain for an hour, and we'd run for an hour and it would rain for an hour, so I never ventured up there at all, so I don't know. I didn't run very good in the Busch test. We didn't handle very good, and we didn't really have it figured out. So it's hard for me to say. There's probably more potential to do it than there was before."
WHAT'S THE KEY TO GETTING AROUND THIS TRACK? "You really need it all, like any track. You need the downforce and the horsepower and have your car handling right, but the big thing is to have your car loose enough where you don't get tight behind people and then get a run underneath people off the corners. I think the best place to pass always is getting off the corner better than them guys and getting up next to them on the straightaway and finishing the pass. So, you don't really run side-by-side, but you do run underneath and have to be loose enough to run underneath somebody but not so loose that you have to be out of the gas a lot."
WHERE DO YOU RANK THIS TRACK IN TERMS OF PRESITIGE IN THIS SERIES? "I'd say it's in the top two. I'd say the Daytona 500 and then the Brickyard, I think, is how they rank -- and the 600, to me, is always a big race, certainly one we'd like to be able to win."
HOW DID YOU SPEND THE OFF-WEEKEND? DID YOU REST OR HAVE SOME FUN? "Well, both. I raced a race up in Wisconsin on Tuesday and then went to Alaska for a few days and hung out there, and then came back and did the Bristol test on Tuesday, so, actually, it was kind of a busy week. I had a few days off, though, and had some fun."
WHY DO DRIVERS CONSIDER THIS RACE SO PRESTIGIOUS AND APPRECIATE ITS HISTORY SO MUCH? "I think that's it, because of the history here. I think it's kind of like going to Daytona. I think Daytona's the biggest race, probably, for stock cars, and this has obviously been here for a little over 100 years or whatever it's been. So, there's a lot of history here. The Indy 500 is one of the biggest races in the world and everybody knows about that. It's kind of a privilege to run stock cars here, so being here, it's one of the bigger races that we run."
SIX OF THE LAST NINE BRICKYARD WINNERS HAVE GONE ON TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP, INCLUDING THE PAST TWO. IS THAT A FLUKE, OR IS THERE SOMETHING TO THAT? "Probably a little bit of both. I think you have to be running good and be a contender to win races to have a chance at winning championships, so, obviously, guys who are winning races have a better chance at winning a championship than guys who aren't, and it's another race. So that part probably isn't coincidence, but the rest probably is. One race isn't make or break you for the championship, especially when it's not in the chase. Obviously, Jeff Gordon or someone like that could have a problem here, finish last and still have a shot at the championship."
DOES THE WINNER OF THIS RACE LEAVE HERE AS THE FAVORITE TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "In the garage, I'd say no, not necessarily; maybe in the media it does because you guys look at the numbers and say, 'Six out of nine have won a championship, that bodes well for the guy who wins this race.' But, I don't think in the garage we really look at it like that. I think we get in the chase, see who's going to be in it, and then get a few weeks into that and I think we have an idea who's going to be a favorite, but I think you can also look over what's been going on all year and probably pick out a few favorites pretty easy, too."
ARE YOU ONE OF THEM? "In my own mind, I'm not, but I think the 24 and 48, obviously, have been really strong all year, and the 20, you can never count him out, so those are the three that come to mind. And the 11, the 11's been strong all year, too."
THE SEASON IS JUST PAST HALF OVER. AS YOU AND CREW CHIEF ROBBIE REISER ASSESS WHERE THE TEAM IS, YOU MUST BE PRETTY HAPPY AND ARE CONSIDERING JUST MINOR ADJUSTMENTS. "I'm really happy with the team and where they're at and how they've been performing. They've been doing really well. So we need to be running just a little bit better, I think the COT stuff has probably been our biggest struggle this year, but the team's been doing a great job. Car prep's been great, the engine program has been great, pit stops have been really good on pit road, so can't complain about any of that stuff. If anything, we just need a little more speed, everything else has been just great.'
WITHOUT LOOKING TOO FAR AHEAD, WHEN DO YOU START THINKING ABOUT YOUR APPROACH TO THE CHASE AND HOW YOU'RE GOING TO APPROACH THOSE RACES? "You start thinking about it, really, honestly, preparing for the Daytona 500. Every race is important in trying to get to the chase, and you're trying to learn something each and every week. And, I think momentum is important. No matter where you are in points, you want to keep that momentum up, you want to be competitive and you want to finish the best you can every week."
-credit: ford racing