Rusty Wallace, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman Part 1 of 2 Ron Green: We will have the second and third-place finishers, as well as the highest finishing rookie. Joining us already is third-place finisher Matt Kenseth. Matt's previous best finish...
Rusty Wallace, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman
Part 1 of 2
Ron Green: We will have the second and third-place finishers, as well as the highest finishing rookie. Joining us already is third-place finisher Matt Kenseth. Matt's previous best finish here at the Brickyard 400 was 26th in 2000, but he has three wins in 2002. Matt, a long day out there on the track, but you really came on strong in the latter half. Talk about your run.
Matt Kenseth: It was a great day for us. Our Dewalt car was pretty fast all day. We just struggled getting track position. So we made our way up through there early in the race. Every run our car was real fast except in the--I don't remember which run it was, but I guess the run before our last run, the car got real tight, and I couldn't really make up ground like I wanted to. We had a little bit of an off day in the pits the first couple stops. For them guys I'm used to gaining spots, and we'd lose a couple here and there. Then the last pit stop we needed, we got a real good pit stop, and we only came out one car behind Bill (Elliott). So we had the position, we just didn't have anything to run with that 9 car. We had a good top-five car all day, but we didn't have one that good.
Green: We are transcribing these interviews and the winner interview, so I need you to ask your question in the microphone. We will open it up now with questions for Matt.
Q: Matt, as a young guy, can you talk about seeing a guy like Bill Elliott, who's been in the sport so long, winning here today?
Matt Kenseth: It's pretty cool. My first Winston Cup race I ever drove, I drove for Bill when Bill's father died over in '98. I got to know him a little bit through that. And you know, he's a great guy and a great race car driver. So to me it's cool. Not so much last year, but a few years before that, he struggled a little bit being as competitive as he used to be. So it's cool for me to see him getting a ride and win races and be able to dominate like that. So that's pretty cool. Real happy to see a guy like that win the race.
Q: Last couple years you haven't really done this well. What was the big difference from last year to this year that put you up in the top three like this?
Kenseth: First year we came here, we didn't run good, and we got wrecked on pit road. It actually wrecked it pretty bad on pit road, and we just ran around all day. Then last year we had a really great car. We had a great test here. We qualified 20th, but we didn't have a great draw. Happy Hour we had one of the fastest cars in the long run, pretty much the same as I felt like what we were today. We were pretty good, and I got in that Lap 2 wreck when the 96 car spun out. Last year we had real high hopes coming here, and we didn't get past Lap 1 or 2. I felt we had a good car last year, and our test was real productive here. We found something that made our car go fast, and it was just a good consistent car all day.
Q: Matt, the crew was pretty calm all day yesterday. I mean practice was done and things were pretty well put away, even after the Happy Hour practice. Has the car just been that awesome all weekend or what?
Kenseth: I guess it wasn't awesome enough. I was pretty happy with it in practice yesterday. I didn't want to put a lot of extra miles on the engine and the drive chain. This place has long straightaways, and I didn't want to break something in the engine, either. We did a lot of testing here, everybody tested here, and we were happy with our test. All we did, we didn't even take that car apart, we left everything on it and painted it and came back. So I was pleased with my car. We didn't have all the speed like Bill Elliott and some of them guys had, but we had a good consistent car, so we just put it away and waited to see what the race would do.
Green: Also joining us in the Trackside Press Conference Room now we have second-place finisher Rusty Wallace. Rusty finished second at the Brickyard 400 in '95 and 2000 and now in 2002. This is his eighth top-10 finish at the Brickyard 400. Also joining us is highest-placing rookie finisher Ryan Newman. We're going to continue questions with Matt, Rusty and Ryan.
Q: Anyone who wants to answer, could you talk a little bit about what the heat was like out there? Was it as bad as people expected? Did it drain you for a little bit? Just for the layman, if there's any kind of anecdote that you can tell, just to let people know how hot it is in those cars on a day like today.
Rusty Wallace: It's just flat hot out there, no doubt about that. The crews do all they possibly can with helmets, cool helmets and giving you some water in pit stops and stuff like that. But really on a day like this, you don't have a choice except to get a good night's sleep the day before the race and drink a lot of water and get in there and get after it. That's all I know to do.
Green: Rusty, let's go ahead and talk about your run. Another second-place run, but a strong run. Go ahead and talk about your run today.
Wallace: Yeah, I started the race, I had a real poor qualifying run. I got up to like ninth or 10th in like 30 laps, got up there pretty quick. After that I four-tired it, and the car got a little tight on me, and then I kept chasing it throughout the race. I took so much wedge out of it and aired the right-rear tire up so much and did so many crazy things I would never do, pull spring rubbers out of the left rear and raise track bars. I couldn't keep up with the racetrack. Finally, at the very end there, we kept hovering around eighth, ninth the whole doggone day. I said, 'Let's two-tire it.' We put more air in the right rear tire and took more wedge out. When I went out there, it was like perfect. Then it turned really good. I passed (Tony) Stewart and got the lead and really checked out, and I thought with 10 laps to go, I said, 'Man, I've got this thing won. I think can hold him off,' and I went off in (Turn) 2. I just took so much wedge out and got it so loose, I got a little too free off of (Turn) 2, and he got his nose underneath me, and that was it.
Green: Ryan, answer the questions about the conditions out there and then talk about your fourth-place run today.
Ryan Newman: For me, I got spoiled today. It was the first time I got to use the air-conditioner in my helmet. It was a little different. Talking about the heat, your adrenaline takes over so much, you can pretty much cope with it up to a certain point, and then it seems your body wants to start breaking down. Overall, you do everything mentally to try to avoid that. Definitely tough, definitely hot, but I guess that's why we get paid what we get paid, right, Rusty?
Green: For the media that joined us, we are transcribing this interview and also the winner's interview.
Q: Rusty, when you get that close to winning a big event like this and then Elliott's car is just that strong, how helpless of a feeling is it to see him pull away from you?
Wallace: It's real frustrating because I lost it in '95 when Dale (Earnhardt) won the race. I led it all day long and then had a big pit road accident, got hung in the pits and couldn't make it out, and he won. But still I had like 30 laps to try to pass him. When I got behind him, I got this big aero push, and I couldn't pass Dale. We come across the line just boom-boom in first and second. The year before last, I led all day long right up to 12 laps to go, and Bobby Labonte got past me. I had a bad push that day and finished second. Basically, that's the same doggone thing that happened now, almost the same identical lap.
Q: Rusty, is this the best Brickyard 400 that you've been part of, number one. Number two: at the very end there were a bunch of 40-year-olds going after it, what does that say about guys driving well into their forties?
Wallace: Well, that issue right there just gets under my skin. I don't even feel like talking about it because we're all race car drivers. These guys are all great drivers, and we're all doing our job. I will tell you it's not like stick and ball, how fast you can run and how much weight you can lift. In NASCAR, it's about how much you know and how long you've been there and understand the springs and shocks and your competitors. As far as the race, I think it was a great race. I've had races where I've led all day long and had races where I just was terrible out there. So to come from 35th up to the front and finish second, I'm real proud of my team and all that. I saw everybody two-tiring cars all day long, and I said, 'Hell, I'm going to try that.' I'm a four-tire guy, and I just did too many four tires. Finally at the end I was getting beat by it. When they diamond cut the racetrack, and I was looking at the track before the race. I thought it was so rough that it was really going to start killing the left side of the tires. I really thought that four tires were going to be the way to go. And the way it panned out, the track rubbered up pretty quick. You could run two tires for a long period of time.
Q: Rusty, over here. What is it going to take to win this race? And also for the three up there, I think you guys all had the opportunity to run close behind Elliott. Where was he strongest or what was it about him that he was dominant today?
Kenseth: I couldn't run close behind him for very long. If I left the pits behind him, I could run behind him, but I don't know. I didn't get to run behind him enough to know. He was just fast everywhere it seemed like. He was real fast on new tires.
Q: Ryan, any comment about Bill?
Newman: Definitely a rocket. I got a chance to start third: Elliott, then Stewart and then me. I went into (Turn) 1, and my car was sliding all over. Those guys just checked out. From the aero pushed deal, it's just a situation where you might have a little better race car, you can race up with him, but to get by him it's a totally different thing.
Wallace, Kenseth, Newman press conference, part II