Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Taurus, posted the first victory of his NASCAR Winston Cup career in Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Following is a transcript of his post-race press conference. MATT KENSETH ...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Taurus, posted the first victory of his NASCAR Winston Cup career in Sunday night's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Following is a transcript of his post-race press conference.
MATT KENSETH --17-- DeWalt Taurus
"It hasn't sunk in too much. I really don't even know how to act. I didn't think we were going to run as good as we did tonight. I thought we would maybe be in the top 10 and have a good competitive run, but I certainly wasn't expecting to win the race." "The way I look at things is that my dad and I started this thing when I was 13 years old and every person who has helped me along the way is as important as the next. Without any of those people I wouldn't be where I am today. I have all of those people to thank."
"They were really two different situations in a way. I felt like after the first 100 or so miles at California that we had the car to win the race. I felt like we had to lose that race, we had everything in position to win it if we just did everything as well as should, if we had good pit stops and performed well on the track. Leading all of those laps and being out front, while you have to concentrate on hitting the line all the time and all of that. But after the last pit stop at California it was hard for your mind not to wander a little bit about winning your first Cup race."
"For a while tonight I thought we'd have a shot at it, but after the second to last restart Junior just drove away from us and I was running as hard as I could. I couldn't handle Bobby, either. I didn't think we had a chance. That set of tires wasn't too good on the car. The last set was just good. We made one minor adjustment and it was good enough to stay out front. I never really even thought about winning until we had about 10 laps to go."
"I don't know what all we changed. We talked about maybe bringing a different car or doing something, but this was the car we ran at Texas and performed rather well with it. We had a heartbreak at the end and crashed the car, we had to put a new front clip on it and just about a whole new body."
"We just performed terribly in the Winston Open. It was embarrassing as bad as we ran Friday and then Saturday we were not very good but a little bit better. We took the car back and Robbie decided to change some things. We brought the same car back and a lot of people thought we were crazy. There was nothing wrong with the car, there was something wrong with our set-up. We came back with the same car and the same engine and ran well with it."
"They say this is the hardest race to win because of the changing conditions and everything, but this is the only one we've won so it's hard for me to rate that. It is difficult to keep up with this track. It does change a lot. Really all of the races we've run OK at, from the midpoint on we haven't had to make many adjustments. We made some pretty big changes, pulled some spring rubbers out and things like that early in the race under the caution and lost some track position doing it so we wouldn't didn't have to do it at the end and could just concentrate on having fast pit stops."
"I think it's easier for rookies to do well these days. I read something Ricky Rudd said the other day that rookies coming into the sport used to have to get into junk and work their way into good rides. To drive for Jack with teammates like Mark and Jeff, we have everything at our disposal. There's nothing that we're lacking. If you ask Jack what it costs to go Winston Cup racing I am pretty sure he would tell you it doesn't matter. We have everything we need to run well. It's just up to us to figure out how to use all the tools that we're given."
"It is a relief to get the first win. With Tony (Stewart) winning three races last year and Junior already winning two this year, there's a certain pressure I put on myself that we need to take that step and win a race. We've done everything we could all year to try to do that. It's not that we did something different or something magic this weekend, it's just how it worked out for us."
"I was just a little bit excited. I didn't know what I was doing. I knew I was going to tear up Humpy (Wheeler's) grass. We talked about that the other day and he said it would grow back so he wasn't worried about it. I got in trouble when I won my first Busch race for tearing up the infield at Rockingham because they had to fix it for the next day. I know they don't have to fix it here for a few months."
"I just wanted to see all the race fans out the window and thank everybody for showing up. We couldn't do these things without the 175,000 people who were here tonight supporting us."
"I am real conscious of it (the rivalry with Dale Jr.) because you people won't let me forget. Really, you could feel bad about getting beat by him every year, but on the other hand the past few years we've had seven or eight Busch series wins and finished second and third in the points the past two years. It's not like we ran bad. He hasn't only been beating us, he has been beating everyone."
"Whether we win rookie of the year or don't win it, that's really not my main focus and it hasn't been all year. My main focus is to try to bring this team and myself into being contenders so down the road we can be a championship contender and contend to win races. I didn't expect to have won a race by right now, but this is what I want to bring our team into. The way they performed tonight on pit road, the way they prepared the car and the adjustments they made, just everything that went on tonight this is what we have been working toward and what we're trying to do every week."
"I didn't know how good we were going to be there exactly. We didn't make a huge adjustment. I was just kind of sliding around. I was too loose to beat him the way I was. All we did was take a pound of air out of the right rear and it hooked the car up just enough to be able to get by Bobby. Once I did get by him I was a little bit surprised. When I got by him he hung with me real tight and I drove as hard as I could and couldn't get away from him there for 10 or 15 laps. When I did get away from him, five laps later he was right on my bumper again and I don't really know what I was doing different. I never really thought about winning until maybe 10 to go and wasn't sure we were going to win until about two to go."
"I don't have a club in my basement and Budweiser is not my sponsor. Dale Jr. and I enjoy some of the same things but he's still has a little more kid in him than I do, I guess."
"Robbie hit me on the back and said, 'Yeah, now we get to go to Dover.' Ever since I first went to Dover it has actually been my favorite race track. A lot of people dread it but I have always really enjoyed it. We don't necessarily have the best record there but we have run pretty good. I think with our five-race deal last year with Jack we ran fourth up there last year and had a real solid day. I am looking for good things up there. I definitely feel confident when I go there."
"Mark ordered a sandwich on the radio and Jack brought it, but he didn't bring me anything. (Roush: I suspect that's one more thing he learned tonight.)"
"Mark just congratulated me in victory lane. Honestly and truly I think Mark was as happy for me winning as I am. When I won my first Busch race he was pretty excited and happy. He's told me he stuck his neck out for me a little bit. He got me signed up with Jack and everything and I really hadn't show anybody anything before that. I know he was pretty excited tonight because I was going down the backstretch and he came up alongside me about 200 mph and he was pretty excited."
"It's quite an honor. Tomorrow I will probably sit back and say, "Wow, we won a race." I am kind of weird about things like that. I don't sit around and say we won this many races or whatever. I am always looking forward to next week and doing better. As fast as you can win one of these races and get noticed, you can fail twice as fast and everybody will forget about it. I really try to keep everything in perspective and concentrate on the next race and just trying to make our program better and get better as a driver."
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner --17-- DeWalt Taurus
"Matt very quickly earned Mark's respect for the judgments he exercised on the race track around traffic -- when he wasn't great in his car and, when he had a good car, the way he conserved it and used it.
"Matt had approached Mark and questioned him on set-ups and issues and he was asking the right questions and had the right concerns.
"As Mark was looking at his back problems a couple of years ago he wasn't sure how many years he would be able to keep doing this thing. Initially when he came to me he said, 'You know, I may need some help in the 6 car and Matt would be a good guy to step in behind me.'
"Where we are now in with the program with being as good as he is and getting Matt and Robbie (Reiser) started in the 17 car, I think we'll find somebody else to fill Mark's shoes down the road.
"Matt is about Mark's age when Mark came with me and our Winston Cup program. When Mark thought back at the way that worked he thought Matt would be a good match for our program.
"The biggest difference is that Mark had a rookie owner when we started up in Liberty. When we put together our team a lot of the folks hadn't been involved in Winston Cup. When we moved to Charlotte with Jeff Burton and started the Exide program with Buddy Parrott we learned that we just don't have time to develop the driver while we're trying to develop people. We do have a new Winston Cup team for Matt built around Robbie Reiser, but we have people who all know their jobs that we just had to work on the chemistry on. I think the biggest problem Mark had was me and hopefully I won't be in the way of Matt and Robbie realizing their potential as long as I was for Mark."