Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, comes into this weekend's Kmart 400 in 13th place in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. He held a brief question and answer session earlier this weekend to discuss this season...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, comes into this weekend's Kmart 400 in 13th place in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. He held a brief question and answer session earlier this weekend to discuss this season and his future with Roush Racing.
MATT KENSETH --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus
HOW DIFFERENT IS THIS YEAR FROM LAST YEAR AND DID YOU EXPECT TO BE FURTHER ALONG?
"I hoped we would. Really, I felt like after the middle of the year last year we seemed to fall off on performance for some reason and we weren't quite as competitive as we were in the first part of last year. From there on until now I feel like our performance hasn't been where it needs to be. I'm not sure why that is. I think we're behind quite a bit from where we want to be. We haven't been that competitive in many races this year, in my opinion, so we've still got a ways to go. Some weeks it feels like we're getting closer and it's getting better and some weeks it don't. I don't really know what's thrown us for this much of a loop and allowed us to miss it this much, but we're working on it." HOW ARE THE PEOPLE AT ROUSH RACING TRYING TO FIGURE OUT THIS NEW TIRE?
"I don't know if you can really blame it all on the tire. Everybody else is on the same tire and we're still getting beat by the same competition we were getting beat by last year, so it's hard to just blame it on the tire. But I will say that it seems like, for some reason, more people miss it more often. There have been some really good teams that haven't run well in certain weeks that, in the past, ran good every single week no matter what track we've been at. It seems like the competition is a little bit closer than even what it was before. When you're done with happy hour and look at the speeds, they're all within three-tenths at some of these tracks. It seems like everybody is real tight and if you miss it by a little bit, you end up not running good."
HOW LONG IS YOUR CONTRACT AT ROUSH RACING?
"My contract goes for a while yet, for a couple more years. I'm happy at Roush Racing. I'm not happy with the way we're running, but I think there are a lot of teams that aren't happy with the way they're running. We all ran good at Charlotte and things have been getting a little bit better for how we've been running and I can't blame that all on what Jack provides. Jack gives us everything that we want. If we ask for a different kind of chassis, he'll get me a different chassis. If I ask him if I can put on this kind of body, he'll let me do it. He pretty much lets us do what we want, we just have to figure out what we need. All of the rumors about me going to Richard Childress and all that, I don't know where they started -- other than Ray Dunlap coming on TV for no reason and saying that. Other than that, since then, I haven't even talked to him. There's no truth to that rumor at all. Right now I'm just planning on staying where I'm at. We've got another year with DEWALT and we'll try to run the best we can and get everything turned around so we can be a front runner and win some races."
WHAT ABOUT THE BUSCH SERIES THIS YEAR?
"I think there are a couple of things that have happened to the Busch Series. First of all, the engine thing is way, way more expensive than what it was. With what it costs to go racing over there compared to what you have to try to charge a sponsor to go there compared to the past -- and compared to what the purses are. The purses are not up at all. The purses are not very good over there at all. When you put all those things together, it's hard for a lot of teams to afford to race. I know in our case, we're a front running team and we're usually in contention to win races and poles and run really good over there. But when we expected the cost to be this much and signed a sponsor for a multi-year thing and, all of a sudden, the next year they make the cost this much and you don't get anymore sponsor money -- I know they're not bably operating in the red and we're a front running team, so when you've got a team that's a 10th or 15th-place team on the same or less sponsorship budget, they can't afford to come to the races and that's why the fields aren't even full."
HAVE ANY OTHER TEAMS CONTACTED YOU IF CHILDRESS HASN'T?
"No. I mean, you always talk to people here and there. People always will mention things here and there like if something ever happens to your deal, think about maybe giving me a call if you're thinking about making changes down the road or whatever. But there's never been any talks that were more serious than that. I just say, 'Well, thanks for the interest,' and leave it at that. That's about where it always is. I think it's that way with everybody. When one person starts a rumor and tells the next person, then the next person tells the next person and, all of a sudden, it keeps getting bigger and they keep adding more to it when nothing has ever happened. It's kind of funny how that stuff works, but when everybody else starts hearing rumors then they ask you about it and leave it at that. Right now, I've had more important things to worry about than all of that. I've just been worrying about trying to get running better."
IS IT EASIER THE SECOND TIME AROUND TO TRACKS LIKE THIS?
"It's been probably easier for me media-wise this year because we've been running bad, so that's not good. But just coming back to these tracks this year it's been easier because I have experience at these tracks. I can go around there and know the line and kind of know what to expect with my car. It's been harder, though, because we haven't been nearly as competitive and we don't know why. We've had to work at it a lot harder this year than what we had to last year and not run as good. When we did our five-race deal (in '99) and when we did the beginning of last year, it wasn't effortless but it worked like it did in our Busch car. Whatever we wanted to do worked on our cars. We ran competitive and felt like even if we didn't finish there, we had top-10 cars almost every week in the beginning of last year and even in that five-race deal. We had a good baseline to start with and adjust from there, but now it's like we don't have a baseline anymore. We talk about, 'Let's run something normal,' but we don't even know what's normal anymore. I think a lot of teams in the garage area are like that right now. Last year, everybody started with these unique setups that people didn't used to run and they started running bump rubbers and soft springs and this and that, and it kind of took away the baseline. Two years ago you used to be able to go to the track and say, 'Here's the baseline. If I start with this, this is what most people will be starting with and I can adjust a little bit off this and I'll be close.' Now, like here, I don't have any idea if somebody's got a 900-pound spring in the right-front or if they've got an 1800-pound spring in the right-front. You just don't know what the baseline is anymore."
HAVE YOU BEEN AFFECTED BY THE SPRING RULE CHANGE?
"It hasn't affected me. I could never make the bump rubbers work. I never ran the car on the ground because I could never make that thing work for me. We tried a couple of times here and there, but it hasn't really worked. I think it's taken away a lot of headaches for a lot of people. I think it's good rule. I don't think we need to be running 300-pound springs that are this tall on the left-front and letting the cars drag on the ground. I don't think there's really much need for that stuff, so, for me, I think it was a good change. It was a bad change for the teams who spent all the money and time testing it. I know a lot of people went to Shaker Ridge and different race tracks besides those on the series and did tons and tons of testing with it to figure it all out. But in our case, we haven't figured it all out."
DO YOU FEEL ANY KIND OF DEBT TO JACK ROUSH?
"That's kind of a hard question to answer. First of all, Mark Martin is the one, not Jack Roush, who saw me and got me hooked up with Jack Roush. I think Mark bugged Jack for probably a year or a year-and-a-half at least before we ever got anything going, so it was Mark that really got this thing going for me and got me to Winston Cup racing a little bit faster and got me hooked up with Roush Racing. You should always show loyalty to people who have helped you and who have helped you get where you're at and to give you the opportunities that you have today. You should always show as much loyalty as you can with those people. Obviously, in this business people are always making decisions that are based on business and your own performance and everything, but you've always got to be able to show a certain amount of loyalty and you've got to be able to sleep at night."
IF YOU WERE TO MAKE A CHANGE, WOULD MARK BE THE FIRST PERSON YOU WOULD GO TO FOR ADVICE?
"I always get advice from Mark, but, like I say, that's at least a couple of years away if things didn't work out. But, right now, I think things are gonna work out. Last year, for a rookie team, we won a race and ran really good. We have all the tools we need. We just have to figure out how to put all that stuff together. I can't honestly sit here and say, 'I think if I went to this team and had this stuff I could win' or 'I think I could do this and win' because right now I don't know what I need in my cars to make 'em run good enough to win with what we've got. We don't have any worse chassis or bodies or engines than anybody else. We might be a little bit weak in all of those areas and need to work on them all a little bit, but I think we're definitely close enough to be a lot more competitive than what we've been."
WOULD MARK BE THE GUY, THOUGH?
"I'd always talk to Mark. I always talk to everybody, but, like I've said, I haven't really thought it through that much because there really hasn't been anything there besides what I've been reading in the paper."