Matt Kenseth, who is the only current Ford driver to post a win at Richmond, has enjoyed steady success at the track over the years. In addition to his one win, the No. 17 Ford Ecoboost driver boasts three top-five and nine top-10 finishes in the Cup series in 24 starts. Third in the point standings entering the weekend, Kenseth met with media members prior to practice Friday.
MATT KENSETH, NO. 17 Ford EcoBoost Fusion -- TALK ABOUT COMING BACK TO RICHMOND AND RACING UNDER THE LIGHTS HERE SATURDAY NIGHT. “Well, I really enjoy the race track here and the facility. It has been one we kind of struggle at since we went to this car quite awhile ago. I am looking forward to getting on the track today and seeing if we can do a little better. I think our short track stuff this year has been a lot better than it has in years past, at least at Martinsville and Bristol it was good for us. I am looking forward to getting on the track and seeing if we improved our package for here.”
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST MEMORY OF RACING AS A CHILD AND WHY DID IT GRAB YOU INTO THE SPORT? AND SINCE YOU HAVE A SON THAT IS A PROFESSIONAL IN THE SPORT, HOW DO YOU SEE THE PROGRESSION OF THE NEXT GENERATION COMING INTO NASCAR? “I was standing there so I heard Jimmie’s (Johnson) answer. Mine isn’t much different I guess. I think it stars with the kids going to the track with their dad’s. That is how I started racing. My dad didn’t race at first when I was a little kid but his three brothers did. We went out to a short track in Wisconsin and would watch them on Saturday nights race and during the week we would stop by their house in the garage where they would be working on the race cars. I guess that is where it first grabbed me, watching them work on the cars and build their own cars in the winter time in Wisconsin when there wasn’t a lot else to do and snow was on the ground and all that. They would bring it to the track in the summer and race on Saturday night and the whole family would come out. My grandparents would go out and my parents and cousins and everybody and we would sit in the same spot on the hill and watch those guys battle on Saturday night. That is really where it started for me and it is something I always look forward to every week. I am not sure how everybody else starts or how the other guys or kids fall in love with the sport or become die-hard fans but that is where it started for me.”
WHERE DO YOU SEE ROSS’S ROLE AS THE NEXT GENERATION OF THE SPORT? “I don’t know. I could speak to when I was a kid and how I fell in love with the sport and competition and motorsports and racing and mechanics and that type of thing but it is hard for me to comment on the next generation 20 years later and what is going to bring them in. I know how I got there and why I liked it. Going to the local short tracks is where it all starts.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT AT BRISTOL AND WITH TWO QUIET WEEKS IN NASCAR WITH NO WRECKS DO YOU EXPECT ALL HELL TO BREAK LOOSE THIS WEEK? “I hope not, I especially hope I am not in it. I didn’t really read all the Bristol stuff that close. I saw a couple pictures you guys tweeted out and I didn’t really understand what all the red lines and stuff were. I was confused. Maybe my screen was too little. I don’t really know. As far as I know they are taking some banking out of the top and grinding the top groove. It will probably just take away some of the top groove and I don’t know if that is good or bad. The good thing about the way it was is that if you car was off you could pick a different groove. If you were too loose you could run really high like I had to do most the time there and if you were tighter you had to run lower. It will probably penalize you if you miss by a little big which is maybe a good thing. Maybe that will open up more passing if you have to get your car to work in a certain groove.”
HOW MUCH DOES HAVING DRIVERS THE CALIBER YOU HAVE AT ROUSH FENWAY PUSH THE OTHER DRIVERS TO EXCEL? “Well, it is a lot different than when I first started at Roush Fenway for sure. When I started it was a five car team and Mark (Martin) and Jeff (Burton) were over here and Chad and Kevin were over here. It was really different and nobody talked to each other or shared information. They had their two little groups and it was hard. It is different today because the cars are almost identical and we share every single thing that goes on from the second they start getting built until the race starts and through the race and everything. It is a lot different than what it was and it all starts with having fast race cars. I think if you look at the last couple years all our cars run fairly close on the race track. Usually, typically you don’t have a guy win and another guy run 20th and really miss it. It seems like we are all closer to each other than I think you were in years past. Certainly I remember 2008 when Carl won those nine races and we were struggling a little bit. That is always hard on a guy to wonder why you are getting beat by your teammate when you are supposed to have the same stuff. That drives you to try to do better or try to be the best in your group. You always want to try that. I think most of that is really NASCAR and the rules package. If you look over the last five or six years from the COT car with how tight all the templates and tolerances are and the gear rules and dyno on the engines. Everything is so close to being the same it is hard to get very far out on a limb anymore.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE TRACK HERE AND WHAT YOU LIKE OR DISLIKE ABOUT IT AND WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO COME AWAY WITH A VICTORY TOMORROW? “I can’t think of anything I really dislike about it. I think it is a great short track and you have a fair amount of speed. The track is real wide and it widens out to where you get a couple grooves of good racing out there. I really like the facility and I really like the track. I think it puts on competitive racing. I don’t have anything I dislike about the track. I would like to be running a little better here. We have struggled here the last few years. We’ve had a couple good runs but not running near as good as we would like to. I really like the track and enjoy the racing here.”
DO YOU THINK WE WILL SEE THE PACK RACING AT TALLADEGA OR SOMETHING ELSE? “Well, a couple things come to mind. I know what you are talking about. In the middle of those races everyone would get lined up on the top but with plate racing it isn’t like one guy can decide that he is going to pass everyone and lead. You just can’t. If everyone is in line and you pull out of line then all you are going to do is have the line pass you until you get back up in line. There has to be an effort and fair amount of people trying to do that at the same time. I know I have been in that situation and been in that line and maybe been sixth. You think, ‘Okay, I am going to try to get this guy to go with me.’ You get maybe two guys to go with you and lose 10 spots and then get back in line. If you try that three or four times then you are in the back. When you get down to the end or after a pit stop when it all gets shuffled up you are too far back to do anything. It isn’t like you are trying to log laps, you are trying to keep the best position you can for when it gets crazy at the end when everyone is three or four wide the last few laps and you can hopefully not get in a wreck and hopefully have a chance to win the race. I think you will see racing similar to Daytona. I don’t know why it would be much different. Daytona has the new pavement and a lot of grip just like Talladega. It is the same rules package so I think you will see racing like you did during speed weeks.”
IN LIGHT OF YOUR RECENT SUCCESS ON SUPERSPEEDWAYS, MOST NOTABLY DAYTONA IN FEBRUARY, ARE YOU AS CONFIDENT IN YOUR TEAMS SUPERSPEEDWAY PACKAGE AS YOU HAVE EVER BEEN? “Yeah, I think this is the most I have ever looked forward to going to Talladega. Our speed weeks was really good and Carl was on the pole for the 500 and Greg had a really dominant car and we were able to win our qualifying race and the 500. I feel like as a group we have had, throughout all of speed weeks, really fast race cars. Without the tandem thing you can actually make some moves for yourself and are racing against everyone else which is fun and refreshing for plate racing I think. This is probably the most I have ever looked forward to getting there. You never know what is going to happen when you get there. You might be like Jimmie (Johnson) and come in and only do like one lap but I am looking forward to getting there.
HOW DO YOU VIEW THE INVOLVEMENT OF YOUNGER DRIVERS IN THE SERIES IMPACTING THE WAY YOU RACE? “I don’t think it really impacts the way we race. I think when you come in as a younger driver that these days you can probably learn faster than what we did then. The cars are closer to the same speed with all the rules. I think you learn pretty fast. It seems like when young guys come in they are pretty much ready to go and with good teams with real fast cars and you kind of learn from racing and watching some of the other guys around you.”