This Week in Ford Racing May 17, 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Tuesday, May 17, 2005 Matt Kenseth Teleconference Transcript Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Taurus, won last year's inaugural Nextel All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor...
This Week in Ford Racing
May 17, 2005
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Matt Kenseth Teleconference Transcript
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Taurus, won last year's inaugural Nextel All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway. As the series prepares for Saturday's non-points event, Kenseth spoke about defending his championship during the weekly NASCAR teleconference.
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DeWalt Taurus
CAN YOUR GUYS WIN THE PIT CREW HALLENGE ON THURSDAY?
"I hope so. You never know. I think that they're the best on pit road under normal race circumstances. When you're on pit road and the pressure is on, there's nobody that gets it done better. But there are some different things with this pit crew thing like pushing cars around and doing some other kind of things that we really don't do on pit road, so I'm curious to go see it and see how they do."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT REPEATING THIS WEEKEND?
"I hope so, but not to be a pessimist, but we haven't been running exactly with the best fortune lately. It's a different race track. We didn't go there and test. There are some different things to it with grinding it and moving the groove around and doing different things, so I'm real interested to go see the track and see what it's like. I don't think you could have made the track any better than it was before, so I'm curious to see what it's gonna be like and go out there and, hopefully, we can get our stuff to run."
DO THINK ABOUT THE MONEY OR PRESTIGE OF WINNING THE ALL-STAR RACE?
"The money is a great thing and it's always a bonus, but, really, it's about winning the race and getting the trophy and trying to approach it kind of the same as any other race. Maybe you'll take some extra chances in this race or whatever because there are no points involved, but, really, you're out to win the race and out to get the trophy and be on the list with the rest of the drivers who have won that race over the years. And, of course, that race has always been known for having a big payday and having a lot of fans there and kind of being a no holds barred type of race. You definitely think about the money, too, because there is a great purse there, but you just think about trying to win the race."
WHAT ARE YOU FEELING THIS YEAR?
"We just have to keep working on it. It's been disappointing so far, for sure. There have been a few races where we ran pretty well and have had some bad things happen to us. We ran really well at Daytona and California and we ran respectable at least at Bristol and then had a flat tire, but then there have been some races where our performance just has not been acceptable either. We haven't run really well and haven't had any problem. The races we've run bad, we haven't had any problems. We just ran bad and finished bad, and then there were races where we actually ran real good all day and had a tire come apart for some unknown reason. So when we've been running good, we've had bad luck. And when we're running bad we've had OK luck and finished, but we just haven't been able to get things to go our way yet."
DOES IT BOTHER YOU TO SEE OTHER ROUSH CARS DOING SO WELL?
"There are two ways of looking at that. I mean, the good way to look at it is it's encouraging knowing that we have the equipment to win with if we can figure out what to do with it and get the right luck when we are running good. That's the good part of it. You want to be the one winning for the company, but if you can't win, you definitely want your teammates to win because that means we've got the stuff that's capable of doing it. That's encouraging knowing that if we can get things to go our way that we've got all the tools that we need."
DO YOU SEE THE POINTS RACE BEING TIGHTER THIS YEAR BECAUSE OF THE WAY THE CARS DRIVE?
"So far, obviously for as bad as things have gone for us, to be 21st in points isn't really that bad. When I look at the points, if we can get running good and have some decent luck, I think the top 10 is real attainable. I think everybody has had problems this year, off and on, maybe more so than in years past. Usually by now there are one or two or three or four guys who haven't had hardly any problems and are way out front in the points race, whereas this year everybody has had a few problems. I don't know if the points race is gonna be tighter than normal or if it'll be like normal for sure. Some weeks the cars seem like they're harder to drive with this package and other weeks they don't really seem like they're harder to drive. They seem about the same, it's just a matter of getting the setup right."
WOULD YOU ATTRIBUTE THE TROUBLE PEOPLE ARE HAVING TO THE NEW PACKAGE?
"Maybe some tracks. Some tracks might be looser and a little harder to drive than others, so I think some of the tracks where guys were having single-car incidents and stuff like that might be because the cars are a little harder to drive, but, overall..."
DO DRIVERS HAVE AN OPINION ON WHERE THE HALL OF FAME SHOULD BE?
"I don't know. I'm probably the wrong guy to ask on that. There's more than one way to look at it. It would be cool to have it at a place where there's a race track because there's history there from NASCAR racing, but then on the other hand maybe people would go somewhere where we don't race because it would bring race fans to that city or maybe make race fans out of the people who live in that state. Honestly, with the way the year has been going and trying to get these cars running better, where the hall of fame goes is probably last on my list right now."
NOT MANY PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT IT IN THE GARAGE AREA?
"Not really. We have our own stuff to worry about, I guess. We're busy enough testing and racing and trying to get running better that I haven't really thought a whole bunch about it."
IS THE ALL-STAR RACE TOO AGGRESSIVE OR OUT OF CONTROL?
"It's not as bad as thinking about going to Talladega or anything like that, but when you do go there - I always, anyway - have in the back of my mind think about the wreck and when it's gonna be here and what's gonna happen because the last few years here there has been a wreck. But people do, it seems like, drive a little harder and take more chances and wreck more - lose control more - maybe in that race than what they do maybe in the 600-mile race. But I think that's what the fans come to see is to see you run as hard as you can and try to put your car over the edge for those short-type races. I think you definitely do see a little bit more of that than what you do for a 600-mile race where you kind of have to pace yourself and be there at the end."
DOES ANYTHING STICK OUT FROM YOUR WIN LAST YEAR?
"Yeah, the biggest thing, I guess, is Ryan didn't pit and we had four tires on and we were catching him. I guess the biggest thing I remember about it is my car was real free and real loose and I had a hard time getting to him. When we got to him, I got his car loose and it was a real good race. It was a real exciting race. I don't know if we'll see that again or not. I'm not so sure how this is all gonna work out with changing the race track around and grinding it or whatever they did to it. I thought it was about perfect the way it was. It was always if you caught somebody you could always pass them there and I'm not sure if that will be the case or not. It's fast, but I don't know if you're gonna be passing people on the bottom or not. From what I hear from everybody, the middle groove is really fast and when that happens it's usually hard to pass, so we'll see."
ARE YOU GETTING FRUSTRATED WITH YOUR SEASON SO FAR?
"It has been really frustrating because I know that all of us are capable of doing much better than what we're doing, and there has been a lot of things that have been out of our control. But lately, the last two weeks we just ran awful, which is even more frustrating. It's one thing to be running good and blow a tire out and not really have done anything wrong - not know why it blows out for sure, but knowing that we really didn't do anything wrong and get a bad finish. That's one thing, but if you just run bad all day and finish bad like we did at Darlington and not really spectacular at Richmond for how we usually do there. That's extra frustrating because our teammates are up there leading laps and winning races and we haven't been able to run with them really for most of the year. So, yeah, it's frustrating, but there's not a lot you can really do about it. It's not gonna do any good to get mad or do anything else, you just have to keep working on it. Everybody is working on the cars as hard as they can work on them. They've been testing and trying to get the stuff better. We know we have the equipment to do it, we just need to keep working on it and figure out what we need to make the cars go faster."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR TEAM AND HOW YOU WORK WITH THEM?
"I don't know if there's anything to be straightened out. We just have to figure out how to get running better, so I think we probably need to be testing and working on stuff, which we are. We're working on it and trying to get the stuff better. We've got a great group of guys. We did lose some guys again last winter, so it's not quite the same look as we had a year ago or even two years ago or three years ago, but we have some great guys that are working really hard at it. They're enthused. They know we're capable of winning races and I think we have the best over-the-wall guys on pit road. They get me in and out of the pits as fast or faster than anybody could. We've got great engines with Doug Yates doing engines, and we've got great cars we just haven't figured out how to get the whole package put together and get the right setups in them and do the right things to them to make them run."
HOW INVOLVED DO YOU GET IN THE CARS THEMSELVES AS FAR AS SETUP?
"You do as much as you can or as much as you've ever done, but that's changing more and more as the days go on. The cars are becoming more aerodynamic and aero dependent. There's less the driver can keep up on. The cars are getting more dependent on aero and less dependent on chassis setups than what they used to be. It's hard to keep up on all that. It's hard to keep up on what makes the cars run, so it's not like it was five years ago and it's not like it was last year or the year before that even. It's hard to stay up on that. Everybody is working on it to try to make the stuff better."
HOW DOES THE TEAM'S APPROACH FOR THE SUMMER CHANGE FROM WHAT YOU WERE DOING LAST YEAR WHEN YOU WERE SECURE IN THE TOP 10?
"There's always several ways of looking at that and analyze that, but I always believe that you race the way you know how to race. You race as hard as you can, but you try to be smart and try to get the best finish you can get. If it's not your day to win the race and you're not running good enough to win the race, you get the very best finish that you can get that day and collect as many points as you can that day and not do anything to jeopardize that. You don't want to turn an 11th-place finish into a 30th-place finish because you did something foolish. I think you've just got to take the cards that you were dealt that day and play them the best you can and get the best finish you can out of each and every week. Each week try to get your stuff better and how you can turn it into winning stuff, but when you don't have it, you need to get the best finish you can to gain as many points as you can that particular day."
HOW EASY IS IT TO TAKE A 15TH-PLACE CAR AND NOT TRY TO SQUEEZE A TOP 10 OUT OF IT?
"You're always trying to squeeze that out of there, but as a driver you know your limitations as a driver and you know the car's limitations. When you try to go beyond that is when you get yourself in trouble and you get wrecked or you get a bad finish or whatever. Whatever the car has in it that day you've got to get it all out of it, but there's only so much it has. There's no driver out there that can take a car like we had this weekend that was approximately a 15th- or 20th-place car and win with it. It's just impossible. You've got to take what you have and tune on it all day and work on it as hard as you can all day, but when all is said and done you've got to get whatever finish you're capable of getting out of it."
IS THERE ANYTHING FROM YOUR PAST THAT IS HELPING YOU STAY EVEN KEELED THROUGH THIS?
"Every day I wake up I realize how lucky I am and how fortunate I am to be doing what I love to do and what my passion is and do that and make a really great living at it at the same time. I realize that and I'm very, very thankful everyday for all that, but you always want to do better. ... When you feel like you're not performing up to the potential of what we're capable of or what our teammates are, that's always frustrating. In 2001, we had an awful year and I always said that I would never take it for granted how hard it is in this sport to run good and to run competitively all the time, and I haven't forgotten that. I know how hard it is and when you're missing just a little bit, you're gonna run like we ran the last two weeks. That's difficult and you just have to try to stay on top of it all the time."
MORE CUP GUYS ARE RACING IN THE BUSCH SERIES. IS THERE SOMETHING TO BE GAINED BY THE CUP DRIVERS?
"You used to be able to learn more from your Busch car to help your Cup car because of the limited practice and limited testing and all that stuff, but now with impound races, I don't know if you learn quite as much as you used to because by the time you race the Busch car, you can't work on the Cup car anymore anyway the next day or whatever before the race. So anything you learn on a Friday night, you can't really put in your car for Saturday night because your car is already locked down in the garage. ... The schedule keeps running parallel, I think it'll be like that until they start making some stand-alone Busch races where you can't run both races on the same day. It's impossible to do that. It used to be like that, so a Cup guy couldn't go over there and try to win a championship, where now a guy can. It's a little bit uncomfortable for a few races, but a guy can do it. That's the way it's always been over there. I feel like when I had to go over there and race against Mark Martin and Jeff Burton and Dale Jarrett - a whole bunch of those guys - I feel like it accelerated my learning curve and made me a better driver. So I think that's kind of the way you've got to look at it."
DO YOU THINK IT HURTS SOME OF THE OTHER BUSCH DRIVERS BY TAKING SPOTS AWAY OR DOES IT WEED OUT THE GUYS WHO DON'T BELONG?
"I don't think it really takes spots away from other drivers or spots in the field away from other drivers. It probably takes some wins away from some of the really good Busch guys who are running second, third, fourth, fifth all the time. It definitely takes some wins away from those guys if the Cup guys weren't there, but I don't think it takes any spots out of the field or sent any competitive cars home. I don't think happens."
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR WHEN YOU RACE BUSCH?
"You just get more time on the track. It's the same tire. You've got an idea of what the tire is gonna do and how the track is gonna change - that type of thing. Really, with the limited practice we get these days and testing and all that, some extra track time is nice at a lot of these tracks that we only go to once a year."
DO YOU FEEL THE IMPOUND PROCEDURE HAS BEEN AS COSTLY OR MORE COSTLY TO THE SPORT AND HAS IT LED TO MORE CAUTIONS?
"I don't know. It's hard to tell. I think in the future it's gonna be a lot better some day down the road when they get the schedule shortened up a little bit. I think it will start saving money. I don't think it really saves money today because we're still traveling the same and doing basically all the same stuff. It might save a little bit, but probably not a lot. I think in the future if they could make it where the teams could travel Friday morning, instead of Thursday night and get into the track just a little bit later and shorten the weekend up by one night on the road, I think that would be a tremendous help to everybody."
IF THEY LIMIT TESTING, WITH THE TIRE LEASE, WOULD YOU WANT HAPPY HOUR BACK?
"I don't know. I've really been trying to figure some of that stuff out. In trucks they never had testing forever and they talked about saving money and that was so great, and this year they've given all seven tests. So sometimes I just don't get it at all, so I just quit really trying to figure that out (laughing). In one breath we're trying to save money and test less and do all these things, and then last year they gave us two or three days of testing back. They had it down to only five tests a year and then they put it back up to seven or eight or whatever it is again two years ago, so I don't really get it. I don't really know what the plan is with that or how they're trying to save money in that direction."
HOW MUCH OF THE AGGRESSIVENESS IN THE ALL-STAR RACE STEMS FROM THE MONEY ON THE LINE?
"Probably a little bit of it, but I think that a lot of it also just comes because it's the all-star race and because of maybe what's happened there in the past. There are no points involved, that type of thing. Some of it I think is because of the money and because they know it's a big purse, but another thing is I think because of what they hear and what the media says and what they've seen on TV in the past or they've seen there in the past they know that there's really not anything to lose as far as points go, so they're just out there running hard in a short sprint race."
HOW MUCH DOES IT MEAN TO A TEAM TO RACE FOR A PURSE THAT BIG?
"It means a lot. Qualifying there is really cool. The pit stop during qualifying, the crews take great pride in that. They take a lot of pride in the pit stops they have to make under green to keep you in the hunt. It's definitely a team race."