Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 USG Sheetrock/DeWalt Ford Fusion, will be trying to make history this weekend as he tries to become the first driver to win the first three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races of the season. He talked to reporters at...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 USG Sheetrock/DeWalt Ford Fusion, will be trying to make history this weekend as he tries to become the first driver to win the first three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races of the season. He talked to reporters at his team hauler about the opportunity before practice.
THREE IN A ROW. WHAT DO YOU THINK? "I haven't really thought a whole bunch about it, to be honest with you. I didn't think we would have won the first two races, so I haven't really thought about the third. We're just gonna take it one race at a time like we always do and just be business as usual. Hopefully we can get our car to handle good this weekend and have a shot. The pit crew has been operating at an extremely high level, and so have all the guys getting the cars to handle and run -- the engine guys and everything -- so I feel like we have the tools to be competitive and we'll just try to be as competitive as we can and hopefully be somewhere in position at the end."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THIS TRACK? "There's a lot of things I like about Vegas. Obviously the track is different than it was a few years back when we had all the success here, but it's fun. It's high-banked. It's real fast. It's actually got some pretty big bumps in it, which makes it challenging. It's just a fun place to come out to this time of year and it's a fun, competitive track."
WHAT'S IT LIKE COMING HERE WITH TWO STRAIGHT WINS? "It doesn't really feel that different. In a way, it doesn't seem really seem real that we won the first two races, plus we've been really busy and had a lot going on the last two weeks, so I haven't really had a lot of time to sit and thing about it or reflect on it. I haven't even really got to watch the races on tape yet or anything. I just haven't had time to be honest with you, so it doesn't really feel as different as you might thing."
WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THOSE TWO WINS TO? "Everything. It takes a combination of everything to be competitive these days and to be able to win. The pit crew has been operating at a super-high level. Obviously, the pit stops and getting the track position at both races was the huge key to the victory. Daytona was a little different than California. Obviously we had the luck of getting through that wreck and missing that, which is a big deal toward us winning as well, but everything from the car prep to the guys building the engines to the pit stops at the track, it's just the whole thing."
IT LOOKED LIKE THE AIR HELD JEFF UP LAST WEEK WHEN HE WAS BEHIND YOU. DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM THAT? "I didn't really get to watch it a lot. A few things I really learned and our team learned in trying to take some lessons from last year, and of course everybody knows it and everybody tries to do it, but you really need to be in front and beating them out of the pits at the end was very important. If he would have beat us out, I'm not so sure that we would have won. He probably would have drove away, so it's just really important to be in the front with these cars. They don't have much downforce and they're always pretty tight and when you get behind somebody it makes it a lot worse. Another thing is he needed to run the line I was running, which hurt him. If he could have run the top a little better or something like that with clean air, he maybe would have had a little better shot, but with his car being tight, I think he wanted to be on the bottom and my car had to be on the bottom, too."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO BE THE FIRST DRIVER TO WIN THE FIRST THREE RACES OF A SEASON? "It would be huge, obviously, to win this week, but every race is difficult to win. It took us a whole year to win a race, so everything has got to line up just right. We're not gonna approach this any different than any other week or really even think about that. If it happened, that would be pretty wild. That would be pretty crazy and something I've ever really thought about, but we're just gonna concentrate on going out business as usual and trying to perform."
HOW MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE HAS DREW MADE? "He's made a big difference. It's only been a couple of months since he got over there, but it's really helped a lot to move Drew into that role and give Chip so much more time to work on the cars and for Chip to be able to sort through data and work on setups and all that stuff, and not worry about a lot of other stuff. That's been a huge difference as well. It's helped to get our cars run and helped him to be more prepared for adjustments and stuff like that. To bring Drew in with a leadership role and to work with the guys on the pit stops and the pit crew and keeping the group together and all that has been a big deal."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT KIND OF MAGIC DREW HAS BROUGHT? "I hope it's magic. I just hope it keeps going. It's a combination of everything. It's really a huge team effort. We were just lacking that guy last year. We all knew it. Chip knew it. Chip didn't have an engineer to help him most of the year. He was trying to be the engineer and the crew chief and that was just way too much, so to let him go back and work on the cars has been as big a deal as anything. And to bring Drew in as crew chief with his leadership abilities and experience, and to be able to work side-by-side with Chip to help each other make us perform has been a big deal. I really think he's gonna be the guy for a long time. I think he's kind of the young version of Robbie when he got in to lead the team, so I think it's pretty cool that he's fit in that well. He fits in with all the guys really well and he's been doing a great job so far, obviously."
IS THERE MORE CONFIDENCE OVERALL? "It's kind of hard to explain, but bringing Drew in there -- as soon as I saw him after a week with how he and Chip got along and how he got along with the guys -- even after he just started at the shop and we were preparing our cars you could tell that the morale was boosted already and it just had a better feeling. It just felt like there was more energy there and there was more enthusiasm there. Everybody was happier when they were at work and it just felt good. It just felt like that was the right move and we've always had a really great group of guys here, but you've got to have the whole thing. I just felt like that was the spark that was gonna help us be more competitive and help us work better."
THE ROUSH CREW CHIEFS LIKE THE FACT THERE WAS NO TESTING WHILE OTHERS SEEMED TO BE CONCERNED. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT WAS THE CASE? "I think the no-testing rule is really good for a lot of reasons. Obviously, saving money was the first reason they did it, which is obviously good for that, but the other thing is with this car there have been no rules changes, so we've got the same exact aerodynamic package we've had the last two years. There's not a ton of things we can do. There are a lot of little things we can do to the cars, but a couple years ago with the other car you could move body parts around, you could change all kinds of stuff. You could show up at the track and be right on, or you could be way off and not be able to fix it because of how you had the body on the car or something like that, so with running the same car and all that, I felt good about not testing. It gets all the crew guys, I think, rested up more and ready for the season and I think it actually makes the races in a way more competitive. I think it makes passing a little easier because it separates the field a little bit and I felt good about that. I felt like our cars at Roush all performed pretty well last year and we had a lot of stuff to look at and go on without testing."
CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY YOU GUYS SEEM TO BE HAVING FUN AND PERFORMING? "I think that's the key to it -- to a certain point. Obviously, you've still got to be serious and focused and do your job, but when you can be doing your job and be focused and all that, and be having fun at the same time and be loose and all that, I think it helps everybody perform. I think sometimes when you're under pressure if you're still having fun at the same time it's easier. If you're under a ton of pressure and maybe nobody is having fun and all that, I think you may be more prone to mistakes, and so far it's been good because everybody has been extremely focused, but yet they've been having a good time at work, too. And whenever you can have fun at your job, that's a good thing."
WOULD YOU FEEL REALLY GOOD ABOUT THE PROSPECTS FOR YOUR SEASON IF YOU HAVE A GOOD OUTING SUNDAY? "That would be great. It's always important to get off to a good start, which we've done the first two weeks. Obviously, there are ton of races but if we can come here and run real competitively on Sunday and have a decent finish, we'd feel good about that. Running good at California was a big deal to us and this place is a lot different than California and some of the other tracks we go to right now with the new pavement and tire combination, but, still, if we could come out of here with a good run, that would give us some more confidence going to Atlanta and the upcoming tracks."
JACK SAID YOU SOMETIMES MAY NOT SHOW EVERYTHING YOU HAVE DURING PRACTICE. IS THAT JUST AN OBSERVATION OF HIS? "In practice we don't really necessarily race the speed chart as far as where you're ranked on the speed chart, but yet we go more for the feel we're looking for and the consistent lap times and all that stuff, so I don't really pay a lot of attention to practice speeds. I used to look at everybody's stuff and all that, but if we have the car driving how we want it to drive and have the balance where we want it, if you're a little off on lap times but you've got it driving where it feels good and as good as you get it to drive, a lot of times there's not much you can do about it anyway. We look for that feel and then during the race we just really try to keep up with the race track and the changing conditions and get it to drive as good as you can."
IS IT TOO EARLY TO TALK ABOUT THE CHASE AND THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "It's never too early to think about points. You're trying to get points all year long to get in there, but after Daytona I would say that has zero effect on whether you make the chase or not, but running good at California maybe builds a little extra confidence, so we've got a lot of racing to do before we get in there, but if we can stay competitive and run as good as we did last week -- if we keep running competitively in the top 10 and stuff -- then I'll feel better about that or think about it a little bit more."
WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THE CREW CHIEF CHANGE AT ALL? "No. I mean, actually that whole thing this year is probably the first time I ever got involved in the team and those decisions. That was really my deal. I went and talked to Chip by myself and we worked it out together and decided that maybe we should do something different and get him back to where he's got time to focus on the cars and all that stuff. Really, I talked to Chip before I talked to anybody else about it. Then I talked to Drew and then I talked to Robbie and then I talked to Jack, so we had it all worked out in a day or two, actually, and I think everybody was happy with the final result when we got done after those couple of days of getting all that stuff changed around. I think Chip felt a lot more comfortable that he could contribute a lot more -- freeing up some of his time and working on the car. He didn't have to deal with all the stuff he hates dealing with, so I think he was really comfortable with that. I was really comfortable with Drew. He was my personal selection. That's who I wanted to get in there is somebody young and somebody who hasn't been a Cup crew chief before. I think if you get somebody in there like that who hasn't been there and done that and seen that, that they work that much harder, they're that much more loyal and all that stuff because they're getting an opportunity to go do that."
WHAT WAS DREW'S REACTION? "He just said, 'Yeah, I want to do it.'"
HE SAID ONE REASON IT HAS CLICKED IS BECAUSE YOU HAVE SIMILAR MENTALITIES. "Yeah, we worked together a couple of years in the Nationwide Series and I think we learned some stuff from each other. I liked working with him right away in the Nationwide Series and when we started I said he was probably the next guy in the company that had the potential to move up when there was an opening. Now when I said that, I didn't think that would be for us. I didn't think we'd have the opening, but I knew that he was probably the guy with the most potential over there that had the chance to move up and had the leadership ability, the work ethic, and all that stuff to step up if he wanted to."
-credit: ford racing