This Week in Ford Racing March 8, 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Taurus, will try to make it three straight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victories at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend. Kenseth, who is...
This Week in Ford Racing
March 8, 2005
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Taurus, will try to make it three straight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series victories at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend. Kenseth, who is 36th in the point standings after two races, took part in a Ford Racing teleconference Tuesday afternoon during a break in testing at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DeWalt Taurus
YOU'VE WON THE LAST TWO RACES AT LAS VEGAS. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS GOING BACK THERE? "When you have success at a track I think you always look forward to going back to it, but just because you've had success in the past definitely doesn't guarantee it for this time or the next time. I thought our test out there was mediocre. I thought we tested really good at California, but we were kind of mediocre at Vegas for some reason, so I am looking forward to going back there. We ran really well at Daytona and dropped out early, and then we ran better at California than what we've run there in the last four years or so. We led some laps and it seemed like we had a car that could contend. It wasn't quite as good, but almost as good as the 16 and the 97, so I feel good about that. I feel good about how everybody is running at Roush right now. We've got great cars and great equipment and we just have to get some momentum rolling on our side."
WOULD YOU AGREE THAT THE PERFORMANCE OF YOUR TEAM HAS BEEN SOLID THE FIRST TWO RACES, IT'S JUST BEEN CIRCUMSTANCES THAT HAVE LED TO TOUGH FINISHES? "Yeah, I mean it's always disappointing when you don't get the result, but I'd rather be running good and leading laps and feeling like we're capable of winning race and not getting the finishes due to circumstances, than to be running bad all day and then luck into a 10th or 15th-place finish. So that's the encouraging part. It's hard to be patient with it, but I think we all understand that this deal works in cycles sometimes. Sometimes you can't get anything to go wrong and no matter what you do, you can't mess up. Then at other times you really can't get anything to go right, so the last couple months of last season and the start to this one has been a time where we can't seem to get things to go right."
DID YOU EVER EXPECT TO BE A SERIES CHAMPION? "No, I never expected to even be down racing in Nextel Cup or the Busch Series, much less to have won a championship and won some races. I've been very fortunate. I've been with some great teams and had a lot of great people help me through my career, but from where we started in Wisconsin and what we were doing I never thought I would get to this point."
WHAT IS YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW AERO-TIRE-GEAR RULE PACKAGE? DO YOU FEEL IT FAVORS YOUR DRIVING STYLE? "Yeah, I do. I think when they first did it I thought it would be really good for Mark Martin and I thought it would be good for myself, too. It seems like these type of rules are more like how you used to have to race when we first started and the tires would drop off. A lot of guys would run good on new tires, but then their cars would drop off more and the good handling cars would come to the front. So I thought it would be an advantage for us. I don't know what my whole take is on the thing until we get a few more races into the deal, so I think one race is hard to judge it on. I didn't think the race was real great at California, but yet we ran good so I'm not sure what to think about it until I see some more races."
HOW DO YOU ANTICIPATE THE RACING WILL BE AT LAS VEGAS? "California was a lot different than I expected it to be. I think everybody, when they cut the spoilers off, expected the cars to be loose and turning really good - nobody complaining about an aero push and being able to run different grooves on the track - and it seemed like it was the opposite. It seemed like the second groove never came in at all - the second or third groove - which is a little bit disturbing because at California in the past we've been able to run two- and three-wide there pretty easily. That, and I did notice that for some reason when you got back in traffic the aero push seemed to be worse than what I remembered it being there last year, so I'm not exactly sure why that is, but I didn't think the racing was as good as we hoped it would be."
SO IS LAS VEGAS A WIDE-OPEN RACE? "I think you'll see a race at Las Vegas like you've seen the last few years. I hope we see it like we've seen it the last two years, but I think that a good handling car is still gonna get to the front. I don't think you're gonna see a ton of side-by-side racing. I think the preferred groove is gonna be on the bottom there, but I think you'll see a race pretty much like you saw there last year."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ROUSH DOMINANCE? "As far as this season I don't think you can take one restrictor-plate race and one downforce race and say that there's a team dominating, and I don't think you can look at the point standings either because we're only two races into the year. I think if we were halfway through the season and things were still running like this you could maybe talk about that a little bit, but, right now, we're fortunate to have five really good teams. I have four really great teammates that are really great drivers, and we have good people working on our cars. We've got great engines with Doug Yates and those guys putting them together and good bodies on our car, so, right now, we have really good stuff. It's like anything, it works in cycles. You'll go through a time where things are going good and your stuff is running good and then you also realize that you'll go back through that cycle eventually where you're behind a little bit and trying to get caught up."
YOU MUST HAVE SOMETHING RIGHT FOR VEGAS AS A GROUP HAVING WON 5 OF 7 RACES THERE. "It changes every year. Even the last two years we were fortunate enough to be able to win, but we didn't necessarily run the same setup both years. Things change and you have to change with the times and change with the rules and technology and that type of thing. Yeah, he's (Jack Roush) had a lot of success out there. I think some of it is circumstances and having good cars, but having good fortune at the same time and not having an extra amount of bad luck and bad things happening. It's definitely a track we have confidence going to. It's a track that he has had a lot of success in the past and, hopefully, we can do it again."
HOW IS YOUR TEST GOING IN ATLANTA? "It's going OK. It's pretty windy down here, so it's a little bit different, but it's going OK. We're testing our Waste Management car. We're just testing our Busch Series car. The Busch Series made some different rules with tires and stuff like that, so we're down here trying to get our stuff running the best we can so we don't have to burn up all our tires in practice when we come back."
DOES THE ROUSH SUCCESS AT LAS VEGAS HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH MARK'S INITIAL WIN IN '98? "No, the setups of the cars and the bodies and aerodynamics and engines are way different than it was back in '98. But Mark, if you look at history, Mark is very, very good at adapting to new tracks quickly. He ran real good at California that first year it was open and should have won the race, but they ran him out of gas twice. Then he won the inaugural race at Vegas. He's just very good at adapting to new places real fast. They got a quick start when the track was brand new and between him and Jeff (Burton), they were able to win three or four of them first few races."
WHAT IS YOUR STATE OF MIND WITH THE POINT STANDINGS NOW BEING 36TH? "I'm not overly concerned about where we are in the points right now to be able to make the chase and get in the top 10. Yeah, we've had two bad weeks and we're way behind, but everybody is gonna have a bad week or two between now and September when we've got to be in the top 10. So I'm not overly concerned about it yet. You're still thinking about points from the first race to the last race and you think about trying to lead laps and get bonus points and doing those types of things. If we have another bad week or two and we're still back there in points, then I'll start worrying a little bit more. But right now we've been running really good and we've had some bad fortune. I feel like if we can keep this performance up and our luck turns around a little bit, we shouldn't have a problem making the chase. But there are a lot of good teams and if we don't get everything rolling our way and we do have some more trouble it could be tough."
DID YOU REGROUP OR TEST MORE DURING THE OFF WEEK? "No, I don't think there's anything to test or regroup about. At Daytona we were running really well and we lost an engine, which we had no control over. Last week we had a flat tire and really didn't feel like I could have had much control over that too, and I thought we were gonna have a top-five finish. So we had a couple of things that maybe I could have done a little smarter during the race to make it to the end, but the last flat tire we had I don't think there was really anything we could have done about that."
DO YOU EXPECT HENDRICK OR YOUR TEAMMATES TO BE YOUR TOUGHEST OPPONENTS? "I don't know. Honestly, where we are right now there are 35 cars in front of us in points and they're all tough opponents that we have to figure out how to beat and get ahead of to at least make the chase first and get into the top 10. All of our teammates are running really, really good. You definitely want to beat them on the race track on Sundays, but yet they are teammates and whenever they have success, hopefully that spills over to us having success also. We're always cheering for our teammates as well as racing against them on Sundays. There are a lot of good teams out there and I think after two races it's difficult to pick a favorite."
DID YOU TALK TO JEFF GORDON AFTER CALIFORNIA? YOU HAD A COUPLE RUN-INS AND THAT'S KIND OF UNUSUAL FOR BOTH OF YOU. "I guess I should have known better. I've raced with Jeff enough and I've seen Jeff race enough that in the position he was in he was gonna block. He's known for blocking in that type of position. He was too wide and lost some momentum and I had a lot of momentum. In a normal situation, I would have waited and let off the gas and let him pass the guy and finish his pass, and then tried to pass them both. I thought I was running a little better at the time and part of the problem was we got ourselves behind. We had a lugnut fall off on a pit stop and got a little bit behind on the restart. The reason I tried going by them three-wide to start with was that they lost a lot of momentum and they were going slow. I could have almost had them cleared by the time I got to turn three and it was very difficult to pass. You get very aero tight at California for some reason. It was harder to pass there than what it's been any other year that I can remember and when you had a hole and you had a chance to pass somebody, you had to jump on that chance and take advantage of it because it was difficult to pass. That was the biggest thing. I knew he was gonna block me. I didn't think he was gonna block me all the way down to the infield halfway through a 500-mile race. I didn't think that was really necessary, but yet I've seen him do it enough and I should have known better than to get myself in that position."
* Ford has won 5 of the 7 NNC races held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with all of those coming courtesy of Roush Racing. Mark Martin won the inaugural Cup race in 1998 while Jeff Burton captured back-to-back events in 1999 and 2000.
* Ford holds down four of the top five spots in the NNC point standings going into this weekend's event. Kurt Busch leads by five points over Jimmie Johnson while Mark Martin, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
* In addition to its success in the Cup Series, Ford has also done well at Las Vegas in the Busch Series with three wins in eight attempts. Mark Martin won in 1999 while Jeff Burton won in 2000 and 2002.
* Greg Biffle's win at California marked the 75th NNC victory for car owner Jack Roush.