Loudon: Ford - Matt Kenseth interview

NASCAR Winston Cup qualifying was cancelled on Friday at New Hampshire International Speedway due to rain. The field will be set by points, meaning Matt Kenseth will start from the pole. MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools ...

NASCAR Winston Cup qualifying was cancelled on Friday at New Hampshire International Speedway due to rain. The field will be set by points, meaning Matt Kenseth will start from the pole.

MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus:

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO START UP FRONT FOR A CHANGE? "It's cool to start up front. I wish I knew how our car was gonna be with not being on the track yet. You're not sure how your car is gonna handle, but it's great to start up front, especially here - well, actually anywhere with the way I qualify (chuckling). When you start up front, you've got a better chance of getting those five bonus points and leading a lap and getting a good pit selection. It's always important to start up front, we just really need to figure how to keep it there."

THIS IS THE BENEFIT OF CONSISTENCY? "Yeah, one of the benefits of running decent and being up in the points is a good place to start, so I'll love it when it rains on Fridays."

IS IT MORE IMPORTANT TO TRY TO WIN RACES OR DO YOU HAVE TO THINK ABOUT THE CHAMPIONSHIP. WHERE'S THE BALANCE? "It's hard to say, especially for me not really being in a championship battle before. We sort of were last year, but yet we weren't really very close. When it came down to this time of the year, we were already quite a ways behind. He's (Jeff Gordon) done it four times already, so he's probably got a little better idea, but, obviously, to most people I think the championship has become a lot more important than winning races. The way the competition is these days, when there are 20 or 25 teams that can win a race, it's still really important and has a lot of significance, but I think more people are looking toward a championship. The main reason I say that is because last year we were able to win five races and had a great year, especially compared to 2001, but the last three weeks with me leading the points I've probably done more interviews than I did the whole year last year winning five races. We've won only one race this year and we're only halfway through the season and anything can happen, so I'm sort of the same way. I'd rather win five races last year and finish eighth in points than to win one race and finish second or third in points. The way it was last year winning the number of races we did, I definitely want to get back to victory lane really bad, but where we are in the championship chase right now, it's real important to try to maintain what we have and try to gain some points."

JEFF TESTED HERE. DOES THAT GIVE HIM AN EDGE? "We'll find out Sunday. If we didn't think there was an advantage, we wouldn't test. It's always an advantage to test, so that's why NASCAR limits the testing the way they do and gives us only five tests a year. I think it's an advantage when you go test somewhere, especially when there's a little bit of an unknown. I'm not even sure on the facts and what they did to the track since the last time we were here - whether they re-paved the corners or what, I can't really tell. But whenever you change anything on the track, it's always good to kind of get a jump on the competition and be able to test and get some laps on the track and decide what car you want to bring."

HOW IMPORTANT WILL PRACTICE BE SATURDAY? "It's the same as every week, really. On Friday, unless we see there's gonna be bad weather Saturday, we only work on qualifying anyway. Qualifying setup is way different than race setup, thankfully for me. We don't work on race setup until Saturday anyway, so it really doesn't change the plan of the weekend at all. We really just do everything the same as we do every other weekend."

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME YOU OPERATE WELL WITH ROBBIE - WHEN THINGS ARE GOING GOOD OR BAD? "Probably when it's going bad. It's no fun hanging around him when things are going bad, but it's no fun hanging around me when things are going bad, either. Everybody can get along when you're running good and you're able to win races or run up front - anybody can get along. So I think it's more through the tough times like we had in the last part of 2000 and the first part of 2001. To pull though those times without really losing any team members or switching crew chiefs or switching drivers or doing any of that stuff - just figuring out that it was our problem and we needed to work through it and dig deeper and figuring it out."

DO YOU ENJOY BEING THE POINTS LEADER OR DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND THAT IT MIGHT BE TEMPORARY? "Both (chuckling), mostly the latter. It's so early in the year. Yeah, I think about it and, yeah, I look at the points when I get home and try to get as many points as we can every week, but, in actuality, if we were eighth in points today, we'd try to get as many points as we could every week. We don't really do anything different. We're just out there racing as hard as we can. We haven't quite had the finishes we had at this time last year. Our good days haven't been as good, which is a little disappointing. I wish they were better, but we've just been able to be a lot more consistent and, really, that's been due to our equipment. Knock on wood, we've been lucky enough not to break anything yet and not to be in those big wrecks at the speedways. If you look at our mechanical failures last year and you took away one or two of those wrecks at the speedways, we would have been in the same place or a little farther ahead because we had some days that were better."

HOW HAVE YOU ADAPTED TO GETTING MORE ATTENTION AND THE DETAILS PEOPLE ARE GOING TO TRY TO DIG OUT OF YOU AS A PERSON? "It's all been good. Some things I quit reading because sometimes it bugs me, like that guy at Daytona who wrote a big article about me. That kind of made me mad because he didn't even talk to me. He didn't even know me. Everybody is gonna say their own stuff and that's part of what goes with the territory. I enjoy working with all the media, not just because all you guys are sitting there - that's part of the reason I say that (laughing) - but, really, most people really dig into their story. You guys take pride in your work the same as we take pride in our work, but, obviously, some people are gonna write some stuff to stir the pot or get attention or sell more papers and sometimes that gets on my nerves a little bit, but I don't let it bother me a lot."

YOU MENTIONED YOUR EQUIPMENT EARLIER. THE CHASSIS DYNO SHOWED THE ROUSH ENGINES MIGHT NOT BE WHERE THEY NEED TO BE. HAS THAT BEEN AN ISSUE FOR YOU GUYS THIS YEAR? "I don't know. Talking about equipment, I was talking more about the failures we had last year. We had some transmissions break and rear end gears break. We had some motors break at the end of the year, but mostly the other stuff we had break already by this time of the year."

IS YOUR HORSEPOWER WHERE IT NEEDS TO BE? "No, it's never where it needs to be. Unless you're way better than everybody, it's not where it needs to be (chuckling). I know those guys are working on it really hard. I know in the beginning of the year we probably had a little more power, but we were lucky enough not to break. All of those guys were breaking at Atlanta and Texas, so I know they've put a little margin back in. That's a never-ending thing. I try not to get too caught up in it. It's a never-ending thing. Somebody is always gonna be better than you are, you just have to keep working at it like anything else."

WILL YOU HAVE BETTER LUCK HERE THAN LAST YEAR? "The thing about this is everything changes so fast. We ran so good here last year in July. I mean, I thought we were quite a bit better than the field. We ran so good it was unbelievable and then we had that flat tire at the end. We came back with the same car and the same setup in the fall and ran OK, we ran 10th, but we didn't run anything like we did in the spring. I don't know why it is and I wish we could figure it out, but things change so fast. What works one time won't even work the second time in the same year. I feel good about it. I think we've got a really, really good car to run. It's one of our favorite cars and, hopefully, we can get it to do the things we want it to do tomorrow. But I never would have imagined my Busch car would have been this hard to drive and hard to setup today as it was, so things change so fast. You just never know. You're never sure. You're always searching for it."

IS THIS A THREE-MAN RACE FOR THE TITLE RIGHT NOW? "I don't think so. I mean, I don't know. I could be smart and say I could tell you that in November, but I don't know right now. You look at what Alan Kulwicki did back when he won his championship. I was reading something last week and saw that Stewart was more than 200 points behind and he came back and won the championship, so I don't feel like it's that huge of a lead. What I have back to second right now is really one race. If we finished last and he (Gordon) wins the race on Sunday, we'll basically be tied, so I don't feel like it's really that huge of a lead. If nothing goes wrong and we run competitively all year and stay up there, and he does the same, then it's a pretty good distance. But as soon as you have a problem or two, it's easy to catch up. I'm not really comfortable with where we're at."

YOU PASS SO MANY CARS WHEN YOU START IN THE BACK. COULD YOU LAP THE FIELD SUNDAY BY STARTING UP FRONT? IS IT THE SAME STRATEGY? "It's the same strategy. Last year and even this year whenever we start up front we haven't had very good luck. Last year, I think qualifying got rained out here and we started seventh or something. It must have been rained out because I started pretty far up (laughing). On the 15th lap or something, two guys in front of me spun out. I didn't wreck, but I had to pull all the way to the top and stop. When I got done with the whole wreck and everything, we were almost back to 30th and it was like lap 12, so in the past it hasn't worked out too good for me. I never have started way up there and had everything go normal. Our last pole we blew up in practice and had to start last at Dover, so starting up front hasn't been very good luck for us. Usually, if we're 17th on back we're in good shape - 17th to 25th is kind of a magic spot for us."

WAS ALAN KULWICKI ONE OF YOUR IDOLS GROWING UP? "Not really to be honest. I didn't really know him. It's kind of hard to explain. It's kind of before my time, but it was after my time when I was a little kid sitting on the couch watching the races too. It was kind of in between there. When I was a little kid and first started watching Winston Cup, I was always a Dale Earnhardt fan and my dad was a Mark Martin fan. Once I started racing here and even racing the Busch Series, he (Kulwicki) was already gone, so I never really knew him or really got to probably appreciate what he's done as much as some other people."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Matt Kenseth , Mark Martin , Alan Kulwicki