Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, is one of only two drivers to qualify for the Chase for the Nextel Cup all four years it has been in existence (Jimmie Johnson). Kenseth spoke about this year's chase before practice in the...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, is one of only two drivers to qualify for the Chase for the Nextel Cup all four years it has been in existence (Jimmie Johnson). Kenseth spoke about this year's chase before practice in the NHIS infield media center.
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
"I'm just ready to get started. I'm glad it's here and ready to get started and see what we've got."
HOW WAS NEW YORK? "It was the same as the last three years. It was all right. We kind of just did the same stuff, kind of talked about the chase and making it and getting going, so it was kind of the same stuff we've been doing. It's always cool to be a part of that group and go up there. It's pretty cool and a big honor to be part of the guys that make the chase and that are in it, so from that aspect it was fun to go up there and get ready to come up here."
DO YOU GET THE IMPRESSION THAT INTEREST HAS GROWN IN THAT AREA? "It's hard to say. Walking around the streets of New York and doing that stuff, you don't see as many race fans as you maybe would in other places, but it's a huge media outlet and I think that's why we go. I think it's more about the people around the country that are watching Good Morning America or Regis and Kelly or The Late Show and stuff like that. I think it's more about the media outlets more so than about the fans that live in New York City."
HOW MUCH OF A CHANCE DOES EVERY DRIVER HAVE IN THIS CHASE? "Usually there's a team or two you can look at and say, 'Well, those guys made it in, but they're probably not a realistic threat.' Where I think this year all 12 teams could have a legitimate shot at it, if they have things go their way. As of today, before Sunday is over for sure, I think all 12 teams have a legitimate shot of doing it. Now there are a few guys, in my opinion, who are running a little bit better than everybody and have been there all year, and I think those guys are gonna be the ones to beat. But I think other than those few guys maybe being a little bit above the rest of them, I think the rest of them are all kind of grouped together and, as of today, they all really have a shot."
YOU WON AT DOVER LAST YEAR. DOES THAT TRACK SUIT YOUR DRIVING STYLE? "I always thought it has. It's always been one of my favorite tracks, but it's like any other track, you've got to have the car running good there and you've got to have good pit stops and not get in trouble on the track and have reliable cars and all that kind of stuff. But I've always really enjoyed the track and enjoyed the challenge of it and how fast it is -- and how you can drive the track. Certainly a lot of that has changed with the car of tomorrow. We had a pretty good setup with our old cars and had a car that we liked there. You could drive it a certain way where it changed a lot when we bring this other car back there, so it was kind of like starting over for everybody."
HOW DO YOU APPROACH THIS FIRST RACE OF THE CHASE? "Every race in the final 10 is equally important. They all pay the same amount of points. The first one pays the same amount of points as the last one, so that part of it, I think they're all equal. Also, it's nice not to start off in a big hole. If you start off decent, it's nice not to have the pressure and pushing the panic button because you're 200 points behind or whatever it could be. So I think it's important to start off good, but this race is no more or less important than the second one or the eighth one or the 10th one. They all pay the same amount of points, so, in my opinion, they're equally important and we approach every one the same."
WHAT AREAS ARE YOU AND YOUR TEAM WORKING ON TO TRY AND GET BETTER IN THE CHASE? "Up until three weeks ago, all I was really worried about was 100 percent performance. Our stuff has been really reliable. Our pit stops have been great. Then our jackman got hurt a couple of weeks ago and the last two weeks have really been a struggle on pit road and this week we have another new jackman trying to come in, so I'm a little concerned about that. The last couple of weeks we've probably been worse on pit road than we've been in three or four years, so that's a little bit of a concern. Hopefully, this new guy can get in and the guys can get all of their rhythm together and everything. That and just our performance. We've just got to be performing a little bit better than what we have been, although we have been improving. Last week we were probably a fifth to seventh-place car, which, for a COT car, is a lot better. In the spring at Richmond we had probably a 10th to 14th-place car, so we have improved that. Carl has been running great with these cars and the 6 ran good last week, so I feel like our performance is improving but we've got to have everything go right and we still have to get our performance a little better to run with those best couple of guys."
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE WAY YOU HAVE COME ALONG WITH THE COT? "I think we're a little bit behind some of the other teams probably in all areas of the performance thing. I don't know, I think it's kind of starting to balance out with the COT. I think the 17, whether it's my driving style with this car that's the struggle, or what it is but we're still a little bit behind the 99. The 99 has been running really well. He won Bristol with the COT and I think he was going for the lead last week when he blew up. He was leading here when he had the problem on pit road, so really trying to look at their stuff and trying to do some of our own research and trying to get it better. I think we're gaining on it. I don't think we're at the level of the Gibbs cars and Hendrick cars are at with it yet, but I think we're gaining on it."
HOW DOES 12 VERSUS 10 CHANGE THE CHASE? "The more people you get involved, obviously, the farther you can get behind or the more people there is that have a shot at it. We went from wherever we were -- third or fourth in points -- to basically, depending on how you look at it -- tied for 11th. Last year we went in seeded first in the chase and this year we came in 11th, so there is a big difference. Really, not just for the COT but mostly with the COT, they've really tightened up all the rules and tightened up all the areas we can work in and it's all just the little things that make a big difference now. The competition is just so tight, especially with that car, so if you make a mistake on pit road or make a mistake on the track or you do something to lose your track position, it hurts a lot more than it did with the other car. These cars are running so much closer to the same speed that it's just so much harder to make a move from the back to the front. Even if your car is a little bit better, it's a lot harder to pass than those other cars. It's a lot harder to get a big advantage on speed and be able to get back to the front, so I think that track position is way more important with these cars and, obviously, if you're racing 12 instead of 10, it's just two more guys you've got to try to beat."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GAIN SPOTS ON PIT ROAD? "It's real important, but it's really a group effort. It's not just the tire changer, just the jackman. It takes everything. You've got to get on and off pit road fast. You've got to practice getting there and getting in your stall. You've got to have everything going together and have your rhythm together and it starts a lot earlier than just the pit stop. That group and the jackman is used to how I stop in the stall, how I get the car pointed out, how much momentum I carry from where the car stops so that's all smooth. You've got to have everything and they're just so used to me and the way I come into the stall and I'm used to them. I can tell when the jack is coming down. I can almost anticipate when to leave and when you mess that timing up a little bit, it kind of throws everything off a little bit and you've got to try to get that back. It's different when you plug a different person in and it's more than just when you're stopped in the stall and when you leave. It's the whole thing. I try to anticipate when to leave and they anticipate how I'm gonna stop in the stall and they're kind of used to that and it kind of changes all that."
-credit: ford racing