Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, is currently 12th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings. He held his weekly Q&A session prior to Friday's practice at Martinsville Speedway. MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, is currently 12th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings. He held his weekly Q&A session prior to Friday's practice at Martinsville Speedway.
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS WEEKEND? "This has probably always been one of my worst tracks. It's been probably one of the most difficult tracks for me and I feel like it's probably my worst track on the circuit as far as performance and how I get around here. It's come at a good time. With all the bad luck that we've had and all the bad things that have happened, it's probably a good weekend to come here because it really can't get a lot worse."
YOU RAN TRACKS LIKE THIS WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED RACING. WHY HAS THIS PLACE BEEN SO HARD FOR YOU? "Every track is a little bit different. The size isn't really it. Bristol is the same size, but it's just night and day from this track. Every track just has its own personality and it's a little different. I've just struggled here for whatever reason. It's just pretty slow and flat. You get a lot of cars out there and there's not a lot of room to move and I've just had a hard time figuring it out. Obviously, there's the same group of guys that run really good here that have it figured out and figure out what to put in their cars and figure out how to get around here and do all that. I've been trying really hard everytime. When we were allowed to test here every year -- sometimes twice a year -- I've just had a hard time adapting to it and giving them the information they need to get the car to feel like I need it to feel. I have a hard time getting that feel out of it for whatever reason, so I think right before they ground the track, we ran second and I thought we were starting to figure it out, and then they changed everything and we've never gotten it back to where we were."
ATLANTA IS NEXT WEEK. WHY IS IT VIEWED AS A DRIVER'S TRACK AND WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT IT? "I think it's just a lot of fun mainly because the pavement has kind of worn out and it's real high banked. You start off real fast and the track gets real slick, but you're always looking for a different groove and looking for more grip. It gets slick so you've got to have some throttle control and you've got to change your points a lot where you're letting off the gas and how you're entering the corner and things like that. Any track that drives like that makes it, I think, more challenging and more fun as a driver. You're out there for three-and-a-half or four hours sometimes and you're all running around the same line all the time and hope to get up under somebody and get them out of line and pass them and that's not always that much fun. Whereas there, as much as you're racing your competitors, you're racing the race track all the time for speed and trying to find grip. You're always looking for something. All the tracks like that -- Michigan and like Rockingham used to be -- are always a lot of fun and they're a challenge."
IS THERE ANYTHING YOUR TEAMMATES THAT AREN'T IN THE CHASE CAN DO TO HELP YOU? "No, not at all."
DO YOUR GOALS OR APPROACH CHANGE AT ALL WHEN YOU'RE IN THE POSITION YOU'RE IN NOW? "Well, the approach doesn't change at all. I don't know if goals is the right word, but your expectations and what you think you're gonna get out of it changes because, obviously, we're out of it. Unless the top eight or nine cars break every week for three weeks we're out of it, so you're not really thinking about the championship anymore. But the approach to every race is the same. I like to finish as high as I can finish every week and you want to finish as high as you can in points, regardless of whether you're in the chase or not in the chase. Everybody wants to finish the season as strong as you can and as high as you can in points and try to get some momentum going into the off season. So we're not doing anything different. We're doing everything the same as we would if we were leading the points or third in the points. We're gonna try to go out there and get running with the best guys out there and try to beat them. That's really our goal every week."
GOING BACK TO ATLANTA, IS THAT A FUNCTION OF THE TRACK OR THE ASPHALT? "Yeah, but the asphalt is on the track so it's part of the track. It wasn't like that when it was new, it's a product of it aging. Some of the asphalt they're using now is different. I understand it's different. I think the stuff at most ISC tracks is different than the stuff at the SMI tracks, I believe. It's not just asphalt because you used to run there and for the first few years it was right on the bottom and it was real fast and you couldn't pass. But as it ages and wears out, especially in the southeast, the tracks seem to lose grip and gets slick. Vegas did the same thing. Before they repaved it, it was just getting worn out and slick and at times we would back up and all that and move around and find different grooves. Right now, Kansas is a lot like that. Michigan is a lot like that, even California, so I think mostly it's just age and wear on the track. But the shape of the track makes a difference, obviously. If you paved this track with that type of pavement, I don't think you're gonna see racing here like Atlanta. You're still gonna see basically one-groove racing and everybody is gonna be real tight -- running into each other and all that stuff -- so it's both. It's the asphalt as it wears in, but it's also the shape and configuration of the track."
IS THERE A LOGICAL REASON AS TO WHY ONE OF YOU GUYS AT ROUSH HAS HAD AN OUTSTANDING SEASON THE LAST TWO OR THREE YEARS? "I don't know if there's a logical explanation about it. I guess I've got my ideas about it and it's probably not the same as some other peoples, but you go through years where things go well and you maybe have a little jump on your competition and then you go through other years when you don't. With me, I've been fortunate to have basically the same group of guys together -- the basic corporate guys the whole time. Greg this year had a different crew chief at the beginning of the year and then got another new crew chief not too long ago. Jamie started the year with a new crew chief. Carl got his old crew chief back. David Ragan was new, so everybody else was kind of jumbled up and I think it takes a while for all those guys to kind of gel and get used to each other and get things rolling. Obviously, they're all running pretty good right now or running better. Greg just won a race. Carl's won a couple. Jamie won a race this year and David's been running a lot stronger, so I think it takes a while for all of those guys to get used to each other and get it moving."
IS THERE ANY DIFFERENCE BEING WHERE YOU ARE NOW IN THE CHASE VERSUS BEING OUT OF THE CHASE RIGHT NOW AND JUST DOING THE BEST YOU CAN EVERY WEEK? "I still think there's a little bit of a difference. I still think that even though there's 12 this year, you're still kind of in an elite group. You're in the best 12 teams of the season. Of the 26 races, you're one of the 12 teams that did the best job to get in there and have a shot at the post season, if you want to call it that. So I still think it's an honor to be in it. It's what everybody strives for the first 26 and certainly when you get there, you don't want to finish like we've finished the first five races, but, certainly it's a cool thing to make it and be in it. When you first get in it, you're thinking about the championship. Obviously, as things change, your thoughts start changing for that. I think there's a difference from 12th to 13th. There's still a little bit of a difference."
THE LAST TIME WE WERE HERE, JEFF AND JIMMIE BATTLED FOR THE WIN AT THE END. HOW DO YOU GET PAST BEING ANGRY WITH A TEAMMATE FOR SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS ON THE TRACK? "I don't think either one of them were probably that mad because they still finished first and second a few feet apart. I think it's fun when you can battle with friends or a teammate, and I think they're probably friends more than they are teammates. At the end of the day, you're still there to do the best you can for your respective team and sponsor and crew and guys who go over the wall. You still want to win. If you can't win, yeah, you want a friend to win or a teammate to win, but, certainly, you're all out there for yourself at the end of the race and that's the way it really should be and that's kind of what this sport is about."
HOW DO YOU GET PAST AN ON-TRACK INCIDENT? "I think most people just try to confront each other and get it worked out -- talk about it and try to get past it."
-credit: ford racing