NASCAR Nextel Teleconference July 6, 2004 Guests: Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth Part 2 of 3 Dunlap: Now we're going to get to our second guest for the afternoon who is quite well known in the realm of NASCAR Nextel Cup Series racing. Of course...
NASCAR Nextel Teleconference
July 6, 2004
Guests: Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth
Part 2 of 3
Dunlap: Now we're going to get to our second guest for the afternoon who is quite well known in the realm of NASCAR Nextel Cup Series racing. Of course Matt Kenseth who is simply regarded as one of the best drivers in the series. As mentioned earlier Matt is the reigning premier series champion and took that title last year in style. Matt is also running well, he posted wins at Rockingham and Las Vegas and currently sits 5th in NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Points Standings, 356 back of Jimmie Johnson. The driver of the #17 DeWalt Power tools Ford hit a bit of a bump in the road this Saturday night at Daytona, but it certainly expecting Matt and his team to bounce back at Chicago and welcome Matt. We'll get rid of the bad news first and then go to the good news, when you have a race like the one this past Saturday on Daytona where an early accident like that sort of relegates you to a low finish. You come away from a race like that and obviously I would think this year particularly pleased that you're in a situation where even a finish like that and 5th in points and where you are you still have a chance to win the championship because of the new format this year.
Matt Kenseth: Yeah, that's the good news. We've had a pretty tough 4 out of 5 weeks the last 5 races so we're ready to start finishing good and get some momentum back and get everything rolling before we get to those last 10. But the good thing is we're still in the top 10 and, really, I guess we're only 25 points or 20 points out or whatever right now if it was race 26, so we need to get back up in there and be more solid in the top 10 so in case we do have more problems we don't drop out of it. That is the good thing that with this new system you can make mistakes , but not a lot and have problems and have things break early in the year and can still run for the championship, so that's definitely a lot different than it ever has been before.
Dunlap: Obviously being a Midwest guy from Wisconsin and having this race up Chicago, this must feel a little bit like a homecoming to be able to be up in that neck of the woods. Is there a confidence level that you have with Chicago. Why don't you take us through your feelings coming into the Chicago race.
Kenseth: I don't necessarily have more confidence going to Chicago as far as our performance is concerned or anything like that, but it definitely is fun to go to Chicago. It's one I really look forward to going to. You see a lot of race fans from the Midwest - from the area where I grew up and where I raced at in the past - so that's the closest track we go to to my hometown in Wisconsin. So it's exciting to go up there. I always get to see a lot of family and friends, a lot of race fans that used to watch us race short track stuff when we first started, so that definitely makes it a little extra exciting.
Operator: Our first question comes from Lee Spencer from Sporting News.
Spencer: Jack Roush said something when you guys won the Winston....
Kenseth: Oh Oh Oh, it's the Nextel All-star race.
Dunlap: That's right.
Spencer: Jack Roush talks about you winning and compares you to David Pearson and I did a little digging. Richard Petty made the same comparison and even said your style kind of mirrored his a little bit. How does it feel when people are calling you one of the greatest racer the sport has right now?
Kenseth: That's definitely a big compliment. Whenever somebody ever compares you to somebody who had done such great things and somebody who is a legend and was one of the best around, that's definitely a huge compliment. You've just got to keep that all in check and concentrate on trying to do it every week, but whenever you do get a compliment like that, it definitely makes you feel good.
Spencer: Did you study any of the former Winston Cup drivers? Or did you watch their styles or emulate their styles growing up?
Kenseth: I've watched a lot of racing in the past. When I was growing up whenever it was on TV back then I'd try to catch a race and catch some of the races and I knew what was going on and I watched people and that type of thing. As far as when I started racing, I tried to base my style off of Mark Martin. He taught me a lot when I came here and when I started racing in the Busch Series and got to know him. He taught me a lot on what was the right thing to do and what wasn't the right thing to do. Ways to race and things to do on the track and off the track. I tried to soak in as much of that as I could and tried to act like that the best I could.
Operator: Our next question comes from Ron Martin from CBS Radio Sports.
Martin: Now that you've had a half of season as the reigning NASCAR champ, as it changed your life at all, can you tell a difference?
Kenseth: Not really. It hasn't changed my life at all day to day, what I enjoy doing, what I don't enjoy doing, how we act or how we live our life or any of that stuff. It hasn't really changed any of that or how we approach racing or what our goals are and our aspirations and hopes. It hasn't really changed that. The only thing that's maybe changed a little bit is that I'm maybe a little bit more recognizable in public, where you have more people coming up to you in certain places. Maybe a little bit more media attention on us or maybe expectations being a little bit higher from our fans or sponsors - things like that. All the things that go along with doing good, those things have changed a little bit. But, other than that, it hasn't really changed anything else. I don't feel any different than I felt at this time last year. I definitely had a sense of accomplishment after the year was over last year and we won the championship, but after that we're trying to do it again this year and trying to go out and do good this year. This sport is so funny. The thing that everybody remembers, especially me, is your last race and when things aren't going exactly as you planned, you're thinking more about how to get the thing turned around and how to get the thing better more so than you're thinking about how great things went for us last year.
Martin: Has it changed the way other drivers view you at the race track and even during the race?
Kenseth: I can't tell, but I don't think it has. I don't think it's made a lot of difference. I mean, it's definitely cool to have won a championship, especially in the format that it was last year and has been for so many years before that. To have to do the job all year long was definitely really, really cool to be a part of that group. Maybe a little bit, but I don't think that it's really changed that much.
Martin: That brings up a question, do you think winning that type of championship under that type of points system, I'm not going to say better, but tougher to do than the one today?
Kenseth: That's hard to answer until the whole season is over. If Jimmie Johnson and Dale Jr. keep up the year that they have this year and don't make any mistakes and don't have anything break and they're 400 points ahead of the rest of us at the break and they still win the championship, then I'll say it was tough to win. But if something happens. For an example, let's use myself. We've made some mistakes and I've done some dumb things on the track. We broke a motor. We've had things happen where we've made mistakes that usually a championship team can't do and yet, if we stay in the position we're in right now, with 10 races to go we can still have a good shot at the championship. I don't know. I still have mixed feelings about it. I hope that whoever does the best job all year still gets to win the championship. Just for an example, Jimmie Johnson doesn't do a great job for the first 26 races and has bad luck in the last 10 races, where if he had it earlier it wouldn't of mattered and loses it to somebody that had a lot of bad luck and was 400 or 500 points behind, I don't think that would be fair. But that's the new set of rules we have and you just have to take the first 26 weeks kind of like a qualifying round to qualify for the last 10 races to run for a 10-race season basically for a championship. That's the way we're all kind of looking at it and trying to stay in that top 10. But I definitely think it's easier to have a shot at the championship at the end of the year with this system for sure. I don't think we've ever seen 10 drivers be within 45 points with 10 races to go. I don't think that's ever happened before, so it obviously gives a lot more people that opportunity at the end of the year.
Operator: Our next question comes from Bill Fleischman Philadelphia Daily News.
Fleischman: So you see similarity with the season Jimmie Johnson is having this year and yours from last year. Have you guys talked winning the championship and being consistent?
Kenseth: That's something I've never talked to him about. That's something I'm going to have to talk to him about. They're really good. They're doing what we did last year, except that they're actually running a little bit better. They've run really good. We ran really good in the beginning of last year. At times we ran really good and at times we ran mediocre, where they've been running pretty tough all year long. They definitely have some stuff figured out and definitely have some advantages this year from being smart and figuring out how to get their cars to go fast. So they've been doing really great. You've just got to see how it plays out towards the end. Whoever carries all the momentum into that last 10 races is going to be tough to beat. It's not just going to be one or two or three cars - it's going to be out of those 10 cars, whoever is carrying the most momentum is going to have a good shot. If you look at how Jeff Gordon has been the last four weeks, if that would have been week 27, 28, 29 and 30 and he had all that momentum, he would be pretty tough to beat. So it's so hard to tell until we get towards the end of the deal and see how everybody is running.
Operator: Our next question comes from Claire B. Lang from XM Satellite Radio.
Lang: I'm doing a story on communication in the car and you talking this morning with Jimmie and crew and how they communicate with Gordon. They can talk to each other on the radio. They're even making some chances maybe for Talladega. Are you able to talk with other Roush guys on radio in the car, does that work for you?
Kenseth: You can, but we very seldom do it; especially at a big track like that when we're all two and three-wide and doing all kinds of stuff. But there has been times where I've clicked over and maybe talked to Mark or somebody, if you need something during the race or whatever; but most of the time I'll flip on (Jeff) Burton's channel and talk smart to him or something under cautions or he'll do the same to me. It's usually us two talking to each other just giving each other a hard time during a caution or some time when it doesn't matter. Very seldom do we use it business, but there was a time last year where we were going to lose the draft and Mark was also in that deal of losing the draft, so we talked a little bit during that time to try to get teamed up and stay in line and get caught back up to that draft, but I can only think of maybe one or two times in five years that we've really used it for anything like that.
Lang: Jimmie said the same thing, when he tried to fiddle with the radio to get communication with Brian Vickers. He usually screws up his own radio communications. He gets it to be a big mess, so he tries not to do that. They have other things that they're working on and I'm wondering because the Hendrick group communicated so well and ran so well together. That went well for Gordon at the end of the race, how it's going on these big tracks, communication with you guys and running and drafting together.
Kenseth: It depends where you're at. When you have four or five teammates in the front all in a line, it's easy to communicate and you're going to work together. Everybody is just going to follow each other. If the odd duck pulls out of line and he's not your teammate, you're all going to go to the other lane and shuffle him out. So he had everybody up front and all the teammates up there working together and it's really easy to do, but it doesn't happen that often where you all have cars that are that fast and you can get them all packed together at the same time.