Three of the five drivers competing in the EA Sports 500 as part of the Winston No Bull Five million dollar bonus this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway are behind the wheel of a Ford. Matt Kenseth, Todd Bodine and Ryan Newman spoke...
Three of the five drivers competing in the EA Sports 500 as part of the Winston No Bull Five million dollar bonus this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway are behind the wheel of a Ford. Matt Kenseth, Todd Bodine and Ryan Newman spoke about that opportunity during the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference.
MATT KENSETH --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus:
AN EXTRA MILLION WOULD BE GREAT, RIGHT? "Yeah, it would be great. I wish we were making it at Charlotte or Atlanta or somewhere like that, but anything can happen at Talladega. Historically, we haven't done too well there, but anything can happen. The draft is a great equalizer and, hopefully, we'll have a shot at winning a million bucks and winning some lucky fan out there a million bucks."
WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WOULD BE LIKE TO GET OF THE CAR AND MEET SOMEONE YOU JUST HELPED MAKE A MILLIONAIRE? "That would be really cool. It would be neat for us to take the money for the team and help everything out there, too, but it would be really cool for a fan because most people don't have that opportunity. That's pretty cool that they can be a customer of Winston and show up at the race and have a chance to win a million dollars."
WHAT WILL BE THE SECRET TO TAKING THE LEAD AT TALLADEGA -- SETUP OR DRIVER? "Usually it's neither. Talladega is usually about the body you have on your car and the engine you've got under the hood -- a little bit of luck and a little bit of making the right decisions and being in the right draft and being around the right people getting the lead. Handling doesn't really come into play much at Talladega. As slow as they have us running for how big the track is, with the restrictor plates we have on and the rules we have, the cars are pretty stable so handling is not a big deal. It's basically having a slick body and a good engine and being in the right place at the right time."
HOW DO YOU SEE THE POINTS RACE PLAYING OUT? "It's a tough one to call. I don't think anybody knows how it's gonna play out until we get to the end this year. When Jeff Gordon won at Bristol and Darlington everybody was like, 'He's gonna take it over and he's gonna be gone.' But then he went and had a problem somewhere and didn't have a good run. I think he finished in the high teens or something like that and didn't even have any problems, they just didn't run good. Nobody this year has been able to run consistently in the top five every week like what's happened in the past with the championship. Nobody has had that performance going all year, so I don't think anybody knows what's gonna happen. Somebody could hit it and perform really great for the last seven races and take the thing away or it could continue to be a crapshoot where everybody is a little bit up and down for the rest of the year. I think it's too hard to tell."
IS TALLADEGA THE WILD-CARD RACE FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON? "Oh, for sure because there is no safe place at Talladega or Daytona. You can try to be smart and ride around all day, but there's really nothing you can do. You can be riding in the middle of the pack and get wrecked, you can be the leader and get wrecked or you can be running last and get wrecked, so it's one of those tracks that you're never sure what's gonna happen until you take the checkered flag. Anything can happen. It can be a great points day for somebody and it can be a terrible points day for somebody and, a lot of times, there's absolutely nothing you can do about it. It's kind of nerve-racking all day. You just have to run the best you can and try to be as smart as you can and give and take as much as you can and, hopefully, you stay out of any trouble."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE FUEL CELL CHANGE WILL IMPACT THE RACE? WILL ALL THE ROUSH CARS DRAFT TOGETHER AND PIT TOGETHER? "No, not really because there's really no plan you can usually make. Everybody is gonna pit about the same time. Everybody is pretty close on fuel and even if somebody can make it a little farther, you're not gonna stay out there by yourself anyway for more than a lap, so I don't think it's gonna make a big difference. The only thing that makes me nervous about it is that we're gonna have to pit more under green. Pitting at Talladega under green is really difficult if you're not in the right place. If you're on the third groove on the outside and they tell you to come in the next lap, well, I've been stuck out there before where it's taken me three laps to get to the bottom. So, sometimes getting on pit road is pretty scary. There are people who will have to pit that are gonna run out of gas and they're either in the second or third groove and they'll try coming down getting to pit road. That's what makes me nervous about the rule more than anything else is that I can see the potential for more accidents getting on pit road or trying to get to the pits."
WHAT IS THE EDGE DEI SEEMS TO HAVE AT RESTRICTOR-PLATE TRACKS? "No disrespect to Dale, Jr. or Michael Waltrip because they're both great race car drivers, but I think you could take the car Dale, Jr. had last year at Talladega and Daytona, I think you could have taken anybody from the field and put 'em in that car and, if they wouldn't have gotten wrecked, they could have won the race. I've been lucky enough to be in some real fast Busch cars on the speedways and I've been able to win a Busch race at Daytona. But I've gone to Daytona before and ran close to last with our Cup car that was just slow when we got there. Especially at Talladega, there's really no edge you can learn or any inherited talent you can learn to be fast at that track. Yeah, maybe there's a little skill that comes with being smart in the draft and making the right decisions in the draft, but as far as qualifying, there's zero skill there. As far as the race goes, it's at least 95 percent the car."
DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE MORE GIVE AND TAKE THE REST OF THE YEAR WITH THE TIGHT POINTS RACE? "Talladega is kind of its own animal. It's all by itself. Give and take at Talladega is totally different than give and take at Charlotte. At Talladega, you always hope there's gonna be give and take, but when it comes to the end of the race and people are trying to shuffle for position, it usually gets pretty hairy. So I think most people try to be as careful as they can at Daytona and Talladega and try to be smart and make smart moves to make it to the end of the race. You always see some crazy stuff going on just because you don't want to be shuffled all the way to the back. Everytime I go there, it seems like there's a little bit more give and take, and as far as the rest of the year goes, I don't think the racing will be any different. I think everybody is gonna be racing hard for position."
HOW DO RATE THE DRIVING STYLES OF NEWMAN AND JOHNSON? "It's hard to compare the driving styles. Jimmie and Ryan are definitely different people and they probably have somewhat different driving styles, but, again, just like I was extremely fortunate to be hooked up with Roush Racing and have experienced teammates like Mark Martin and Jeff Burton, and everybody here at Roush to get me in good cars right away -- that's the key to running good. Like it is with any driver, I don't think it matters much anymore. Whether you're a rookie or a veteran, if you're in a good car and you're surrounded by good people that give you all the tools that you need to succeed, you'll be able to do it. Both of them are lucky to be in real good situations and they're both really, really talented race car drivers. It's been fun to watch."