Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus, held a Q&A session in the Michigan International Speedway infield media center prior to Friday morning's practice to discuss the late-race events of last weekend at Pocono. MATT ...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus, held a Q&A session in the Michigan International Speedway infield media center prior to Friday morning's practice to discuss the late-race events of last weekend at Pocono.
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Tools Taurus
Part 2 of 2
BIFFLE PUT HIS CAR BETWEEN YOU TWO ON THE COOL DOWN LAP?
"I don't know about all that. He had a front row seat for it all. He raced behind me a lot all day, so he definitely saw what all went on. It was funny because when I heard the things about the brake check and spinning myself out and all that, I was slowing down because the caution came out and we were still running pretty quick. When I caught him to spin him out he almost stopped because I think he knew what was coming. You know what I mean? So he was really on the brakes hard. I don't know. It's just something silly that happened and kind of embarrassing. Hopefully, it's all behind us."
ARE YOU TIRED OF BEING MISTER NICE GUY ALL THE TIME?
"I don't know. Like I said, nobody is perfect. I've made a lot mistakes and got into a lot of people through my career and done things that weren't right for sure. But I really have always tried to settle my differences with people. That's something Mark Martin has taught me. Back in the Busch Series when I used to have some battles, it was like, 'Listen, you need to just go and sit down and talk to people and get it settled.' I really have tried to do that. I've always tried to base my racing style off of Mark's, which he's always taught me to race people how you want to be raced. If you give them courtesy and respect, you're gonna receive it back. So I've always tried to live by that, but sometimes you just can't."
WAS ROBBIE ON THE RADIO ITH YOU AT THAT TIME?
"Yeah because he was arguing with NASCAR trying to get our spot back and all that kind of stuff. He was trying to get it all sorted out and figure out what happened because he couldn't quite see it all. His blood pressure was a little high, but he was on the radio a little bit."
YOU SEEM MORE OUTSPOKEN THIS YEAR. WHY?
"There have been several things maybe that have been a little bit more frustrating or maybe have me a little bit more on edge than maybe what I used to be. Hopefully, after we're all done talking right here that it goes away and it can be a little bit more fun again and be more relaxed like we were last year. It's just hard to explain. I don't want to get into it all, but there have been a lot of little things about the races or about things that have happened or about the way they've happened or trying to figure out the new stuff and what's going on.
"There have been a lot of little things that I think have probably been frustrating for some of the fans and they've been frustrating for all of us a little bit - you guys, everybody - to try to figure out some of the stuff and what's all going on. So some of that has been a little bit frustrating too and trying to figure all that out and try to make it work for you and try to understand some of that too."
HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO STAY CALM LAST YEAR WITH ALL THE PRESSURE?
"Yeah, I don't know - probably a little bit. Who knows, maybe there was a little bit more than I admitted. Maybe it carried on to this year. I don't know. There's always pressure. You want to win it again this year under the new format and all. There's pressure to do that. We came out of the box and won a couple of races, but then when you have a problem and run bad like we did at Darlington and have all the little problems we've had here and there, that frustrates you double because everybody - your crew, your fans - they're expecting you to be able to go out and win because we came out of the box so strong. So whenever you drop off that base a little bit, you maybe get a little more on edge trying to figure out why."
SOME HAVE SAID RYAN NEWMAN HOGS THE RACE TRACK AND YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT USING A LOT OF SPACE ON THE TRACK. WHERE IS THE LINE BETWEEN HOGGING THE TRACK AND RACING YOUR HEART OUT?
"Using track and running somebody over that's outside of you is two different things. If you're using a lot of track and if somebody is behind you and you're not running into anybody, that's the way you race. That's totally different than if somebody is alongside of you and you run over them and pretend they're not there. Ryan is a great racer and that's a good example. I've raced with Ryan for the last few years and we race each other really, really hard. There have been a lot of times I've let him go and then he's race me hard or whatever. At California, we had a great battle. At the time it was for sixth or seventh, but people ran out of gas and it was for third and fourth. We ran side-by-side for 20 or 25 laps and I don't think he was expecting that. Afterwards, we talked about it and we said, 'Yeah, that's pretty cool.' I said, 'Yeah, I was in the gas too. It's hard to pass being side-by-side,' and we had a great time racing like that. Since then, we've raced each other different. When I catch him, he usually lets me go and when he catches me, I usually let him go. We have kind of a different respect for each other, I think. It's just a difference between racing someone hard and not giving them those few inches and running as hard as you can than there is when somebody is alongside of you and you run into them."
DO YOU THINK NASCAR HAS LOST CONTROL OF THINGS THE LAST FEW WEEKS?
"I don't know. The only part I can really control is our car and what we do. We've lost control of things a little bit the last few weeks. Definitely last week at Dover, although I don't think we could have done anything about missing that wreck. I went into the corner so hard and just hit the oil in exactly the right spot. To be able to lose the car that quickly, that was something I've never had happen before. But those are still things you can work on and try to make better. You can try to see the car leaking oil a little early. You can try to see the wreck a little earlier. I don't know. The only thing we can control is what we do, what we think or what we see or some of the rules and stuff. There's nothing we can really do about that. Even giving your opinion about it really doesn't matter because there's really nothing we can do about it. We just have to take the set of rules and how they're calling races and how they set up the new procedures and make sure we understand them the best we can and make sure we don't make mistakes with them."
DOES A $25,000 FINE KEEP YOU FROM DEFENDING YOURSELF IF ANOTHER SITUATION ARISES WITH THIS DRIVER OR SOMEBODY ELSE?
"What I say when I mean that is I don't mean what I did afterwards. Spinning him out under yellow is why I got the fine. I don't know what was gonna happen to him, but why I got the fine was I went back after him under the yellow and spun him out, which was the wrong thing to do. When I talk about not necessarily defending myself, but how you race people. I was talking about our first incident when I was still up alongside of him and he went right to the wall like I wasn't there.
"If he was outside of me and I went to the wall, he would have wrecked me because I saw it at Dover the week before. I've seen it couple of times. What I mean by that is just my driving style. If that's gonna be my lane, I'm not gonna lift and get out my lane and get out of your way. I'm gonna stay in the gas and run that lane as hard as I can and once you pass me, fine, that's your spot. But until you get cleared from me, that's not his spot."
IT SOUNDED LIKE YOU WERE JUST TAKING MATTERS IN YOUR OWN HANDS.
"What I was mainly talking about with my driving style is not just giving up that lane. There are a lot of guys you race who will be faster than you. Instead of holding them up and costing you both time, you'll let out of the gas and let him go and keep going. Then there are other guys that will race you really hard and slow you both down forever and you can't quite get clear for a long time. That's really what I meant by that. The going after him under caution was the wrong thing to do. I explained why I did it at the time. If I had to do it again I probably wouldn't do it, but, yet, I didn't know how it was gonna be played. I didn't know if they were gonna let him finish 10th and I was gonna finish 20th after he spun me out under caution. I didn't feel like that was the right thing, so I wanted to make sure he finished back there with me and that's why I did it. Yeah, it was the wrong thing to do and I'm embarrassed about it, but that's what my thinking was and why I did it."
WHAT ABOUT NASCAR'S PENALTY. WHEN YOU CHASE SOMEONE DONE VERSUS AN ACTION ON THE TRACK IS THAT EQUAL?
"It had nothing to do with the track. He chased me down under caution and spun me out, and I chased him back under caution and spun him out. The track incident had nothing to do with anything. What happened under green had nothing to do with it."
WAS THE PENALTY FAIR? "Like I said, I'm embarrassed with what I did. My part in it after going back after him under yellow is what I'm embarrassed about and whatever I got I probably deserved because that wasn't the right way to act."
IF THEY TAKE PAYBACK OUT OF THIS SPORT WILL THAT TAKE OUT SOMETHING AS NATURALLY AS BREATHING AND TAKE SOME OF THE FLAVOR OUT?
"I don't know about that. You should be able to use your heads. If you have a problem on the track, we should be able to go work it out. There are only 43 of us that get to race on Sundays and we should all be mature enough where we can sit down together and figure it out. If I'm wrong, be able to admit wrong or blame and be able to sort it out so it doesn't come to what it did on Sunday."
IT SEEMS LIKE INSTINCT TO DO WHAT YOU DID.
"Yeah, but you have to remember we're not on short tracks anymore. Most of these tracks we're running 180 miles an hour on and it's just not a good practice. Things have been safe lately, knock on wood, but it's still not a good practice."
WOULDN'T IT BE GOOD TO TRY TO SETTLE THIS BEFORE THE CHASE BEGINS?
"Yeah, I've already covered that. We both know what our goals are - to try to win a championship and try to stay in that top 10 and do all that, and I think we'll both be smarter from this day forward."