Phoenix: Winning team press conference

MATT KENSETH --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus WHAT ABOUT THE LAST STOP? "Yeah, our last pit stop was a big key point of the race. The other thing was when we ran out of gas, we didn't get a lap down and that was a big help too. But the last...

MATT KENSETH --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus

WHAT ABOUT THE LAST STOP?

"Yeah, our last pit stop was a big key point of the race. The other thing was when we ran out of gas, we didn't get a lap down and that was a big help too. But the last pit stop, to get two tires, our car really worked well on two tires today instead of four for some reason. It was actually faster on two, so when we got two that last time, I got clean air and got up front. I was able to pull away right away and that was a big advantage."

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus

WHAT ABOUT THE ROUSH CONSISTENCY THIS YEAR?

"We've had a building year. We're looking forward to an even greater 2003. We expect to bring virtually everybody back that's got key position in the teams and it's been just an awesome year. Matt's had the kind of year this year that he hoped to have last year, and, of course, it didn't work out for us. Mark's back on the trail. Kurt is certainly on a mission and Jeff Burton is renewed with his new crew chief and his testing program."

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN YOU RAN OUT OF GAS?

KENSETH: "I was in almost the worst place you can be when you run out of gas. It started, I was past the pit entrance obviously and I was almost to the start-finish line and it started faltering. It kind of kicked up again and faltered again and the engine was totally off by the time I got to turn two, so I had to coast all the way around. I slowed up extra getting on pit road because I didn't have a tach reading to get on pit road and I was scared of speeding, so I slowed up extra getting on there. So by the time I got to my pit, we were real slow. We basically stayed on the lead lap because we had a really fast four-tire stop. They did a good job of getting fuel in the carburetor and fuel in the fuel cell right away and getting it cranked up. And we had a fast car. I think we were leading at the time, even though it was through green flag cycles. But before the pit stops started I believe we were in the top five or thereabouts, so that's what kept us on the lead lap."

ARE YOU SURPRISED NOBODY ELSE TRIED TWO TIRES?

"The 2 car did and you've got to remember we were running third at the time, so it got us two spots and that's the two spots we needed. It's an advantage to be up front, but, still, if the tire wasn't like it was today, usually four tires will still prevail with 50 laps to go. Almost every time you'd rather have four tires and get by, but just for some reason, my car felt better on two. If track position wasn't an issue and I could get two or four today and only had 20 or 30 laps on my left sides, I'd rather have two because my car was faster on 'em. So, that's something that's never happened to me in my racing career, but that's how our car was today."

DID ROBBIE SAY ANYTHING WHEN YOU RAN OUT OF GAS?

"Sorry (laughing). No, he didn't say too much. He just told me where the leader was and I was able to get away from the leader a lot because he was in some traffic and I was able to put about a straightaway on 'em and then we caught a quick caution and got caught back up. We just concentrated and tried not to take our eyes off the target and tried to concentrate on getting some track position back. We lost a bunch doing that and we had to concentrate on trying to get it back and that's what we worked on."

THE 25 POINTS WOULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE TO MARK NEXT WEEK. YOUR THOUGHTS ON ANY APPEAL?

ROUSH: "Roush Racing's president Geoff Smith is really in control of this situation. I am so upset, so out of my mind, that I can't organize a decent thought that would be reasonable to set a strategy around. Geoff is looking at the thing, but, by my arithmetic, that's the third time something that was unwarranted and unjust and untimely has happened to me and I don't forget those things."

HOW CERTAIN WERE YOU IT WAS OVER AFTER RUNNING OUT OF GAS?

KENSETH: "I wasn't sure at all my day was done. Obviously, you're upset for a lap or two and you think about it a little bit, but, if you say my day is done and you give up, we wouldn't be sitting here. You just have to keep working. Obviously, it's frustrating and if we didn't get the car cranked back up and lost a lap and there was a quick caution, if we were a lap down it would have hindered our efforts, and it still did make it a lot more difficult for us to be able to pull off the win, so it was a little bit upsetting. But, yet, that is the first time since I've been with Robbie in '97 that he's ever run me out of gas, so that's a pretty good record."

WAS TRACK POSITION IMPORTANT OR CLEAN AIR IN BUILDING THE LEAD?

"It's a combination of many things, but the biggest thing that helped me get the big lead -- besides not having anybody in front of me for the first time all day -- was the tire situation. On two tires my car would really take off. Even on qualifying day here, if you'd run a lap and go right back out 10 minutes later, you'd run faster than you would on cold stickers, so it just seemed like the tires would take off when they were used like that -- at least for the first few laps. They'd give up a little at the end, but they'd take off right away. That was a big key. It still does help to be in the front. I had a great handling race car today, but when you got behind people you still had to really, really work hard to get by 'em. It would still make my car a lot, lot tighter than it was if I wasn't with anybody. So that's just kind of the nature of the beast and the way racing is today. It makes it tougher to pass, but, yet, if you can get your car to handle good enough you can still pass."

DID YOU TALK TO ROBBIE ABOUT THE FUEL SITUATION GOING TO VICTORY LANE?

"I was just joking with my guys, our jackman, Russ Strupp, he was the crew chief on our Busch car for a few years and when Jeff Vandermoss hurt his back, Russ came in and filled in as jackman. As it so happened with the way our Busch deal and everything went, that Jack and everybody brought him on full-time, so now he works for Roush Racing and he's our full-time jackman and fabricator in our shop. We were in Atlanta one time and we were leading the race in the Busch car and Russ was my crew chief. We were leading the race and I watched everybody pit and we were the last one out there, and he ran me out of gas. I give him a hard time about that. I've been teasing him about that for three years, so today I said we must have let Russ figure the fuel mileage. That's all I said. I was just giving Russ a hard time."

DO YOUR OTHER THREE CARS BECOME BLOCKERS NEXT WEEK TO GIVE MARK A BETTER CHANCE?

ROUSH: "The short answer to that is no. We are one race team that races four cars, but the feeling of fair play does pervade the team. If Tony Stewart wins by more than 25 points, we'll certainly celebrate his victory as we should, as being our champion going into next year and the guys, I'm sure, without any conversation, will give him every consideration to have clean track and an opportunity to do what he needs to do."

CAN YOU CHARACTERIZE THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS WITH THE BUSCH TITLE AND THE POINTS SITUATION?

"I feel like I'm 16 years old when I was a sophomore in high school and my most unfavorite teacher gave me a good conduct award. That's what a NASCAR championship means to me right now."

HOW DOES YOUR TEAM'S EFFORT BOOST YOU FOR NEXT YEAR?

"I don't want to sound greedy on this thing and I'm certainly not cocky. The year we had last year took me to my absolute knees. I was pretty sure I wasn't gonna be able to do this thing, but the way we've been running lately and after Kurt had won his two races, I was really looking forward to a sweep. I was disappointed. I was happy for Johnny Benson, but I was disappointed we were not able to win the last five."

WHAT'S IT LIKE TO WORK FOR JACK?

KENSETH: "It depends on the day (laughing). Really, we're one big team. I honestly have to say that everytime I've asked Jack for something, and it works this way for everybody on the team, if we need something and we have a good case to support it and it's something reasonable, he gives it to us. It doesn't matter what it costs or how hard it is to get, he gives us whatever we need to race and that's my favorite thing about Roush Racing. If we want to build a car and put the body on backwards, if we've got a good case to support why it will be better, he'll let us build it. We have a lot of freedom to do the things we need to do to be good race teams.

"Sometimes we maybe have a little bit too much freedom and that's why we had years like last year, but, yet, it helps us learn to have years like this year and we're hoping that with the combination we have right now -- it seems Jimmy (Fennig) and Robbie being in the same building with me and Kurt has really seemed to help the program out a lot. And with the addition of Randy Goss and Greg Biffle, I think it's gonna make the team stronger too. We have a great organization and everything is going really good right now."

ANY WORRIES THE LAST 20 LAPS?

"It's easy to say afterwards no and it's smooth sailing, but I always do. Two of these races this year -- Michigan we were leading with three to go and they threw a red flag. We ended up winning, which was good, and Rockingham in the spring we were leading with four to go and a yellow came out and they almost got a red flag out of it. So it's not over till it's over. I get real nervous on those restarts and even if you have a good-sized lead and you're winding down to the end of the race, until I see three or four to go, I don't get comfortable at all because I know that they'll still throw that red flag. Sometimes the red flag is good and sometimes a lot of bad stuff happens with 'em, so it kind of makes the leader a target. So I always worry about that more than anything."

YOU'LL HAVE THE MOST WINS THIS YEAR. HOW DOES THAT TRANSLATE TO A TITLE BID NEXT YEAR?

"I mean, we had several things that cost us points. If you look back, the single biggest thing is the driver making mistakes. I've been places and lost my head a little bit. I've been so excited about running good this year that maybe sometimes I've overdrove my cars and made some mistakes. Like at Watkins Glen, for instance, we probably had a third or fourth place car -- or better -- and I drove it into the sand trap on lap 10. That's just stupid, so those kind of things I have to be smarter with. We broke some parts and pieces earlier in the year that I think we learned from and made them better, so, hopefully that will be better. Hopefully, I'll make less mistakes and we'll make less mistakes as a team. It's all about the guy who is the most competitive, but it's also about the guy who is the smartest and can get his car to the end of the race every week."

HOW WILL YOU HANDLE THIS WEEK?

ROUSH: "Mark, from time to time, gets down on himself -- to the point of destruction, to the point of not being productive. We had talked a little about his dad today, about Julian Martin, before the race started in the hauler. I stuck my head over the window and made an unpleasant reference to the car. I said, 'Just treat it like Julian Martin was sitting beside of you today. Just go for it.' But, anyway, I'm just trying to keep Mark focused. It would be great if he could win another race. It would be great if he could close on Tony, but Tony definitely has got the edge and it's based on NASCAR's action and the way Tony and that team has run all year. They've been the best team and the 25 points wouldn't have reversed the standings right now, it would have just made it closer."

WHAT ABOUT ALL THESE WINS?

KENSETH: "I don't know how to explain this properly, but in the Busch Series after we won five or six races, I'd be pretty comfortable. I knew we'd go to the track and we'd be one of the cars to watch and we'd have a shot at winning and should be able to win three or four or five races a year, if we have an average year. I don't feel like that over here. It's so competitive and so tough. I'm still surprised with all the wins this year, but I'm still surprised we've won 'em. I'm real grateful for the wins, I'm real surprised and when I show up at the race track I don't think, 'Man, we can win this weekend.' I think about trying to qualify in the top 25 and I think about trying to run with the leaders and put ourselves in position to win. I don't have that comfort level over here where I think next week I'm gonna go to Homestead and qualify in the top 15 and be one of the leaders and have a shot to win. I don't have that comfort yet. It's just so competitive over here. Some weeks we run great, like Rockingham, we won the spring race. We showed up last week and finished eighth, but we didn't run that good. We were a 15th-20th place car all day and through good pit work and strategy we got an eighth-place finish. It's so easy to miss it a little bit and it's so competitive that I don't get too far ahead of myself. I still enjoy 'em when they come and just hope that more of 'em come."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Johnny Benson