Points leader Kenseth likes Michigan repave, not concerned about speeds

Ford Racing

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Fusion heads into Michigan as the Sprint Cup points leader after leapfrogging teammate Greg Biffle last weekend. Kenseth, who was the last driver to win a non-Chase championship, met with members of the media prior to the first practice session Friday at Michigan International Speedway.

Matt Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Matt Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

TALK ABOUT TAKING OVER THE POINTS LEAD AND THE TEST AND HOW YOUR CAR IS REACTING TO THE NEW SURFACE. “It is always nice to be leading in points I guess at this time of year. You want to be as far ahead of 10th as you can be and as we all know it gets ranked by wins in the Chase. We would really like to be picking up a few more wins but are happy where we are in the points. Most of our finishes – I feel like there are a few races we had fast enough cars to win but couldn’t finish the races off. Hopefully we get a couple more wins and stay where we are at in points and get into the Chase. As far as the track and the test, the track is continually changing. It is really nice and really fast. Hopefully they will get a second groove rubbered in. I am looking forward to getting back at it today and seeing what it is like today.”

IT SEEMS LIKE THE REPUTATION OF A REPAVEMENT IS BEING CHANGED. IS THERE NEW PROGRESS IN THE ART OF REPAVEMENT OR JUST THE FACT THAT WE HAD A REALLY GOOD POCONO RACE? “Well, I think once they are repaved it isn’t popular for us to say you don’t like the repavement – that is probably some of it. I will say that I was never really a big fan of Pocono. It was so rough and one groove and hard to pass. I thought they did a spectacular job repaving it and the racing was good. It felt like a whole new race track and facility we were going to, at least from being in the race car. I thought they did a spectacular job there and it was way better than we thought. I think if most people had their wish, especially tracks like this that you run four different grooves in the corner and sometimes up to five in the corner that you could choose. You probably would not repave it but it is a necessary evil and something you have to get done. Eventually it will turn back to a track something like what it was, maybe. I think you will get more grooves and the track is nice and it is fun to go out there. It is kind of funny testing, it is like a contest with your buddies, everyone goes out trying to bust off a lap faster than the next guy. Most weekends you go out there, at least me in practice, and you don’t care where you are on the board you just care about getting the car how you want it to drive and feel how you want it to feel. You get ready for the race and try to bust a lap in qualifying trim. It is fun to go out there and go that fast and see how much grip there is in the track. They have done a nice job repaving these tracks and it has been necessary to repave them. Most people will probably like it and I think we are all curious and anxious to see what the race will be like.”

IN NATIONWIDE PRACTICE THERE WAS SOME TALK ABOUT POSSIBLE TWO-CAR TANDEMS. DO YOU SEE THAT AS ANYTHING THAT MIGHT BE USED ON THE CUP SIDE? “If it is, I hope I am not part of it. For as fast as we are going on the straightaway we are still slowing down significantly for the corner. We are probably, I don’t know I guess you probably have access to the speeds, but we are probably 30 mph slower in the corner than the straightaway. That doesn’t really lend itself to restrictor plate type two-car tandem drafting. Now, when you get a run on somebody you have always been able to push each other down the straightaway here and make yourselves go fast. I am not sure if that will be as common as it used to. It depends what grooves there are. It used to happen more because there would be one guy at the bottom of the track 100 feet away from the guy at the top. The guy on the bottom goes through the corner faster and they would meet off the corner and they would kind of draft down the straightaway. I don’t think with the Cup cars you will have much of that.”

WHAT ABOUT YOUR PHILOSOPHY ON SPEED? “I think it depends a lot on the race track. Whenever I think about speed I just want my car to have more than everyone else. I don’t care what the top speed is at the track I just want to be faster than everyone else. A lot of that depends on the track. This has always been one of the faster tracks we go to and in my opinion always one of the better races because the groove gets really wide and you could run all over it. When you are at a place like Indy for instance that has one groove it is really hard to pass with those speeds. Here, with multiple grooves and going the same speed, it isn’t a big deal because you could find clean air for your car all over the place.”

DOES YOUR CONSISTENCY GIVE YOU A COMFORT LEVEL THAT YOU WILL BE A CONTENDER COME CHASE TIME OR DO YOU LOOK AT WHAT TONY STEWART DID LAST YEAR AND REALIZE THAT IT DOESN’T REALLY MAKE MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE COME SEPTEMBER? “Well, I guess a little bit of both. Early in the year I think you glance – I don’t pay close attention to the point but now and then you glance to see how far ahead of 10th you are if you are lucky enough to be ahead of 10th. That starts to maybe give you, as the weeks go on and you stay up there, it give you a little more confidence about making the Chase. You would like to gather some wins for some bonus points and once the Chase rolls around you realize that those 10 weeks is kind of another season. In those 10 weeks it is extremely important to be consistent and not make a big mistake and not lose a bunch of points. It is also important to run up front and be a contender to win and collect a win or two or three in the Chase to have a shot at the championship.”

GUYS DON’T SEEM THAT CONCERNED WITH THE SPEEDS. IS THAT A GOOD THING FOR A RACE CAR DRIVER TO FEEL THAT WAY? “I have never really sat around and thought about wrecking or any of that kind of stuff or getting hurt. I’ve never spent any time thinking about that other than getting your safety equipment as good as you can. I am not sure. I don’t know what would happen if a car spins out at the end of the front stretch and you are doing 217 mph. I don’t know and I don’t spend any time thinking about that. I think NASCAR is on that pretty good and I am not sure that it makes a lot of difference if you are doing 205 or whatever we normally do here or 215. I am not sure where that magic number is. When you are out there driving you can feel that you are going faster but if you didn’t have the telemetry and staring at the speedometer – you would know you are going faster but it doesn’t feel out of control or anything like that.”

WHAT IS IT ABOUT JACK ROUSH THAT MAKES HIM SO SUCCESSFUL? “Probably the biggest thing, especially when I first came over there and it is still like that, is that if there is anything reasonable that we needed for the cars – and sometimes it wasn’t very reasonable – he has given it to us. He does what he needs to do and given us what we needed to be competitive and race for championships. I think when you go drive for somebody that is what you look for. You look for how you think you can perform on the track and how they build their cars and do all that stuff. When I first went over there and got to hang with Mark (Martin) and got hooked up with Roush Racing, I could tell that Jack was 100-percent about the on track product.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE A GUY THAT IS LEADING THE POINTS OR A GUY THAT IS IN CONTENTION TO WIN EVERY WEEK? “There are some weeks you feel like you finished better than you ran but there have been a few weeks this year that has been the opposite. Last week I felt like under the right circumstances we had a car that could have won the race. We led with however many laps to go and felt like if we could figure out how to keep our car in front we would have a chance to win the race. Through our green flag stop and me sliding a little deep in the stall and restarting on the outside and hung in the middle, all that stuff happened and took us out of contention. I feel like we have cars that have been capable to win several times this year and haven’t been able to get that done. Talladega I thought we had a dominant car there and on that last restart Greg (Biffle) and I got separated and didn’t get a shot at that. I feel really good about my car performance and my team’s performance with strategy, pit stops and all that stuff. I just feel like there are a few races that we had an opportunity to win and didn’t win them. Hopefully we keep getting those opportunities and I will be able to figure out how to finish them off at the end of races.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth
Teams Roush Fenway Racing
Tags ford, kenseth, roush