Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Taurus, is part of the second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series group testing at Daytona International Speedway for next month's Daytona 500. He held a Q&A session in the infield media center to discuss the 2005...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Taurus, is part of the second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series group testing at Daytona International Speedway for next month's Daytona 500. He held a Q&A session in the infield media center to discuss the 2005 season.
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DeWalt Taurus
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS SEASON?
"The test isn't something I usually look forward to at Daytona because it's kind of long and we don't really do much. With all the new rules, we just kind of run around. I think it's more for the media and the fans, really, than it is for us, so I don't really look forward to the Daytona tests, except that I look forward to them being over because that means we can go test tracks where we can work on stuff and try stuff like the Vegas and California tests. We'll learn much more and have a much better idea of the year. This test doesn't really tell us what to expect for the year, but it does give us some indication of the speed of our car for Speedweeks.
"The stuff we did to both cars in the wind tunnel pretty much backs up to what they do on the track. We unloaded and ran our fastest laps right off the truck and just like everytime you come here, you can't really do anything to make it much faster. You just stay about the same speed or slow down a little bit it seems like. So, overall, I'm happy with that. Usually, you know what you have in the first two laps that you're out on the track. As far as that, I'm happy with that. I had a lot of fun testing here the week before with that prototype car. That was a lot of fun and a good learning experience, so I'm looking forward to a long Speedweeks."
WILL BRINGING OVER SOME BUSCH GUYS HELP RE-ENERGIZE YOUR TEAM?
"I don't know. It's all your perspective and how you look at it. I mean, we had a great year last year. When you win the championship, anything less is definitely a disappointment, but we won a few races, we won the all-star race, won a couple Busch races, IROC championship and a couple races. It was a great year when I sit back and look at it, so, yeah, do we want to do better? Yeah, you always want to do better. You want to win more races. You want to win a championship. That's the ultimate goal. Toward the end of the year we definitely did have fall off. That was the most disappointing part of the year is how we ended it. We had some personnel move around and change a little bit and I think that will help.
"I think every once in a while you have to mix it up and get some new blood in there and change things around and kind of get everybody energized. I think anything gets a little bit stale after a while no matter what you're doing, so it seems like everybody is excited, everybody is working good together. We have really nice looking cars. I'm really excited to go to the downforce tracks. Our speedway stuff, we ran better at Talladega than we have, I think, ever. We qualified in the top 10 there and we have that car back here and one new car, so our speedway stuff should be better than what it typically is, and I think our downforce stuff will be good. All of our cars, although they haven't been on track yet, have been really good in the wind tunnel as far as what we've seen in our company. Last year our cars weren't as good as the 6 and the 16 and some of them other guys. So far that stuff is looking good and I'm enthused about it."
WHAT HAS MARK MARTIN MEANT TO YOU AS HE GOES THROUGH HIS LAST YEAR?
"I don't know exactly what's going through his mind right now, but with eight weeks to go last year or six weeks to go last year, I was ready to quit, too. After a few weeks off and doing this, now you're ready to go again. I was thinking about it today actually thinking that he's probably sitting there today saying, 'Maybe I don't want to quit next year,' because Mark's really not that old and he's still running really good, so I don't know. Only that person knows what they're thinking and knows what they want to do and whether it's time or whether it's not time. Like Mark said, he's not gonna quit racing. I think he just wants to quit the 42-week grind and being gone every week, which is understandable. I think that's the toughest part is being gone, especially when you start getting to August and the end of the year.
"There's not even one off weekend in there and that's pretty tough to be gone every week, especially in his case with Matt being however old Matt is now and starting to race and doing that. I'm sure he wants to do more of that. I think Mark is still gonna do a lot of racing and be winning a lot of races, it's just not gonna be every week in Nextel Cup."
WHAT ABOUT THE DYNAMIC OF HAVING CARL IN THE SHOP?
"I don't think it'll change the shop a whole lot. With Carl being around that might help some of the guys and enthuse some of the guys some. When Mark is there the guys are real pumped up, but with Mark living in Florida he doesn't get to the shop very often. In the last year or so he's been there more than I've ever seen him, but if he's there once a month that's a lot. Jeff Burton was always there two or three days a week, I'm always there two or three days a week. I think it's good to stay connected to your guys and Carl is definitely more enthusiastic. It seems like he has a passion for this sport and a passion for life more than the average person. He seems real genuinely excited and thankful for the chance he has to go do this and I think that happiness and energy and glow rubs off on everybody and it probably will help everybody in the shop and it'll probably help us all as drivers, too. Carl is gonna be there all year this year, too, so that's not really gonna be something that's gonna change next year."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ROUSH RACING GOING FOR THREE TITLES IN A ROW?
"I think you've got to take one race at a time and one year at a time. Jack probably thought he'd never win a championship, much less two in a row, so right now we have really good equipment. We have great engines. We have some really good personnel and people over there and now is the time because everything works in cycles. We're not, as a group, always gonna be running good. Right now we are, even though we didn't run as good, maybe the 16 picked it up and ran good and the 6 and some of those guys. So all five teams ran really good at times last year and that's encouraging for another chance because we've got a lot of good teams over there."
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE KURT BUSCH ON DEFENDING HIS TITLE?
"Probably not much, unless he asks because I didn't do a very good job defending ours, but the main thing is that every person is different. Every person can handle things in a different way and I did too much stuff last winter, I did too much stuff in the spring, I did too much stuff in the summer. I kind of burned myself out. Although I don't feel like it really hurt my performance, but it made my job a lot less fun and I wasn't as enthusiastic at the end of the year as what I have been any other year. My whole team was kind of like that too at the end of the year, so I would definitely do things different from that aspect.
"I would try to save a little of my own time and some of the little extra things that I volunteered to do that I wouldn't have had to do, I maybe wouldn't have done to get rested up a little bit more. This winter, I don't think I left the house at all except to go up to Wisconsin a little bit and do our test down here and get ready for the season. I'm really enthused for the year, but that's the only thing that I can really think of is that it's easy to get caught up in all the outside distractions and maybe lose a little bit of focus with your job."
DO YOU FEEL MAKING THE TOP 10 IS A FOREGONE CONCLUSION OR DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE TO RE-EARN IT EVERY YEAR?
"A little bit of both. I think my team is a top 10 team and I think we have top 10 equipment. With that being said, I think there are 25 teams out there that are top 10 teams and have top 10 equipment, so a lot of it has to do with luck. I hate using that word, but good racing fortune, not having flat tires at the wrong time, getting wrecked, stuff breaking - whatever. A lot has to do with how you run every week and to be in the top 10, like it's always been forever, is about consistency and when you can be consistent. There are races I can think of where we were running in the top 10 and have a problem at the end and finish 35th. Those are the things that take you out of top 10s. You have to have those things go right for you. You saw that with McMurray at the end of the year. He put together a really good streak and was right up there the whole time at the end and they were capable of that all year, but just had problems here and there. That's the main thing.
"I think I'll have a better idea probably around Week 15 or somewhere in that range, whether you're pretty comfortable in the top 10 and whether things are going your way. It's weird because when things are going your way you can feel it - you can just feel like you're gonna be there and you're gonna have a chance at it. When things aren't going your way, it doesn't seem like you can do anything right and it's tough to get it rolling again. There are a lot of teams that are definitely capable of it. I think it has to do with how you get the year started. At least for us, that's been true. If we get the year started strong, we usually can carry that out for a good amount of time."
DOES THAT MAKE THE CALIFORNIA AND VEGAS TESTS MORE IMPORTANT?
"Everybody is different. For me, for some reason, my whole career if we start off strong we seem to run better most of the year - it seems like on a typical year. This year I think the tests out there are more important than any other year just because the spoiler change, I think, and other template changes are gonna be a bigger change than we've seen for quite some time. I haven't driven one of those cars with a smaller spoiler yet, but everybody that has has told me that it's very, very different and real unstable and hard to drive and tough to run side-by-side and get around anybody and that kind of stuff. I think it's gonna be different enough where those tests are gonna be important."
Continued in part 2