Continued from part 1 Matt Kenseth (continued) CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ROLEX 24 EXPERIENCE? "I'll be able to tell you more when the race is over, but I was here for a little over two days. It's weird when you have four drivers and the way...
Continued from part 1
Matt Kenseth (continued)
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ROLEX 24 EXPERIENCE?
"I'll be able to tell you more when the race is over, but I was here for a little over two days. It's weird when you have four drivers and the way they do the practice sessions and how big the track is, you really don't get much time in the car. You wish you had more. I probably had an hour and a half or maybe two hours total in that car in just a little over two days. It's been a fun experience so far. Believe it or not, I didn't know where the road course went out of the infield. I knew it went in at the end of pit road somewhere and I had no idea where the cars were, so it took me a while to get going.
"Kurt and I got a little bit more time than Greg, and I felt like we were both running pretty competitive to Scott Maxwell. We were still about two seconds off his fast lap, which sounds like a lot, but when we started, all three of us - Greg included - were about six seconds off and then five seconds off. So we've gotten that down a little bit more. There are two corners that I know I need to work on, but the rest all my stuff lines right up with his, but there are just two corners that are a little tough for me. It's been fun. It's a lot different. The cars drive like race cars should at a road course compared to ours. They're flat and drive like a go-kart and stop on a dime. They've got all the cool stuff like traction control and all kinds of crazy stuff on them, so they're a lot of fun to drive. It's a lot different than what we're used to and it's fun to follow a lot of those guys around that have road course experience because it gives me some ideas that might help me a little bit when we go to Sears Point and Watkins Glen."
IS THERE STUFF YOU CAN LEARN FOR CUP?
"The cars are a lot different, but I think anytime you get more experience on a road course and doing something different it helps. But the cars are a lot different. They've got sequential shift, you can hold it wide open when you shift because they're all computerized. They've got traction control and all that stuff, so it doesn't drive at all like a Cup car. It's totally opposite because they're so light and wide and handle so good and our cars don't handle good at those tracks, but it does help you on your line and maybe some of the technique that you'd use."
DO YOU EXPECT JIMMIE JOHNSON TO HAVE ANOTHER DOMINANT STRETCH LIKE LAST YEAR?
"I said this last year at this time, too, but I think Jimmie is still the favorite. I think he's the favorite for the championship. I think he was last year and I think he is this year. It's hard to say, if you had the old system they say Gordon would have won the championship, but Jimmie's team would have done things a lot different if it would have been the old system. It's hard to argue that they didn't have the best car all year on average and ran the best overall at all the tracks. They did an awesome job at all the tracks, so I think that he's kind of the favorite again in my mind. He does great with Chad and they run good every week.
"Jimmie is extremely smart and doesn't make very many mistakes at all and when you put those things together - you've got a fast car with a driver that doesn't make mistakes and they do the right things on pit road - that's tough to beat. Every year the gap, to me, gets tighter and it gets more competition to where it's tough for one guy to pull away, but, in my mind, he's still the favorite."
IS THERE ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT WITH THAT NEW CYLINDER HEAD?
"I think there's always room for improvement in everything that we do. I think they're making engines a little better. I think it's a little different this year with the gear rule. I think that will hopefully help us because we couldn't run some of the gears that some of the Chevy teams could, so that's gonna even the cars up once again. Everytime they make a rule it's to try to get everybody closer to the same and I think they're definitely doing that."
WHAT ABOUT THE STAR-STUDDED CAST OF DRIVERS IN THE ROLEX 24 AND DO YOU WHAT THINK ABOUT ROBBY GORDON BEING AN OWNER/DRIVER?
"The Rolex race is pretty cool when you see all the drivers in there. Some of the drivers I recognize all their names, but I don't know all the legacy and history to it as much as I probably should. Besides stock car racing, I watch racing a little bit here and there, but I don't really pay much attention to the Indy car stuff and the CHAMP car stuff and all that - and the road race stuff - that much. So a lot of those guys I don't even know or heard of, but definitely all the big names that you see there and have run it before are the guys you're going to get to race against. The weird thing is that with three and four driver teams, you never know who you're out there racing against. You see the car, but you have no idea who is in it. It's definitely something different. It's something I'm looking forward to. It's my kind of thing where I can do an endurance race and run a long time.
"I think it'll be a lot of fun to work with Greg and Kurt and Scott Maxwell. It's the first time I met him and he's the nicest guy you can meet and has been really helpful, too. That's gonna be fun. As far as owning my own team, my dad and I started racing - I guess I was 13 when he bought his first race car - and he raced for a few years and then I started racing with him. A lot of the times we'd go to the track and only be able to buy two tires because we couldn't afford to get four and everybody else had four new tires. We did all that stuff, so I worked and didn't have a lot of money. I worked when I could and pitched in as much as I could to go racing when I was back in my teens and early twenties. I remember the first time I drove for somebody else and raced their car and didn't have to pay for tires and didn't have to pay for anything I wrecked. He actually gave me a little money to drive his car and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world and I said I would never own a car again. Right now, I still have no interest in owning cars. I think it's cool to drive other people's stuff and actually get paid to do it, instead of having to have several jobs to be able to support it."
WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE CHASE LAST YEAR THAT YOU CAN TAKE THIS YEAR?
"I think two things. I think one thing we did wrong is we saved all of our tests for the end. It sounds like a really smart plan, but when you get to running bad it's kind of like here. If you unload here and you're a second off, you're not gonna fix your car while you're here. It's just not gonna happen. I think when you let your performance decline in the middle of the year and just think you're gonna show up and test at the end of the year and make everything better and go out and run up front and win again and have a shot, I think that was naïve of us to think that. When we started not running as good as we knew we could in the summer months, we should have started using some of our tests and got back to running good. So that's one thing I would definitely do different. The other thing that goes with it is I've seen Jimmie and those guys try different things and drop out. Like at Watkins Glen, trying different transmissions and doing different things like that. If it was us and watching kind of what happened to them, I don't think I'd want to do that either. I think momentum is really important. Whether it's going into the season, your momentum ending the year last year, the momentum going into the chase I think is important from watching the way everything went down last year.
"I think you want to start off the year strong and I think you want to end the deal before the chase strong, too. I don't think you want to have weak moments during the year. I think you still want to race like every point matters toward the end of the year. I think you want to run the best you can every week and not try stuff and drop out because it's like anything, even if you drop out because you know you're experimenting, you still dropped out and didn't get to finish the race and didn't get to learn things and didn't get a good finish. No matter what, if there are points or no points, whenever you finish bad you feel bad about it."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE NEW PROVISIONAL RULES?
"I don't even know what it is, to be honest with you. I haven't kept up with the news too much. I know they did something different there. I don't know if it will help us or hurt us. I think we have a past champions provisional no matter what, so I don't think it will matter but I'm not even really sure what it is to be honest with you."
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES IN BEING A CHAMPION NOW TWO YEARS AFTER THE FACT?
"I don't feel any different. I don't really think about it that much. I guess when I think about it now I try to use it as a motivator more than anything. To me, if you did it and we didn't do it last year, it's a letdown. I'll really care someday when you look back at the records and you see that you were one of the thirtysome people or whatever it was that won one of those championships, that's a really big accomplishment and it's really cool, but it really doesn't mean anything today because it's a new year and it's a new race coming up.
"It's a new championship season, so what you did yesterday doesn't matter in this sport that much. You don't really get a reward or a penalty for what you did last week or last year. I don't feel much different. I feel like we want to do it again and we want to be successful now because when you don't run good and we finished the year last year, that hurts more than it felt good to win the championship and to go into the year strong because we're still doing it. Maybe someday when you retire, you'll look back on it and have a different perspective of that, but the bad days feel worse than the good days feel good for some reason. So you definitely want to try to keep working hard and keep your eye on the ball to be able to try to do it again."