MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion (Finished 8th), Points Leader "It feels good leading the points. It's five points, but it's still five points. I feel good about that. My team has been doing a great job this year and we've been able...
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion (Finished 8th), Points Leader
"It feels good leading the points. It's five points, but it's still five points. I feel good about that. My team has been doing a great job this year and we've been able to steadily pick away at Jimmie's lead a little bit here and there and was able to finally get it last week. It feels good to get it, but the main thing is to try and not give it back. I'm happy with what we've done the first 26, but the ones that count are coming up now."
DO YOU HAVE TO DRIVE DEFENSIVELY AT LOUDON SO YOU DON'T FALL OUT RIGHT AWAY?
"No, it's the same as any other race. First of all, you can't get eliminated in the first race of the chase. It's impossible, and not just mathematically, it's just impossible. If you finish last in the first race of the chase and have a good last nine, a good solid run in the top five every week, you're still gonna have a shot at the championship. Kurt finished 42nd or something in Atlanta during his run, so you don't have to perfect every race, you've just got to go out and do the best job that you can do each and every week - go out and try to win, try to lead laps, get the best finish out of your car and team and everybody will allow you to get each and every race. I don't look at one race being more important than any other. I got to every race to try to win and gain as many points as you can."
CAN YOU HANDICAP YOUR COMPETITION FOR THE CHASE?
"I can't even really do that. Any of the 10 could get on a roll. It would be easy to look back and look at the season and say, 'It could be this guy. He's not running good enough, but this guy is on a tear right now.' It's just hard to say. There are 10 weeks and 10 different kinds of race tracks and you just don't know. Three weeks ago you didn't think Kasey Kahne was gonna be in the chase, and now he won a couple of races and has been running up front and is right back in it and is on a hot streak. So you've got somebody like him that could come in and stay on that streak and be the guy to beat. You just don't know. I guess the easiest one to say would be the 48 is one you'd worry about beating because every year for the last three or four years they've been the guy, I think, to beat and has been leading. But everybody in the top 10 right now has been performing the last couple of months. If you really look back at it and think about it, all of those guys have been performing. Jeff Burton has been sitting on poles and leading tons of laps and being right next to winning. All of those guys have been running up there, so I think all of them got an equal shot today."
IS IT SIGNIFICANT TO BE IN FRONT AT THIS POINT?
"It's important. I mean, who knows how many points are gonna decide the championship at the end of the year. Who knows? It could be two and it could be 200. Who knows? When you look at the point standings right now before they reset them, but from fifth to 11th it's not very much - it's maybe 30 or 40 points, something like that - and I think eighth, ninth and 10th is like three points. So ask those guys how important five points is here and five points there. It all adds up and that's in 26 races, so in 10 I think that every point is gonna be important."
THOUGHTS ON TONY GETTING KNOCKED OUT?
"I don't really know what all went on in the race, really, so I don't know if they just didn't run good. I don't really know what happened. Tony started the year off real strong and I thought he was gonna be the guy to have to beat for the championship again for sure. They started off like that. With him getting hurt at Charlotte and having some other problems here and there, I didn't even really think of it until the race was over to be honest with you because when you think of Tony, you think of him winning championships and being in there. I haven't really watched the points close enough the last few months to know it was that close up through there. I knew Kasey had a shot at it, but I thought he was the only one mathematically possible, so when everybody was kind of talking about for something to talk about, I didn't really realize it was quite as close as it was or one of those guys was gonna have that much trouble."
HOW DO YOU APPROACH THE LAST 10 RACES?
"Just try to keep it going. I think the important thing is not to over-analyze. I know that's what we all try to do, but if you look at how Tony won it last year. I don't know how many races, he won four races or something during the season, and then in the last 10 he didn't win one but he was really consistent. They ran up front, didn't make mistakes, didn't drop out, didn't break parts and do all that stuff, so I still think you've got to do the best you can every week. You can't drop out, you can't make mistakes, you can't do all that, but it's not really that different than what we've always done. You just have a shorter period of time to recover from a mistake, but it's still about taking that 10 races and being the guy who finishes highest on average in them 10 races. That's what we've got to do is just go out there and try to finish as high as we can every week."
DO YOU PLAN ON ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH MARK?
"I don't know, what would we talk about? I don't really know what you do to help each other or really hurt each other. I don't really know. Everybody talked about last year the five of us being in there, but it might be more productive to have two in there. I don't know. The helping each other goes on during the week. It goes on when you get to the track, sharing information, sharing car builds, sharing wind tunnel information, working together talking about your setups during the weekend - that's when the teammate thing helps. It doesn't really help on the race track. You're still out there to get the best finish that you can. You're not gonna give up a position to give your teammate one, that's not the way this sport works. So the teammate thing is really during the week. We're still gonna work together with everybody the same, regardless of where we are in points. Me and Greg - all five of us work really good together, but we're still gonna work together and race together and work on our cars the same as we always would."
IT'S THE THIRD STRAIGHT WEEK A DRIVER HAS WON THE BUSCH AND CUP RACE. DOES IT HELP THAT MUCH?
"I don't know, but I'm gonna keep running them Busch races and try awfully hard. I don't know. That's pretty cool. Katie told me that when I got out of the car and I didn't really think about it. That's pretty cool. I think it's just a coincidence. I don't think it's any more than that. Harvick's won, it seems like he's won half the Busch races this year, so if he wins a Cup race you've got a pretty good chance that he won the Busch race, too. I think it's kind of a coincidence. The cars are enough different and it was an impound race this week, so running the Busch race it's not like you learned something about, 'Well, I raced that set of shocks and it worked great, let's put it on the Cup car.' It's an impound race, our car has been locked down before the Busch race anyway, so it's probably more coincidence than anything else."
SHOULD WE MAKE ANYTHING OF THE MANUFACTURER BREAKDOWN?
"Not really, I don't think. I think that all the manufacturers are honestly pretty even. I think there are more Chevys in it because there are more Chevys in the garage. There aren't a lot of Fords in the garage today. I think with the common templates and all the stuff they've got going, really the only thing different are some character lines and the nose piece and the tail piece - and the tails aren't enough different to even talk about, so it's really just the nose piece and some looks and, obviously the engine, so I feel good about the Ford. I think the Fusion is a great car. I'm very happy with the balance and all the stuff it does. I know some of the Dodge teams have been struggling with this model, but then there have teams like Kasey that have had it nailed more times than not, so I think they're all really pretty even."
DO YOU HAVE AN EDGE HAVING BEEN IN THE CHASE ALL THREE YEARS?
"I hope so, but probably not, but I hope so. I don't know. All of those guys that made it are good. You look, Jeff didn't make it last year and he made it this year and he's won four championships, so I'm pretty sure he knows how to get it all done. It all starts with having fast cars. You can make the chase, but if your car will only run 15th or 18th every week, you're probably not gonna win a championship. If you make it and your car is running up front and you've got good pit stops and you don't have many problems, you might have a shot at it. So I think it's still more about that than anything else."