Rockingham II: Ford - Matt Kenseth interview

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, will start tomorrow's Pop Secret 400 with a 228-point lead over second place Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. Kenseth spoke about the possibility of clinching...

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, will start tomorrow's Pop Secret 400 with a 228-point lead over second place Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings. Kenseth spoke about the possibility of clinching the championship this weekend and how he has approached the last few weeks of the season.

MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus

ARE YOU HUNGRY TO CLINCH THIS CHAMPIONSHIP BY WINNING THE RACE ON SUNDAY?

"Obviously, that would be a good ending to it. That would be pretty cool if that could happen, but, really, we go every weekend trying to win. We're doing everything we can do. This has been a good race track for us. It would be really special if everything did work out for us this weekend. I know there's a possibility it couldn't, but if it did, it would be really special. We got our first Busch Series victory here with Robbie and I together and a lot of the guys that are still on our team were on the team that day, so this place has a lot of meaning and it would be a cool place for it to happen if it does."

HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BEING THE LAST WINSTON CUP?

"A little bit, but to be honest, I've tried not to sit around and think about everything too much because I don't like to count my chickens before they hatch. I like to get everything over and then think about that stuff. I think everybody wants to win the last Winston Cup. That's pretty cool. They've been here for 33 years and have done tremendous things for this sport. Everybody appreciates everything they did and it's gonna sound weird not being NASCAR Winston Cup racing because that's what it's been for so long."

TONY STEWART SAID HE GAVE YOU SOME ADVICE A FEW WEEKS BACK. HAVE YOU TAKEN ANY OF THAT TO HEART AND HAS IT HELPED?

"Yeah. I never really changed my approach all year, but there have probably been times where we got a long ways ahead (in the point standings) and was maybe thinking that I shouldn't take risks - not on Sunday, but maybe I shouldn't be out running my Busch car because I have a chance of getting hurt or maybe I shouldn't ride my motorcycle this week. When we kind of had those couple bad weeks and I talked to Tony, I kind of threw all that out the window and went back and lived like I always lived. I rode my motorcycle to Martinsville for the test even though it was raining. I ran my Busch car whenever we needed to run, so I think the main thing was to do everything like you've always done it. I think that was the main point to the story - relax and enjoy yourself during the week so you don't drive yourself crazy, but then go to the race track and act like you've always acted to get to this point and everything will be fine."

SO YOU RIDE YOUR MOTORCYCLE REGULARLY?

"I don't do it any different than I ever would. If I feel like it, I do. If I don't feel like it, I don't. I went back to being exactly like I always have and haven't really let myself get too caught up in the points deal."

HOW DOES JACK FEEL ABOUT THAT?

"I don't know. I don't think he knows that I do (laughing)."

IS THERE ANYTHING DIFFERENT ABOUT JACK AT THIS STAGE? ANY SORT OF ANTICIPATION OR BEING UPTIGHT?

"Maybe a small amount, but not much. Jack is a really good owner as far as he lets us do what we want. Whatever we think is right, if we believe in it, he'll let us do it. He never really tells us what we can and can't do. He's maybe been around a little more, but he hasn't really acted weird or sat down and talked to me about it. He's just kind of letting us go about our business and do what we need to do. I'm sure if he thought we were really messing up, he would come over and talk to us about it, but he really hasn't said much."

YOU ALWAYS SEEM SO CALM. ARE YOU FEELING ANY PRESSURE?

"It's hard to explain. There's a certain amount of pressure there, but more than pressure I would say there's anxiety that something could go wrong. Anything could happen, but it might not happen. There may be a little bit of that, but I've always tried to approach racing the same way, whether I'm racing at a local Friday night race in Wisconsin or if I'm racing at Rockingham this weekend in a Winston Cup race. I just try to approach it the same and try to get everything we can out of the car and just do the best we can every week."

IS IT ANY HARDER TO GET TO SLEEP ON SATURDAY NIGHT?

"It hasn't been too bad. We race so many race and especially after I had that Talladega and Kansas deal, I realized then that it doesn't do any good to worry about it. Worrying doesn't help you. All it might do is hurt you and it's just not gonna help you, so I think you just have to wake up in the morning and do the best job you can do. Wherever that ends up, it ends up."

TWICE IN THE BUSCH SERIES YOU AND JUNIOR HAVE BATTLED DOWN TO THE WIRE AND HE WON BOTH TIMES. IS THIS POETIC JUSTICE IF YOU WIN THIS TIME?

"If we do happen to win it, I would really hope that he finishes second just because we've raced together a lot. It's not a jealousy thing or a rub-it-in-your-face thing or anything like that at all. We raced together in the Busch Series and had a great time. I had so much fun when we ran first and second, or he would win a race and I'd finish third, or I'd win a race and he'd finish fourth. In the Busch Series we were so competitive all the time. Over here it's been a lot different. Even this year it's been a little different because as much competition as there is, you can race all year for a championship but there might be a day where he wins and I finish 12th. There might be day where I run third and he runs 18th, but we're still running for points. In the Busch Series we were always in the top six or seven every single week when we were racing for that thing, so it's a little bit different but it's been a lot of fun racing against him. We basically started the Busch Series at the same time and we both moved up to Winston Cup at the same time. Our careers have had a lot of parallels that way, so it's especially fun racing with him."

WAS THE KANSAS DEAL A WAKE-UP CALL WITH THE BACK-UP CAR NOT BEING PREPARED?

"I don't think it was really a wake-up call because I don't think we were ever really relaxed or ever sleeping. That was just kind of getting too far ahead of ourselves. That was actually our Phoenix car that we ran last weekend. It was ready to go for Phoenix and we were just way ahead of ourselves and, in Robbie's defense and our defense, in the four-and-a-half years we've been doing this deal that was the first time we had to roll a back-up out of the trailer. We probably didn't have all of the back-up cars prepared to go on the race track that particular weekend. It's a car that could have been real competitive, but it needed a lot of work and it was hard to get it on the track in an hour. It would have been ready to go in three hours, but it was hard to get it ready in an hour. We probably learned a lesson from that, knowing you have to be more prepared because whenever you're not prepared, that's when you're gonna need it."

IT TOOK BOBBY ALLISON SO MANY YEARS TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP AND THIS IS YOUR FOURTH. HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT YOU'RE GETTING READY TO ACCOMPLISH?

"I have a little bit, but I haven't that much. I've been trying really hard not to get too far ahead of myself and get thinking about something that there's a still a possibility it couldn't happen. If it happens, I'll think about all that stuff. I'll sit this winter and I'll really enjoy it and compare it to a lot of things and it'll be really special, but until that happens I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. Even though we are in a really great position to win it, you still don't want to set yourself up for too big of a letdown, so I try not to get too far ahead of myself."

HOW HAS IT BEEN TO DEAL WITH THE THINGS OUTSIDE OF RACING - LIKE YOUR TRIP TO L.A. AND NEW YORK THIS WEEK OR THE BANQUET NEXT MONTH?

"It really hasn't been bad because nobody has really said that much to me. There are a few planning issues here or there that you have to do far enough ahead of time so you're ready for things, but as far as things that just involve me, I didn't really have to do very much. I haven't really had to talk about it much. I haven't really done anything ahead of time acting like you're champion before you are so I've never done any of that stuff. They've been real easy to work with that way. With the Homestead week being the way it is, I'm sure there is a lot going on there. I'm sure if we do win it there will be a lot going on for banquet week and all that, but so far everyone's been real good about that. Any kind of plan that's been happening further ahead of time, like some things that came up at Martinsville or for the banquet, the people at Roush have been planning all that stuff.

"I haven't even known about it or asked about it or wanted to know about any of it. I've just been staying out of all that because I feel like if I'm involved in that it's kind of like getting ahead of yourself."

HAVE YOU BEEN DOING ANYTHING EXTRA AS FAR AS EQUIPMENT THE LAST FEW WEEKS?

"We've got all the stuff we should need. I think we saw that at Kansas when we crashed. We were running 43rd and had to cut the whole front end off the car, put a radiator, put a nose, fenders on it, fix the hood. I mean, they had to make it so it was competitive and it ran real competitive laps after that and we gained seven or eight spots for me. That's a big difference because that's 20-some-odd points, so I think they're really prepared. If bad situations happen, they'll get the best the can out of it."

DO YOU LOOK BAD AND WONDER WHY YOU'VE HAVEN'T HAD MANY BAD DAYS THIS YEAR?

"Maybe I will in a week or two, hopefully, if everything works out, but I really haven't. I've been looking at each week. We usually have a meeting after we get done with one week and really the whole meeting is about what we can do better. 'OK, we did this but how could we make that better next time,' and we try to improve every time we go back. We have had some bad days. We've had a couple of really bad days and we've had some days where we've definitely been off and still salvaged halfway decent finishes out of it. But mainly we just keep trying to work to get the stuff better because if you don't everybody in the garage is gonna pass you."

ARE YOU HAPPIER FOR YOURSELF OR ROBBIE?

"That's hard to say. If it does happen, I'll be happier for the guys on the team and for everybody that has been at Roush for 15 years - for Robbie for building this team and the Busch team. I'm sure if it happen I'll have a sense of accomplishment and I'll be really happy, but I'll be happier for the people that have put forth all the effort and have been here for so long to build it where it's at."

WISCONSIN IS PASSIONATE ABOUT RACING. HOW MUCH RESPONSE HAVE YOU GOTTEN FROM THOSE PEOPLE?

"As far as the points thing, I've stayed away from that a little bit just like I keep saying - until it's over. If it's over, I'll probably see more and do more things up there. Even last year when we started being more competitive and winning races, the response in Wisconsin was really cool. The people from Wisconsin are kind of a unique breed because almost everybody from Wisconsin is a huge Green Bay Packer fan. I'm sure everybody is not a Matt Kenseth fan who is a race fan, but they have been very supportive when we've run bad and they're very supportive when we run good. They've been there the whole time and it's a cool group of people. Every winter we go up there and do a fan club party for them and get to see all the people and hang out with them for four or five hours. That's something we've done every year and every year it's gotten bigger. It's fun to see all the support."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Matt Kenseth
Teams CIP