Rockingham: Matt Kenseth winner's press conference

Matt Kenseth registered the second win of his NASCAR Winston Cup career and snapped a 59-race winless streak with today's triumph in the Subway 400. Kenseth, whose first NASCAR Busch Series win came here at Rockingham in 1998, registered his only...

Matt Kenseth registered the second win of his NASCAR Winston Cup career and snapped a 59-race winless streak with today's triumph in the Subway 400. Kenseth, whose first NASCAR Busch Series win came here at Rockingham in 1998, registered his only other Winston Cup triumph in the 2000 Coca-Cola 600. The win is the 524th for Ford in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, most among manufacturers, and the 54th all-time triumph for Taurus.

MATT KENSETH --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus

WHEN DID YOU FEEL YOU HAD A CAR THAT COULD WIN? "I felt like halfway through the race when we got out front a couple of times, I had some real good pit stops all day. When I got out in front in clean air, the first time I did that we were able to pull away from everybody so far that it kind of surprised me. I thought maybe we had a car to have a shot at it if we could be in the right position at the end. When we were behind, we were still pretty fast, but I struggled a lot more than when I was in the front. You're never sure. This is only the second one of these things I've been able to win and it's really difficult. There is a lot of competition and I wasn't really thinking about winning until the end of the race really."

WHAT ABOUT RUNNING IN CLEAN AIR? "I think everybody is gonna run somewhat better in clean air, but at Rockingham you kind of have to give up one end or the other. You usually give up the beginning of the run and you're good at the end, or you give up the end of the run and you're real fast in the beginning. Usually when my car starts out that fast, it's way too loose to run a long run and we did struggle with that a little bit. We kept tightening up the car all day, but when I got it too tight I was slow at the beginning of the run and the end of the run, so we just left it like that. I could really get away as far as I could and then try to hold onto that cushion."

WHAT ABOUT YOUR RESTARTS? "It helps when you're the first car in line to be able to get away, but we did have good gearing. We've been working on that the last couple of years trying to make it the best we can at every track, but you just have to be careful not to spin the tires. You could spin the tires pretty easy here because it's a slippery old place. I just tried to get the best run I could and try to restart at a different point everytime by that line -- a few feet one way or another to try to catch the guy behind me by surprise a little bit. The car was real stout on new tires."

WERE YOU SURPRISED THERE WAS NO RED FLAG AND DO YOU THINK IT WOULD HAVE MATTERED? "I knew there was five to go when I crossed the line. I knew in the Busch race last year they did a red-flag deal, but I think there were six laps to go and it was total chaos. They stopped us in turn three, started the cars and dumped us on pit road and it was chaos. The guy who led most of the day ended up losing the race at the end because of it. Like Jack said, you're asking for a recipe of a wreck. There wasn't enough laps, really, to pit for tires. Some of the back guys probably would have and it could have been a little challenging. I felt pretty good about being back in front. I felt like when I was in front of those guys on fresh tires I could definitely drive away from them and hold them off, and I felt like if I had clean air back on the car that was my best place to be. If I had to be somewhere, no matter what NASCAR ended up doing, the lead was definitely the place to be."

DID YOU NOTICE THE OIL ON THE TRACK? "I didn't really notice it. As I think back on it, I definitely saw him slow down and I definitely saw the track was dark up there, but I always feel like things don't go my way. When we had that last restart, I felt like the last 100 laps or so we had in control, and the way the restart went I just felt like we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time we were in the right place at the right time. My car would push behind those guys pretty bad and I was down in three and four trying to grab the apron getting in to turn me and all the oil was up in the middle of the track right exactly where Bobby and Sterling were both running. I was just lucky enough to be way down on the bottom where there wasn't oil."

HOW HARD WAS YOUR WINLESS STREAK? "I always wondered. I'll wonder that tomorrow if there ever will be a next one because you never know. It felt like 160 races. It felt like forever. When we won Charlotte so early, that's a pretty difficult race to win and it was such a great team effort win that race, and then we ran really well the next few weeks. I think we finished second at Dover and ran pretty good a couple of times and then, really, our performance just started dropping off. It continued throughout the next year until I felt like with eight or 10 weeks to go we started climbing the hill. I felt like we had bottomed out and were starting to climb the hill again. I was really pleased with our team and where we ended the year last year the last seven or eight races. We had a couple top fives and a couple top 10s and the times when we didn't get them, we were very competitive, so I was hoping we'd come back out of the box strong and keep bringing our performance up, so I felt real good about that."

ON A LONG RUN WOULD THE OTHER CARS CLOSE IN ON YOU? "Yes and no. They would close in on us on a long run, but there were 100 laps to go and nobody could make it 100 laps on fuel I don't think. I guess we could have gone two ways. At the time, I didn't think anybody could run 100 laps on fuel and I felt if we divided the thing in half, 50 is about where I was strong. I'd start dropping off at about 35 and usually would have a big enough cushion where the last 15 I could kind of hang on. I was hoping we'd divide the thing in half, but I don't know what they were thinking. Instead of putting in my two cents in the last 100 laps or so, I just let these guys take care of it. I was gonna trust whatever they wanted to do. I questioned them earlier in the race whether we should pit or not when we had six laps on our tires and all the leaders pitted. If we hadn't, we would have been a sitting duck, so after that I said, 'I'm just gonna let them call the race and do what they want to do.'"

WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR CHANCES AFTER GETTING BOXED IN WITH 20 TO GO? "Honestly, about zero. My car was real tight on that set of tires for some reason and I was behind the people and didn't have the air on the nose. I was having a real hard time turning, so I didn't feel real good about it at all. I got myself too far behind and there wasn't a lot of laps left. It was a miracle. I mean, everything went our way. The cars on the outside hit that oil and slowed down and just opened the thing right up for me. I was able to close some ground toward the end of that run and there was a possibility that maybe we could get in there and pass, but the way my car was driving behind cars, it would have been pretty difficult to pass those guys."

WHAT'S THE FEELING WHEN YOU LEAVE THE PITS WITH THE LEAD? "You're always really happy. It is a big advantage to be out front. Those guys work really, really hard and when we're able to have a race like this and we're able to pull off the win, they were a huge part of it. Like I said, without power pit stops we maybe could have still won the race, but maybe we wouldn't have either. It's definitely a team effort. You can't do anything in this business by yourself. It takes a whole bunch of quality people to be able to win these races and more power to those guys. They won the pit stop championship here last year, but that was just one pit stop. Today, they did eight or 10 of them and they were great everytime."

WHAT ABOUT YOUR CHANCES AT VEGAS? "I think our chances are okay. I feel like when we tested out there our car drove a lot like it did here. It was really fast on new tires. We didn't work on qualifying at all, but in race trim we'd run really fast on new tires for 15 or 20 laps. We need to work on long runs, but I feel real good about it. We have a car we built last year that performed really well for us at the end of the year and that's the car we're gonna bring back. I wish this week would have been the million, but I'm looking forward to going to Vegas. It's a great thing Winston and RJ Reynolds do for this sport and it's gonna be a lot of fun to give a fan a chance to win that money."

-ford racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth