This Week in Ford Racing April 1, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, will head to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend leading the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings by 155 points over...
This Week in Ford Racing
April 1, 2003
NASCAR Winston Cup
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus, will head to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend leading the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings by 155 points over teammate Kurt Busch. Kenseth was one of this week's guests on the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference.
Part 1 of 2
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Power Tools Taurus:
WHAT'S BEEN BEHIND YOUR CONSISTENCY?
"So far we've just really had competitive race cars, really fast cars that we can be up towards the front to contend. We've had some good luck and we've had some things go our way. Knock on wood, so far we haven't had any parts failures or accidents or made any mistakes that would cost us a really good finish. When we haven't had things go exactly our way and got laps down through pitting or whatever, we've had fast enough cars to be able to get those laps back and get us back in a good position."
OTHER THAN RUNNING CONSISTENTLY, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE TO DO TO MAINTAIN YOUR SPOT IN THE POINTS?
"Really, run consistently. I think you said it, because that's what it's about - being consistent. The first thing, though, before being consistent is, I think, you have to be competitive. You can't run 17th or 18th consistently and challenge for a championship. You have to have a top- 10 car pretty much every week and you have to be able to be consistent and smart and not have parts fail and things like that so you can get those finishes every week. There have been years, like last year, where the average finish of the champion wasn't really that great, but then there have been the years, like when Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte won it, where the average finishing position has been seventh or eighth. That's what you have to do is get top-10s pretty much every week."
AS FAR AS THE SITUATION WITH JEFF GORDON AND THE CAUTION FLAG ON SUNDAY. WOULD YOU DO THE SAME THING OVER AGAIN?
"To be honest, I didn't see Jeff coming. If I would have seen Jeff coming to beat me to the line, I would have gotten back in the gas and raced him to the line and the 97 and 21 wouldn't have gotten their laps back. I don't really understand that call, but it's not my place to understand it. I've seen it in the past where there have been cautions and somebody has taken advantage of that, which probably isn't the right thing to do, and passed the leader and actually took the lead and they left him in the lead and let him restart. I don't really know what went on there. I'm in a different position, the way I look at, because I was the leader. I understand Jeff's frustration in not wanting to give the 97 his lap back. I didn't want to either from a racing aspect because we're trying to race him for points, but I saw him (Gordon) do the same thing last year with the 48 car or the 25 car when they'd need help. When you have such a big team with all the teammates we have, it's tough sometimes when you're racing against them, but you need to do the right thing as far as being a teammate. If I'm in that position later on in the year and he's leading (Busch), which he leads a whole bunch of races, I hope he'll return the favor."
HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE DEI CARS WHEN YOU GO TO TALLADEGA?
"You try to treat it as any other race from the aspect that you try to go as fast as you can and do all the right things to try to get a good finish. But when you do go there, you know that the DEI cars always seem to have an advantage there. It seems like the Chevrolets always run good at the restrictor plate tracks and the DEI cars, especially, really seem to have their stuff figured out when it comes to those tracks. So when I go to Daytona and Talladega I honestly don't think about winning with our Cup cars, although the last two times we've been at plate races we ran much, much better. I usually think about missing the big wreck and having ourselves in a decent position at the end of the race to get the best finish we can out of it."
IS THERE A TEMPTATION TO DRIVE MORE CONSERVATIVELY WHEN YOU LEAD THE POINTS?
"It's funny, I'm not smart enough to figure out how to do anything different as far as points go. I think the only way you can do it is run as hard as you can and get the best finish you can. I don't think that you can lay back. I've seen years, I think the year Bobby won the championship, that was when we had the spoilers on the roof and everything. It was real hard to lose the draft and it was real easy to catch up, but he was laying back in the pack and the wreck happened all the way in the back and he got in it. The safest way to avoid a wreck is to be in front of it, which is easier said than done, but I just think you need to go there and run as hard as you can. I think as soon as you start being conservative and let your guard down, and don't race the way that you instinctively want to race, that's when trouble can happen."
ARE YOU GUYS AT ROUSH UNDER UNOFFICIAL ORDERS TO GIVE TEAMMATES THEIR LAPS BACK AND WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE IDEA OF GIVING A LAP BACK IN GENERAL?
"I don't even want to go there on the one about not racing back to the yellow, but the lap back thing is a really difficult thing to figure out what to do. In the past, years and years ago, nobody ever gave laps back. I mean, you raced those guys hard all day long and why should you let them back on the lead lap when they can maybe beat you at the end of the race? I learned some lessons last year with doing that while I was leading. I let somebody get their lap back and they actually beat me at the end of the race, so I'm not a big proponent of giving people their lap back because you do race hard to get them a lap down. On the other hand, when you have a teammate and you're in the same shop with them and he does you favor at times, which he's done me favors at times, it's tough not to give them their lap back and do the right thing as far as teammates. We're trying to work together and share information. We're all going for kind of a common goal to try and win at Roush Racing and do the best we can and I just felt like my duty as a teammate was to do the right thing and let my teammates get the lap back. If it would have been somebody else different, if it would have been Jeff Gordon trying to get his lap back and I knew I was gonna have to race him all year - I hope I'm gonna have to race him all year for a championship - I wouldn't have let him have his lap back. It's just that some people started giving everybody their laps back and some people don't give anyone their laps back. I just try to basically keep it to teammates or if somebody has done me a big favor in the past - like on a restart or something like that - I think that's something you have to take into consideration."
ISN'T IT POSSIBLE THAT YOU COULD BE CREATING A DANGEROUS SITUATION BY SLOWING DOWN AND LETTING A CAR THAT MIGHT BE A HALF-LAP BEHIND GO SPEEDING BY TO GET A LAP BACK?
"The situation I was in at Texas was not at all dangerous and they were not that far behind. I was still in the gas off of turn four. I slowly rolled off the gas and they were a little bit behind. There wasn't a lot of traffic at the line. There was no immediate danger because it was me and Jeff and then we were a long ways ahead of anybody else. Jeff Burton was real close to me and Kurt Busch was fairly close, so I just slowed down and pulled to the bottom of the track. I didn't get all the way out of it; I just slowed up and pulled to the bottom. Obviously, that's something to take into consideration, but with happened at least on Sunday, there was no danger."