Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, and Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, held Q&A sessions prior to practice on Friday. *** MARK MARTIN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion -- DOES YOUR POINT STANDING MAKE YOU FEEL ...
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, and Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, held Q&A sessions prior to practice on Friday.
MARK MARTIN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion --
DOES YOUR POINT STANDING MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT THE FACT YOU'RE NOT ON THE SIDELINES THIS YEAR? "I really wasn't gonna feel bad about taking it easy, but I tell you probably the best thing about 2006 is the opportunity to work with AAA on important issues like teen driving safety and driving safety in general. Safety is priority one on the race track and is sometimes forgotten on the roadways, but it should be priority one on your personal driving as well and I get a chance to do a lot of work with AAA on that."
THOUGHTS ON THE SOFT FRONT BUMPER. "I haven't seen any veterans causing any wrecks bump drafting, so I think that people are gonna forget that they don't have the cow-catchers in the front end and I think that should be part of the interest to the race is the guys that tear their car up and forget. It doesn't matter if we're bump drafting or not because we're still gonna wreck. You have to put these cars in holes that aren't there and sooner or later somebody is gonna put one somewhere where it won't fit and, unfortunately, that's the nature of the business here with restrictor plate racing."
IS IT FEAST OR FAMINE FOR YOU HERE? YOU'VE WON HERE AND THEN HAD YEARS LIKE LAST YEAR WHERE YOU DIDN'T COME OUT OF HERE WITH THE CAR IN ONE PIECE. "And the year before and the year before, so that's just the nature of the beast. I wrecked running fourth last year for crying out loud and a couple of years ago I qualified ninth and wrecked at the start of the race because Newman had a tire go down at the start, which is freaky. You can be anywhere and wreck. That's why I refuse to ride around in the back because you can wreck in the back of these things too and I would just be mad if I was gawking around in the back and got in a wreck, so I might as well just be going as good as I can go."
JUNIOR'S PAINT SCHEME IS BLACK. WILL YOU BE AWARE OF SEEING THE TRIBUTE TO DALE OUT THERE?
"In the garage I will."
BUT IT WON'T AFFECT YOU OR BRING BACK A MEMORY ON THE TRACK? "It'll be Dale Jr. That's who it will be."
ANY CONCERNS WITH THE WEATHER FOR SUNDAY? "I just hope it doesn't. Thunderstorms are OK as long as they come and go."
THE START OF YOUR SEASON HAS BEEN GOOD. "Our team is just doing a great job, especially with the cars. We've had spectacular cars. I wouldn't say that I've had any super-incredible good luck, but I certainly have not had any super-incredible bad luck, which is usually the thing that has prevented us from reaching our full potential. It's early in the season and it could all turn starting this weekend for sure, but we've dodged a couple of serious bullets, especially at Martinsville. We ran really well at Phoenix. That's a place that's been troublesome for us recently, so we have a lot of optimism going forward, especially going into Richmond after Phoenix and looking forward to even trying out New Hampshire, which is a place I've thoroughly disliked for a long time. But we feel like our cars are just working better everywhere. We certainly ran well at Martinsville. The car was torn all to pieces and still ran well, so I'm having the time of my life. AAA has given me an opportunity to use my recognition with the fan base that I've built all through the years to work on driving safety and teen driving safety in general and important issues like that driving fast race cars. The only thing I'm not doing is getting any rest."
YOU SEEM TO HAVE A GOOD VIBE ABOUT EVERYTHING. HOW DOES THAT FEEL? "It seems pretty much the same in the car. I don't let emotions drive my race car, but definitely emotions drive me personally, so I'm feeling pretty good. I'd feel a little bit better if I got a little bit of rest. Dropping back to Texas was a real hard weekend for us with three races in three days, a lot of testing since then and a lot of stuff going on. We had a great grand opening at our dealership in Batesville with the museum and everything, but that was hard work as well. We've got a Charlotte test coming up this week and a Charlotte test coming up the next week, so I'm trying to tread water here. But I feel awfully good about my life and where I am today in my life, and the support I've had from the fans grew a lot in 2005 but it's even grown more in 2006 and it's just phenomenal. It's just short of phenomenal the kind of support that I'm getting this year. It really feels good as a guy who is definitely in the twilight of his career."
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO RECUPERATE AFTER TALLADEGA AND GET READY FOR A CHARLOTTE TEST? "You don't have time to recuperate. You're back in these race cars the next day or the day after. Life goes on. This thing starts in February and ends Thanksgiving and if you're not ready, then you're not going to do good. Everybody is ready."
CUP DRIVERS ARE DOMINATING THE BUSCH SERIES. IS THAT A GOOD THING FOR THE YOUNG DRIVERS TO GET THAT EXPERIENCE? "It has its pros and cons. I think it's definitely been good for the Busch Series. Right now, it's at a pivotal point because of the number of Cup teams and drivers that are involved in Busch. I think the fans are probably winners in it, but as far as the series goes it's sort of at a pivotal point."
THEY'RE TEARING THE SURFACE UP AFTER THE RACE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT HAVING A NEW SURFACE NEXT TIME? "I'd write them a check for a $1000 bucks to leave it. I'm sure every other driver in here would probably scratch that same check. I wish they wouldn't do it."
WHY? "You don't need new pavement here. It's gonna be the same thing as slowing the cars down some more because it's gonna make it easy. It's just gonna make the cars stick together worse and make us wreck worse because we're gonna run over each other more. The pavement is gonna be smooth and sticky and it's gonna be like putting a smaller restrictor plate on the cars as far as driving them. Obviously the speeds may be faster, but driving the cars is gonna be effectively like slowing us down."
SO YOU SAY ALL THESE CRACKS AND CREVICES YOU'VE MEMORIZED SHOULD STAY? "They're wasting their money. They're wasting it. In fact, I know every driver in here would pay them to leave it."
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
YOU'RE IN A GOOD POINTS POSITION, BUT THIS TRACK IS A CRAPSHOOT. "Yeah, I guess I feel better about restrictor plate racing than I probably did a year or a year and a half ago. Our program has been a lot better. Robbie has done a good job of working hard at it the last six or seven years and getting our stuff better and better. The last couple of races here, I guess we were leading and they had a green-white-checkered and I got beat with two to go. But we were leading with two to go and at Daytona we had a car that led a lot of laps, so I feel good about our plate stuff but you never know what's gonna happen."
YOU'VE HAD A LOT OF CONSISTENCY, MUCH LIKE WHEN YOU WON THE TITLE. "I'd like to get a lot of wins. I feel like we're running a lot better this year than what we did in 2003. In 2003, I think most of the time we had from a fourth to an 11th-place car and through good pit stops or attrition and all that stuff we'd finish fifth or sixth or whatever. This year, I think we've had cars that have been much faster. Except for Phoenix and maybe Martinsville, I think we've had cars that could win or be a contender to win most weeks and just haven't quite got over the hump and won, but I think we've had cars a little bit better."
CAN YOU WIN THE TITLE WITHOUT WINNING A LOT OF RACES? "Tony won the championship last year and never won in the final 10, so, obviously, yes."
WILL THE SOFT BUMPER HAVE AN IMPACT ON BUMP DRAFTING? "I don't think so. I honestly haven't even really went and looked at it that close, but I think you'll still be able to bump draft and do the things you've always done. You're not gonna be able to pile drive somebody, which you shouldn't be doing that to start with, so I don't think it's gonna be a big deal. If you've got to run with somebody and give them a little nudge and push them to make them go faster, hopefully for some people that maybe have been slamming people really hard, hopefully that will make them think a little bit and make them better at it and be able to make them push you better because when you slam somebody extra hard it doesn't really make them go that much fast, but if you push them along it'll help. Hopefully, you'll still be able to bump draft and push somebody and be pushed, but you won't be able to hit somebody extra hard."
WOULD YOU PREFER THEY GO EVEN FURTHER WITH THE BUMPER? "I don't think so. I think it's a good thing they've stepped up a little bit on it, but I think they went plenty far. Like any other issue when you change anything, I think a lot of it gets blown out of proportion by certain people. The whole thing at Daytona when it all started and all the stuff came out in the media, the next Sunday during the 500 there was all kinds of stuff going on. A lot of it was side to side. A lot of it wasn't front to back. It's not gonna change. It's still restrictor plate racing. Before we ever bump drafted at all we still wrecked half the field half the races. It's just the way it is. If you take 43 cars and throw them in a wad three and four wide, if you have one flat tire or one guy make a little mistake and think he's two-wide instead of three-wide -- whatever. All kinds of things can happen and start these wrecks. They're not all started from bump drafting. That's just one very small thing."
HOW HESITANT WILL YOU BE TO BUMP DRAFT WITH THE SOFTER BUMPER? "I haven't really looked at it yet, but I think I'll do it the same as I pretty much always did. I've seen some people complain a little bit about it. I know Dale Jarrett is one of the guys that talked about it, but if I wouldn't have hit him that hard on the last lap here, he would have never won. If we didn't bump draft, he would have never won that race. I think that bump drafting is part of it, but you have to be smart with it and you have to be able to push somebody along but not really slam into somebody."
HOW MUCH WILL YOU TRY IT IN PRACTICE? "I'm not gonna use practice to run into anybody at all."
WILL ANYBODY TRY IT IN PRACTICE? "I don't know. I don't think so."
IS TOO MUCH MADE OF HAVING FRIENDS HERE? IS IT JUST A MATTER OF RACING INSTEAD OF HAVING FRIENDS? "It's a little bit of both. I've seen it go both ways. I've seen people maybe draft with somebody that's not quite as fast because they are friends or a teammate, and I've seen people not do it. So it's a little bit of both, but yet if you have a fast enough car that can lead and go up there and run good, and you're passing another line of cars, people are still gonna want to go with you. You always want to be where the fast car is, but it's a combination of both."