The following is transcript of the press box Matt Kenseth and Jack Roush conducted following their win in Saturday night's NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. Part 1 of 2 HOW IS IT YOU WIN A RACE WHERE ALL THE CRAZY PEOPLE ARE SUPPOSED TO WIN ...
The following is transcript of the press box Matt Kenseth and Jack Roush conducted following their win in Saturday night's NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge.
Part 1 of 2
HOW IS IT YOU WIN A RACE WHERE ALL THE CRAZY PEOPLE ARE SUPPOSED TO WIN IT?
"Well, my owner is crazy (laughing). It is extra-special for us to be able to win this race, I think, because of all the crap we've heard over and over and over. This is a wide-open race. You run wide-open the whole race and race as hard as you can. We had the fastest pit stops and we had a really fast car and everybody just did a great job. It was fun to drive and it was really fun to win this kind of race because it's usually not our cup of tea - a 20-lap run where you run as hard as you can to try to beat those guys. Usually we seem to be better on a long run when we can kind of pace ourselves and feel the track out, so it's pretty cool to be able to win it."
WHAT DID RYAN SAY IN VICTORY LANE?
"He just congratulated me. It was just funny. I said down in the media center already that my heart was beating so fast and that's the first time I remember being nervous in a car since we won our first race here and we were leading at the end with Bobby behind me. He just came down and he was still shaking his Gatorade. He just told me it was a good race and it was as hard as he ever had to drive, he said."
WERE YOU SHAKING?
"Yeah, I sure was. I was waiting for something else to happen (laughing). Track position means so much these days. The cars are so close. The Goodyear tire is great with a lot of grip, but track position means so much. When they got Matt out a second behind Ryan with Matt having four tires, I was glad he had four tires because I knew he was gonna be awful hard to pass. The engine ran good. The car ran good. The strategy was good. The overall setup, they had been in and out - had some rubbers in and out of the car and a couple of things they were changing. I think Matt would say if the question was asked that he wasn't as good as he'd liked to have been earlier. He wasn't able to take full advantage of the grip he had in the tires because he was off just a little bit on setup and that made it hard to pass."
IS IT GRATIFYING TO HAVE THE YEAR UNFOLDING LIKE THIS?
"Yeah, it's cool. When I said it this winter and Jack said it this winter - we actually went to dinner in New York one night - Jack and Robbie and I - and we were talking about this year was our opportunity year we felt like for Roush Racing and ourselves. We kept our whole team together. We've got better equipment. We've got a new body this year. We've got more people working on the engine program to try to make them better. We've got a lot of exciting things going on that coming off a strong year last year that it just felt like this could be a year where we could do things like this - we could win exciting races and we could lead more laps and run more competitively each and every week. So we felt like we had that opportunity coming into the year. We came out of the box like that and lately I feel like we fell off just a little bit. We've run good, but we haven't been as good as we were the first few weeks, so it feels good to come out here and run this strong."
WHAT WILL YOU SAY TO YOUR OTHER DRIVERS ON TUESDAY?
"I hope I'll be able to congratulate them on getting their problem solved. I am card-carrying crazy. For anybody that would put a half-dozen of these - in fact we've got actually 10 race programs this year with, I think, seven drivers - and to put that many people together that are competitive and very aggressive and their personal natures whose careers are developing and unfolding - to have them share space and have everybody be happy about that all the time is probably too much to ask. When I first started my two-car operation in the early nineties with Wally Dallenbach and with Mark, they weren't the happiest with one another, but the performance of the 16 car at that time wasn't what the 6 car was. Even though they weren't real happy with one another sharing space, they didn't have the prospect of being faced with running over one another. It was unfortunate tonight that the cars were in proximity of one another and they ran into one another and now we've got to go sort that out."
DO YOU HAVE TO DRIVE DIFFERENTLY WITH THIS NEW EQUIPMENT?
"Yes and no. We didn't have bad equipment last year by any stretch of the imagination, but we got a little update on the body so we knew that was gonna be a little thing. The cars are so close that a little thing means a lot and we were behind aerodynamically last year, and anytime you put two heads together it's better than one. With Jack and Robert and Doug and everybody combining all their stuff, it had to be better because Jack had to have ideas that maybe they didn't have and they had to have ideas that maybe we didn't have. Whenever you get two heads together, you're gonna make the stuff better. So we felt like the motors were gonna be better. Ford gave us a new cylinder head which we knew was gonna be a little bit better and get us along the lines of the General Motors cars as far as the gears we can run and all that stuff. We knew aerodynamically we were gonna be a little better. We already had a good fleet of cars. We were happy with our chassis program and we didn't lose any people, so, really, all of that pointed in a direction that we should have a better opportunity than we ever had. Our group is more experienced than they've ever been and we felt like our equipment is better than it ever has been."
ON THE DIFFERENCES FROM LAST YEAR
"The better your stuff is, the faster you can go and the easier it is to drive your cars for sure. So having better stuff and having more downforce and having a little more power, all of that stuff makes my job easier, it makes Robbie's job easier. You don't have to be exactly perfect right on. You can miss it by a little bit and still hang in there and when you hit it right, you look like we did at Vegas. The better stuff you have, the easier it is. It's not huge amounts. It's little bits, but it's so competitive these days that those little bits mean a lot."
YOU'VE WON SO MUCH MONEY ALREADY DOES THIS MILLION JADE YOU?
"No, that's awesome. You look at most races and I don't understand how it all works out, but you look at a lot of races - you go to the Daytona 500 and it's a million-and-a-quarter, and then you go back for the 400 and it's $200,000 or something. Most races are $200,000 to $300,000. The owners need the big portion of that to help pay for all this for all the employees that we have. I still do get a nice chunk of it, but by the time you pay taxes and do all that stuff, it's a big difference. I guess what I'm trying to say is a million dollars is a lot of money. That helps the team out tremendously. It's a great bonus for myself, a great bonus for the team, and it's a great bonus for all the guys that work on the cars. The better we do and the more we win, the more it helps them out financially and rewards them for all their hard work. Whenever you keep something rolling like this it keeps the guys enthused and energized and happy to be a part of our group." H
OW MUCH CREDIT SHOULD RYAN GET FOR HOLDING THE LEAD AS LONG AS HE DID ON OLD TIRES?
"Ryan is used to being in front. He qualifies up front all the time. They do their strategy in such a way where they're always up front, whether they have new tires or gas or old tires or what, they're always up front. He's very good at figuring out his setups so he can run really fast in clean air. You see that on Fridays for qualifying. I didn't think he was gonna be as tough as he was with those old tires and I was kind of waiting to pick my spot, but about 10 laps into that last run I knew he was gonna be tougher than what I thought to get around. Ryan does a great job every week and he did a great job of holding us off on those old tires for as long as he did. That was pretty amazing. I didn't think he was gonna run that good. I thought we were gonna get around him and drive away having four new tires because more times than not four tires prevails here at Charlotte."
DID YOU THINK TIME WAS GOING TO RUN OUT AND YOU WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO PASS?
"You never know for sure. My car was turning real good, but I was too loose up off the corner. I could get a run on him, but if I only got alongside of him I couldn't complete the pass because the position I would be in with him on the outside, it would make my car too aerodynamically loose and I couldn't hold the groove that I wanted to groove. I needed to happen what happened. I needed him to slip enough where he had to roll out of the gas pedal, where I could carry momentum and be in front of him. I knew if my car was in front of his car going into the next corner and he couldn't get to my rear bumper, I was gonna drive away. But as long as he could hang on my right-rear, the cars get real loose with somebody outside of them and it was gonna be tough to get around him."
HOW MUCH ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT IS THERE WITH THIS NEW ENGINE?
"The cylinder head is just one of the pieces that the Ford engine is disadvantaged and dated with. There was a valve angle disparity. There was a valve diameter disparity and there was a port height disparity and, in addition to that, there is a combustion chamber disparity and a valve location disparity. We've fixed the port height. We've fixed the valve size. We didn't fix the valve location and we didn't fix some cooling system aspects of the cylinder head, so it's just a piece of it. If you'd say, 'How close does it get you to having a competitive engine with regard to the geometry of the other engines,' it's about 25 percent of the shortfall. It's enough that it'll be worthwhile, it will make a difference. NASCAR has said that they're gonna define the box that Toyota is now in and that Dodge is in and that the current Chevrolet engine is in, they're gonna publish that and they're gonna allow us to make a submission -- probably in two or three years it will take us to get ready to make the submission of a new engine that will get us up to speed - but, in the meantime, I'm hopeful that with working as hard as we're used to working and with having as many good people on the program as we have and all the good support from Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, that we'll be able to maintain a competitive posture with the engine until we can really get on the same level playing field."