NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 27, 2005
DAN PASSE: Thank you and good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to a special time of the third week of the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup teleconference. Thanks once again for just joining us one hour later. One housekeeping note, as we head into Talladega, the Nextel wake-up call will take place at 8:00 a.m. on Friday with guest Ryan Newman, and then we also have another guest at 8:30 that will be Casey Mears. Again, that's Friday morning 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Today, we're joined by Matt Kenseth driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Roush Racing Ford and 2003 NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Champion. Matt is part of the second chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup, currently in 9th place in the 10 race competition, a mere 124 points behind the leader. Matt has had a great year this year with a exciting pole and win at Bristol, seven top fives and 12 top tens. Now, Matt, you are now heading into the only restricted play race in the 2005 Chase, and the longest track on the NASCAR Nextel Cup series circuit. You finished a respectable 11th at the track in the Spring. How do you feel about yourself and the team as you head into this race?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I am feeling pretty good about it. I think in the Spring we finished 11th, but I think the whole field was wrecked except for a few cars. Talladega is one of them tracks where anything can happen. Obviously, you think about going there and trying to miss a big wreck and hopefully being in the lead draft at the end and having some help around you. So I look forward to going there. Like I said, it's a track I think it's happening and just go there and hope for the best.
DAN PASSE: All right. Thank you. Matt is currently testing in Kansas, so he has only got a little while to be with us today. So why don't we just jump in with questions from the media.
Q. Matt, with five cars of Roush Racing in the chase, and everybody is so competitive against each other, how much real information sharing is there?
MATT KENSETH: I mean it is the same as it has always been. You know, we're in Kansas testing today and Mark has got his a Busch cars here and I have got my DeWalt cars here and Kurt is here with his two cars. And all the crew chiefs have been talking back and forth and the drivers trying to figure out what we can learn. So none of that really has changed. Obviously, each guy that is in wants to win it and run the best for themselves, but yet, if we can't win it, we would certainly want a teammate to do it, keep it in the organization if possible. So we're still working together same as we always do.
Q. When you look at a track like Talladega and everything is imported, there is only so many times that you can have a bad race and so much is out of your control at Talladega. Do you like that being in the chase?
MATT KENSETH: You know, it's whether you like racing for super place or not, which most people don't, it's a part of what you NASCAR Nextel Cup racing is right now. And there is four of them a year it is and part of our schedule and part of what you have to do to run for a championship. You know, if we were right up there in points and trying to run for a championship, do I like it in the Chase, not really, but I don't like running them at all. So it doesn't matter what time of year it is, you don't really look forward to running in a specific place just because you are a passenger in your car and kind of at the mercy of everybody else and what happens out there and you are always looking for that wreck.
Q. You just said something that made me ask this next question. Do you feel like you still have a chance for the championship?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I think we have chance, but I think everybody in the top 10 has a chance. Right now, we're only two weeks in, eight races, and there is a lot of racing to do and anything can happen. And you know, you saw Jimmie Johnson last year. I don't remember how many points he was out, I am sure you guys know, but he was way, way out of it and won a whole bunch of races at the end and came real close, right down to the last lap at Homestead, and anything is still possible. Just because we had one bad week, performance has been good and we have been running pretty good and I think we can get back in it.
Q. Following up on that a little bit about multi-cars, could you even imagine trying to compete at the very top level costs with a one-car team?
MATT KENSETH: I don't understand what you said. I don't know if it was my connection or yours, but I don't understand the question.
Q. Can you even imagine trying to be able to win a championship with a one-car team? Is it even possible with how much you guys do share?
MATT KENSETH: I mean, it would be difficult because there is no one-car teams. You know, that's a tough question to answer. I mean there is only, you know, I don't know, two or three one-car teams, so obviously your odds are two or three against, you know, 40 or 41, so I mean that's pretty tough odds. I mean, obviously, there is just not very many of them. That's really why. I mean, there is not a lot of them.
Q. If you look at where the Cup drivers come from, its basically all over the country. Is that surprising to you that drivers do come from all over and they are not more concentrated in just maybe a couple of areas in the country?
MATT KENSETH: No, not really. I mean think it has been not a regional sport for a long time. I think it has been national sport for a long, long time. I think the more -- the bigger business it is, the more popular it is, I think the more owners and sponsors and crew members and everything, you know, look outside of one area to find talent. Obviously, you know, if you search a whole country for talent, whether it is a crew member or driver or what it is, you have a better chance of finding them than if you look in one small area. It doesn't surprise me. There is a lot of great racing all over the country and I think there is a lot of really talented crew members and drivers everywhere. You have got to search everywhere for them.
Q. Actually, more specifically, Chad Knaus, you know the 48 car was looked at by some drivers out on track last weekend. I am just wondering, do drivers look at Chad and other crew chiefs look at Chad and kind of only sort of wonder what he is up to, he is one of these guys you have to keep an eye on because he is always pushing that envelope?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I can't speak for other drivers and crew chiefs. I can just speak for myself. I know from my standpoint, you know, I think that he is one of the smartest crew chiefs in the garage. When you look at him, he was the first one to -- a lot of the rules in the rule book today is because of stuff he has done because of stuff he's figured out to work around the rules to get advantage for his own car and his own team. So I think certainly other crews and drivers look at his car and look at the things that they do, you know, because I think he is so smart and he has been able to figure this stuff out. I think that's a big compliment to him. He is always working on it and he is always figuring out how to be ahead of the competition it feels like. So a lot of the stuff that we do is, you know, copied off stuff we have seen off his car before, so, you know, that's a pretty good position to be in.
Q. We had a ton of calls yesterday, talking about the finish of the race and young Kyle Busch and the Chase ahead of him and what the Roush cars would have done or not have done if there was young guy in your camp like that towards the end of the race. How did you look at the racing at the end of the race with a young guy getting that close to the guy and pushing all the envelopes?
MATT KENSETH: Honestly, I didn't see the end of the race. I was on my way walking through the parking lot, getting into my rental car. So I was out before then and honestly didn't see it.
Q. How close do you believe you guys would race each other if somebody was out of the Chase? I mean all your guys are in. But if not, I mean should a guy press on to the finish of the race to win without doing anything negative?
MATT KENSETH: I know it's a big story. Everybody wants to believe that everybody is treated different because they are in the Chase. It's not the case. These races are very, very difficult to win as you can see. It took Ryan Newman a year to win a race and he won the most races a couple years ago. It took us a year to win a race. You know, we have won some races in the past. So you are going to take every opportunity you can to win a race. It doesn't matter if you are 35th in points or you are 5th in points, you are going to race as hard as you can to win. Yeah, you are not going to take out a teammate to do it, but it doesn't matter if that teammate is in the chase or not. You are still going to try to beat him to win. It's too hard to win races. You are never going give races away. I mean, I think that's silly. I remember when Mark won the 600 a couple of years ago and I ran second to him. They were all "Oh, yeah, you didn't try to beat him." That is absolutely silly. You are going to try to win every race that you can win.
Q. Looking at Hendrick Motorsports having one car in the Chase with Jimmie Johnson, they're able to funnel all their resources toward that one effort compared to what you guys have with five guys going at it. Do you see that as an advantage that they have?
MATT KENSETH: No. No, I think it's the same. I think it's the same as if -- you know, if all five of our cars or one car was in, I do not see a big advantage here or there. There maybe are things that could pop up in the next eight weeks that could be a little advantage because they have only one car in. For example, if Jeff is leading the race and lets Jimmy lead and get the points because he is not in, things like that. But I think as far as the testing and sharing information, I think it would be the same whether the cars are all in the chase or none of them are.
Q. I was looking at some of the statistics and of all the drivers in the chase, Mark Martin is the only driver that won at Talladega. Can you comment a little bit about being at a track that you have won at before, and does it give you any sort of advantage or any sort of added confidence going into a race?
MATT KENSETH: Not with Talladega. Certainly not with Talladega. I think Mark would tell you that. He doesn't have any extra confidence going there because he won. That's a track where you are pretty much a passenger. There is things you can do during the race, you can get some help drafting, you can make different decisions during the race that certainly affect the outcome, but that place is, you know, 90 percent the race car at least or more.So I think when you get there with a real good car that can, you know, run up front, is real strong like you seen from certain cars in the past, you have confidence going there. I am sure Dale Jr. has a lot of confidence going there. I am sure Jeff Gordon has lot of confidence going there because their play program has been so good. But I don't think Mark or any of us have any extra confidence going to Talladega.
Q. With that kind of assessment going in, is that weekend's race more about survival than winning?
MATT KENSETH: I think every race is about winning, if you have the opportunity. But I certainly think Talladega is about two things for me. It's about survival and its about being in the lead draft. You don't want to just survive and be in the back and get separated into two or three packs, and be in the second or third pack because it probably won't but it has gone green flag the whole race, and it wasn't really that long ago. I know I was in it, so it wasn't that long ago. So that race does have a possibility of running green flag all day long. So it's important to survive, but it's also important not to make a mistake, you know, on pit road, getting on pit road, getting off pit road, any of that kind of stuff under a green because if you lose that lead draft there might not be that opportunity to get back in it.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what improvements have been made to Roush Racing over the last couple of years or at least since you have been there to have this kind of dramatic you know march of all five Roush drivers in the chase?
MATT KENSETH: I think there is several things. I think Roush Racing has always been fairly strong. I think that one of the things that started helping the cars run better is probably in '01 when we all ran pretty bad and Jeff was kind of at the forefront of it of getting all the teams to work together, all the teams to share information, just to work together a lot more. When I first got there, it was Jeff and Mark, 99 and the 6 working together, and then it was the 16 and 97 and they didn't help them and didn't share information with them. It's sort of like a deal probably like you have at Penske right now. I think when we all started working together and they got five drivers that could all work together and five crew chiefs in there that could all work together, I think that was big advantage. And another huge thing that has helped Roush Racing when they merged the engine deal with Yates, with Doug Yates and them guys, heading up an engine deal and working together with Roush, it's just been a tremendous advantage. It has been great having all them motors. It's just one thing we could take out of the equation, we didn't have to think about engines anymore and concentrate more on the cars.
Q. When you do have a bad finish, how do you handle that? Do you just put it out of your mind going on to the next race?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I think it's hard to put out of your mind. I think you want every race to be a good race, at least I do. I care where I am in points, but regardless of where I am in points, I hate having a bad day. If we are 30th in points and we finished 35th, I would still feel bad about that. So you don't want to have any bad races, certainly when you are in the final 10, you don't want to have a bad day, but you have got to take it week by week. You have to put last week out of your mind and go out and do the best job you can next week.
Q. Going to Talladega this week, this is actually a question about a sister track. When it comes to the twins or now the dual 150 qualifying races, do you equate that race to all star race or how much fun is it racing for starting position there to start the year?
MATT KENSETH: It's fun. It's to kickoff of the season. We're down there for a whole week. You know, Daytona and Talladega are a fair amount different. It's always fun to run in those races because it's kind of a test for the 500. You know, it used to be you get more cars showing up and the races probably had a little bit more importance than what they have the last couple of years, but they still have a lot of importance and you still want to get a good starting spot. More than anything, I like it because it's a good test for 500.
Q. Last year they added 25 miles to it. Did that make a difference for you all? Do you think it may have brought the crews more into play or anything, was there that much difference?
MATT KENSETH: I don't think it has been much different because the fuel cell changes. When we used to be able to run almost 125 miles on fuel, you know, you could do different things strategy-wise. I think since we put the small fuel cells in, we all had to pit anyway. I don't think the extra 25 miles made that much difference.
Q. How is Jack holding up so far in the Chase? Have you had interaction with him? Is he at all concerned yet or is still too early?
MATT KENSETH: I didn't understand what you said.
Q. Is he concerned at all that you guys are down toward the bottom of the top 10, or is it still too early for him to get worried?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know. That's something you would have to ask him. I haven't talked to him since Sunday. That actually reminds me, on the way to Kansas, I got a message and I need to call him back. I haven't talked to him this week. I am sure he's always concerned, you know, when you have problems and you blew a tire and you have a problem like that. He is always concerned and trying to make sure we don't have problems. I can't really comment on how he is feeling, whether he's got a positive outlook today or negative. I don't know.
Q. Was there any commonality in the problems that you, Kurt, and Gregg had at Dover?
MATT KENSETH: Can you repeat that?
Q. Is there anything common in the tire problems that you, Kurt and Gregg had at Dover?
MATT KENSETH: Well, the first three there is. We all ran over a piece of debris. And the last one I blew a right front and that wasn't related to running over debris. We had some other kind of problems, so I am not sure what we had there yet.
Q. How different will this weekend be than all the other races in this chase for the Cup. I know all the tracks are different. This one is really different from the time you unload from the hauler, to the practices, to qualifying, to the race itself?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, it's different. I mean Talladega, as far as the driver goes, at least if you are in the top 35 in points, it is really stress free until you get the race or race practice for qualifying. You are just a passenger and holding it wide open any way. There is not much going on a Friday. Then we get into race practice on Saturday, there is not a lot of handling that's involved at Talladega. So we usually don't practice a whole bunch. We make sure it drafts half way decent, and if it doesn't draft half way decent, there is not much you can do to fix the racetrack. So you just go out and run a little bit and get ready for the race on Sunday. So that's definitely a different type of race, but, you know, just part of it. I think you still have to approach it the same and still be smart there and have yourself in the right position at the end of the race.
Q. How much can you take from the Spring race to use during this one?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know, probably half a car, whatever wasn't bent, we can use that. If I remember right anyway, I think pretty much everybody was wrecked, and I think we finished 11th because we weren't wrecked as bad. I can't remember if that was Daytona or Talladega to be honest with you.
Q. At the start of the year, you struggled, one top 10 in the first 12. Do you look back on that and say what happened? How fortunate do you feel after having those troubles to be where you are today?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I definitely feel fortunate that we were able to figure out some of the stuff had wrong and get running better and get in the Chase for sure. More than looking back, we're trying to look forward and take it week by week and try to do the best we can every week to try to get ourselves back into it a little bit better.
DAN PASSE: Thank you very much. Thank you so much, Matt, for joining us and taking time out of your busy day. Thanks once again everybody and we will see you in Talladega.
MATT KENSETH: Thanks a lot.
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