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August 2, 2015

Joe Gibbs

Matt Kenseth

Jason Ratcliff


THE MODERATOR: Let's roll right into our post‑race winning team press conference here at Pocono Raceway, and our winner is the No.20 Dollar General Toyota, driven by Matt Kenseth, car owner Coach Joe Gibbs, and crew chief Jason Ratcliff. Congratulations, Matt. This is your 33rd win in your NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, your second win in 2015. You won at Bristol earlier in the year. It's your first win at Pocono. Just tell us, walk us through or talk us through I guess I should say those last closing laps and just how you thought things transpired. Talk about the fourth straight win for Toyota, fourth straight win for Joe Gibbs Racing. Talk about the strength of that right now, too.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, overall I thought we had a fast car this weekend. I thought as a group we showed a lot of speed, qualifying I think we were all in the top eight or nine, something like that. Practices were good. Today we had a really good car, I just kept doing a bad job on restarts and getting us behind, and once we got single file, it was just really tough to pass. Once I could clear some cars and get in front of them, we could run some competitive lap times from what Jason was telling me, we were pretty close to the leaders. I thought we had a top‑three to top‑five car I think both races this year, so that was encouraging, and then we came out and ran three or four laps and Jason told me I needed to save a little bit so I started real early, and then there was that one point I really wanted to get ahead of Jimmie and push him a little bit, because I didn't think his mileage would be as good as us. So then once I got in front of him I kept bugging Jason to see when he thought we had a enough and he told me never so he never let me go any faster. I couldn't catch the leaders anyway but I just wanted to get as close as I could in case they ran out, and he wouldn't let me. That's hard, to not go as fast as you can in the last five or six laps. It's tough to discipline yourself to do that.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. Jason Ratcliff, talk about the big win here today and just how this whole team, this whole organization is really on a roll right now.
JASON RATCLIFF: Yeah, our cars have been‑‑ well, we've been good all year, but it just seems like we're really getting a little bit quicker when it counts, as we get close to the final ten. Everyone is doing a nice job, everyone at JGR is working extremely hard and bringing good cars to the track. Everyone at TRD is working hard, the engines, the horsepower is phenomenal. But as Matt mentioned, a few weeks ago when we came here to Pocono, I thought we had a top maybe four car, so really excited about coming here this week. I thought if we could find a little more speed we might could have something for that 78 and 4. They were in a league of their own last time we were here. But I never thought it would come down to a fuel‑mileage race. I thought we were saving fuel to get a top 5 out of it, and the last three laps, I'm still trying to catch my breath over that. That was one of the most exciting finishes I've been a part of, and a great win for the 20 team.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Joe Gibbs, your race team has won four straight races and you always talk about just how difficult it is to win in this sport. You've won many, many championships and been around many winning teams and certainly right now the chemistry is there. Just talk about how everything is going well right now.
JOE GIBBS: Well, I think I really want to say a big thanks, and the guys here will echo this, everybody back at the shop. When you really realize this sport is really one big team, and we've got a lot of people back at the race shop working on cars. Some of them have been working 10, 11 hours a day, and as everybody knows, we felt like we were behind most of last year. It shows you how hard our sport is.
I attribute it to a lot of hard work and everybody back there from a total team effort, and then of course you've got to have great drivers and great crew chiefs or you're not going anywhere. The crew that's been coming to the racetrack has been phenomenal. I called J.D., thanking him and everybody back at the race shop. I said a big thanks to Todd Vasos and Rick Dreiling at Dollar General. Our sport is unlike any other, you've got to have great partners. And to hear them over the phone get excited with you, and you realize all that they invest with you, and they want to win. There's none of those sponsors that we have, they all have somebody they're trying to beat out in the world, and certainly on the racetrack. I want to say a big thanks to everybody from us. TRD is a great partner. They have also worked extremely hard, and David and the guys have been going after it to try and get our motors where they need to be, and I think we're there.
But the thing that I'm always aware of, we climb to get up here, but in this sport it's very easy to do what, slip back, and we've experienced that. We just really need to keep working, and I think our guys will.

Q. Matt, your 32 Cup wins don't include a whole lot of fuel‑mileage wins over the years. Were you in a position near the end of this race where you guys had an idea about the other teams and where they stood, and were you thinking in the last 10 laps, hey, this might work out?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, they actually include zero. Today is a first. I checked two things off the list. I won at Pocono, I didn't that would ever happen, and I won a fuel‑mileage race, I didn't think that would ever happen. There's been a few through the years that I thought we had it all figured out, and we were the only one that was going to make it and all that stuff and you catch an untimely caution and there's been some other ones where you are kind of dominating the race and you're out there and you run out of gas and somebody back mid‑pack had enough gas to make it and lost several like that. Feels good to get one like that. We had a fast car and we were able to get the fuel mileage good enough to get the win.
So yeah, this is a first for me.

Q. Matt, what was going through your mind when you saw everybody run out and you're just driving by to the victory there?
MATT KENSETH: You know, I've never been able to explain it after all these years, but no matter what race I've ever won or how I've won it or what position we've been in, there's no feeling in the world like when you come off the corner and know you're going to win a Sprint Cup race. There's no other feeling like that. I wish I could bottle it up or I wish I could explain it more, but it's just one of them things you can't really explain.
But when‑‑ I can't remember if Jason or Chris told me, it was two to go when the 22 ran out. I was like, man, two to go, or two‑and‑a‑half to go, whatever it was, but they were out there using some fuel, and I knew we were getting better fuel mileage than then, because they were out and he was hauling. I wasn't sure what lap he pitted on. Then when the 48 ran out with three to go or something, and he pitted a lap earlier and all of a sudden I figured we were going to be pretty close. Honestly I didn't‑‑ 22 ran out and I was like cool, we are going to run third, and then I saw the 78 pulling on to pit road, and I was like, that only leaves one, and I saw it was the 18, and I figured Jason was telling me the truth, but I figured he was probably building in a little bit of cushion, so I knew Kyle was running faster so I was like, that cushion is probably going to let him win, but it didn't, so we saved plenty and it got us there and it all worked out. It was pretty exciting when I was coming off of one and of course if you can't win, you always want a teammate to win, but when he's the only one in front of you and they said Kyle was out of gas off of 2, it was so hard just not to floor it because I just wanted to stand on the gas and get as much speed as I could so if I ran out I could coast back. Instead I was trying to get the motor off and save as much as I could just to make sure I could get to Turn 3. Once we got to 3, I figured I was good.

Q. Jason, with the whole fuel‑mileage deal there with you guys the only ones making it, how much emphasis do you put in the shop toward the fuel‑mileage deal?
JASON RATCLIFF: Well, you put as much emphasis as you can on every part and piece in the car. We have a core group of guys that come to the racetrack and put the final touches on the car, and the fuel cell is one of them because that's a piece that gets inspected every week when you get to the racetrack. So just paying attention to the details for days like this, making sure that you can get all you can just like everyone else is. You don't want to leave anything out there, and then your gas man, and in under 12 seconds he has to get the thing full of gas. A lot of things have to line up and everybody has to do their job well for it to work out.
It happened today, and obviously Matt has to do a good job of saving fuel, as well, and he did better than everybody else and still had enough to do a burnout. I was surprised by that, actually. I was surprised he made it back, number one, after seeing our teammates run out, and then I was really surprised he had enough left to do a burnout.

Q. Matt, this is your ninth multi‑win season of your career in the Cup Series, and your second with this team. What is different about this team compared to last year where you guys were winless?
MATT KENSETH: There's nothing different with the team, really, same core group of guys at Joe Gibbs Racing. Of course we added a team so we added a lot of new people. We just got behind last year and spent the fall kind of catching up and plus tooling up for the fourth team, which is a big deal. I think Coach will tell you that's a big deal, getting Carl acclimated I think has helped. Building some stuff along the way, keep trying to get our stuff better, TRD has done a great job with the engines, just to keep improving on the stuff and finally getting Kyle back has been a big boost to us all, too. So I think Carl getting more comfortable the last couple months and all of us working there and finally getting Kyle back and getting him in there, that's elevated all of our games again. Just right now, everybody is working good together, everybody is building us really good stuff, and I know it's a cliché, everybody back at the shop is working hard, but they really are. They've really been digging because nobody was happy with our season last year, and I think as late as March, I think Coach was still yelling at us in meetings, and ever since he yelled at us that last meeting, we've all been running better. You left, I was like, man, he's really mad.
JOE GIBBS: Hey, it's hard to be mad at people you're working for. I work for the drivers.

Q. Coach, do you have to pinch yourself with what's going on right now? Normally as a car owner if you see your car leading the race and running on the last lap, it's probably sort of a gut punch, and here you have another one that comes along and takes the win anyway and continues your streak. What's this been like for you?
JOE GIBBS: Well, actually in the race today I was probably like a lot of people. I'm looking at Joey and Kyle figuring, hey, one of these two guys is going to have the best chance. I knew that Matt was in there somewhere close, but I wasn't sure. And then when I see Joey ran out, then I figured, hey, we've got a chance with Kyle. Kyle runs out, and when I looked up, only thing I saw was that yellow, and I was thrilled. It was a big deal today the way everything played out. But I think you do, in pro sports you realize how hard it is to win a race, and when you get in a situation like this, you really want to enjoy it, and I think we do.
But we also‑‑ I think what keeps you going in pro sports is the nervous part of how easy it is to fall back and have other people up front and you trying to catch them, which has been the case for us for most of '14.

Q. Matt and Jason, were you guys banking on one more caution with this strategy? And were you able to save more not having to worry about kind of battling for the lead there like Kyle was with Joey?
JASON RATCLIFF: You know, those guys had been pitting one lap before us, so I kind of‑‑ we felt like we knew when the 22 and the 78 and the 18 would pit. 123 was about a lap‑‑ we knew it was a lap early, maybe a lap and a half, but if you look back over the last five or six races, you always get a caution. You always get one, and the big thing is you want to get on and off pit road. We saw it happen to the 15 car today. You get on pit road one lap late and you get that caution, you lose a lot of valuable track position. So it was worth a gamble and everybody was taking that gamble. So yeah, we were on pit road, I think, with four out of the top six cars at that time, and so we were all taking the gamble. I'm shocked there wasn't a caution, but I'm really glad there wasn't one, obviously.

Q. Matt, I want to ask you this: I know the focus is always the next race, but it begs the question for Pocono when you come back here in June, will the memory muscle kick in? I'm sure right now you're still a little bit in shock, but you've never seen the media center before.
MATT KENSETH: Shock? I'm bad but I'm not that bad. I'm surprised but not in shock. I've never been to victory lane. I have been to the media center a couple times. I think I was in trouble or something.

Q. But do you feel like you'll come in with some momentum next June feeling like, yeah, I'm the race winner here from August?
MATT KENSETH: No, I think it'll be totally reset by next June.

Q. And Coach, I'm wondering with Kyle right now, you've got one victor right now, but Kyle who's had a great run recently, he's still trying to get into the Chase. We only have a few races to go. Watkins Glen is up next; is there something he is concerned about with the leg? Sonoma wasn't an issue, but the Glen is a big deal as we get closer to the Chase?
JOE GIBBS: What we decided there, he feels like Watkins Glen is more of a challenge than Sonoma, and so what we did, he was scheduled to run the XFINITY race there and we got him moved out of that race. But I also think if you pick a racetrack where he feels like he's going to really have a shot to win, he loves Watkins Glen. Hopefully he'll run well there. I think we're 13 out or something like that now. It's in the back of your mind, and I hope we have a great day. Road racing is all kinds of things, although I would say today, this is the most unusual Pocono‑‑ we were cautions it seemed like every five laps there for a while. I wasn't expecting for that to kind of take place. A lot of wild things were happening, so Watkins Glen, I think he'd probably pick that as one of the places he'd like to race, so hopefully he'll have a great day there.

Q. Coach Gibbs, Dollar General had a weekend sweep here at Pocono, and I was wondering what that means to the organization, to have Dollar General win, and then what Rick said on the phone.
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I can honestly tell you, I think one of the most competitive people in the world is Rick, and Todd Vasos now taking over. It's a huge deal for us, for that company. Rick, probably the only place that he really promotes and works hard at promoting his brand, one of the key places is NASCAR, and so it's a big deal for us. Whenever your sponsors, like I said, win, they're a big part of this. It's not like any other sport, and I love that part of it in that you've got to have a great sponsor, and they're part of the team. It goes all the way back to Norm making it possible for us to get in racing, and he's still with us, at Interstate Batteries. But Rick and Todd there with that company, Dollar General, they've made a big presence, and to win yesterday, too, was a big deal for them.

Q. Joe and Jason, you talked about the nervousness of being in pro sports where things can fall‑‑ can you elaborate a little bit more in your perspective? And I want to get Jason's perspective on that type of element, too. I'm sure in one sense it probably feels like it's taken maybe forever to get back onto this high, although in one sense it's kind of come quickly, how you keep the ship steered in the right direction.
JOE GIBBS: Well, I think for me, you've got to have great people. The thing I always was worried about, sometimes the athletes are confident and cocky, and I used to be so paranoid in football, don't say anything, keep your mouth shut. We're trying to just beat somebody, sneak up on them. And over here, it's‑‑ I don't know, it's a little bit that way, but for me personally, I've always been real nervous about being in pro sports, and I think it keeps you humble, and you're never more than one race away from getting pounded. I always kind of look at it that way. We've got great people, really, leading the organization. You've got Todd Meredith back there, you've got Dave Alpern, all the people working there, J.D., and I think our whole front office, and I feel real good about those guys. Most of us have been together for 24 years. We've been through the good times and the tough times, but we really enjoy something like this. It's a thrill for all of us. I was trying to call everybody there from the winner's circle so that they could enjoy it. A bunch of them are not at the racetrack, and you hate that for them.
JASON RATCLIFF: Well, I mean, we've heard it probably three or four times up here, it's a tough sport, and that's what makes it so rewarding to be up here today is you know that there's a lot of smart people, a lot of talented people that work really hard each and every week just like you do that want to be here. You know, there's going to be times where you're on the down cycle and you just work as hard as you can to minimize that, and then when you get it going in the right direction, you work even harder to keep it going in the right direction.
I'm really excited about where we're at now. I think we're turning the corner. Obviously we've already turned the corner. We're headed in the right direction, but there's some tough‑‑ each and every week you're not going to come out here and just grab these victories. This worked really well for Joe Gibbs Racing as a whole over the last several weeks, but we've got to keep after it. The prize is still there, and we know in the next 10 weeks we've got to step it up a few notches because the other group is, so we'll be ready.

Q. Jeff talked when he was in here about how because when you don't know when you're driving who else is running out of gas, he said there was a point where he was absolutely incredulous that he was third when he thought he was in 12th. At what point in the race did you say to yourself, oh, my gosh, I'm actually in the lead?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I didn't know we were going to be in the lead until we came off Turn 1 and I could see Kyle shaking his car going into Turn 2 trying to pick up gas. I knew where we were as far as who was in front of me and what was going on. I did not know when the 22 ran out except for them telling me and nobody said anything about the 78. I just saw him pulling on pit road. I knew at that point the 18 was the last man standing in front of us, and they were giving me intervals back to the 2 car, which they thought was out of gas so he must have slowed dramatically because he knew he was going to run out. When I saw that green car up there shaking going into 2, I knew that we were going to have the lead as long as we had enough fuel to get to Turn 3 and get off Turn 3.

Q. Coach, knowing that Kyle Busch was running second at the time and then had a chance to actually come away with a win here, then he ends upcoming out of here 21st, he still hasn't cracked that top 30, I know it's close and chances are if he keeps running the way he's running he'll get there, but how much emphasis did you put on getting him clinched into the Chase today?
JOE GIBBS: Well, I think‑‑ of course the crew chiefs‑‑ those guys, Adam and he, are always talking over strategy and stuff, but to be quite truthful, I think Kyle just pins his ears back and tries to get up front and go, and I think that was typical today. I think somebody asked him, hey, you ran out there, did you try and save, and he goes, I was just trying to win. I think he's‑‑ as a group over there, they're doing the right thing. They're trying to stay up front, and of course obviously you're going to get a lot of points if you do that, but I think they really and truly‑‑ and particularly when you win one and two and you get on a roll and you're trying to go for it. I think they've got a good strategy. I can't take credit for any of it; I think Adam and Kyle are kind of charting what they're going to do, and today was a pretty big hit. He could have been more cautious, but I think he was probably in a situation he was in, he and Joey, they were going for it, going to try and win. I think Matt and Jason were very smart in what they did because they were in a great position to back off. Matt did a great job saving fuel, and he even at one point, I heard him tell Jason, hey, I can save you some more here, and it really paid off for us.
But I think the two cars for us did what you would expect them kind of to do. The one up front is trying to catch Joey and win, and then Matt was super smart in what he did. But I'm with Matt; these things are hard to win, and the fact that he's been in it and as good as he is, to not have won another fuel‑mileage race is extremely tough. I would say for fuel mileage today, though, it was exciting because there was a lot of stuff happening.

Q. Matt, earlier you said you don't know how tough it is to not go fast when you want to go fast. How do you do that? How do you hold back a little bit and not go fast and fight that‑‑ resist that urge to go fast?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, well, I kept asking Jason crazy cup, telling me, no, in no uncertain terms. I kept waiting for him to give me the green light and say, look, we're fine, and then you save a little bit more and you're fine, because I really wanted to pick up the pace and he was telling me there was no reason to and he was absolutely right, but what we do every week is try to go as fast as we can, so to try to slow down and make you we're going to have enough fuel is hard, but with the gap we had behind us made it much easier, the 48 started backing off and the more he backed off the more I would back off, and then once he had to pit, we had a pretty good cushion so I was really just listening to them to tell me how close the 2 car was. I wasn't going to let anybody pass me. I would rather run out of gas then have somebody pass me and beat me, but we had such a big gap that I could just manage the gap behind me and really not worry about the front because we were far enough behind we weren't going to catch those guys anyway.

Q. Jason, how gratifying is it to you to be winning in the Sprint Cup Series after all your years in XFINITY, like personally?
JASON RATCLIFF: Oh, it's great. Actually I was just thinking this morning when I was watching highlights from the last race here when Cole got his first win here with the 78 car a few weeks ago. I'm thinking, you know what, this is the first place where I got my first Sprint win, as well. It's a very special place to me, and obviously to come back here and get in victory lane today‑‑ victory lane is always gratifying, but especially at this place. This place, I really like it, it's a very unique racetrack, and it's tough. It's a tough place, a lot of variables, a lot of ways to play it, a lot of different strategies, and it's a fun place.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us, and congratulations.

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