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July 17, 2016
Loudon, New Hampshire
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by race winning crew chief Jason Ratcliff and owner Coach Joe Gibbs. Jason, can you talk about back‑to‑back wins at New Hampshire Speedway and what that means to you?
JASON RATCLIFF: Well, it seems like this is one of our better tracks. We've had some good runs here in the last three years, and we always look forward to coming here. It's been a track that's not only good for the team but obviously good for Matt.
And today, right off the truck, we felt like our Dollar General Camry was fast. We didn't get the qualifying and the starting position that we hoped for on Friday, but yesterday in practice we were very pleased with it, came in this morning, didn't really make a lot of adjustments to it.
Early on in the race, though, it wasn't responding the way we anticipated it would, but after the first stop it came around and had really good speed for the rest of the day.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, can you talk about what it means to get a win here in New Hampshire today?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, well, first of all, our corporate sponsors, almost all of our sponsors are here with hospitalities. We come to the Northeast, this is a big deal and a big track for us, and as everybody knows, we survive with our partners and our sponsorship with these different companies, and this is a huge place for them. So we had great hospitalities today.
Toyota was here with a big contingent. They're a huge partner for us. So all of those partners are a big deal, and they love coming up here, and so do we, our race team.
Jason mentioned, it seems as though we really like the racetrack here, its flat and its configuration. I think it lends to having certain abilities, and I think our guys have that.
I felt real good today about Kyle. Denny had a shot. Carl kind of got stuck in traffic, but he told me, I felt like if he could have got up there, he would have been a lot better off.
But I just am thankful for everybody back home. I called J.D., and thanks to him and everybody back there that supports the race team. I wish all those people could be here because really the team in NASCAR, a huge contingent is back at the race shop, and it's all the hard work, people staying up late at night, everybody working as hard as they do to get the cars and prepare our teams.
I think we've just got great people, and I'm blessed to be a part of it.
THE MODERATOR: With their finishes today, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards both clinched Chase berths. Can you comment on that, as well, please?
JOE GIBBS: Well, that's really‑‑ with NASCAR, it's our playoff. That's what it's all about. It's a thrill for us to be in there. I think the key is, as you continue to work during the year, try and keep your performance up and try and point towards the playoffs. When you get to the playoffs, you never know what's going to happen because it's a little three‑race playoff. That's what it is. You take your best shot, but what you want to do is hopefully continue to improve as the year goes along, and that's kind of our goal.
Q. Jason, for a while there it looked like Kyle and Martin were the class of the field. Was it just a matter of track position and needing the time to get up there?
JASON RATCLIFF: I think so. Early in the race we weren't able to make a lot of ground up, but after the competition caution, we got another set of tires on it. Matt said the car responded really well. He was able to drive up into the top 5 and for the rest of the day kind of stay there.
But all our cars, as Coach mentioned, everyone works really hard, and I think all the JGR cars and the 78 car were really good today. I think any one of those guys could have won this race. In the end it just came down to minimizing mistakes and having yourself in the right position when it counted.
It worked well for us. Early on it didn't look like it was going to, but the cautions kind of fell our way and the adjustments worked well. You don't make many stops here. It's a track position race. We saw some long green flag runs today, so thankfully we were able to hit on the few stops we had and close the deal.
Q. Tony Stewart finishes second; he's kind of on a roll. He's going to Indy next week, his last race there. Can you kind of tell us what it's like, what you notice when Tony is at Indy and what that place means to him?
JOE GIBBS: Yeah, I think when Tony wants it, he's kind of hard to beat. I didn't like the fact he jumped up there at the end. I didn't like the restart there. That made me nervous because I've seen Tony before.
Yeah, I think when he goes to Indy, obviously as we all know‑‑ I can still remember where I was when he won at Indy. I had gone back to coaching the Redskins, and they had me in there and we were all watching TV. Huge deal for him. He loves that place. Whenever Tony Stewart wants it, he can certainly make a run at it with his skill and talent.
It'll be interesting. You hate to see him retire because he means a lot to our sport.
Q. Jason, what does winning here today say about where the Joe Gibbs Racing organization is at this point in the season, because you come back here for the Chase later in the year, but it's a little bit different track, it's not something you're going to see that often, but obviously all of your guys were strong today.
JASON RATCLIFF: Yeah, we were, and in the past this has been a good track for us.
But as you mentioned, I think our cars are where they need to be right now, but I think a lot of teams can say that. We've got to keep pushing. We've got to be prepared and be better when we get that last team.
When we come back here, it's going to take a lot more than what we had today. But this has been a good place for us, and I think we saw that today running up front. The setups that we've had year after year have worked well, and you just keep building on that when you come back, and we share that information. So if one team does well, then that benefits all, and I think that's what we're seeing.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by race winner, driver of the No.20 Dollar General Toyota, Matt Kenseth. Matt, can you talk a little bit about what it means to get a win here in New Hampshire today?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, it always feels good to win, obviously, but I think today especially‑‑ Friday I didn't do a good job qualifying. We started middle of the pack. Our first run wasn't great. I don't know what he adjusted but he made some great changes for run two, and really I felt like we had probably the best car all day. It just took forever to get there.
Got behind in the pits when I got myself blocked in, and three good pit stops and good pit calls and a fast car were able to work our way toward the front. Definitely feels good to get the win.
Last fall we squeaked one out, a little more fuel than Kevin and a little different strategy, but not quite as good a car, where today I felt like we had the best car, and it always feels good when you get a win.
Q. You guys talked a little bit about the Chase, and with this track being in that first round of the Chase, how important is the success that you guys have had as a team and how much confidence does it give you coming back here in September?
MATT KENSETH: I've got to be 100 percent honest with you, I haven't spent two seconds thinking about the Chase. I just haven't. I think these are all big races. I was looking forward to coming here because we've ran really well here since I've came to Joe Gibbs Racing. It's been a real turnaround for me. It used to be one of my worst places and now I feel like it's one of our better places.
Right now I'm excited about that, and I'm thinking about Indy, thinking about going and trying to figure out how to win the Brickyard. It's been an up‑and‑down couple months for sure, but last week I felt like if all the stars would have aligned we could have won at Kentucky if everything would have went just right for us. We were real competitive, and then to be able to come here and win obviously feels good, so I'm just thinking about moving on to Indy and hopefully being in the mix and trying to get a Brickyard.
Q. They showed a stat during the race today, I think the first 219 laps, two cautions, and then five in the following 66. Seems like that's kind of been a trend here in recent years where things really get hectic the last third of the race. How much of that is just racing in general and how much of that is something that this track kind of causes?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I didn't see any of the accidents or whatever caused the last cautions because thankfully I was out in front of it, so it's hard for me to comment on why there were cautions or how they happened or whatever. I know the first one they had some debris out there and threw it, and then after that it just seemed to have debris on a lot more of them.
Certainly when you're leader and you're on two and you haven't been leading all day and you haven't been on two all day, it's definitely somewhat successful to go through all those restarts, but thankfully I didn't mess one of them up and we were able to get a few clean laps and get away a little bit.
Q. Just comment on moving into eighth place and kind of shuffling the deck in the middle of the Chase standings.
MATT KENSETH: I've got to be honest, eighth place isn't where we want to be. We want to be in first place. I'm glad we got a couple wins. I know that qualifies us for the Chase, and that's exciting, but that's a few months down the road. So I'm just‑‑ like I said, I'm excited we ran well last week, excited we ran really well this week, and just looking forward to going to Indy and hopefully continuing that momentum. It's been an up‑and‑down year. Beginning of the year we performed really, really, really well and just didn't get the finishes for it seems like a different reason every week. But then we've been a little bit up and down the last couple months, so I'm just glad we're running well here the last few weeks, and just want to continue that the rest of the summer and hopefully of the rest of the year keep building on that and just trying to get stronger.
Yeah, you always want to be parked first. I don't know with this new format and stuff, it doesn't really matter as long as you're in that top 16 after Richmond in September.
Q. This is the first time you've been back to kind of the 2016 original package since Pocono. Did you expect to see a big difference as far as who might run well? Everybody has had a month to work on it. Seemed like the same guys were still running well, or is this the type of track where you wouldn't notice if anybody has made significant gains?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I mean, I feel like our cars have been pretty strong all year. I felt like we were pretty strong today from what I saw. I mean, I think it's kind of the usual suspects that you've got to beat if you're going to win a race. I think no matter what package it is, it's the 4 car and the 48 and all my teammates, of course, and the Penske cars. I think it's kind of the same group you've got to beat. I don't think anybody really leaps and bounds is out there running way away from it. I think the rules are too tight and everybody is pretty close to the same speed, so everybody is always trying to develop their stuff and make it better. I would like to think we've made our stuff better since last month for sure.
JASON RATCLIFF: Yeah, as you mentioned, we've been thinking a lot about a different aero package, whether it was Michigan or Kentucky, and it's nice to get back to this. We spent all winter working on what we needed for this aero package, and the better part‑‑ first part of the season working with it. It's nice to regroup, get back to that, build some consistency with it. We didn't do too well at Michigan with that package, but we rebounded and did well at Kentucky, but it's good to get back to the 2016 aero package and build on that for the rest of the year.
Q. Matt, the last few restarts, Denny stays out, doesn't come in and take tires, then a couple more restarts and you've got Tony right there with you. Were you concerned about either one of those as far as all of a sudden you had something to deal with maybe you weren't expecting?
MATT KENSETH: I was concerned about all of them. When we came out of the pits and I thought we were leading, I felt okay about that. And then Denny stayed out, which I felt okay about getting by Denny, but it's so easy here restarting on the bottom. The outside guy tends to crowd you a little bit, which he should, and then you get down there on that flat, it's real easy to chatter the rear tires and lose momentum. I've had that happen here before and got passed by four cars off of Turn 2.
Never was really up front today to do a lot of restarts, but all the ones we had in the middle, I thought that was one of our strong suits. I could turn really good and I could make some really good moves on the restarts.
I felt okay about it, but you just never know what's going to happen, and then of course you keep having all those cautions and two‑ or three‑lap runs, it's just another opportunity for the driver to mess up and spin the tires and keep somebody up alongside you and let them get you out of the groove.
I was thankful we were able to get through the gears good and have them clear when we got to 1 and then hopefully get a little breathing room.
Q. I had talked to Tony before you guys came in about the Dale Earnhardt situation. I just wanted to get your feelings from crew chief, driver and owner, your perspective on how seriously you think NASCAR is taking concussions and possible brain injury type situations because obviously it's always been connected to football or NFL, but you can see it happens in other sports, and I'm wondering how seriously you guys all take the protocol and those kind of situations.
JOE GIBBS: Well, for me, safety is always first for us. I've got to tell you, the improvements and what NASCAR has done, any time safety comes up, NASCAR is all over it. I think the development of our cars and all the safety features and everything show that.
We've been racing 25 years. We had Denny miss that four weeks, and then Kyle's horrific wreck. Other than that, nothing else for us.
I don't know that‑‑ for us, I don't remember concussions for us. Even though we're in a race car and we're going that fast and everything. But I think it's a serious issue in sports today. I think we're so much better medically, that the protocols and everything we have in place is great. I think it is any time it's a serious issue because you want to really pay attention to it. But I think we've done a great job with the cars and the safety features, and obviously it's impacted me and my family, I think. It could definitely be a part of J.D.'s situation. I think it's one of the most important things we can deal with in sports.
I think people now are really paying a lot of attention to it, and I even think there's some new things coming pretty quick because I've been in this world a little bit, and I think we've got some things coming from drug discovery and things like that that could really change this issue.
Q. Jason and Matt, Toyota led all but two laps today. What led to that dominance, and how do you keep the momentum up as we're in the second half of the season?
JASON RATCLIFF: I think a lot of it is Friday. A lot of our guys call flat up front, and then the competition caution they took two so they kept their track position, and we had the long green runs and the cars obviously ran well, so they started in the front, they stayed in the front, and he led a lot of laps. We didn't get a lot of cautions until late in the race, and it's a tough place to pass. You've got to work on your strategy and know when to take four and when to take two and work towards the end, and it just paid off for us, and it paid off for Toyota and JGR today.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, for me, we've got a great race team. We've got great race cars and great people. It starts with the boss here next to me.
I've got great teammates. I've got great teammates that drive those things every week and there's great crew chiefs over there, and they've been able to get those things where they need to be each and every week, which obviously makes our job a lot easier.
Once you get those guys up front, they're hard to get out of there. They're going to be out there leading races and you're going to have to be just right to beat them.
Q. Toyota obviously won the championship last year. As you're into the second half of the season, how do you build on that to go for two in a row?
JASON RATCLIFF: Well, you learn from Adam and Kyle and what they did, what they felt like they did right, what they felt like they didn't, and also look at our race team and what we could have done better. TRD is providing great horsepower for us. Guys are building great cars back at the shop, and as Coach mentioned earlier, they're working hard, working late nights, and doing everything they can. Championships mean a lot to them.
We're all going to keep learning from each other and keep building on it and do our best to get one of those things, the big trophy at Homestead.
JOE GIBBS: One of the things that fascinates me about our sport is the teamwork, and it's totally different. When I was in football you've got one team, you're working with a team. Over here you have four, and so the key is how do four work together. It's been amazing for me. It's a tribute to the drivers and the crew chiefs because you go to the racetrack and you're trying to solve problems, and somebody may find it, somebody will hit it, and then we gravitate in that direction. It's a fascinating thing, and it's very hard to get four that work together the way our four do.
When you hear the drivers and the crew chiefs, the way they work, I love that aspect of it, and I think we've got guys that really share everything in the team meetings, and it's a total team effort, and it goes back to the character of these guys, I think, and the kind of people they are.
Q. Jason, with this being the last race that you guys will run on before the Chase starts, what can you learn and what can you do when you go to Michigan, you go to Pocono, you go to Watkins Glen, tracks you aren't going to see in the Chase? What can you get there that's going to help you?
JASON RATCLIFF: Well, I think you can learn something each week. Oddly enough, we went to Indy and tested for two days this week, which is a difficult place to test out of all the tracks we race at. But I fell like we learned a few things. Were any of those things applied today? I would think so. I think you just build not only track‑to‑track or the kind of track it is, but just on your program in general. So any time you run well, it's a momentum builder, and any time you can work with teammates that they run well, then you can go back to the shop and continue to build your program.
So we'll just do that. We'll keep building on it, and like I said earlier, when we come back here, it's going to take something completely different. You're going to have to be a lot better than you were today if you're going to win it.
Q. Given the testing at Indianapolis this week and the flat track in the heat here today, anything that you can take away from this track that you may then implement next week at Indianapolis?
JASON RATCLIFF: Yeah, where victory lane is at, maybe we can‑‑ I mean, again, I think the momentum today, I felt like we had a good test there. As I mentioned, it's a tough place to test. If you can come out of there and feel like you learned anything, it's a plus. I think we learned enough. We should go back and at least be competitive and take the momentum we've had here this weekend and take that to Indy and hopefully do the same thing.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations. Good luck at Indianapolis next week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports