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August 6, 2017

Matt Kenseth

Daniel Suarez

Watkins Glen, New York

THE MODERATOR: We will begin our post‑race media availabilities with our second‑place driver, Matt Kenseth, in the No. 20 Toyota Cares Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. The end was a little crazy there, people running out of fuel, not running out of fuel. Can you take us through the last few laps for you.
MATT KENSETH: Well, that last run after we pitted, we knew we were a little bit short, a few laps short. You know, Martin had a really fast car and deserved to win the race. You know, and we started saving early in that run, just tried to manage the gap. I felt pretty good about our fuel savings and how much we saved. Of course I never really know, I just go by what Jason and them tell me. But I felt pretty good about where we were on fuel, but I think Martin had such a big lead, he was able to just kind of slow up as much as I did and make sure he had enough speed just to stay in front of me. It was kind of funny, them last three laps we were both saving pretty hard, and then Jason told me we were good with one to go, and so I stood on it and he stood on it, too. He even missed Turn 6 and tried to give it to me, but I couldn't get close enough to take advantage.

Q. Are you happy with second, or considering what a win would have done for you playoff‑wise, does it matter whether it's second or fifth or 10th?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, I'm second happiest. Martin is the happiest. We really needed the win. Honestly, I don't even think about the playoffs. I more think about coming here for however many, 15, 17, 18 years, whatever it's been, and not really having a win or an opportunity to win and never even really been that great here.
I felt like we had a top 5 car. Obviously we had good fortune there at the end with our track position and our fuel mileage and all that to stay in it and have a shot at it, but man, when it's that close and you see him saving and you're saving and then you go after him there on that last lap, it's disappointing not to get it. Especially when I saw him miss Turn 6 I was like, man, I'm going to have a shot, and he was so fast I still couldn't get to him getting into 7.

Q. SuƔrez finishing third and he's been having a great run here the last six weeks, what have you seen from him as far as his learning progress as a rookie?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, I've always been real impressed with Daniel. I was real impressed watching the XFINITY Series last year how much he matured throughout the year and how he sucked it up and went mistake free at the end, especially Homestead to be able to win that championship. You know, he's been finishing really good all year. I think early in the year it seemed like he was maybe struggling at the beginning of races but he'd always put together the finishes, which was obviously a real important thing, and lately his performances are getting better and his finishes are even getting better. We ran pretty much right by each other all day. It just kind of seemed like whoever was in front of the other one‑‑ I don't think either one of us ever really passed each other except for on restarts.

Q. With the addition of the stages now, how did that play into the strategy? It seemed like everybody was just kind of going in single‑file formation for the first two stages. What was the game plan with the stages and the lack of yellows?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I can't‑‑ I don't know about lack of yellows besides no debris cautions and people not running into each other. You know, but everybody was racing as hard as they could. I think the whole race except for the last run, there was a period there where everybody was trying to save fuel, at least all the front guys were trying to save fuel to try to make it to the end. Other than at the stages, everybody was racing as hard as they could to get to that position and try to make as many passes as they could.

Q. Do you feel confident entering the playoffs with four races to go? Do you think you're going to be able to hold on to your position?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know. You know, to be honest with you, I haven't really thought about it that much. I mean, I realize how many different winners there's been, and there's only, I think, maybe three spots or something left. But honestly, I feel like with driving for JGR and having Jason as my crew chief and the team we have that we shouldn't be over a year without a win. It's kind of our own doing no matter what happens. We're running a lot better lately. At the beginning of the year we ran so‑so and just had so many DNFs, so many problems and no stage points, just got buried in the points. So we've been able to make a little comeback in the points, which is nice. You know, especially for the season that we've had.
But lately we've been running a lot better, and I feel like we keep running like this, hopefully we can get a win the next few weeks.

Q. Do you feel confident about next year?
MATT KENSETH: Again, I mean, believe it or not, it's really not at the front of my mind. I'm just really‑‑ I'm actually enjoying this. I had an enjoyable day today except for the end was very disappointing. I was like, man, after all these years I'm going to have a shot at winning one of these things and couldn't do it. That's really all I'm thinking about is just trying to run good and enjoy these next few months and try to get some more wins. It's a great opportunity. I feel like we've got the best, fastest race cars in the garage, got great people working on them, so I'm really just focused on that and trying to be successful. I'd sure like to get a couple more wins at least this season, and hopefully make our way through the playoffs.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by our third‑place driver, Daniel SuĆ”rez, with the No.19 Stanley Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Daniel, you've had a pretty strong run these last few weeks. You got your first stage win here. Tell us how this week went.
DANIEL SUƁREZ: I feel like it was a good weekend. You know, we made a lot of progress from the first practice to second practice to qualifying and then to the race. You know, I'm very happy for the third place and for the result and for the overall race, but very hard to finish third when you can see the leader right there and you are just cruising to try to save fuel because you don't really know how much fuel you have left.
But overall, a very solid day.

Q. When you had your stage win, you were holding off the 78 and you were blocking him pretty hard. Can you just talk about what that was like for you?
DANIEL SUƁREZ: Yeah, I knew that he was coming fast. I'm not sure if he had fresher tires or something, but he was coming very fast, and I was just trying to hold him off a little bit, and luckily we were able to do it. I knew that we'd raced each other very clean, and he's been super strong the entire year, and I knew that he wasn't going to do anything crazy and I wasn't going to do anything crazy, either. It was just a little hard racing right there at the end, but congratulations to the 78. He did a really good job, and overall, like I said, it was a good, solid day for us. We just have to keep it up, and hopefully we can catch a break before the playoffs to make it.

Q. Daniel, this is your fourth top 10 in a row, first career top‑five finish and the third race you've led in 2018. What to you attribute the recent success to, and how do you feel about going to Michigan and Bristol, two places that you like?
DANIEL SUƁREZ: Man, I really feel like ‑‑ I don't remember exactly, but I think I mentioned in the beginning of the year that I was so looking forward to the second half of the year, as well, because I knew that the second half of the year we were going to be more competitive, and our second time at all these racetracks we were going to have enough book and we were going to go to those racetracks already knowing what to expect. You know, all the hard work from my team and from everyone in the 19 group and from Joe Gibbs Racing, TRD, Toyota, it's paying off. In the beginning of the year, we were not like that. I wasn't the same driver, either, and now I feel like we are moving in the right direction. We have speed pretty much every weekend now where we are running in the top 10. I don't think it's a surprise anymore to run in the top 10. We just have to keep it up. We have to keep ourselves calm, and hopefully we can catch a break in the next few weeks, month or so, to try to make it in the playoffs.

Q. When you were talking out on pit road about the past month or month and a half and how you felt your team had progressed, do you feel that is a win out of the question, or do you feel with the way things have been going lately, it's a possibility?
DANIEL SUƁREZ: Actually I feel very, very positive coming here to Watkins Glen because it's a place that I've been racing here for already a few years, since my K&N days, XFINITY, and now in Cup. I feel very confident that we were going to have a shot if everything worked well, and we did. We just came a little short. Overall, like I said, I feel like if we keep running the way that we are running right now, it can happen any time. When you are running in the top 10, it's good, but when you start running in the top 5, you can win any weekend, and I feel like slowly we are making our way to the top 5.

Q. Just how big of an accomplishment do you feel is finishing top three, especially in your 22nd Cup race?
DANIEL SUƁREZ: It feels very good. You know, I'm very happy, very‑‑ just lucky to be in this position with a lot of support from a lot of people over here in this country and back in MĆ©xico and Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota. Everyone has been helping me to get to this point quickly, because seriously, it's been a fast couple few years in my career. Just very happy to be here. I'm enjoying every single weekend that we are racing. I feel like it's something very, very cool to race every weekend with the best drivers in the world, and to be one of them, to slowly become one of them I think is something very cool, we just have to keep working, and hopefully we can get some‑‑ a lot of good results to come.

Q. You said that you're not the same driver that you were, and this isn't the same team as you guys collectively were at the beginning of the year; I'm just looking at your season, and the only time that you've crashed out of a race was the Daytona 500 and since then you've been running at the end of all these races. How valuable is it for you and for the team to be able to run for all of or at least the majority of the laps and be able to move on to next week with all that knowledge?
DANIEL SUƁREZ: It's very important. I really feel like my crew chief, Scott Graves, and the rest of the guys, myself, we get along very well, and we know what is our goal. We know that if we go out there to run aggressive, to wreck race cars and to not make any laps in the race weekend, we won't learn anything. It's going to be a year thrown to the trash, so since the beginning of the year that wasn't our plan. Our plan was to start the season steady, learn, because every day it was a big step. I've been racing in the national series just for two years in this season, two years and a half, and there's just been a lot going on, and I knew that it was a big step. But like I said, I have a great group of guys on my side. They've been teaching me and coaching me with everything that we are doing, and I feel like honestly we are in a good spot, in a good direction, and we just have to keep moving in the same direction. Hopefully we can close the end of the year even stronger.

Q. How close were you on fuel? Did you run out coming to the checkered or did you make it back?
DANIEL SUƁREZ: I wish I can tell you I run out, but I did not run out. I wish‑‑ I would feel a little bit better. But man, I had a feeling that we had some fuel left because in the beginning of the run I knew that we were two laps short, so since then I was saving a small cycle, and then I was pushing only when I had to push, and then I was saving. I don't feel like I'm horrible saving, but I guess we are going to find out as soon as we check that fuel tank.

Q. You were really thrown into the deep end when you were recruited to do this job at the last minute, but to get in a place where you come up on ovals but came in go‑karts, but to beat Kyle Busch, to beat Denny Hamlin, do you kind of feel like you're part of the fraternity now of your race team, because at the start of the season they probably said, you're the rookie, you're the rookie, but to outrun those guys, it's got to be quite a feeling of accomplishment for you.
DANIEL SUƁREZ: It is for sure. Five years ago these guys, they were heroes for me. You know, I was a fan of all of these guys, and now to be able to be friends with all these guys and to hang out together and to share information and to be teammates is something very good. To race each other hard, as well, is what we like to do. It's something very good. Really, I wish to be‑‑ five years ago I was wishing to be in this position one day, and I'm just very excited and very happy to be here right now.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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