NASCAR Media Conference
October 9, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Matt Kenseth.
Matt, talk about your team's expectations and preparations going into Charlotte this weekend and with six races to go in The Chase.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, they've been working really hard, especially on our stuff for Charlotte and our intermediate stuff. So I think everybody at Roush Fenway was disappointed in our performance at Atlanta, Chicago, and really even Dover, for that matter.
So they've been really on it. They've been working really, really hard to try to get our stuff better. And I'm really looking forward to getting on the track Thursday and seeing the progress that we made, and hopefully being competitive this weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. I wasn't there at Talladega, but I listened to some of the post‑race comments that Jack had talked about, about your tenure wrapping up at Roush. And I wondered‑‑ lately there don't seem to be as many drivers who have spent the majority or all of their career with one organization. And I'm sure during that time you get accustomed to how things operate within a team. And I know you've talked about the kind of exciting opportunity you have going to Joe Gibbs Racing. I wondered, is there any apprehension about you've spent so many years in one organization which operated a certain way, that are there some unknowns ahead as you finish up this year and look towards next year?
MATT KENSETH: I don't think there's any apprehension at all. But there's certainly a small amount or some amount of anxiety. I mean, everything's different from the building to all the people, to the manufacturer, to the sponsors, the crew chief.
All the stuff is different. There's a little bit of anxiety over that, just because you're real comfortable for where I've been for so many years and I'm not usually a guy that likes change. But, on the other hand, it's also really, really exciting.
I've been with one of the best organizations in the sport for 15 years, been driving there 10 or 12, 13 years, whatever it's been, and we've had a pretty good amount of success there.
But at the same time, I also get to go to another one of the winningest organizations in the sport and have two of the winningest drivers over there right now and go to a car that's won championships and a lot of races.
So it's also real exciting to go try something different and see how things are done somewhere else, because obviously they have a lot of success as well.
So I am really excited about it. But, yeah, there's a little bit of anxiety just because it's all going to be different.
Q. Why do you think Roush Fenway Racing was such a successful place for you, as you point out 12, 13 years? Nowadays that's a really strong stretch. And it's not like you're leaving because things aren't going well. Why do you think it's been such a successful trip for you?
MATT KENSETH: Well, a lot of things. I mean, any sports team is about people. And the organization is about people. And there's been a lot of great people there.
And I've had a lot of great advantages through my career. And probably the greatest advantage I probably had throughout my career is Robby Riser. I started with him in the Nationwide Series, Busch Series over at Riser Enterprises with him and his dad and his family owning that business. And Robby is a great organizer, hard worker.
From the first time we raced together‑‑ I remember running that first Busch race together, we were in only like our second practice session and he totally bought in what I said and totally believed in me and worked with me. And that was the start of a really great, long successful working relationship.
And I think he's done a lot of great things over there. And at the same time, when Robby and I went over there they had a great organization. And Mark Martin and Jeff Burton were over there just winning tons of races and contending for championships.
And those guys were a huge help to us as well.
Q. I'd like to follow up on Jim's question. Matt, how do you keep your eyes trained on what you're doing with Roush Fenway and not kind of peeking over at Gibbs? How do you keep‑‑ is maybe The Chase the great thing? Because if you weren't in The Chase maybe it would be easy to lose your concentration on what you're doing now?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, a couple of things there. It's not really as hard as it would seem. I think if we were running terrible or we weren't getting along or whatever, I think it would be harder.
But everybody's been good as gold to me over there. They always have been. And they still are right now. And they're giving us everything we need to go run good and try to win races, as this weekend was proof of that.
So we're working as hard as we can until the end of 2012. A long time ago we renewed our agreement to the end of 2012. And it really says a lot about, I think, Roush Fenway's integrity, because they've really stuck to that agreement.
They haven't not given me as good of stuff as anybody else. They haven't done anything different. It's been business as usual. We've been working as hard as we can to try to go win races and try to stay in the hunt for a championship. And we've both been working at that.
So there has really been no crossover. It hasn't really been that hard. We're just all in at Roush Fenway until we're done with that.
Q. You were one of the guys who tested the new surface and configuration at Kansas Speedway. Can you kind of talk a little bit about what you learned and what you saw, how did it feel, and what do you expect next week?
MATT KENSETH: I'm not sure how much I learned. There's only a few of us there. I think the configuration is nice. They did a nice job with the track. They did a nice job with the repave. Really nice facility.
New payment is always very challenging, not only for the people paving it but for the teams and the guys that have to drive on it.
And it's just challenging. It's challenging to get more than one groove and to make it where you can run side by side. It's just not very forgiving.
Looking forward to going back there. I know the guys at Kansas Speedway spent a lot of money and effort on tire machines tires, dragging tires. Got two day testing when we go there. And I really think by the time we race it will be pretty good. I think we'll put on a good race. I think it will be really fast. Hopefully do some good side‑by‑side racing and see a lot of action there. So they did a nice job of it.
Q. Did you have any sense going into this year that you would be good on restricter plate races this year?
MATT KENSETH: Nope, not really. Restricter plate races are one of those things that are really unpredictable. It probably hasn't been‑‑ I feel through my career it's been obviously one of my weak points. I never felt like I was very good at it.
I felt we make not the right decisions even when we had really fast cars. And I felt like that this year a couple of times, to be honest with you. I thought at the second Daytona and the first Talladega, those races were mine to lose and I lost them for my team. I thought they gave me the stuff we needed to win, win both of those races as well.
So super, super thankful we were able to win this weekend and get to victory lane with those guys. But, again, disappointed. I feel like I let them down those other two races. So I had no idea our plate stuff was going to run that good.
Really until Daytona, after the 150s with this package, I feel like we learned a few things. I feel like I learned a few things and the team did as well.
And honestly from the 150 all the way until we got done with the race last Sunday, we've been surprisingly good.
Q. Did you ever have that feeling this year at all on a non‑restricter plate race; and if you haven't, has that surprised you?
MATT KENSETH: That feeling that we were going to be good?
Q. No, the feeling that it was yours to almost lose.
MATT KENSETH: Oh, I'm sure I messed up something somewhere. I can't really think of where at this moment. But I think early in the year, especially, I think we've had a few races that if things, if the chips would have fell our way, we could have won since mid‑season, except for maybe that last Pocono we were pretty good, Jimmie was a little better but we were pretty good there.
But other than that, I can't think of any other races offhand that we were really in position to win. But early in this season I think there were a few races here and there where we were pretty good if everything would have went right.
Q. It's been a while as you mentioned, it's been a while since you've been changed teams or been, came into Roush Racing. And have you observed other, over those years, because you stayed in one place, have you observed other drivers, they changed teams that you think you can draw on anything that you've watched that could help you with your change?
MATT KENSETH: Well, yeah, I've seen‑‑ I think right now, until the season's over, I think that I have the second longest active driver/owner relationship in the garage, I think. I'm pretty sure right next to Jeff and Hendrick.
So certainly I've seen a lot of people switch teams throughout the years. So I don't know. The one that comes to mind the most would probably be Mark Martin. He was in a different situation, because of the time he thought he wanted to retire and obviously that wasn't true.
So that's a lot different situation than I am in. But I've seen him go to a lot of different places and have a lot of success, which makes me feel good.
So I guess if there was somebody that you wanted advice from, that would be it. But I haven't really got that to be honest with you.
When I've talked to Joe and JD and went and saw some of their stuff and spent some time with them, I just really felt like that was the right place for me. I felt really comfortable with everything. I feel really good about their stuff, when you watch how good all their cars perform on the racetrack and how many races they win and all that kind of stuff, I just felt like that was the place for me.
It really wasn't as hard or I wasn't probably as conflicted as one might think.
Q. It's kind of like as far as maybe has your win altered anything, as far as getting a win now, getting ready to go on to a new team?
MATT KENSETH: Well, it's made me feel a little bit better about certain things. I mean, it's really important for me to finish this thing off on a high note. It would just break my heart if the thing was broken when I left. So I certainly didn't want that.
And we had a really rough few weeks in The Chase with parts breaking and following off and not getting good finishes and not running good and everybody was getting close to being at each other's throats and things like that. So it's important for me to try to really try to keep that whole unit as a cohesive front‑running championship‑contending unit. So I'm hoping in the next six weeks we can continue this momentum, hoping we can get another win or two and finish as high as we can in the points and end this thing on a high note.
Q. Do you feel more pressure on yourself as a driver racing at Charlotte since it's close to like the race shops and the families of the teams and such?
MATT KENSETH: No, not really. I mean, I think at times‑‑ it's funny because there's different kinds of pressure. I mean, there's pressure for the point leader to continue being the point leader and stretch your point lead and try and win the championship.
And then before The Chase there's pressure to get into The Chase. There's all kinds of different pressures. There's pressures for the guys in the top 35 to make the race.
So it's different everywhere, but when you go to a track you feel like is one of your best tracks, to me I always feel like there's a lot of pressure to form.
I feel like Dover is one of our best tracks. If we go there and run 15 because we can't keep up, that probably wears on me more than if you go to one of your tracks you don't feel you're very good at and you run 15th or something like that.
So I don't know if that makes sense. There's pressure to do better at the tracks you're not very good at. But the tracks you feel like are your best tracks, as a company or even as a driver or whatever, I think there's always pressure to go out and get those results.
And Charlotte's kind of one of those tracks for performance. But not necessarily because of where it's located, it's just been one of our better tracks in the past. So you always want to capitalize on that when you can.
Q. My next question is with Kansas Speedway next week. How much differently are you going to go into that race than previous years in the past, knowing that with the new surface and stuff?
MATT KENSETH: You start over. All your notes from the past, you just throw away and start over. So you're probably going to‑‑ probably Michigan is probably what you're going to look at.
I believe you're running the same tire we ran at the second Michigan race. Brand new pavement. Similar. Those are things you'll look at. Maybe look at some trends you saw at Michigan through practice, qualifying and the race and how the track changed. And you're probably going to look at stuff like that.
But as far as previous notes from Kansas, they're no good anymore.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
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