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NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona

Matt Kenseth
January 12, 2012


DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

KERRY THARP:  We're here with Matt Kenseth.  He drives the No.17 Best Buy Valvoline Ford for Roush‑Fenway Racing.  You've been in victory lane for the Daytona 500.  You've won the Sprint Cup Series championship.  But talk about winning here at Daytona, what that means to a driver to get that prestigious trophy that's right here to my left.
MATT KENSETH:  Yeah, that was huge for us obviously, winning that race.  It's a very unique and different race, but I think it's still the sport's biggest race of the year.  So I think everybody that ever grew up watching stock car racing or wanted to race stock cars always dreamed of winning the Daytona 500, so that was certainly a cool day.

Q.  Asking on behalf of Dale, Jr., do you have his $2,500?
MATT KENSETH:  How did I know that was going to be the first question?  I'll try to scrounge it up somewhere, I guess.  But this should count.  This is like three days.

Q.  He seemed pretty steadfast on it.
MATT KENSETH:  Yeah, I was hoping.  Back when he was younger he could have had enough beers in him where he wouldn't have remembered that, but I guess he remembered it.

Q.  Tell us about the bet, the details, what happened, how it got there?
MATT KENSETH:  Well, I kind of grew a beard in the off‑season for a while for a couple reasons, but then he had that '70s party, so I ‑‑ I put a picture on Twitter so I'm sure you saw it as much as you Tweet, but I kind of had the FuManchu going and the pork chop things, and he bet me I wouldn't keep at least the FuManchu through the test.  I kind of had organized‑‑ I was actually going to, and it looked really stupid, but I hate losing any money and he kept upping the money and upping the money, so finally I said, okay, but I checked first to make sure I didn't have any photos or anything.  And then I got a call, oh, yeah, Monday, by the way, you've got to do a photo here and you've got to do this interview and do a photo shoot there.  So anyway, so I guess I lost.  Although this technically should count.  It's three days old, two days.

Q.  At the banquet you were talking about how concerned you were about sponsorship coming into the year.  Since then you've got Best Buy.  How does that situation stand now, and are you as concerned as you were then?
MATT KENSETH:  Well, yeah.  I mean, I'm really excited Best Buy is coming in for I guess it's nine races, so that's a good start.  We've got a lot of races that are empty in our car still, more than two thirds of the season, but I'm really thankful that they came on for the Daytona 500, get the year started, and to be an associate on our car all year and be with Carl's car.  So they've been a great sponsor of the sport.  They've been around for a long time, and I'll be proud to fly them colors and hopefully can have some success with them.

Q.  How do you think the dynamic is going to change at Roush with only three Cup cars there this season?
MATT KENSETH:  I don't know that it'll change a lot.  I mean, it's still pretty big.  We've got the three cars, and I think Ricky is running some races.  I think Ricky is running the 500, at least he's here testing.  And you still have the two Petty cars in there, too.
So I think it'll be fine.  I guess if there's anything to be concerned about or think about it's just we've lost so many people over the off‑season.  I think we've lost some important people and some people that ‑‑ not on the 17 but within the organization, some people that had access to everything are pretty much at every single different team throughout the garage.  So I think anything you have that you maybe thought was an advantage through last year, things we learned, has certainly disappeared.  So I think that's going to make us have to work extra hard to be able to find something that's a little bit better to try to get an edge on some of them guys again.

Q.  Just as a follow‑up to that, it seems like not just from your team but people throughout the garage got spread out to a whole bunch of different teams.  What will that do to the competition?  It was already very even it seemed like.  How do you think that'll impact things?
MATT KENSETH:  Well, I mean, the more rules they make and the more people that leave and come and go and do all that stuff certainly I think it makes it more even or gets information around the whole garage.  But yeah, it seems like a little bit different time.  Seems like there's been some downsizing, seems like there's kind of less teams.  It'll be different.  I think the competition has been great.  I don't think it's‑‑ I think it'll be at least as even as it was.  I don't know how anybody is going to get a big advantage at least for very long in this day and age with all these rules anyway.  But certainly it won't spread the field apart farther.

Q.  I know you've only done single car laps here today, but can you talk about the fuel injection and the rules package in your car?  Does the car feel different with the fuel injection and the smaller spoiler and all that?
MATT KENSETH:  Well, I mean, you kind of hit the nail on the head.  You're doing single car runs so it's hard to tell a lot as far as handling or anything like that.  But certainly our speeds are way up compared to what we're used to doing with single car runs the last couple years, so I'm interested to see if they try to race us restrictor plate.  I think we're going to be going really, really fast because I think I've seen like 195 today on the straightaway by yourself, so you know especially if they can get locked together, you'll probably do another 10 miles an hour.
Then I think the cars will have to handle.  So I'm kind of anxious to get into a group and see what it's like and see if you can draft normal or see if it's just going to be two cars.  I'm kind of anxious probably like you guys are to see that and also to feel it from the car and seeing what the handling is like.  So I like the ideas that they've come up with, the smaller spoiler and going faster to try to make the cars handle because it's going to make it hard to not handle here because of the new pavement, but if you can make them not handle, certainly it's going to be harder to be pushing somebody all the way around the track.

Q.  Recently you went on social media and a lot of fans found you, a side they probably never knew about you.  Could you comment about the Twitter and so forth and what it's going to do for NASCAR?
MATT KENSETH:  I don't know.  I mean, it seems to be kind of the‑‑ I don't want to say the craze, but certainly it's a new outlet to reach more people.  I think everybody is using it, not just NASCAR but in all sports.  It seems like less people pick up the phone, less people talk to each other face to face, more people text, more people Tweet, whatever, Facebook, all that stuff.  So I guess it's just the way it is.  But I've kind of enjoyed it.  I've found it as a different avenue to interact with my fans mostly, maybe show people another side of me.  But more than anything just kind of interact with the fans maybe more so than what you can at the racetrack.  When I'm at the racetrack I'm pretty focused on what I'm doing and thinking about race cars and probably more serious where I think it kind of gives you a chance that you can either pick it up or put it down whenever you want and you can kind of interact with them a little bit.

Q.  Dale, Jr., mentioned the same thing you did, about getting the car not to handle well, which is kind of, isn't it, contrary to what most race car drivers would want, which is a good handling car?  But is that the secret here, to not be able to do that, draft, just have a car that is not comfortable?
MATT KENSETH:  Well, you still want your car to handle better than everybody else's.  I think just in general if you take all the cars and everybody can hold it wide open, even if their car is not set up as good as somebody else's or everybody can do it without even thinking about it, certainly it makes everybody grouped up more, can push more or whatever.  If you looked at it a few years ago, probably, I don't know, two or three years ago, on new tires everybody could run wide open and it was a real two‑ and three‑wide crazy racing, then all of a sudden it would be two wide and then it would single out to kind of single wide, and you would see the cars that would handle really good could almost pass by themselves without really drafting.
So that was probably from most drivers' point of view, that was the most fun restrictor plate racing that we had.  Now, I don't think you're going to get it back like that for probably not as long as I drive.  It's going to take a long time to wear the tracks down that much where the cars slip and slide that much unless they get a really small, hard tire on them or something.  But I think the worse they handle, you just can't‑‑ if you're having a hard time getting around a corner by yourself, you certainly can't be pushed.  You're going to get spun out.  I think that's some of the idea of putting a smaller spoiler on there is probably just trying to make them a little bit harder to drive.



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