NASCAR Media Conference
September 14, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference in advance of Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Sunday's race is the first of 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Our guest today is Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Matt is the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and he is seated 11th among 12 drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Matt has 5 top 5's and 10 top 10 finishes in 2010.
Matt, as we head into the first race of the Chase, what is your outlook for the weekend and the Chase?
MATT KENSETH: Well, New Hampshire hasn't been one of the strongest tracks the first few times we've been there. But I'm looking forward to going. I feel like we've got our cars going quite a bit faster than when we were going there a few months ago.
I'm looking forward to go there, excited to start the Chase, and hopefully we can get some great finishes.
THE MODERATOR: We will now go to the media for questions.
Q. Matt, I wanted to ask you about Jack Roush. Are you kind of amazed at the way he's been such a survivor, walking away from plane crashes, coming back to work? What is your feeling on what makes that guy tick?
MATT KENSETH: Not many people walk away from one plane crash much less two. Yeah, he's lucky to still be with us, be able to walk away from all that stuff.
I can't say I was really surprised he got back to the track as quick as he did. He loves being at the track, he loves being at the shop, being in the middle of all the business and all the decisions and stuff. I wasn't surprised he was back as quick as he was.
Always loves racing, the business end, the competition end. That's what he enjoys doing.
Q. Have you seen any kind of change in him? He says that now maybe after being through this he's maybe a little more tolerant of other people's mistakes, mellowed a little bit. Have you seen that?
MATT KENSETH: That's a good one. No, not really (laughter).
I think I saw a huge change in Jack when he had his first airplane accident, a huge change. That's where I really seen him, you know, kind of mellow out and be more tolerant, do all the things you're talking. Since then, he's been about the same I think. There was definitely a big change I think the first time he had the accident.
I haven't noticed him being that different since he's been back, but he's only been back a little bit. Obviously, it was a traumatic experience and he's still recovering.
Q. Matt, do you feel any pressure to make it maybe seem like you're a little more excited just to be in the Chase or that you think your chances are better than maybe you really think or performance has shown compared to the others who are in it?
MATT KENSETH: Do I feel pressure to be more excited (laughter)? No, I don't feel pressure to be more excited. I am actually real excited that we're in the Chase because it hasn't been what we expected.
It's been a decent year. I mean, it's what everybody looks forward to and has their goals set on, is trying to make the Chase, trying to win a championship. You can't win a championship without making the Chase. So we did get that one.
I'm also a realist and realize that if we keep our average finishes we've had for the first 26 races, there's not a snowball's chance of winning the championship and we need to do better than that.
With that being said, I'm really excited about our prospects and how much faster the company cars have been the last two months. If we do the right things during the race, if we execute properly, if we have great pit stops, do all the right things, I think the potential is there to get some good finishes and get up there and challenge for some wins. Certainly if we can do that, we'll be a contender down the stretch.
Q. Can I get you to update us on how things have been with Jimmy? Has the relationship changed since you've been back together? What is the outlook beyond the end of this year for you guys continuing to work together?
MATT KENSETH: Everything has been good. I've enjoyed working with Jimmy. Kind of a unique situation. Took me three crew chiefs to make the Chase.
But I really enjoy working with him. I always have worked with him back in the Nationwide Series. Actually, when I first started at Roush in the late '90s, I used to go hang out with Jimmy and Mark a lot when he was Mark's crew chief, and I've learned a great deal from him.
I think the transition has been pretty good. I think it's getting Jimmy used to working with Chip and Nick is onboard to help us, as well. It's getting those three guys to work together with me and figure out what we need in the car. We've been I feel like gaining on it every week.
As far as outlook for next year, I'm not really sure. When Jimmy came onboard, I'm not really sure he was wanting to do that. He was enjoying doing R&D, being home, not traveling every weekend. I hope he wants to continue next year and keep doing it.
Q. You mentioned you're happy to be in the Chase, but the year hasn't been what you've been looking for. When you haven't won a race going into the Chase, does that bring more anxiety?
MATT KENSETH: Well, yeah, I mean, you know, you want to win, but it also depends how you're running. I know Jeff Gordon hasn't been running quite as good lately the last couple months. For him, for instance, when I look at the first three months of season, he didn't win a race either, but he was up leading tons of laps, was in position every week, and you knew it was just a matter of time, where we haven't exactly been in that position.
So there is pressure and anxiety to perform every week, whether it's winning or running up front or making the Chase or trying to run for a championship or whatever it is.
So, I mean, like I said, I really am excited to be in the Chase. I'm excited we made it. Everybody that's in has a shot when they start at New Hampshire this weekend. You have to start performing well and start getting the finishes.
I'm one of them guys that gets excited after you do something, not before you do it. So if we can win some races, we can run for the championship, I'll be more excited than anybody out there. But right now I'm just more thinking about the work that's in front of us, what we're going to do to try to accomplish those goals and what we're going to do to get our cars running better and getting the finishes we need, that type of thing. So you're already looking forward to that.
Q. Matt, has the new Ford engine provided that much more of an additional punch?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I think the new F49 Ford engine is definitely better than the old Ford engine. I think it has a lot of potential. That's one thing that Doug has told me, Doug Yates, is that this is our first year with that engine. The other engine we've basically been running forever. Seems like they found everything there is to find in it. This is a new piece. It's going to continue to develop and get better.
Q. Going into next year, you think it will do even more than it has this year?
MATT KENSETH: I think so. I mean, generally the longer you have the same piece and you keep working on it, you usually keep improving it, even without rules changes or new pieces or parts. They'll figure out how to get more power out of it just from working on it longer, having another off-season to do R&D and test on the stuff. I think it will continue to get better. I think it's already better than what we had and I think it will continue to improve.
Q. Matt, you guys make high-stake decisions often on and off the track, contracts and everything, decisions that really stagger the average person. Is that learned or inherent? Is it why you went from the short tracks to the big tracks?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know exactly what kind of decisions you mean. Decisions on the track?
Q. Your decisions are more than, say, the average person. You sign a contract, you know, you're constantly in front of crowds. Everything is elevated.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, I came here and was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to race. I mean, I started racing in Wisconsin for something fun to do. Me and my dad started doing it together, racing together, going to some local short tracks. We did it for something constructive to do. I got real fortunate, had some people see me drive, gave me a chance to drive their equipment.
The business part and being in the public eye, the media part, all that was something that came with the job of wanting to compete at the highest level. So that was kind of all secondary. It was really always about being in the racecar and trying to win races, and the rest of the stuff you just kind of had to learn as you went.
Q. Matt, at the beginning of the year, the way things kind of turned around, it's just like for all the Roush cars, it seemed to happen in a 12-week period. A lot of times everybody says, It's the little things, not just one thing you can put your finger on, that made the big difference. Any way you can identify why it all just came together for you guys?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I mean, I hate to say it, but it really is. There's not one big magic thing anymore like maybe you used to find. The rules are so tight on these cars, what we can and can't do. It is really a matter of getting all the little things done right all year, I's dotted, T's crossed, work on every area of the car to make it the best you can.
There's one or two particular pieces that seemed to help us a fair amount and get us back in the ballpark. After that, it's just, you know, trying to get the whole package put together right.
THE MODERATOR: Matt, thank you for your participation. We do appreciate it. Thanks for your coverage.
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