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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Matt Kenseth
Jeremy Mayfield
January 11, 2006


Q. What's the outlook for you?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Everything is going good. We had a good test here. Cars are really, really good. Really excited about it and feel like this is the best I've been here at Daytona testing in a long time, as long as I can remember.

Q. What does it say about the pressures of racing the NEXTEL Cup when you make the Chase twice, and yet, the pressure is still on you from the team owner and the sponsors to be even better?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, I mean that's what we're here for is to want to be better. We didn't win the championship and that's the only goal. This year the goal was to get in the Top-5 and we didn't; we come short of that. Still better than having a goal of us making the Top 15 in point, let's make the Top-10. The good thing about our owner is he puts pressure on us, but he's got pressure on him just to win, just ourselves. It's not about anything other than just wanting to do the best out there. I've got a lot of respect for Ray for that. He stays on the guys and he's not afraid to change things up in a heartbeat to make it better. So far, we're still searching for what we want in racing, and so far he's made the changes.

Q. We talked awhile ago the perception is maybe in some camps that the team that got you into the Chase twice has been given to Casey to give him a chance and left you high and dry, and I know you don't feel that way, you feel like your team is better than it was last year, can you talk about that?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: First of all, from the outside looking in, it may look that way, that, okay, here is a team, the guy made the Chase and I'm sitting here being criticized, oh, you made the Chase two years in a row. Casey didn't make the Chase so now maybe he'll make the Chase and give me a shot at doing something different and mixing the chemistry up on our team. That's what it's done. It's by no means a way of taking a team away from the Chase and giving it to Casey or giving me the team that had one races or whatever. We moved some guys from the 9 car over to the 10 car because they were building a new deal over there with rod any and Scott. I got pretty much Chris Andrews, and along the way, that -- besides that, Casey got all the 19 guys. Along the way this past year, Chris Andrews has done nothing but build brand new race cars for this year, the 2006 season. So we have a shop full right now, if you walk into the 9/19 shop, one on one side, one on the other; as far as you can see is black number red and 19, cars lined up down the shot. There's at least 12, 15 cars race-ready and ready to go. He's worked on them the past year. That's what also took place here. It's not like, oh, Casey has got as far as I have. Some of the 9 cars and they are building new cars and the 10 car. I'm saying I've got all brand new race cars, the best that Evernham Motorsports can build, still building new ones and all done and ready to go. So we are more prepared right now as a race team than the 9 car or the 10 car. The 19 is struggling a little bit as far as it's a new deal and we don't know how it's going to work out. But other than that, we are in pretty good shape.

Q. With Bill being a part-timer, I don't know what his relationship is, you're kind of the old guy now, you're not an old man, but you're the older guy. Are you comfortable with that role? I mean, Scott is a little bit younger than you, but still you've been doing it a lot longer than him. Have you accepted that role that, hey, you're the guy now that they can come to?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: I'm trying to. I'm trying to sure enough be in that position. One of the things is that I have been doing this a long time and longer than probably get credit for, I've been here for a while now and I've seen things happen and I've been through a lot of different situations and been through some high-pressure situations, so I have a lot of experience in a lot of areas. I've been beat up, knocked down, chewed up, spit out and everything else. I'm hoping that -- and I've done this with Casey already, talked with him about different things and Scott and that helped me, too. I'm hoping that I can help our race teams by being in that position, whether it's giving them advice or maybe I see them in trouble and I go up and say a few words. And like I say it's already happened a few times, along with Bill coming to us. I hope that I can take that role on and continue on and build what we need to build at Evernham Racing.

Q. (No microphone.)

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, and we all know that Casey struggled a little bit last year. The year before that, his first year out, he took off really good, really great every week. But when that happens as a young driver, first thing that happens besides the girls and that stuff, is, you know, you start getting a lot of things thrown at you, appearances and just different things, different opportunities. And if you're not careful, whoever is managing or whatever or even yourself will commit to even more than you can handle. I think that Casey is realizing now that he does a lot of appearances, not a whole lot, but sometimes that can take away from where you really need to be at. I talked to him and told him, one way or another, give him some of my experience.

Q. Can you tell us where you all are with the new charger, or not new anymore, just the Charger, and will you use it for the '04 Intrepid at some point early in the year?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: The charger itself, we're working hard every day just like we've been doing, trying to figure out what we need to make it better. I think I've heard NASCAR is talking to them about whatever was planned on or whatever, but we've just got to continue to work hard on it. It's not really one thing. You take the car in a wind tunnel and it doesn't look that bad. Maybe it looks pretty good with the numbers, like you're 0.478 or better. Then you get in traffic and you have all the -- inaudible -- what we've been facing all year, and you can't find the balance in the race car. So we got closer at the end of the year, Homestead we had a great run, we did have the '04 car. At the end of the day, neither one of them was very far off each other. I heard talk of I think Penske was talking to Dodge about running them but I haven't heard anything about it. We still have to stay committed to the Charger. It's a new car and it didn't do too bad. We just have to continue on and help Dodge and have Dodge help us figure out what we need.

Q. (No microphone.)

JEREMY MAYFIELD: I think it's hard to tell down here. We'll know more in Vegas. I think that might be why NASCAR has not made any changes because there's a lot of different things going on with other manufacturers. I think that we're going to have to race a little bit on the downforce track to see how they all stack up. They are giving us a little bit right now, we are so close. We needed one that worked from from last year, but we really don't know for this year. I'm sure they will wait and figure out what we need to do.

Q. Top-10 going into the season, you know you probably won't be picked by a bunch of us, and that motivates your team; right? And make the case that you made to me earlier about why you should even be in the Top-10.

JEREMY MAYFIELD: David and I talked earlier and he was telling me and that I says, well, that's cool from the outside looking in. But if you were on the inside looking out, I have a better race team right now than I had last year. Another thing is, too, we at beginning of the year we're picked about 20th in points, all this stuff, whatever. But if you look at numbers, if you took your pick at the beginning of the year and said okay, things are going to happen and you look at all of the numbers, you'd still put us in the Top-10. You look at average finish, average starts, laps completed, we didn't lead the most laps, but we made the Top-10 running like that. So I'm like, if we ran bad last year and made the Top-10, and what's going to happen this year if we just get a little bit better? And that's where we're at. I understood what David said, yeah, you switched teams, people are different and this, that and the other. From my point of view, it's as good or better than it's ever been. The 19 and 9 are closer than they have ever been. They help each other, work together, the cars are the same. The 9 guys -- inaudible -- we joke around, cut up and it's just a good, tight-night group right now. For anybody not to pick us at least 15th, not 18th or 20th, that's what I was telling him, because that's where we're at as a race team. I know we're kind of quiet and don't say a whole lot and we just do our own deal. But Ray Evernham and Dodge and myself everyone and on the 9, 19 and 10 car, it not like we're a bunch of losers. We're going to win races and we're going to be in the Top-10 in points. I told David, I've done it two years ago and I aim to do it again, that's what I was telling him. I also said that, I hate seeing you picking the odds for Vegas. If you were working out there picking odds, you would be in big trouble -- no, I mean, if you were the guy working for the casino picking odds on it. And I was joking with him when I said all this, but just trying to make a point, we're a better race team than we're given credit for.

Q. Along those same lines, is it outlandish to think that they are 20-plus teams that are going to vie for the Chase?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Sure, it is. But every year you see it starts out competitive. Every week there's 43 cars that run in the Chase. It's hard to do that. Every year you go, man, there's a lot of good teams that have a shot at it. But then you've got to really look deep into it where you decide who is going to be hot, it's just unpredictable. And it's as competitive or more competitive now than it's ever been, for sure. The thing you have got to do is just be smart about how you race. You can't have a good car and not finish the race and stuff like that. But any given week, there's 20 cars for sure that can win races and win the Chase and really be competitive week-in and week-out.

Q. What advice would you give the seven rookies coming up?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Man, talk about pressure. You know, we talked about it the other night at the Dodge Center being a rookie right now coming into sport. You don't see rookies come in and start out in Jimmy Valen's (ph) car or in Stadler's car and give you a chance to work your way you up. You come in now, you'd better be ready. There's a lot of young guys that come into our sport and there's a lot of young guys that come in and don't stay long. I'm sure all them guys know that going into it that you have to produce and it's not about, oh, we'll get 'em next week, anymore. You have to get them this week, every week. They have a lot of pressure but there's a great group of guys coming in that seem to be able to handle the pressure very good. That's what it's all about. It's not the pressure of the sport; it's how you handle the pressure of the sport, and whoever can handle it the best, stay strong, usually will survive, that's what it is anymore. But the advice I can give them is you've got to stay strong and stay focused. If you let up, you'll be in trouble.

Q. Going into the season, you think you're better than you were last year, and I'm sure most of these people would say the same thing; it's this time of the year when everybody is optimistic. What tells the tale? Because five races into the season, we'll be looking around and there will be three or four teams that you go, they are not going to go anywhere. How do you get off to a good start? How do you get yourself in a situation like you've managed to stay in for two years where you kind of hang around, hang around, all of a sudden you we look up at Richmond and there you are. What's the trick to qualify that you seem to have figured out?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: That's something I said about Mark Martin earlier, just talking about Mark, you didn't really see him maybe making it -- that's would be the first guy I would put on my list. I don't know where he's at, but he would definitely be in the Top-10 in points. He knows how to race to get into the Chase. That's the thing that keeps us optimistic that we know last year wasn't as good of a year as we had the year before. And that's what I mean, we only need to be a little bit better. And when I walk into the shop and I go, okay, I'm optimistic and excited about the new 2006 year coming up, but the years you say that are the years you feel like you mean that. When I walk into the shop and I hear guys saying, man they have been working on pit stops, we're going to have better, more consistent pit stops now than we've ever had. That's another notch right there that's going to be better for us. I look, I see all the race cars lined up brand new, they drive the same, everything on them is -- inaudible -- I've never had that, that's got to be a plus, that's what I've always wanted what we've been working towards, that's better. I guess what I'm trying to say, that's the reason why I'm optimistic about this year and feel good about it is I see all that stuff that's improved that's better. And then I hear, well, you're not going to run good or whatever so that's why I defend ourselves like we do. But that's why I'm optimistic about it. I know there's years I've come in here, and I walk out going, I hope I can knock that out, you know what I mean. I have more confidence right now than I have ever had. And I'm 102 percent, not 10 (110) yet, confident that we can stack up with what we're seeing right now.

MATT KENSETH: Our test are going pretty good so far and happy to get the new Fusion on the track. Looking forward to the Daytona 500 more this year than year's past because we ran pretty good in all the races last year. Homestead, we were really competitive.

Q. No microphone.

MATT KENSETH: Really with all of the rules you're not going to see a big difference just because -- inaudible -- it's very similar to what we had. It's probably going to be a little bit better, and we already had a great race last year. And so it's going to be a great car, a great street car, that's for sure.

Q. The drafting practice this morning, you guys were out there in relatively decent packs, what can you tell us about that and how the Fusion handled and anything significantly different?

MATT KENSETH: It's going to be the same what we've had the last couple of years. I believe the spoiler size and the plate size, all that is the same. Unless they change that, you're going to see the same race. It seemed like it was the same as always, you needed a few cars to really be able to move around and get much done, which is normal. It's hard today because the biggest pack we had was maybe six cars, and obviously the more cars you get, the more turbulent it gets the more you can move around the pack and push people by. Both of my cars, they are a little bit different and both drive like they should be. You know, I don't think we're really going to notice a difference from the driver's seat. I don't think we're going to feel anything different, which is probably good because we had good balanced cars before. I think it's going to be a little bit better and something you're going to be able to measure in. This day and age -- it's not like it was even five years ago when we went from the Taurus and changed a lot of that stuff around. So it's not like that, I mean, the quarters are the same and the size, all that stuff is basically the same, just a little bit of a look, the nose is just a little different, the tail is just a little different.

Q. Jack said that even though he won the championship two years in a row for his organization, he really considers last year to probably be the best year ever. As a team player, your comments on that. And also as a follow-up, how would you rate last years, because given just a few races had you not had problems with tires, you would have been right up there all along?

MATT KENSETH: You know, if you look at the year as a whole and average everything out, I think it was a successful race for us. We wanted to do much better than that, I think we probably led maybe more laps last year than what we ever had. We were in position to win a few races, a couple of them we cost ourselves. I think overall we ran pretty good. I think Roush Racing ran better last year than they have every other year. We ran the worst up until the last -- inaudible. We just needed to be a little bit more consistent. I think overall it was a great year for everybody at Roush and I hope we get closer to the championship -- inaudible -- this year.

Q. How did the rookies do in the draft today from what you saw, and can you talk about Carl's year last year and how you think they will do this year?

MATT KENSETH: The rookies in the draft, you know, the rookies these days have a lot of experience in the Busch Series and doing that, and these cars are much easier to drive than the Busch cars with the wickers on them. I'm sure they will do fine. It's hard to see that until you get in race condition and three- and four-wide and all that kind of stuff -- I already forgot your other question. Oh, Carl. I'm sure Carl will do great. He had a great year last year, I think he won four Cup races and five Busch races. You know, Carl obviously has a lot of natural talent and he's pretty smart, does the right things at the right time. So I don't see him slowing down, that's for sure.

Q. Can you talk about the difference between a test like this in Vegas and I guess the Super Speedway being what it is, are you really looking more toward Vegas to see how this car really handles?

MATT KENSETH: Sure, we only do speedway racing four times a year and Daytona is fairly different from Talladega, so we really only do this twice a year really. Look forward to Vegas. Here we just run a couple of laps and see how much speed you have. With all of the rules today, you can't change rear springs and rear shocks, all of the different stuff we used to change to try to travel, NASCAR has pretty much caught on to it and basically made a rule for basically everything. There's not really a lot that we can do when we get here. Really what you run off the truck is what your car is going to run. It's kind of boring testing really at this track. When you go to Vegas, any track where you have to let off the gas, it's different because you're working on all kind of different stuff, you're working on your aerodynamics, you're working on your handling package. Vegas is a fun place to go, especially in the wintertime when you haven't been in the car a lot. So you go there and test and have an idea about your downforce. We run 32 downforce races and four Speedway races, so really, both are important. Daytona 500 holds a lot of importance, but as far as how your year goes, your downforce is most important because that's what we race the most.

Q. How dangerous is traffic out there -- I heard Robby made -- what happened with Jimmie Johnson last year at Talladega probably cost him the championship?

MATT KENSETH: I don't know, I don't want to go there with any predictions or anything like that. It's like anything, I mean, it all depends how and where it's done and what situation. So I mean, I don't mind it. Obviously there's guys like any kind of racing, you know, we're running different types of races than we do during the year that you're more comfortable with than others that are pushing you. The only time it gets to be probably a little bit dangerous is when you're three-wide during the middle and the car behind you is pushing you and you maybe can't see the car in front of you that you're already on him. Sometimes that kind of stuff happens. But if it's done in the right place and the right situation, I don't think there's anything really wrong with it. A lot of people don't like it, but if you get bumped driving -- inaudible -- in the wind tunnel Vegas, I pushed him so hard -- Hanna brought me up one position, too. It's like anything, there's a time and place for anything and the way the rules are structured it makes it -- inaudible -- which makes for more exciting racing but it also makes it where you can updraft somebody and run it.

Q. You raced at one point or another against all of the guys in this year's rookie field, who impresses you and how do you assess the field?

MATT KENSETH: Who is the rookie besides Sorenson? Martin? Who else? There's a whole bunch of them. They are all really good, I've raced against all of them. Marvin reminds me a lot of Dale Junior. He did the same thing in the Busch Series, won the championship for two years and now he's coming up. So I think he's going to be real tough. I think that the Sorenson is going to be awesome. He has a lot of natural talent. First time I've seen him racing. He's young and he's ready to go. I think all of them guys will run good, really. I think that's a really talented group, one of the talented group of rookies and biggest group of rookies that we've had for a long time. So that will probably be a neat thing to watch.

Q. Not to be too technical but Jimmie Johnson yesterday was talking about the front spring, the 20 car was ahead of everybody on and he indicated that he thought NASCAR might make a change or something up there, going to Las Vegas and downforce tracks on the old package is important, are you hearing anything about that? Do you have any feel?

MATT KENSETH: If you find out what they are doing, will you find out and give a copy to me? I don't know what it was. I don't really know. Jimmie was talking, usually Chad is the first guy to figure out everything, half the rule book today is filled up about what Chad is doing and they had to make a rule for him to quit doing it -- inaudible -- probably just everybody got caught up. Obviously the 21 wants to race and the 48 wants to race and obviously they were doing it within the rules because they won races.

Q. There's talk a couple of you Roush guys running the Rolex 24, is that something that we might see?

MATT KENSETH: Not this year. We were talking about it but they already had the test last weekend, so I don't want to go do it. Last year Kurt and Greg and I and Maxwell did and it was a lot of fun, but our stuff didn't run very good and we didn't keep up -- inaudible. The only thing, I was trying to make sure we had competitive stuff and we could keep up. It was late to put it all together. I would love to do it again, if we could be competitive, maybe not be the best car out there, but at least competitive where we could feel like we have a chance at winning. Last year we didn't feel like we had much of a chance.

Q. How would you assess if you were to kind of preview your team and rank yourself heading into this year? You have some new guys on the team, and second question, how do you think that the new testing policy is going to affect -- maybe a benefit to the veterans?

MATT KENSETH: I feel good, we have a few new people. We didn't have that big of a turnover, we moved one guy up to car chief that's been there for a year and a couple new guys. We have some young guys that are moved up and getting tired up about doing it. The testing thing, I don't know if it will be -- I don't think that will be an advantage to the veterans. The thing that really concerns me about the testing procedure is all of the same for everybody, but this week, for example, they are doing tire tests in Atlanta. Well none of us have a chance to test Atlanta and I don't have a problem with it. But the two cars testing with Kurt, they are going to do the tire test, so they got a leg up on everybody coming to Atlanta. I don't know who else is doing it. That's the only part of it that bothers me who is going to test tires where. Teams can test there, Goodyear and NASCAR -- inaudible -- picks two or three teams to go test and to track the tiers, that's obviously a big advantage and we don't have a chance to go do that. So that concerns me, I'm sure they will have a handle on it hopefully. I think that gives us a big advantage.

Q. Second half of last season was so good for you, what was the difference in that second half from the first half and what do you bring into that in 2006?

MATT KENSETH: There's a couple things, really only two things. We had some problems with our cars aerodynamically that were not quite right that we figured out what we were doing wrong and fixed our bodies and put it back in the first place it should have been and that got our cars running competitively. We didn't have quite as many problems, in the Chase we didn't have as many flat tires, just silly things happening. Last year in the race at Bristol, we were running second or third with 15 to go, and had a flat tire and finished 35th and Phoenix had the same thing happened. A lot of stuff like that happened that it felt like it was pretty much out of our control and we were not running as good. Once we fixed our cars and got them running as good, we were able to run the front end, we had a little better luck.

Q. Can you talk about some of the guys that have moved up on the team? Is there a learning curve you want to get ironed out early or is there experience where you don't have to worry about it?

MATT KENSETH: I'm not really worried about it. This test is good for that. It gets the whole group working together and getting in a routine and a system of changing things and everybody knows what their responsibilities are and that type of thing. It worked the new guys a little bit and --inaudible -- you test at Daytona and when you go test at Las Vegas, so when you come down here for the real deal, everybody is ready to go.

Q. Robby was saying the other day that with so many cars on your team, within your operation that you really can't take one car's data and apply it to all of the others, but have you noticed this week that some of what you've been doing has been kind of watched by some of the other guys within your operation?

MATT KENSETH: I think they work pretty close together when they are building Speedway cars. The thing for me is the wind tunnel and what we built and what we did, we thought one car would be three tighter than another car and this and that, and everything seems it back up what we learn. They actually seem to run what we thought they would run. A lot of times you can get one that you think is great in the tunnel and get on the track and be really slow. They have both been about where we thought they should have been.

Q. For you personally, is testing shaking things out for yourself after a short winter off?

MATT KENSETH: Yeah, it kind of is. After you run a few laps here, it doesn't feel like you're going that fast, even though you're running 35 or whatever. Just because the track is big and you're out there by yourself and all that. After sitting for a month and a half, after you run a few laps, it feels like you're running fast for a few laps, and it's fun to get back in the race car and get back at it.

Q. Do you still find time to ride motorcycles and if you do, do you prefer to cruise, speed or both?

MATT KENSETH: Pretty much just cruise. We had some time this year, we ran I think there was five of us that went from Texas to Phoenix in the spring, Kenny Schrader, Kyle, Jeff Reed and Bill Davis and myself, we all rode up there. That was fun. And then my brother and I actually rode from Phoenix to Homestead, took that whole week and did that, that was a really long run, that was 2m700 miles or something. That was a long ways. It's something I really enjoy, kind of gets you away and to me, it's something I like to do.

Q. What did you do in the off-season and how do you -- the short off-season?

MATT KENSETH: I stay pretty busy. We went back to Wisconsin for the holidays. I've been learning to fly and I got my pilot's license in May and this winter I school for about five weeks and got my instrument rating and got that about a week ago. I've been spending my spare time flying this winter and going to school and trying to learn more about that.

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