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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Matt Kenseth
February 19, 2008


HERB BRANHAM: We're joined now by another special guest, 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.
Matt is going for a third straight victory in the California Speedway, first race of the season they have out there each year, the Auto Club 500.
Matt, what's the outlook for winning three straight in February at California Speedway?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know. I never thought we'd win two. I mean, you never really know. I mean, I always feel pretty confident going to California. It's been one of our better tracks throughout our time in the Nationwide Series and in the Cup Series.
It's one we certainly look forward to. You look forward to trying to get some momentum back after our disappointing Daytona 500. So hopefully it will be all right.
HERB BRANHAM: One of the favorite places for drivers to drive. We hear that each year.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, it's just a real big, you know, wide track. You get a little bit of everything there. You get a lot of speed. Especially this new car has less drag, so you go really fast on the straightaways. It's got some pretty big corners where you can run around the bottom or you can run up high. You're always kind of searching for a groove, so it's always a lot of fun.
HERB BRANHAM: We'll go to the media now for questions for our second guest today, Matt Kenseth.

Q. You mentioned the disappointing Daytona 500. Did you get a chance to talk to David? How did that go?
MATT KENSETH: No, I didn't.

Q. On to California. We see how the draft changed at Daytona. California, being a big place with a lot of speed, does the draft work differently? Do you get some of that benefit at California with this new car?
MATT KENSETH: Well, the honest answer is I don't know, you know, because we haven't really ran this car very much there yet, except for, you know, single-car runs.
You do get some pull down the straightaways in general at Michigan and California probably more so than any of the other tracks we go to besides Daytona and Talladega. You probably get a little pull down the straightaway, but it won't be like Daytona, like you'll be able to help somebody like a teammate. But I certainly do think you will get some pull down the straightaways.

Q. Does it help you being the second guy?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I don't know if you're ever going to see necessarily a slingshot. But certainly if you're moving forward on somebody, corner exit, you get a run on somebody, if you have a car in front of you, certainly you're going to get down the straightaway hopefully a little faster than he is.

Q. Seeing Robbie Reiser at the track not in a crew chief's role, what was that? Do you think he's happy with that right now?
MATT KENSETH: You know, I think he is. I think it's weird for him to be at the track actually. Just got done talking to him right before I called you guys here at the shop. It's just different for him. He's kind of a gamer. That's what he's always done, he's always been in the box calling the races, getting really involved in the race, doing all that sort of sort. To stand on the sideline, watch and listen, I think is probably a little tough for him at this point.

Q. How did things work with Chip the first race?
MATT KENSETH: Good. I mean, not a planned one, but we got to do a five- or six-race trial a little bit last year. Everything was good there. I thought everything went good. Obviously we had a disappointing finish. But he made some great adjustments on the car. We went from being good, to getting it off, to figuring out how to fix it and being pretty competitive right before we got wrecked.
Obviously a disappointing finish, but it was certainly not of the guys' faults. We had good pit stops, good adjustments and had ourselves in contention, so I thought it was good

Q. Did Robbie seem a little lost out there a little bit?
MATT KENSETH: I didn't get to see him much, to be honest with you. Daytona 500 morning is pretty busy. He just came on race day. I didn't get to spend more than two or three minutes with him at the track probably.

Q. The Roush teams typically do really well at these mile-and-a-half and two-mile tracks. That was obviously in the past. You have two wins under your belt at California Speedway. Now it's a clean slate with this new car. Having one testing session under your belt, what can we expect from you guys?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I mean, you never know for sure until you race. I was fairly pleased with our California test. I thought we learned a lot of stuff there. I was more pleased with that than I was with Vegas.
But, I mean, you just don't know really where everybody else is at, what they've learned since then or what they were showing you or not showing you in the test.
With this car, it's a little bit of an unknown because we haven't done it before. But overall I feel pretty good about it. I thought we were pretty competitive out there compared to how everybody was running at the time. I thought we learned some good things about the car.
I feel all right about it.

Q. A lot of drivers mention after they take a few days off they miss racing quickly. Do you think week after week of those hot days and intense competition have little effect on a driver's need for speed, that next trip to Victory Lane?
MATT KENSETH: Can you say that again? I guess I missed it.

Q. When drivers take a few days off, a lot will say they miss racing. After a few days, they want to get racing again. Do the hot days, week after week of the intense competition, going track to track, does that have little effect on a driver's need for speed, the need to win?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I mean, you always want to win. I mean, if you won the week before or you won the year before, whatever it is, you're always out there tying to win. That's the goal.
So, you know, I don't know -- obviously the longer you go in between wins I think the more desperate you feel toward it or the more not panicked but the more you're worried about ever winning again - that's how I get anyway - than if you just won the week before. But I think certainly you're always ready to go to the track and you always want to win.

Q. The new car seems to be an equalizer. Looks like it's put much more of an emphasis on horsepower. At Daytona the Chevys and Toyotas seemed to dominate the events. How does Ford stack up with the horsepower?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know.

Q. Are you behind a little bit?
MATT KENSETH: NASCAR would probably have that information. They did all the tests all weekend. They tested the Nationwide cars. I think they tested the trucks. I know they tested the Cup cars more than once. They have that information.
One thing about NASCAR is they're going to make sure the playing field is level. If for some reason Toyota has a substantial advantage, they're going to figure out how to make it fair for everybody.

Q. I'm sure Roush Fenway is looking for more horsepower. You feel comfortable with the power you've got?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I mean, you know, you only have what you have. Doug Yates and them guys do a great job on the engines. They're constantly looking to make it better, more competitive. I think next year is the year we get our new engine. Certainly, as old as our engine design is, compared to Toyota's or Chevy's new engine, it should be down a little bit. I'm not sure it is, but it should be down a little bit. I know when we get our new stuff, it will be better.

Q. As Ryan was getting off his call before this he said to ask about getting the setup for your car. Can you talk about your friendship with Ryan. You're on different teams, but he has a lot of respect for you.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, Ryan and I have always got along pretty good. I always enjoyed spending a little time together. Krissie and Katie became friends when she came on the scene a little bit. Ryan and I have always gotten along well and have done stuff together. That was a big win for him. That was pretty cool. I promised him I was going to stay up and watch Letterman last night but I fell asleep. Have to watch it on my DVR when I get home. He promised me he was going to say something funny. I don't know if he did or not, but he said he would.

Q. I guess I wonder if you two can help each other at the track or is it just sort of a friendship deal?
MATT KENSETH: No, you know, I have six teammates already. I don't think we can really help each other too much necessarily at the track. But, you know, certainly friends and get along good and like to race together.

Q. With Robbie Reiser out, what do you think the season is going to be like with a new car and new crew chief?
MATT KENSETH: Well, hopefully it will be productive. I think -- I know Chip is going to do a great job. He's done a great job so far. He's been very involved and a big part of the DeWalt team ever since its inception. I'm not worried about that part.
I know the new car is a challenge. But on the other hand having one car to work on for the year instead of two I think will make it a little bit easier on the engineering staff, easier on the crew chiefs and everybody else. So I feel pretty good about it.

Q. What is your take on this year's '08 rookie class, seeing you were a pretty hot rookie when you started?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know. Who are they all?

Q. Patrick Carpentier is one.
MATT KENSETH: I think it's yet to be seen. He hasn't raced a whole bunch in these kind of cars. He's done well the little bit he has and certainly in other forms of racing he's been very successful. I'm sure he'll adapt and do good.

Q. You mentioned earlier California and Michigan, similarities. Will you learn a lot from racing at California? Even though you did some testing at California, can you explain to the folks how much different it is between testing and with 43 cars on the track at the same time?
MATT KENSETH: Well, at a track like California, it's really not that different. You don't really worry about the draft or dirty air or that. It's not like doing single-car runs at a restrictor plate race then going to race, which is greatly different.
I don't think it's really necessarily that much different. California, Michigan certainly have a lot of similarities. You can use a lot of what you learn at California at Michigan and vice versa. I remember there's years when Kurt won both races and ran almost exactly the same stuff at both tracks. You know, what California likes Michigan kind of likes. You might not be able to run a carbon copy but you'll certainly be able to use some of the stuff you learned.

Q. You mentioned you have six teammates. You have teammates that are looking at sponsors going away. You have a couple guys that are free agents. I know you don't have any control over that, but is any of that a concern to you, that there's a lot of things going a lot of different directions with Roush Fenway?
MATT KENSETH: Not really. I mean, whenever you make the organization, you know, bigger, engineering support, whatever, you always worry about it a little bit.
But as long as it's always a two-way street, I think it can help. So I think as long as you get teams that are contributing and helping, working both ways, I think it can help.
The rest of the stuff doesn't really concern me. I got enough to worry about with myself and our team without really worrying about other team sponsors and stuff like that. I don't really put a lot of thought into that.
HERB BRANHAM: First of all, thanks to Matt Kenseth, our 2003 series champion and two-time defending champion at the Auto Club 500. Matt, best of luck to try to get three in a row at California this weekend.
MATT KENSETH: Thanks, everybody. Appreciate it.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to all the media for joining us. As always, we truly appreciate the coverage. Throughout this year, teleconferences will typically be on Tuesday, 1:00, 2:00 normally. Watch on NASCARmedia.com for the ongoing teleconference schedule. Thank you again.



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