NASCAR Media Conference
October 29, 2008
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the NASCAR CAM Teleconference in advance of Sunday's Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Our guest today is Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford. Matt is joining us from the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina.
Matt is currently 9th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, 413 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. Matt has one win and seven top 10s in 12 starts at Texas Motor Speedway. Since 2005, Matt has a third best driver rating of 104.9.
Matt, take us to the track where you generally seem to run well. Talk about your outlook heading into this weekend in Texas?
MATT KENSETH: I'm really looking forward to going to Texas. It's been a pretty good track for us. Right now we seem to be running really good at the mile-and-a-half, and the two-mile intermediate type tracks with all five cars in the Top 10 last weekend.
So we've got a lot of confidence going there. It's one I really enjoy going to. It's a great facility. It has tons of great, enthusiastic race fans out there, so I'm really looking forward to it.
Q. Back in 2003 when you ran in the championship, you were kind of tabbed as the driver who ruined the old point system and created the Chase. Now that we have the Chase, Jimmie Johnson is being tabbed as the driver that's ruining the Chase. So how can NASCAR win? What kind of point system do you think they can create to make everybody happy?
MATT KENSETH: It's impossible to make everybody happy no matter what you do. I was kind of thinking about that yesterday. I was thinking if you wrapped it up in Phoenix that might make a change. But it really all depends on what you're after.
Me being a driver and competitor, at the end of the year I want the best driver, team, organization, combination to win the championship, you know. And I think that if Jimmie wins it this year, I think the best, you know, team, driver, all that deal won the championship.
They've proven to be the best not just over the last three year that's row, but over the last five or six however long him and Charles have been together. If you go to the racetrack, you know if you're going to have a chance to win that day or if you're going to have a chance to win a championship, you have to go through them guys. They've been the best team.
And I think, you know, whatever format we work under I think you want a format where everybody's thinking the best guy won it. No matter what system we would have had this year, I think up until this point he would have been that guy.
Q. I'm doing a story on the off-season, and I kind of wanted to get a feel for how much time do you guys actually get in terms of personal time? Obviously, you guys are doing commercials for the next season, testing that sort of thing.
MATT KENSETH: Well, it depends. I think everybody's a little bit different there. For me, in the past, it's always directly related to our performance and how we do. If we had a so-so year, and we didn't win or didn't have a lot going on. The off-season sometimes will be a little bit slower with the exception of testing.
Then there's been off-seasons where we've done well, and been fortunate to have a good year. It's been really busy in the off-season. So, really, if we're fortunate enough to be in the Top 10, and we've got to go to New York and the banquet and all that stuff, that's almost like another race weekend.
So once we're done with that, we'll have the three weeks in December to kind of wind down and do what we want, and catch up with family and friends and stuff like that.
Usually once January rolls around you're busy testing. Depending on the testing policy that comes out here pretty soon. I have a feeling in January we'll be fairly busy at the track. So we'll get the three weeks, and we don't necessarily always go do vacation. We go to Wisconsin for a couple of weeks, go snowmobiling and get caught up with family and friends.
Q. Drivers always chase one another, but you've been the leader being chased as well as a contender chasing the leader. Could you comment on any differences about both those situations, your mindset or strategy?
MATT KENSETH: As far as points?
Q. Yeah, as far as.
MATT KENSETH: If you're talking about as far as points I think that for me our strategy, the year we won the championship, our strategy never changed. Some people thought it did or appeared to whatever. But that particular year we didn't have stuff that could win every week.
We were really fortunate to get the best we could out of our equipment each and every week. We got a lot of good finishes. But I think the one time the strategy would change is maybe not that I know they did it for sure. But Jimmie at Homestead last year had an 80 or 90-point lead. You want to protect that lead, and you don't want to go over the top or go over the edge and get in an accident or something like that.
But really until it's locked up, I don't think you really change your strategy. You go out there and race hard every week. That's how you get the most points. That's what he's been doing, leading laps and winning races. So I don't think that strategy really changes unless you get down to the end and play a little bit of defense.
Q. You're talking about strategy. Just wondering how much does your strategy actually change once you get into the Chase? I mean, do you start to go after everything as soon as the green flag drops or do you wait it out a little bit and see how things develop on the track?
MATT KENSETH: Well, we do that all year, really. I mean, when we get to the racetrack all weekend we prepare to try to win. We prepare during the week to try to go to the winning part of the track. And then once they drop the flag, we're trying to position ourselves to the front and win the most laps and try to win the race, that's how you get the most points. I don't think that strategy changes from Daytona to Homestead.
You go out there and race for wins and race as far as you possibly can. Obviously, wins are harder to come by for some of us other than others. But I don't think your strategy really changes. You're going to go out there and give it all you got and try to get the best result you can every week.
Q. Show them who is boss this weekend at your track in Texas.
MATT KENSETH: I'll try. I've been trying.
Q. You follow other sports, and I liked what you said earlier, when you've got to beat a certain guy every week even when he's dominant, that a lot of people talk about why we should change the format so the guy doesn't win all the time. In other sports when you're dominant, I guess you're just dominant. Why do people want to change the rules when somebody is dominant such as Johnson is?
MATT KENSETH: That's a good question, I guess. I think at the end of the day the best, like I said earlier, the best team-driver combination should be the champions, just like in any other professional sport. If the Patriots won all the super bowls over the last years but didn't really change the playoff system, and they had the best team and they had the best coaching and all the best stuff going on, you know in that period. I don't think it's any different right now.
I think the 48 has just been the team to beat. You can throw at them all you want, but they're still going to figure out how to win it. There is nothing wrong with that. I think that's amazing what they've been able to do. Especially the competition and all the rules and with everything that's going on they've been able to adapt to everything they've been given and able to come out on top. So it's just they're on top of their game right now.
Q. Do you think that organizations such as yours and others, once they learn the car more will be able to adapt and catch up to them?
MATT KENSETH: Well, yeah, I don't know. It depends on the week. We've got to be really, really consistent. You've got to have the whole package right. I think as an organization, at Roush Fenway, I don't think we're necessarily behind. We had all five cars in the Top 10 this week.
Carl was able to win the race. So I don't think as an organization we were behind them. It's all the little things. You have to have everything go just right. On pit road and race strategy, everything's got to go just right to be able to do the things they've been able to do.
It's been amazing. You know, it's been amazing to watch in the last bunch of years. Last fall Chad won the race or Jimmie won the race in Atlanta, and Chad made a call not to pit. And there were only two cars out there with old tires, and for sure if it had gone to green, they would have gotten beat with the first car four tires, and they end up with the caution and restart and finish under yellow in the race.
And then this year they do the opposite. Come back from being a lap down and tenth or wherever they were on the last restart to driving into second. So they just do everything right. They have everything going their way. They make great decisions and everything seems all their way. When it does, it's a lot of fun, and you've just got to keep riding them.
Q. The manufacturer's championship is looking to be pretty tight. You look at the guys who have been at the top this year, and they're all in different types models of cars. Can you just talk about the championship this year and what it would mean for Ford to win that?
MATT KENSETH: Certainly, I think that's really important. The drivers and individual teams always think of trying to win a championship. But certainly the manufacturer's championship is something that is really important to all the manufacturers.
And I think as our teams, individually, it's important to do that. So the competition, I think, is tighter than it's ever been in these cars. They're almost all the same. So you've had a lot of different winners and a good mix of manufacturers.
So certainly it's something that's important with the Ford Motor Company and us as an organization to try to win that championship.
Q. Coming up, Miami, last race of the year. That's been a great track for Roush in general. Obviously, you've won there. Could you talk about the track at Miami and what is it that makes the Roush car so good there?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know what it is. You know, it's certainly a unique track. There is no other track on the circuit like it. Since they reconfigured that track, it's been very competitive. Really good racing.
I think all the drivers and teams and fans everybody being down there, it's a great event to have much and to crown a champion. So it's really unique. It's the only track that's that big that is a true oval, you know. And the backstretch being higher than the front stretch, it makes all four corners a lot different. So it's a fun track.
Q. It's said championship teams dig deeper, but you and your team are probably giving up 100% every week now. So as far as chasing the points leader, is it really anyway to dig deeper?
MATT KENSETH: Well, no. I mean, there's been times in my career that I've made some mistakes trying to do more than you can already do. I've been leading a couple of races I can think of offhand and then caught from behind. I knew I was going fast and then ended up going faster and then I was leading in two of them.
So there's times you go through your career when you know in your head that you're doing all you can do, and you see you're going to get beat. You see someone going faster or whatever and when you try to do that extra, in my past experiences, that's when you have trouble and end up making a mistake and end up costing yourself a bunch of points.
So you can just go up every week and do what you're capable of doing and try to get everything there is out of your car and trying to get everything on pit road, and you know, get all that. Just whatever the result is, you know, just knowing that is the best you can do for that day.
Q. How's your son Ross's racing coming along?
MATT KENSETH: He's been doing well. His season's about over there the first week of October. It's cold up in Wisconsin now. He's doing good. He was able to race Octoberfest which is a pretty big deal. He had about 67 cars show up, and he was able to win his class. So that was pretty cool.
He's going to Memphis in a couple of weeks to run Homestead and an NSA race at the end of the year down there. So curious to see how he does with that.
Right now he he's loving it, and he's definitely exceeding my expectations. He's doing well.
Q. How well does he take direction from his dad?
MATT KENSETH: Pretty well, you know. It's one of the things that I don't getting to to to a lot of the races, obviously, and when he races on the weekends. So the ones I do get to, I'm one of those guys that put the radio on, and I'll spot a little bit.
I'll be up there and I've got to take the mic and bend it against my head, bite my tongue, because I want to talk to him all the time. It's fun to watch because I feel like I can tell him and he would know before he does it.
But it's one of those things you have to let him learn, let him make the mistakes once in a while or maybe see something and learn from it. It's really cool to watch. It's almost like watching him under a rock or something. I get to watch him drive and maybe make a mistake or do something or see somebody else do it, and then learn and catch on.
And the next lap to see him do it better, it is pretty fun to watch.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us. Thank you, Matt, for your time.
MATT KENSETH: No problem. Thanks.
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