NASCAR News

Interview with Matt Kenseth
This week in Ford racing
June 26, 2003

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Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Taurus, is the NASCAR Winston Cup points leader as the series takes its third and final break of the season. Kenseth, who has finished in the top 10 in 13 of his last 15 starts, has a 174-point lead with 20 races remaining. Kenseth's Winston Cup points lead is the largest after 16 races in the past 16 years.

MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Taurus - YOU HAVE BEEN ON TOP OF THE STANDINGS FOR QUITE SOME TIME. HOW'S THE VIEW FROM THE TOP, OR DO YOU NOT GET A CHANCE TO ENJOY IT? "Well, you know, it's good, but everybody's up trying to gain on you and knock you off, and right now the four guys behind us are all running really good, and they're all running in the top three or four every week, so you have to be on top of your game and you have to have top-five finishes to be able to maintain what you have, or gain on it, because all of those guys are running good right now."

HOW HAVE BEEN ABLE TO MAINTAIN THE LEAD? YOUR FINISHES HAVE BEEN VERY CONSISTENT, ALTHOUGH YOUR STARTS HAVEN'T BEEN THE BEST. HOW HAVE YOU IMPROVED FROM FRIDAY TO SUNDAY EACH WEEK? "Qualifying and racing are two different things. Our qualifying has been average for us this year. We've been middle of the pack, and a 500-mile race is not that bad. It would be better to start off in the front because we could probably collect more bonus points than what we collect now. Our race setups have been good. We've been pretty consistent, we've been pretty competitive, and we've been there at the end, so that's important."

DID THE SUCCESS THIS TEAM HAS BEEN ENJOYING THIS SEASON START LAST SEASON? "Yeah, and I think it started two years ago. Two thousand one was a bad year for us, but it was kind of a rebuilding year, figuring out what we needed for cars and engines and setups and stuff like that. Toward the end of 2001, we had some real good finishes toward the end of the year, some real good runs. Even some of the times we didn't finish good we ran really well, and we were able to kind of figure out what we needed to build for cars last year, and we were able to win some races, and run real good. And, we didn't change a lot for this year, and we implemented a lot of stuff we learned last year to this year, and tried to be a little bit smarter and try to be more consistent than we were last year."

SO FAR THIS SEASON, YOU'VE COMPLETED ALL BUT ONE LAP. WHAT DOES A STATISTIC LIKE THAT MEAN TO YOU? "Right now, nothing. I mean, if it's November and everything's over and I look at that and we're still within a few laps and can make it to the end of all the races, I'll think that's great. But, it's such a long year. Last year we didn't have many mechanical failures and then at the end of the year we had two failures in the last four races and lost half the laps in each race. So, anything can just happen so fast. There's so many pieces and parts in these cars, that stuff can break. So, I don't worry about that too much right now because you never know when a bad streak is going to fall. Hopefully, we can keep the momentum, but you never when stuff's going to break, and sometimes that just snowballs. So, hopefully, we can just keep it going how it is."

LOOKING AT THE TOP OF THE STANDINGS, YOU ARE THE ONE DRIVER THAT FLIES THE LOWEST UNDER THE RADAR. IS THERE AN ADVANTAGE TO THAT? "It might be, a little bit, but if we can continue doing what we're doing, you know, I think it's going to get busier and more people are going to talk about it and more people are going to be on you about it. I've already seen that the last couple of weeks. It's been cool because mostly everybody's been leaving us alone and we've been able to concentrate on the car and we've been running good, and we've been consistent and a lot of people haven't really noticed we had that one streak where we faltered a little bit and they gained 120 points on me in three or four weeks, and we lost a whole bunch of points. Since then we've been able to get some of our momentum back and hopefully we can keep that."

WHEN THE SERIES RESUMES IN DAYTONA IN JULY, IT'LL MARK THE FIRST OF 20 CONSECUTIVE WEEKS OF RACING TO CLOSE OUT THE SEASON. HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED THAT STRETCH IN THE PAST? IS IT A CONCERN FOR YOU? "It's not much of a concern for me. I'm more concerned about the team, a lot of the crew guys, they'll work all week on the car and then they'll travel all weekend and they don't really get to see their families or get caught up and they don't get a chance to have any down time, really, so I worry about them more than me. I can have some control over my schedule. If I have to, I can have three days off during the week, I can rest from Monday to Wednesday, if I have to take a week and get caught up and collect my thoughts. I have the ability to do that, where they really don't. You know, sometimes they get one day a week off, with all the traveling we do and how busy the schedule is now, they don't get a whole bunch of time to themselves.

The author can be contacted nascar@autoracing1.com

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