Q and A with Matt Kenseth


July 14, 2006

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Matt Kenseth

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Fusion, heads into this weekendís race in second place in the standings, 51 points behind the leader. He has two victories and leads the series with 10 top-five finishes through the seasonís first 18 races. Last week at Chicagoland Speedway, he was in the lead in the closing laps only to be bumped out of the way. He subsequently ran out of fuel and ended up in 22nd place. Kenseth met with reporters this morning in the infield media center at New Hampshire International Speedway.

MATT KENSETH Ė No. 17 DeWalt Fusion Ė HAVE YOU AND JEFF GORDON TALKED ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK? ďYeah, he came and talked to me after the test on Tuesday, so I talked to him a little bit.Ē

HAVE YOU GONE BACK AND LOOKED AT IT AND STILL FEEL THAT ITíS INTENTIONAL? ďOh, yeah.Ē DRIVERS SOMETIMES SAY THAT WHAT HAPPENS ON THE TRACK IS FORGOTTEN AND THE FOCUS IS THEN ON THE NEXT RACEÖ ďYeah, obviously it didnít work like that. I talked to him. He basically told me in so many words that he didnít mean to spin me out, but did he mean to hit me? Yeah. Did he mean to hit me that hard? No. So, I guess he was upset on that re-start. I kind of blocked him, which, he was hanging back more than a car length, which is actually technically a rule Ė they tell us every driverís meeting, if you hang back more than a car length youíre going to be black-flagged, and to my knowledge nobody has ever been even told about it or black-flagged or anything, so I had to block my re-start because I felt like he hung way back and I knew I could get away in a couple of laps and I thought that was kind of a cheap way to pass somebody, by holding back, which a lot of people do because they never enforce it. And he was mad because he got taken out at Bristol, which I thought was a little different Ė he moved me out of the way to start with and it was the last lap and he blocked me on the frontstretch and I was right on him trying to get underneath him and barely touched his car and he spun out at a half-mile track. So he told me he wasnít going to cut me a break and he was going to get up on me and try to move me up the track and move me out of the way, which I guess thatís what happened. I donít know that he meant to spin me out, but yet Iíve never been ran into or ran into somebody at a mile-and-a-half race track somewhere that fast, 180 miles an hour, and not spun out. Iíve never seen somebody knock somebody out of the way at a mile-an-a-half track and not wreck, so I guess thatís about the summary.Ē

THIS IS A PART OF THE SCHEDULE WHERE SOME DRIVERS, LIKE YOU, ARE IN THE CHASE, BUT OTHER DRIVERS MIGHT BE MORE DESPERATE AND MIGHT MAKE MORE DESPERATE MOVESÖ ďI donít think so. If I was him and I was 10th and on the bubble, I wouldnít want to make somebody mad, you know what I mean? Finishing second to finishing first, which, he wouldíve passed me anyway, he was three-tenths at the end of the run. He wouldíve driven right around me the next corner. If I was in the position I would do just the opposite. Iíd make sure I got the best finish I could get that day, and didnít wreck somebody and take a chance of getting it back and not being in the top 10. I guess I would think of it the other way around.Ē

IN GENERAL, THOUGH, ARE THERE TIMES WHEN DESPERATE DRIVERS ARE MAKING DESPERATE MOVES? ďI donít think so. I havenít really though about it like that. I think to get the most points you try to win and leads laps and finish the best you can. Itís easier not to get in than to get in is what Iím trying to say. You do a desperate move and take yourself from fourth or third to last, youíre not going to make it. I would look at it the other way around. I would try to keep my stuff clean and get the best finishes the best that I could if I was trying to get in like we were last year. We ran hard the last 10 races to get in, but yet we made sure we got the best finish we could get every week.Ē

SHOULD NASCAR COME DOWN ON THAT ACTIVITY HARDER, AND, IRONICALLY, DO YOU THINK THAT THINGS LIKE THAT IS GOOD FOR THE SPORT BECAUSE EVERYBODY IS TALKING ABOUT THE RIVALRY NOW? ďI think itís really exciting to watch. For me, itís very hard to understand, and figure out, how NASCAR works Ė whatís okay, whatís not okay, whatís going to be a penalty, whatís not. I donít know. After our Bristol thing they put him on probation, they got us both in the trailer and say, ĎYou guys stay away from each other, I know that thereís probably a little bad blood,í and I talked to Jeff about it, what happened from my perspective at Bristol, and they say that everything is okay but yet as soon as you get done with that the first word you hear is, oh, he got the bad end at Bristol, he got the bad end here. And thereís nothing done about it and itís a mile-and-a-half race track at 180 miles an hour. I donít really quite understand that always works, but I think any time thereís any kind of conflict Ė in which I donít like being in any of it Ė but any other conflict when other people are in it, I think itís interesting to watch. I look up on the internet and see what theyíre saying about each other. I think itís great for ratings and putting people in the stands. But the penalty thing and NASCARís stance and all that is very difficult for me to understand where the consistency is or whatís okay and whatís not okay. I donít understand.Ē

IT IS A GRAY AREA, ISNíT IT? ďYeah. I read Mr. Heltonís comments afterwards and he said it was a case of a slower being in front of a faster car and the fast car moved him out of the way, and acted like that was okay, so is that okay? Is that okay if somebody gets spun out at Michigan and gets hurt? Is that alright? And, itís the closing laps Ė is that okay or not okay? Is not okay halfway through the race? I donít really understand that so I probably need clarification.Ē

WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOU AND JEFF STAND RIGHT NOW? ďI donít know. I thought after we talked about it at Bristol and we talked several times and I feel like Iíve tried to be pretty fair about it and give him a lot of room to race and all that stuff Ė I thought we were okay, but obviously we werenít. So, I donít know. I donít think weíll be going to dinner tonight. We talked about after Indy, but honestly when we talked about it it was kind of one of them things where he came over and apologized but wasnít very apologetic, if you know what I mean. He almost acted like he was mad at me. I donít know. Iím not going to go out here and really keep it on my mind and race different than Iíve ever raced, and take away from our goal. My team is doing a great job this year and to get caught up in something else and take away from your performance or to take away from goal of trying to get in the Chase and trying to win a championship would be silly, it wouldnít help our team at all. Iím certainly going to let it go and just race as hard as we can. Are we buddies and is everything totally cool?

Not really.Ē MORE ON THE SITUATION. ďItís something that youíre not going to forget, totally. Itís going to be on your mind a little bit, but you certainly have to try and you certainly have to let it go enough where it doesnít affect your performance. You canít be on the track, thinking about one car and looking at one car, you just have to go out there and race the competition and try to finish the best you can. When you start doing that itís not productive and things are going to end up worse instead of better. Somebodyís got to be the man about it and forget about it and try to remember whatís most important, why we come to the track. We come to the track to try and win races and try to win championships. We donít come to the track to try to hold a grudge on somebody or get even with somebody or do whatever. Youíve got to remember what itís all about. Itís all about winning, itís all about trying to win a championship, itís all about being competitive and if youíre focused on something else I donít think youíre going to do the best job you can at what youíre supposed to be doing.Ē

YOU AND JEFF ARE BOTH CHAMPIONS. DO YOU FEEL THAT PERHAPS YOU SHOULD BE SETTING AN EXAMPLE FOR THE OTHER DRIVERS IN THE FIELD? ďI think that everybody in the garage area is an equal. I think that everybody who has gotten here is a great driver. I think you could put Ė on days when my cars have been good and been winning, I think you could put pretty much anybody in there and probably have that result. I think everybody is a great race-car driver. I donít think that weíre people to set examples and I donít feel like people look at Ė I donít even feel like Iím in the same group as Jeff anyway. Jeffís kind of by himself and Tony and them guys are just awesome race-car drivers. Weíve had good stuff and I think weíve done okay, but them guys are super-exceptional, so I donít really put myself in that group. But I donít think you really look up and say, Well, he does that so I should do it, or, He doesnít do that so I shouldnít do it. Everybody has their own driving style, and Iíve tried to base my driving style and some of my decisions off of what Mark Martinís done over the years and some other drivers like that. Everybodyís got their own etiquette and their own style and theyíve got their own rules on whatís okay and whatís not okay. I think you have to be yourself, you have to do what you think is right at the end of the day and go from there.Ē

IN BASKETBALL, THERE WAS TALK OF THE JORDAN RULES. DOES THAT COME INTO PLAY HERE? WOULD THIS HAVE BEEN VIEWED DIFFERENTLY HAS IT BEEN, SAY, ROBBY GORDON INSTEAD OF JEFF GORDON? ďYouíre putting me in a bad spot here. I think itís very difficult Ė I feel like all the time everybodyís probably not judged all the same. I think NASCAR has a hard job and I think they do the best they can to be fair. But I certainly feel like sometimes being competitor itís maybe not exactly the same for everybody, but I think they do a pretty good job at keeping it all level. Everybody needs to know their spot, and I certainly know where I am and where my spot is in the sport, and everybodyís got to understand that and live with that. Itís a great, great sport to be part of and I think itís judged pretty darn fairly, really, if you look over the top of everything, so thatís about it.Ē

WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOUR SPOT IS? ďItís hard to say. Itís hard for me to explain to you totally what I mean by that. But everybody knows their spot, no matter where youíre working. Everybody knows what they are and where they fit in to the group, and I definitely know where mine is.Ē

DO YOU PLAN ON RACING WITH JEFF GORDON ANY DIFFERENTLY FROM NOW ON? AND SOME WILD THINGS HAPPENED AT THIS TRACK LAST SEPTEMBER? DO YOU SEE SIMILAR THINGS HAPPENING THIS TIME? ďI donít know. I just hope whatever happens this weekend Iím not involved in it. Iíd much rather being sitting here talking about a win or talking about getting a lot points or something like that than to be talking about this kind of stuff, so I hope Iím not involved in that if it is a crazy race. This race track, I remember the race here in July, it was awesome, with Tony and Ryan, that was a great race, watching it. The trackís been putting out a lot better race. As far as racing Jeff, Iím not going to race any different. Iím going to race the way Iíve always raced and I think the way my driving style is, I donít think I should change that. I think I should race everybody the same as I always have and try to get the best finish we can. I think when you get caught up in that, again, itís not productive. I think saying, Oh, Jeffís catching me so Iím going to race him 10 times as hard, you run side-by-side and you lose three-tenths to the leader instead of letting him get out of your way and losing one-tenth to the leader. Thatís not productive for either. I donít think you can really get into that. I think you. I think you need to just move on and focus on whatís important.Ē

HOW DIFFICULT A JOB DOES NASCAR HAVE IN DETERMINING WHAT WAS ON PURPOSE AND WHAT WAS AN ACCIDENT? ďI think itís all fine as long as itís the same for everybody. I think thatís fine. And a lot of times you say things and donít mean exactly what your quote was and what comes out. Iíve read some of the quotes and I havenít talked to anybody yet, but Iíve read Mr. Heltonís quotes and basically, I weeded through that, but thatís okay in the final few laps. If the car behind you is faster than the car in front of him, thatís okay. Well, I donít know so much about that. But if thatís okay and thatís the way works, then, to race with everybody, thatís fine if thatís what the rule is. I think they do a pretty good job of judging the thing as objectively as they can. Itís a hard job. Thereís a lot of things that are judgment calls. From the tower, how do they know whether it was on purpose or whether it was an accident. They have to judge that, look at that quickly, you know what I mean? Itís not like they get an hour to look over it and judge it, so they got to judge that pretty quickly, say, Hey, that was racing, that was the end of the race and they were going for it or the guy will say, No, it was intentional and somebody needs to get parked for it. Thatís a hard job.Ē

MORE ON THE SITUATION. ďYouíve seen a lot of races end like that. Now, at a big track, I havenít seen a lot of races end like that, but at short tracks you certainly have. I think itís a whole new ballgame doing it at Chicago or places like that, thatís that fast, and maybe putting people maybe in more danger than you would at a shorter race track like this. But, itís a tough call to make.Ē

CAN YOU CONRAST WHAT HAPPENED AT CHICAGO TO WHAT HAPPENED AT BRISTOL? ďIt doesnít matter because it was so long ago and itís over, but I didnít even mean to do that. First, I got knocked all the way from the lead, and second, he knocked me out of the way for third. Right then I got back in line and he drilled me getting into three and knocked me up the track and passed me, and I got back on him and I was going to try to pass him the last lap, but I certainly wasnít going to hit him. And I probably hit him half as hard as he hit me at Bristol and he spun out. It was just bad timing, barely touched him, and I was trying to get by him on the last lap, so I think thatís quite a bit different. But everybodyís going to have their opinions about it.Ē

ON THE REPLAY, HE SEEMED TO CATCH YOU AWFULLY QUICKLY. ďYeah, because I wasnít in the gas yet, he was wide-open.Ē

WAS FUEL AN ISSUE FOR YOU AT THAT MOMENT? ďNo. It was alright.Ē THOUGHTS ON JUAN MONTOYA JOINING THE SERIES. ďItís hard to say. Everybody adapts different and gets in different equipment and all that stuff. Iíve never watched a whole bunch of Formula racing that much, but obviously youíve heard his name and heís very talented and itís a big name, not in the U.S. necessarily, but worldwide, so I think thatís really awesome for this sport. I think itís a big compliment that somebody like that comes over and wants to do it.Ē

ON GORDON BEING ONE VICTORY BEHIND DALE EARNHARDT ON THE ALL-TIME LIST. ďI think itís a big deal. I think anybody that can win that many races is a big deal. Thatís a huge accomplishment. Heís done it with some different crew chiefs, heís been at the same place a long time, but obviously Jeff Gordon is the face of NASCAR. Heís the guy. Tony and Dale, Jr., are, too, but Jeff is really the guy who has been here the longest and accomplished the most and probably does the best job all around for the sport as far running up front and winning and having a good, normal, clean sponsor. He looks good, he talks good. Jeffís really the guy. I think he probably represents our sport better than anybody and I think when you think of NASCAR Nextel Cup racing, you think of Jeff Gordon. So I think him winning all of those races just legitimizes that even more. When Jeffís not running as good or not having as good a year, you can kind of feel it. When he is and heís winning, you can kind of tell. Everythingís normal.Ē

Tommy Baldwin, crew chief of the No. 38 M&Mís Fusion, was one of three crew chiefs who met with the media this morning in the infield media center to discuss a number of items.

TOMMY BALDWIN Ė crew chief, No. 38 M&Mís Fusion Ė HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH YOUR DRIVER AFTER HEíS BEEN INVOLVED IN AN ON-TRACK INCIDENT WITH ANOTHER DRIVER? ďThe other side is when stuff happens out on the race track between the drivers, it hurts more than what you guys see on the race track and what you guys write about. Thereís so much stuff that has to go on after that incident at the shop, a lot of long hours, a lot of people that youíve got to back up Ė and thatís what gets us, I think, the most frustrated, because it ends up a hundred thousand dollar loss for the car owner, at a minimum, and then youíve got to have all your guys work on that car that probably didnít need to be worked on at that point. So, you go into a situation when you have problems more mad at that, more because you want to back your teammates and back up the people back at the shop more than anything.Ē

WHY IS THERE SUCH A NEW ENGLAND INFLUENCE IN RACING? ďI personally think itís all about timing. For most of us, we were at the age, I remember Zippy, I was already down a year or two and he was coming to me asking me about how it is down there, what he should do. I shouldíve made him stay home, I shouldíve told him it was no good. But we got to the point in our lives where we had to take a look at what we were going to do. We were at the age, we were in our mid-20s, I think, we had to make some decisions. And we were working all day at a day job and working a fulltime race job. I think the amount of hours didnít bother us, so when we got down South, as hard as we worked, we quickly moved up the ladder. We knew a lot of different stuff and we brought a lot of different ideas and a lot of different energy when we first got down here, down to Charlotte, and I think our learning curve was already where it needed to be with where those guys already were, and it just really helped us.Ē


YOU STARTED IN MODIFIEDS. DO YOU STILL CHECK OUT WHAT THE MODIFIEDS ARE STILL DOING ? ďYeah, Iím always paying attention to the Modifieds. Itís where weíve come from, where we grew up. Actually have an interest in a Modified at my home track, one of my buddies drives there. So, Iím always keeping in tune there. Also, we plucked a lot of people out of there when we first moved down. I think I moved 20 families down from the Modified and Busch North ranks since Iíve moved down 10 years ago. Thereís a lot of good talent there. I wish we could do a little bit better job of promoting the Modified series more, as far as the driver talent and the people that are involved. Thereís a lot of good drivers that came out of the Modified tour, I just wish the media would take a look at some of the drivers that are in that division and try to help them and get them into the Cup ranks.Ē

BECAUSE OF THE CHASE, DOES IT BECOME A ďLOSTĒ SEASON IF YOU DONíT MAKE IT? ďI donít think itís a lost season because thereís so many good teams now. If this Chase was brought up seven, eight years ago, the competition is so much different. Sometimes, weíre sitting 20th and how are we going to get past all those guys in front of us? Thereís that much competition. Thereís 25 good race teams that can win every week. The competition level, the money Ė between the Hendrick organization, Gibbs, Roush, everyone has three, four guys and you add up all those guys and thatís 20 teams right there that you have to run against. On the competition side, the crew chief side, itís a lot more stressful than it ever has been. With Toyota coming in, the drivers that are almost out of contracts are trying to better themselves Ė thereís so many things going on right now, itís pretty crazy.Ē 

--Ford Racing--

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