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Q and A with Matt Kenseth
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, has registered three straight top-five finishes and finds himself fifth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings going into this weekend’s Car of Tomorrow debut race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Kenseth, who has finishes of first (California), fourth (Las Vegas) and third (Atlanta) in the last three events will also get crew chief Robbie Reiser back after a four-week suspension for rules violations at Daytona.

MATT KENSETH – No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion -- DO YOU THINK BRISTOL WILL HAVE MORE CAUTIONS THAN USUAL? “It’s gonna be different, but everybody is kind of in the same boat. The cars are a little harder to drive than the other cars, but most of the cars that I saw, including my car, tended to be really tight in the middle of the corner and that’s not gonna be very conducive to passing. If you’re pushing already and you get behind somebody, you’ll be pushing worse, so I don’t know. I think whoever figures out how to get to turning in the corner and still have some bite will probably be able to make themselves look pretty good.”

YOU’VE WON TWO OF THE LAST THREE AT BRISTOL. CAN YOU BE AS GOOD? “Just from glancing at testing it looked like the 48 was really good, like they are every week no matter what they’re driving. I thought we were okay. I didn’t think we were great, but I thought we were okay.”

YOU GET ROBBIE BACK ON THE PIT BOX NEXT WEEK. IS THAT A BIG DEAL? “I don’t know, I haven’t really had him for about a year, so I don’t know. The last time we ran together was at Homestead (laughing). It’ll be good to have him back. I’m used to racing with him all the time. Chip [Bolin] has really stepped up and done a really, really good job, so I think we should be stronger when Robbie comes back, especially if him and Chip will work together as much or more than they ever have before. Chip has learned a lot, I can tell, he’s sat next to Robbie for all these years and learned a lot about calling the race and he’s done a really great job, so with those two working together, I think it’ll make us better.”

WHAT DO YOU MISS BY NOT HAVING HIM AT THE TRACK? “Everybody pretty much has done a really good job with him not being here, but just being familiar with him and coming back and keeping an eye on the group and keeping everybody organized and working hard will be good, but everybody has pretty much picked up the slack with him gone. They’re still working with him all week in the shop and he’s preparing cars and doing all that stuff, so, really, I don’t see a huge change. There shouldn’t be a big change from taking him out of here if he’s done his job preparing the group the way he should.”

CAN YOU PLAN FOR MARTINSVILLE OR DO YOU HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL AFTER BRISTOL TO SEE HOW THE COT REACTS? “Here’s my deal with Martinsville: I try not to think about Martinsville until the very last minute – until I’m driving up there – and I try to forget about it as soon as I’m driving out of there. It’s always been, by far, my biggest headache and biggest struggle more than any of the tracks that we go to, so I honestly try not to even let it cross my mind until I’m driving up the highway.”

IT SEEMED WHEN CHAD KNAUS CAME BACK LAST YEAR AFTER HIS SUSPENSION THAT THE TEAM GOT STRONGER. DO YOU EXPECT THAT TO HAPPEN WHEN ROBBIE COMES BACK? “I don’t know if I buy the 48 was stronger when he came back. Maybe they were, but I think that’s more of just a tag line to say, ‘Oh, it wasn’t so bad. We’re stronger.’ The 48 has always been strong. Since the conception of that team, if you look at whenever they started, they’ve been the team every year. They haven’t won it every year, but they’ve been in contention to win it every year and they’ve had cars fast enough to win it and they’ve had everything there. I think they’ve been the best team overall since they put their deal together, honestly. I don’t ever remember seeing the 48 very weak.”

WHAT ABOUT YOU GUYS? DO YOU THINK YOU’LL BE BETTER? “I don’t think it’s hurt us a lot and I think it’ll help us when Robbie comes back, but it’s a team effort. Taking one guy out or moving one guy around, especially when he’s still at the shop working and he’s been able to go to the test and do all that stuff. He’s still been real involved in the thing and Chip has been a huge part of our organization since we started. Chip’s been our engineer since we started the 17. Robbie’s been the crew chief and I’ve been the driver. That group has been together the whole time and we should know how to handle it in somebody’s absence for a few weeks by now.”

YOU STRUGGLED SO MUCH AT THE END OF ’06. WHAT CHANGED? “We just got behind during the year last year. Robbie and I probably have varying opinions about it, but I think we just got behind. Over the winter we did a great job. Actually, almost every winter, especially Robbie, does a great job of getting stuff done ahead of time, getting it organized and making the cars better. Chip has worked on his part. Robbie’s worked on his part. Everybody at Roush has made the stuff better, but during the year last year, we won California in the spring last year and at California in the fall we ran the exact same car without upgrades, so we didn’t get our stuff any better. Over the winter we’ve done a good job of that and we’ve just got to figure out how to keep finding new stuff during the season and making our stuff better. I think last year they took Wally [Brown] out of engineering and put him as Carl’s crew chief, and moved Jimmy [Fennig] out of there, and I think that stuff hurt. They tried to make those couple of teams better, but I think it hurt the overall organization and I think we’re better this year. We’ve got the people back in place and I think it’ll be okay.”  Ford Racing PR

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