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Q&A with Matt Kenseth from Pocono
IN WAKE OF WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK AT INDIANAPOLIS, DO YOU THINK THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE WAY PIT-ROAD SPEED IS MEASURED? “I don’t think so. I didn’t know there was. The way it was presented to us when they started doing electronic timing – the speed limit is 55 and, to use that as an example, they give you a five-mile cushion, so if you go over 60 you get a ticket. So, I mean, the speed limit is really 55 and they’re giving you five miles an hour, obviously, as competitive as it is, everybody tries to take most of that five-mile-an-hour cushion. Really, you’re more than five miles an hour speeding whenever you get caught.”

FROM THE DRIVER’S SEAT, IS IT SIMPLY SEEING SOMEONE ON PIT ROAD WHO IS CLOSE TO YOU IN POSITION ON THE TRACK AND JUST TRYING TO STAY IN FRONT? “You always try to get all you can, and there are time when you are not focused on your tach quite as much as you should be because you’re looking up for traffic or looking through pit stalls or whatever, but, again, that’s why they give you that five-mile-an-hour cushion, and I think that’s more than generous for NASCAR to give us that, it’s just that we all take what we can get and try to get closer to that. I’ve been caught speeding before, not paying enough attention or trying to get all you can get or what have you. It’s cost me races before. I was leading the All-Star race a couple of years ago and I got caught speeding in between the short segment there. I was looking more at the car next to me instead of looking at my tachometer and how fast I was going. So, that’s really part of it.”

MUCH HAS BEEN MADE OF SOME OF THE LOWER TEAMS LOSING SPONSORS, AND DEWALT ANNOUNCED LAST WEEK THAT IT WASN’T COMING BACK, MAKING THE FIRST TIME A BIGGER TEAM HAS BEEN HIT BY THIS. WHAT’S THAT SAY ABOUT NASCAR, AND HOW MUCH OF A BLOW WAS THAT TO YOU? “I think it’s a big blow to the organization and to me – represented DeWalt for 11 or 12 years now, and we’ve had some up-and-down times, we had some great success. Lately, our results haven’t been that great, but we have won a couple of races, including the Daytona 500, so it’s not really all about the results. I think it’s probably more about the economy than more so NASCAR, but certainly anytime a sponsor walks away from the sport it’s definitely cause for concern.”

DOES THAT SHOW THAT NO ONE IS SAFE AT THIS POINT? “Yeah, I’d say it does show that. And there’s always a little bit of a timing issue, too. You know, our sponsorship renewal came up right in the midst of the economic downturn and the building industry hurting, which is all bad timing for us. If we would’ve re-signed two years ago instead of three years ago or four years ago, it might be a different story; it might give us an extra year to get the economy back moving again to help us sell sponsorship.”

THEN CROWN ROYAL MOVED OVER TO THE 17. ARE THINGS MORE SETTLED NOW THAT IT LOOKS LIKE THE 26 TEAM WOULD GO OVER TO YATES, IF IT CAN FIND A SPONSOR? “I’m happy that the 17 has a sponsor for half of the season next year so they only have another half season to sell, but I’m disappointed for Jamie and whatever he’s got going on. I think he knew for a while that he was the team and driver that would be moving to Yates, if they could keep that team funded, but we still haven’t brought another new sponsor into the organization, so it’s still a concern for the organization. But, I’m excited to work with Crown Royal; I worked with Diagio’s Smirnoff Ice Brand back in ’03 and we won a championship together. They do a lot of great things to promote the spot, so I’m looking forward to that part of it.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS CONCERNING THE CHASE? ARE YOU CONCERNED? “ I think we’re darn lucky to be 12th with as bad as things have been, really. I don’t know because I don’t look up numbers, but I bet you the average finish for a 12th-place car is way worse than it was last year at this time, so I feel lucky that we’re 12th. Even we can continue to run more so like we did last week and get some good finishes, like we ran here in the last race, but yet get the good finishes out of it. Hopefully, we’ll be able to stay up in there.”

IN THE PAST, WITH THE OLD CAR AND WHEN THIS RACE PRECEEDED INDIANAPOLIS, SOME WOULD TALK ABOUT WHAT WOULD TRANSFER FROM ONE RACE TO THE OTHER. DOES THAT STILL HOLD TRUE WITH THE NEW CAR AND WITH POCONO NOW FOLLOWING INDY? “I doubt it. I know that a lot of people have always said that, but I don’t think Indy and this place are anything alike – that’s just my opinion – except for having a long straightaway, but other than that I don’t think you can compare either one of them. But, surprisingly enough, we did run good here in the first race – probably one of our better performances. I feel good about coming back here this week. We just have to get the fuel mileage and be able to get the finish.”
AS AN ORGANIZATION, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT WHERE THE CARS ARE? DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE GOOD ANOUGH TO STAY ION THE CHASE? “I think, just on speed, we’re probably good enough to get into the Chase; I don’t think, right now, where we are on speed and performance and finishes, we’re a championship contender by any means. If we can run in the top 10 every week from now until through Richmond, I think we’ll make it. I’m not so sure we can run in the top 10 every week. We’re always working on our stuff, trying to make it better. We know we’ve got to be able to catch the Hendrick cars. Those guys have been really good all year, including Ryan and Tony, so that’s the really the group we’re aiming at. But there’s other guys that are picking up lately, too: the 00 and the 42 – those guys have all been performing better than we have, so we know we’ve got to pick it up every day to do that.”

DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS? AND IS THAT CONSISTENT THROUGHOUT ALL OF THE ROUSH FENWAY CARS? “That’s a tough question to answer. I mean, really, if you can make the cars run better is the main thing. For us, as the 17, we haven’t been able to finish as good as we’ve been running – up until last week – for a long time, and that’s important – even if you’re off a little bit in performance, at least to finish where you’re running or try to get a better finish than where you’re running through pit strategy or fuel mileage or something like that. We haven’t been able to do that. We’ve been on the wrong end of that, and that’s part of the reason why we are where we are in the points.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON POINTS RACING? “You always try to get as many points as you can, and I’ve said this before, but the most points you can get is to win the race and lead the most laps. So, I don’t really get it when people talk about points racing, to be honest with you. The better you run, the more points you get – and there’s no penalty for running good: It pays more money, you get more points. You always want to run good.”

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