MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT WHERE YOU RANK AMONG THE ALL-TIME GREATS IN THIS SPORT? IS YOUR LEGACY IMPORTANT TO YOU AT ALL?
“I haven’t really spent a lot of time thinking about that. It’s important to me to win races and be successful, just like everybody wants to be successful no matter what they’re doing. I’ve certainly had a great career. We’ve done a lot of things that have been beyond my wildest dreams. Honestly, I never thought I’d get a chance to run in this series and run a Daytona 500 much less win one or two, so, certainly, I appreciate and enjoy the success that we’ve had so far.”
DOES THIS YEAR’S 500 TYPIFY YOU IN THE PUBLIC EYE WITH THE FIRE AND DANICA PATRICK KIND OF OVERSHADOWING YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENT? ARE YOU STILL LOOKING FOR FULL-TIME SPONSORSHIP?
“It feels like it goes like that quite a bit for me, but I’m not really in it for the recognition or any of that stuff anyway. The sponsorship thing, I’m not entirely sure. I don’t think they have anything new. I think between Best Buy and Zest, I think they only have about 15 races sponsored. I still think they have some inventory they’re trying to sell, so they give me some updates, but, other than that, I kind of let the sales department do their thing and I try to do our thing from a performance standpoint and, hopefully, they’ll do their part there and we’ll find some more sponsorship to get the car filled up.”
IN 2009 YOU GOT OFF TO A GREAT START AND IT LED TO A SLUMP. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU THINK ABOUT OR IS YOUR TEAM IN A DIFFERENT PLACE NOW?
“I always look at Daytona as almost a separate season. I look at it like that, mainly for the reason that you can have a big wreck or something can happen and we’ve left there with a lot of bad finishes and started off real low in the points, so usually by the time we get to the next race I’ve kind of put that behind me and don’t count on it as a race, but this means all other points count and all that stuff, and then start off racing and kind of feel like every race toward there is a race toward trying to get yourself and your team at a championship level and able to work toward getting in the Chase and trying to race for a championship. In ’09, I can’t recall the whole year, but we won the 500 and we got off to California and we actually won that too, and it was crazy to start off the year with two wins, and it seemed like we were destined for a wonderful season, but we had a lot of different things go wrong that season. We went to Vegas and blew an engine on lap two and finished dead-last in the third race of the year, so we had two wins and a last-place finish in the first three weeks. We ran OK that year, but we just had a lot of little problems here or there that held us back and kept us out of the Chase.”
DOES IT FEEL MORE SPECIAL TO WIN THIS YEAR’S 500 WITH EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED?
“I think it would be about the same. There was that delay in the middle of the race and the race started Monday night, but it was the same for everybody. I don’t feel like there was any kind of odd circumstance that made us win the race like we didn’t deserve it or something like that. We had some problems at the beginning and lost a lot of track position and almost got lapped, but we battled through that. Jimmy (Fennig) made some great calls to get us some track position and I had a great pit stop and I don’t think anybody could argue -- we won the race on performance. We had three or four restarts at the end with the green-white-checker and we were able to hold those guys off, so we had a pretty dominant car and were able to even race a little more than 500 miles and be able to come up with a wins, so I feel pretty good about that. I’m really proud of my team for how fast a car that they gave us and what a good, dominating week we had to be able to win the 150 and then come back and back it up and win the 500. That was just an amazing week for us.”
ARE YOU SURPRISED AT THE DIFFICULTY YOU’VE HAD GETTING SPONSORSHIP FOR A FULL SEASON WITH YOUR SUCCESS?
“Yes, I am actually. I think I’ve been very fortunate through the years with DeWalt and Black & Decker, we had them for 10 seasons -- it might have been 11 including the one year in the Busch Series -- but at least 10 and had a great relationship with those guys, and then, of course, things changed here a little bit when Stanley bought them out and Stanley already had a car, so that changed a little bit. We had a real long relationship with them and even with Diagio and Crown Royal, even all the way back to ’03 and ’04, they were on our cars as an associate and had been at Roush at long time, so I hoped that with the way our performance was last year that it would have been a little easier for the sales department to be able to fully sponsor the car, but I know that’s been a struggle, not only for our car but for some of the other cars in our organization. They shut the 6 car down because they didn’t have a sponsor and they’re trying hard to sponsor Ricky Stenhouse in a Nationwide car and he’s fresh off a championship year, so I think it’s been tough out there for some reason.”
YOU’RE A LOW-KEY GUY. HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT IF YOU WERE MORE OUT THERE IT MIGHT BE SIMPLER TO GET THESE SPONSORS?
“We can all dissect my personality or my looks or what I say or what I do or don’t say and don’t do and pick on that, I guess, but you can look at the opposite end of the spectrum. You can look at 20-year-old Trevor Bayne who won the Daytona 500, who everybody was doing backflips over because he won the Daytona 500 with the Wood Brothers and all that stuff, and they can’t get a sponsor for him in Nationwide or Cup either, so I think him and I – I wouldn’t say we’re opposite – but we’re on other ends of the spectrum as far as where our careers are at and what we’ve done. I’ve thought about that. Of course, you think about it and you’re like, ‘OK, maybe there’s something I’m not doing right or saying right,’ but I don’t know. I’ve been in this sport quite a while and I’ve always just tried to be myself and never really change for anybody, and I don’t think that’s really been a bad thing. I’m pretty much a face value guy, so I don’t know. I don’t get too involved in the sales side. I call those guys and get updates every once in a while and see what they’ve got on the table and what they’ve got going, and that’s really about it.”
HAVE YOU GOT ANY SLEEP AND WHAT DO THEY HAVE YOU DOING UNTIL PHOENIX?
“I really haven’t got much sleep yet, honestly. I got a little bit after the race, but not much. We spent most of the day in Daytona yesterday and then went to Dallas last night and hung out with Eddie Gossage and the guys from Texas Motor Speedway. We went to a Mavericks game and did some stuff there, and then flew on to L.A., so we got here real late last night and, believe it or not, I got up super-early in the morning and couldn’t sleep, so I didn’t get a lot last night either. We just did some morning shows out here and we’re running around doing some stuff in the L.A. Market today.”
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF RACING ON MONDAY NIGHT. THE TV RATINGS WERE SUPER, SO WOULD IT BE GOOD TO HAVE THE 500 ON THAT NIGHT FROM NOW ON?
“I thought it was a great call by NASCAR with the weather on Sunday and then looking at the forecast Monday morning and knowing the track was still wet, instead of having everybody sitting in their seats from 11:30 until 5 when the track would have been dry, to just do it at 7, I thought that was great for the people that did stick it out. And I thought it was really great for all the people at home. I think the Monday night thing was a great idea. The Daytona 500 is a pretty big deal, kind of like the Super Bowl, and I think a lot of people have parties for it and all that kind of stuff, so instead of getting those pretty much cancelled, they could still have them after work and on a Monday night, kind of like Monday Night Football. So I thought that was all good. I’m not sure. I think NASCAR is a little different than a football game. I think with Monday Night Football most people are fairly local. When you go to a race, a lot of people travel pretty long distances to get there, so I’m not sure about a weeknight race, but I thought it was exciting.”
WHAT KIND OF MEDIA ARE YOU DOING NOW?
“I have not looked at the whole entire schedule going forward, to be honest with you. When they hand me a phone, I talk on it. When they tell me what time to be in the lobby to get in the car, I’m in the lobby 15 minutes early to get in the car (laughing). Today, we did a morning show out here. We did some radio calls over the phone. We’re getting ready to go King’s Hot Dog Stand and do some stuff for the California Speedway there. We’re gonna have a fan deal going on there and some different stuff for a couple of hours, and then we’re taping a short segment on the Jay Leno Show for tonight, which should be pretty fun, and I think we’re doing something for SportsCenter after that and then I think we’re flying to San Francisco, so I think that’s the rest of my day today if that helps.”
CAN YOU COMPARE WINNING THE 500 TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA-WISE?
“In ’09, especially, I can touch on that a little bit better because it was more of a normal week, but when we won the 500 in ’09 it was more than a little surprising to me with all the stuff that we did and all the fanfare and how excited everybody was about it. I guess I never put that much thought into winning the 500 and what comes with that, so when we won in ’09 we had the champion’s breakfast the next day and it was really fun for me because Katie got to spend the whole week with me and travel to all of those places. She was pregnant with Kaylin at the time. We did all the stuff in Daytona on Monday morning and then flew to New York and did Letterman and a lot of fun stuff there, and then did San Francisco and all the west coast stuff as well, so after we did that – the week after we won the Daytona 500 in ’09 – reminded me a lot of the week after winning the championship in ’03. Everybody seemed almost equally excited about that as winning a whole championship, which surprised me a little bit and caught me off guard.”
DOES CLEAN AIR STILL MEAN WHAT IT SHOULD WITH EFI AND DID THE HIGH SHARK FIN MAKE DRAFTING MORE SKETCHY?
“I don’t know if having clean air or not having clean air with fuel injection would change that anywhere or not. I really don’t know. At most tracks when we talk about clean air it’s all about downforce and not so much about the air getting into the engine -- it’s all about the air being on the nose and having more downforce than the guy who is behind you in turbulent air. I really don’t know if there’s any difference with a carburetor or fuel injection like in the draft with that kind of dirty air and a horsepower difference or anything like that. I really don’t know the answer to that question. The high shark fin would put more sideforce into it, I believe, and help you catch a car more if it got sideways. I think the cars right now in their configuration, NASCAR has a ton of sideforce in them, and you can see that each and every week. When people get loose, a lot of times they’ll catch it, or a lot of times you’ll catch some people over-correcting it and go into the wall kind of head-on. The old cars, back four or five years ago, didn’t used to be like that. The quarterpanels weren’t as long and they just didn’t have as much sideforce, so when they got sideways they were much easier to spinout, whereas this car is a little bit more forgiving when it does get sideways.”
WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS CONCERNING NASCAR’S RULE THAT DRIVERS CAN’T COMMUNICATE WITH OTHER DRIVERS DURING THE RACE?
“I really like that rule. For years I’ve had all my teammates on my frequency and, don’t get me wrong that’s kind of fun sometimes if you’re under caution. Greg Biffle is a good friend of mine, so I’ll call him up and just shoot the bull with him or talk to him a little bit on the red flag or a caution or something like that, or you might want to get a hold of one of your teammates if you think you have a tire rub or something like that. That was always nice, but yet I kind of like it because it gets away from any kind of team racing or coordination. I think that racing has always been about one car, driver and team trying to beat the other 42 and I think that’s the way it should be. That two-car draft and all that stuff, I wasn’t really a fan of that. You were working with somebody else the whole time to try to help him or he’s trying to help you, and I think it should be you against everybody else and trying to beat all of those guys.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS WITH THIS BEING A SHORT WORK THAT YOU MIGHT EMOTIONALLY CRASH OVER THE WEEKEND, WHICH WOULD BE A BAD TIME?
“No, not really. I remember the last time we got to California and the last time it was probably busier because the race went off Sunday afternoon and not so late on Monday, so the week is shorter this week, but probably not traveling as much as we did that time, so, certainly right now I’m tired and I’ll be ready to hopefully get caught up on my sleep a little bit tonight. But it’s OK. I know those guys are ready for Phoenix. We didn’t race there too long ago and I’ve got some stuff I’m looking over getting ready for it and I’ve been talking to Jimmy, so I’m not too worried about that. The schedule there is not too bad at Phoenix this weekend for me anyway, so I think I’ll have plenty of time to get caught up and I’ll definitely be ready to get in the car on Friday.”
WHAT PROBLEMS DOES PHOENIX PRESENT FOR YOU?
“A couple of things that pop in my head right away when I think of Phoenix is last year it was repaved and we all came to test and the surface was slick to say the least. It took a long time to burn it in and then we came back for the race and it didn’t take quite as long, but it still took a little time. Now with it sitting all winter, I’m not really sure what kind of track activity there is – I think there’s a little bit of wondering when you get out there of what the surface is gonna be like and how long we’re gonna have to run to get it burned in, if it’s gonna be ready, and all that kind of stuff. So that’s one thing you think of right away, and then the kind of different weekend schedule that a lot of the ISC tracks did last year, having all the practice on Friday and then all you do is qualify on Saturday, so that gives you a little less time to think about things overnight and try things again on Saturday or something like that. You have to be ready and do it in two practices right in a row and get it all done, so that always presents a little bit of a challenge, I think, for the team and for the driver as well.”
WOULD YOU BE IN FAVOR OF COUNTING THE RESTRICTOR-PLATE RACES DIFFERENTLY AS FAR AS POINTS GO?
“I think that for the points championship they should only count the races at the tracks I’m best at (laughing). That would be the best idea if they just let me pick the places and they leave the rest out. Plate racing is a little bit unpredictable, although I thought that this week I felt the driver had more control than what he’s had before about making your own moves and putting your car in position and doing all that stuff, and the faster cars, once they got in front, it was hard to get back around them, so I thought it was more back to how restrictor plate racing used to be and closer to what I would call a normal race is, so I think the great thing about whoever wins the championship every year is they have to be good at all kinds of race tracks -- from Martinsville to Talladega, where maybe there are a lot of crazy things that can happen, to the road course. You’ve got to be pretty good everywhere to win that championship and I think that’s the way it should be.”
WHAT DID YOU DO TO CELEBRATE AND HAVE YOU BEEN HOME?
“No, I haven’t been home. I actually walked back to the motorhome and I was gonna go back and spend some time with Katie and try to get a couple hours of sleep before the kids got up so I could tell them goodbye for the week. So, I walked back there and I think all of my over-the-wall guys were back at my motorhome and they were all looking for beer, so Katie walked down and found Harvick’s motorhome driver actually, because that’s a good place to look for beer, and got a couple 12 packs of beer from him and some ice and threw it in a cooler and sat there and talked to my team guys for an hour-and-half or something like that before they took off, so that was nice. I got to hang out with them a little bit. Of course, the other guys were still in tech working on the car and these guys were done with their stuff, so they kind of wandered over and had some fun spending some time with them. You used to do that on Saturday night racing, but you don’t really get to do that anymore because usually everybody is hurrying to get in airplane and get home. That was kind of fun, but I haven’t been home yet. We’re on the west coast and when we’re done with all this stuff just going straight to Phoenix.”
SO YOU WON’T BE HOME UNTIL NEXT WEEK?
“Right. I haven’t been home in over two weeks and I’m pretty ready to get there (laughing).”