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NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Winston Cup

NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

Matt Kenseth
January 18, 2003


DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

Q. Focusing on this event in particular, a lot of fans are going to be here to get your autograph, and meeting you for the first time. What are your general impressions of this event? Do you guys have a story to tell when you were a fan of someone and actually got to meet that person for the first time?

MATT KENSETH: It's a good atmosphere to see and to meet the fans. Winston does a very good job in having this preview and having it organized and having every single driver here. It's a cool thing for the fans and a cool thing for us drivers because it's a great atmosphere to do it in. We're not working on our cars, we are here to meet the fans. It's great deal for the fans and drivers.

Q. Matt, you had five wins last year. What's the objective in 2003?

MATT KENSETH: We hope everything is good or better than last year. Every year, when you finish a year, you're goal is to improve on it. We have a couple of changes and practice has been going good at Daytona. We are excited about that and with the rule changes. Everybody had to start over; it's not just the Chevy and Pontiacs. All of the Ford and the Dodge teams had to cut their bodies completely off and kind of start over. That's going to have the competition box, so to speak, much smaller than it was before. It is going to be tougher to pass. The cars are going to be more equal. Hopefully we can build from the momentum that we had last year and carry it through this year.

Q. During your time off, did you take any time off?

MATT KENSETH: During my time off did I take any time off? (Laughs). Katie and I are both from Wisconsin and our families are from there. We stayed up in Wisconsin a couple of weeks. We did a cruise for a week with Jeff Green, Tony Stewart, a few other guys, and a lot of race fans. We took a little time off, but it seems to go quick once Christmas is over. It seems like we get busy in a hurry.

Q. With five wins in a season, you have to be looking at the championship this year for the first time in Cup. How does that affect you and running against the Roush teammates who also look to be title contenders again?

MATT KENSETH: I feel fortunate to have the great teammates we have at Roush. Everybody gets along good and works well together. Everybody has their own group of ideas and it seemed to really work well last year. You always hope to do better the next year. We had a great year last year. We will be disappointed if we can't be as competitive as we were last year but a lot of things went right for us. You always go into the year and hope you can be a championship contender but nobody knows who is going to contend for the championship until we get into this thing. A lot of things change with the rules. We don't know if we will be as strong as we were last year. I hope we are. You never know until you get into the season. I always try to approach it by taking one race at a time and doing the best we can and see how it turns out.

Q. Matt, considering that Tony Stewart is the guy sitting on top and everybody else is shooting to knock off as the champion, do you think that's going to make him a tougher competitor this season?

MATT KENSETH: I don't think it will change Tony in how he races and the things that he does. He is a great competitor and I think that he is going to race the same whether he is the champion this year or whether he finished 10th this year. I don't think it is going to change much. You always try to knock the champion off, so to speak, but when we start this year and we all go into Daytona, we all start at zero. So we all start with no points, we start with a clean slate and you start over every year. There is no advantage that the champion really enjoys going into the next year. It used to be the champion had the first pit stop, had a lot of advantages going into the next year but now of course everybody starts off pretty much the same.

Q. Matt, you are part of a huge competitive team. Last year, a couple of drivers on multi-car teams admitted they would help their teammate win the race, sacrificing the victory for themselves. Is that ethical? Is that something that you would personally do? What is your view on that and is there room for that?

MATT KENSETH: I never heard anybody say that before. I never heard it. But that's certainly something that I wouldn't do. Obviously you would help your teammates as much as can. But in this sport, in this business as competitive as it is, you are not going to let anybody win the race. If you have a chance to win and you are a racer, you are going to try to win that race. I finished second to Mark in Charlotte. That was the first race he won in a year. I was doing everything I could to try to beat him. These races are too hard to win to let anybody else win. When you get the restrictor plate race and you have a choice to draft with a couple of your teammates or somebody else, you are going to choose to help your teammates to finish the best you can but when it comes to team owner or winning races, I don't think any of that goes on.

Q. Are you worried about Greg's (Biffle) team throwing off the chemistry you guys had last year?

MATT KENSETH: I don't worry about it throwing off the chemistry even with having five teams. With five teams, I'm sure having is under control. But it does concern you slightly, adding a fifth team and maybe not having enough people to support, make sure we have enough people to support the engine program to provide another engine for another team or the chassis department to build chassis for another team. Those things concern me a little bit; that we don't get ourselves spread to thin. As long as we add the personnel and add the equipment and stuff that it takes to keep everything running for another team, it doesn't worry me too much.

Q. Matt, what kind of input does the driver have nowadays?

MATT KENSETH: For sure, I don't think I was any better driver than I was the year before when we ran mediocre at best. So,. it's really about the people that you surround yourself with and the equipment that you are sitting in. There was a great improvement at Roush from 2001 to 2002. It's all about the cars. Everybody we race against every Sunday, they are great drivers and surrounded by the right people and the right equipment; they can all win races. So I was real fortunate last year to have everything going our way; to be in better cars and have better engines and have good people around me making the right decisions on what to put in our cars to make them competitive.

Q. How did your impact making the team better?

MATT KENSETH: Well, you always try to -- I hope I had a part in that. You always try to do the best you can to relate what's going on with the car and try to help pick out the shocks and springs and bars and how the bodies are in the car. You always try to give it as much input as you can in that area and try to help as much as you can. But seems like if you don't have the right stuff to run good, nothing you say or pick out or tell him is right, but when everything is going good, it's easier to dissect the little things you need. But I try to pick up our setups as much as I can.

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