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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Matt Kenseth
January 16, 2007


THE MODERATOR: We are joined in the media center by Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford.
Your reaction to the passing of Benny Parsons? Any personal memories?
MATT KENSETH: Well, gosh, I don't know where to go with that. Even though you know Benny was sick, you knew things weren't good, the same for Bobby, it's always tough when they go. I think probably all of us know somebody that's been bit by cancer. Robby's dad last year, Bobby, Denny, my uncle Gary a while back.
All of us have been around long enough we know somebody who's a survivor or somebody that's got it. It's a terrible disease. More than anything, I remember how happy Benny always was. You know, how he was always around the sport that he loved. He was a great champion, a great TV announcer. Great thing about Benny is he was always happy.
Last time I seen him he was at Homestead. He had this girl carrying his oxygen bottle. He's in the garage, just happy as he could be. You knew he didn't feel good, but he still came down to see everybody, wish you luck, hang out in the garage, because that's where he loved to be.
I guess that's about it. I mean, that's really what I remember about him. More than anything, just think about his family and pray for his family and all that. It's always a tough time for everybody involved, but especially his family, his immediate family.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. Do you have a humorous story or something about Benny during the time you knew him?
MATT KENSETH: Not really that I can think of right now. Really hasn't been on my mind, to tell you the truth. I haven't really thought about any funny stories offhand at the moment.

Q. The real unknown in the championship this year is the Car of Tomorrow. Where do you think Roush Racing is on the learning curve with that?
MATT KENSETH: Oh, I don't know, to be honest with you. I mean, I don't even -- I don't know. I mean, that is going to be really difficult to tell I think until we probably go to Bristol to test. We get all the cars in the same place at the same time, you know, the month before we got to race. You got every team there. You kind of see where you stack up on speeds, that type of thing.
Other than that, I think it's a little bit of an unknown. You know, I just don't know. I mean, when you get something new, you're not sure how fast it's going to run. You're not exactly sure what it's supposed to feel like. You don't really know how good you have it unless you got something to gauge it against. And unless you got all your competition there to gauge it against, I think it's hard to tell how good you are or how bad you are.
I know I felt like for the last, you know, at least six months, we've been way behind, like we haven't done a lot of work on it compared to Childress, some of them teams. As you talk to other teams, I know in November I talked to Tony, they only had one car done for all the teams. He was talking about whether they were going to have to share cars or what. Same with Penske and some other teams.
I guess I don't know. I felt like we were behind on it. We have been testing. We've been working really hard on it the last month or two. We did the Goodyear tire test in Phoenix early last week. We were there and the 31 was there, the 12 was there. We've been to Lakeland a few times testing short track stuff. I know Greg is going to Rockingham here in a week or two to kind of test some stuff for Darlington.
So we've been working really hard on it lately, been getting some people hired. I think we been making the company stronger. So I'm hoping that we'll come out of the box and be competitive.

Q. You've been here at Daytona for a day and a half. What are your general thoughts on how your testing has gone so far, your feelings heading into the 2007 season?
MATT KENSETH: It's been pretty good. It's been good and bad. Our car that we ran both races last year, which was really competitive, you know, really I think we had one of the fastest cars the last two races here. If I would have done a better job with it, I think we had a car that was capable of winning, if I would have figured out how to put it in the right place at the right time.
That car has been pretty fast, up toward the top part of the speed charts. And we haven't really worked on it. And then the new car, was a couple 2 or 3/10ths slower. Whenever you build something new you always hope to make it better than your old car. So the good thing is the old car is still pretty fast compared to the competition. The bad thing is we haven't really found anything to make that better.
So I guess I'm satisfied with the speed, but yet I was wishing we were finding something that was even better than what we had.

Q. You guys were so close a year ago. Do you spend a lot of off-season time rerunning some of those things through your mind, or do you just put it behind you, look ahead, start making plans for how you want to map out the season?
MATT KENSETH: You're talking about the season, the whole season?

Q. Yes.
MATT KENSETH: You know, really our year until about Kansas really couldn't have been much better last year as far as performance. There are some races, you know, I guess I can take the blame for that we let slip away from us at the end.
I felt like we could have had a few more wins. I was certainly thankful for the ones we had. Last year we were in position to win more races than we ever have been any other season. So the season as a whole, I was very pleased with last year. It was just very disappointing at the end of the year we didn't get our stuff to run any better.
You know, every year you always hope it's going to be even better than the last. I mean, that's what you always strive for. So I'm hoping that we'll get our stuff running a little bit better. We should be able to tell that by the time we get done with our Vegas test. Everybody's testing there. You kind of get your stuff running, see how you look compared to your competition.
My hope is we found stuff to make our cars better. Basically our whole team is still together. We had one guy go, one guy that came back. So I think our over-the-wall thing will even be better than what it was last year. I think it will be more consistent, which was already really good.
So I feel good about it. Basically the same group of guys did a good job last year. Our pit stops were above average. As far as assembling the cars, I don't think we had, that I can remember, a mechanical failure all year. The engine program was great. Doug Yates and them guys always do great with that. I don't think we had a motor failure all year. Actually I know we didn't. So everything was good in that aspect. We just got to keep working on the stuff and try to make it run faster.

Q. Dale Jarrett was in here last week, was asked about Ford's loss of three or four prominent drivers in recent years. He said maybe Ford isn't quite offering the technological help some of the other manufacturers are. Wondering your thoughts on that.
MATT KENSETH: I don't know if that's the word that I'd use. I don't know. I mean, I don't know what everybody's thing was there. I know Mark's deal, you know, a little bit, wanted to do something different, part-time deal. I see both sides of Mark's deal.
The other ones I don't know much about. Mark had an opportunity to go do kind of what he wanted to do, take some weekends off and still be part of the Cup Series and do all that and didn't really have that opportunity with Roush because of plans changing.
So I don't think that Dale even and Elliott leaving, even Mark, is really a Ford thing. I don't think they left because they're unhappy with Ford. I think they left because they're unhappy with the performance -- not Mark -- but they're unhappy with the performance of the team they were at, thought they had a better chance to get with a team that was more competitive. I don't think that was really manufacturer driven. I think that was more because they thought they could better their situation.

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