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NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Ford 400

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Ford 400

NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Ford 400

Matt Kenseth
Robbie Reiser
Jack Roush
November 18, 2007


HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA

JACK ROUSH: Okay, we are pleased to be joined by the owner of this championship team here tonight at the Ford 400, that is Jack Roush. Owner of the No. 17 DEWALT Ford.
Jack, that is four straight you've won here at Homestead, Miami. Talk about that momentum that will take you through to 2008, and your thoughts about tonight's race?
JACK ROUSH: We, of course enjoyed winning here in front of the home crowd for Ford Motor Company.
I went to work for Ford in 1964, and I've been around Ford Motor Company as an employee or a racer for 50 years.
I really expected that Greg would be the man of the hour for us as he'd won the last three races. And we were off just a little bit.
The car that he won two of those three races was the same car, and we damage that car in a tire test early this year at Charlotte. So we didn't have that car, and I think that's played a little bit of a mind game on Greg.
But Robbie Reiser, and Chip Owen, and the Ford Motor Company staff, Scott Almond, and all the guys that stand behind the technologies that are put into that DEWALT Ford, really came to the front today.
There's a Revolution occurring. At a time when I started 20 years ago at this engineering was something that was kept on the back burner. If you got absolutely got cornered and couldn't figure out what to do, you'd ask the engineer what he thought, and the crew chief would make a decision to either laugh or to try it.
But today, this thing is so complex. There are so many great engineers doing so much predictive and analysis work, that you have to have that going for you.
Well, the best application we've got of technologies that Ford's given us is with the 17 car. And that really showed bright today.
You know, we got behind. I listened to Jeff Gordon talking about how he'd missed his championship here by one spot. I guess, Matt moved up to fourth, that certainly wasn't what we hoped for and what we expected as we started the year.
We got blind‑sided and didn't do as much testing with the Car of Tomorrow. Had four or five really bad races with that early on, just because we didn't have as much information as some of the other teams did. The Hendrick bunch being at the front of that.
Anyway, I misjudged that, that was my fault. We didn't take advantage of the testing policy they indicated they were going to impose on us. So I got behind there.
But as far as the championship is concerned, we just got beat this year. We did not run as good as the 24 or the 48 did throughout the balance of the year and then the Chase. So they certainly raised the bar for us, and we'll see what we need to do. We've been there before we know what we need to do.
The 17 on the race tonight, had great pit stops. We had an alternator failure. A back‑up battery system that allowed us to finish the race without changing the alternator or changing the battery. So that worked out good.
Matt thought he had a flat tire. He announced he had a flat tire as the green came out just after the last caution there, and everybody's heart sank as we thought about coming down pit road and taking a tire and what that was going to mean to the result, after he had been as good as he had been all day.
But they've run good. More than the number of races they've won this year. But the best preparation, and the best application are the tools that Ford has given us and it's manifested itself in the 17, and that's the reason they rose to the top tonight.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Jack Roush

Q. As long as you've been in racing, have you ever had a team that went out on top, I guess, for lack of a better way of putting it, with Robbie moving on?
JACK ROUSH: That's the stuff of editorials. I comment a lot. I don't think that we're going out, and Robbie is going up. The team certainly isn't disassembling.
Robbie has been vertically mobile, and recognized by me and the organization. He's ambitious. He's at a point in his life where he wants to do more things and be as productive as he can. And he can impact not only the 17 Team, but the policy, and the structure, and the efficiency, and the effectiveness of all of our five teams. And that's what's going to happen next year.
He will bring tools to the general managership position that I haven't had in my prior general managers. He comes from a strong industrial background. His dad had a trailer building business. He worked with his dad in the business.
He ran his own race team, he drove race cars for himself before he ran his own race team. Matt, of course, was a driver of his in the Busch Race and Busch Series before he came to us.
Robbie will be able to focus on all the ins and outs of the things that happened on the shop floor, and on the things that go wrong with pit crew, and the things that they might do. He's been critical and supportive at the same time of what we've been doing with the other teams. He didn't have the opportunity to go fix them, because of the way they were organized.
But he's going to be able to use all of his experience to benefit all of the teams. Chip Bowen is one of our senior engineers. He's the best guy that we've got. One of the best guys that we've got on the 7.
He's certainly been at the basis of any changes for front suspension throughout the year, and the last several years. So he's in a position now to not only know what to do and what needs to be done technically with the car, but also to benefit the team and to set an example for his kind of technical leadership at the top of what the benchmark for all the other teams should be.

Q. You've had two championship teams in a row, different drivers. Can you reflect on Hendrick, can they be caught, and how far behind are the rest of you guys in the Car of Tomorrow challenge?
JACK ROUSH: Well, we think that with the progress we've made on the Car of Tomorrow challenge, that over the winter we'll be able to close in the gap. As I listen to what Jeff said, how loose you set up the car, and what risk you're willing to take with the way you driver the car from the point of view of loose. Loose has always been fast, and when you achieve loose today by having more air pressure and tire, or less air pressure is one of those things that we're going to revolution with with the engineering and all the tire data that we have available.
The things that used to be universally true, aren't universally true today. And you have to take the chance to believe the data to go take advantage of it. And the 48 did, and tonight, the 17 did.
I think we'll be able to incorporate that into our thinking more universally going forward. This is a momentum sport.
You have things going for you for a while. And I know when the 17 won in 2003 he won a championship, he didn't even win a race that year. He had enough points that he†‑‑ it didn't matter if he won a race. They finished top 5 more than anybody had in history, and of course, won on their share of laps led and that sort of thing throughout the race:
At the same time, we didn't have a flat tire. We didn't run over some debris. Somebody didn't put oil on the racetrack in front of us, we didn't crash. Matt didn't run into the pit wall, which he did at Dover one year. So all those self‑induced things we did not do, and the things that you're hapless and vulnerable for, those things didn't happen.
I wouldn't say that's what happened to the Hendrick organization this year. They executed brilliantly. They also missed more wrecks than my guys did that weren't anybody's fault. And they'll have to get some of those back going forward, and hopefully we'll be able to reach the benefits of some more Cinderella years where nothing will go wrong.

Q. Looking at the way your 17 Team finished the year, what's that portend for 2008?
JACK ROUSH: Well, certainly have a lot of momentum going forward. We won't have any anxiety over the fact that we don't know how to make those cars go fast.
I think the Robbie will tell you and Matt will tell you, and the thing I believe is the application of the technical side is a single thing that made the biggest difference in how the 17 was able to progress throughout the year.
They were able to eventually get data on the Car of Tomorrow and use it well. Matt even got a pole. He's not been a guy to run up front. He's qualified very well. And that just couldn't happen unless you have really great stuff.
But we're looking forward to carrying the energy and the momentum of the 17 forward with Chip still being†‑‑ the difference between what's going to happen between what the cars are concerned, Chip would make a recommendation to Robbie on what he thought needed to be done. And Robbie would generally bless it. If he was wise, he would bless it.
And now going forward, Chip will be able to make those decisions without asking permission.

Q. Jack, just kind of following that same thing. If you could go back to, I guess, after the fifth race and any changes that were made that Keith has run.
JACK ROUSH: Well, on the Car of Tomorrow thing, I hired 5 or 7 people, I forget how many. But we put together a test team that was organized specifically to test these cars and out in Arizona, and Texas, and Tennessee and Kentucky, and other places that didn't have NASCAR tracks.
We went and followed the path of the other teams that had gotten ahead of us on the Car of Tomorrow, and tested our cars outside of the NASCAR defined box. That was the big thing that helped that.
What was your other question?

Q. (Indiscernible)?
JACK ROUSH: We had challenged†‑‑ one of the thing that's we had to balance was we had really good mile and a half cars, and had good Super Speedway cars.
So we had actually turned our back on those a little bit. And disadvantaged ourselves a little bit through the middle of the year, and toward the end of the year by not having done as much with that car as we tried to catch up from where we were behind.
So the load that I put on everybody by not authorizing and funding the testing really hurt us a little bit everywhere in the middle of the year. But this, obviously, wasn't a Car of Tomorrow race car. And it was a favorite car that Robbie can comment on. But I'm sure it's a favorite car that they saved for this, realizing it was the last race.
As it turned out, I would say we were a little short on the really special cars, and the car of today variety as the year wore on as a result of some wrecks that we weren't able to get back to where they were, and the lack of testing and emphasis we put on those.
But running into next year, we're only going to have the Car of Tomorrow. And as much as I wasn't in support of that car as it came on, I do look forward to carrying the energy and the momentum that we've had through the testing and simulated predictive things that we've done in the shop, I look forward to having that in every race where we can not go from one car to the other car and kind of lose track of what we had going for us the last time we ran one program or the other.

Q. Who get this is car? Does it go in the museums?
JACK ROUSH: Robbie was lamenting the fact that lumpy will probably get it as an ARCA car. So we'll have to think about that. That quarter panel's seriously damaged. I think we'll probably take that out of Matt's pay (laughing).
But on the other hand, we didn't own the tire anyway. They just leased us the tire, and we got the whole use of the tire.
No, that car will wind up staying and living somewhere. We've got an ARCA program organized for Ricky Stenhouse for next year, and we're still working on sponsorship for that. But we've made a commitment with Ford to run him in the ARCA series, and that will almost certainly be one of the cars that will appear there.
THE MODERATOR: We're going to roll right now to the race winner. Matt Kenseth and his crew chief Robbie Reiser.
Matt, you pick up your second win of the season. Talk about it. Take us through the win, and maybe a couple of thoughts about as you look back on 2007. You moved up to fourth in the points. You've made a lot of progress over the last several weeks.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, we have, we've had five really good runs here to finish the year off. That feels good. We really ran strong throughout the Chase. Our performance wasn't as good as the 48 or the 24. But I think our performance has been as good or better than any other Chase closing the season out.
So that is pretty awesome to get up to fourth from where we were five weeks ago.
Tonight we just had a dominant car. We felt that way in practice. Robbie and Chip were testing me it was point‑4 off, and I told them I don't think they can make it any better. So they left it. And we made a few adjustments.
But it was a pretty dominant car all day. They could make a run on me for 20 laps. But after that, we could make some distance. It was a really fun race, even though we were out in front a lot on the track, and my car was loose. Had you to stay on top of it every lap. Try to hit your marks just right and slide around. It was a lot of fun.
THE MODERATOR: Robbie, congratulations. Your final race as a Crew Chief of the 17, you go out a winner. Nobody can top that. Your thoughts?
ROBBIE REISER: Glad it's over. No, not really. You know, I want to thank all the DEWALT people that have been with us the whole time. You know, I mean, when this is all said and done, I didn't get fired.
You know, we're all friends. I getting to back to work tomorrow, basically doing the same job, just from the 5 Team aspect instead of the 1. And, you know, Chip Owen's is going to take our team and make it a lot better than I have it right now.
So I'm looking forward to all of that stuff. It was an honor and a privilege to work with Matt. I mean, Matt's been great to me. Great to my family. Just a great friend. To be able to do this at the top level and do it the way he wanted me to do it, you know, and do it for so many years is a real privilege.
Working for Jack, and all the people at Roush Fenway is a lot of fun. I enjoy it. I'm looking forward to the next step, and that's all I can really say. I like the race, and I'm not going to miss this part of it at all (laughing).
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the 17 Team.

Q. Matt, late in the race you had the question about a possible flat tire. But earlier in the race, was there a battery problem? Some other circumstances going on there?
MATT KENSETH: We'll be working on that right away.
ROBBIE REISER: My new job. I'll be on that. I've had enough of that.
MATT KENSETH: For some reason this year, we've had some alternator issues, alternator wire leads whatever, what have you. About halfway through the race, we lost the alternator, and with Jack's instruction and Jimmy looking into it. We had two batteries. And how many minutes does one battery last?
ROBBIE REISER: 170 minutes.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, so when the first one went out, we were at halfway. Thought we were going to be okay. Only thing was we couldn't run our fans and the blowers and the air conditioner. That was the worst part. So we couldn't run that. But other than that it was going to be okay.
So we just switched it back and forth. So the flat tire thing, I used to do that to Robbie all the time. But I'm always paranoid when we're leading. It must have had a big chunk of rubber on it or something. It was shaking and it just didn't feel right when I came to the green. So when I got to turn one, I was glad there was air in it.
ROBBIE REISER: How many times over the years we've had flat tires and blown motors and all that stuff going on in last 20 laps when we're running well, so it doesn't surprise me.

Q. I can only imagine when you guys are racing each other on the Wisconsin tracks and getting in close, that you'd ever imagine you'd end up here all these years later? Can you take us back over your relationship and how it's changed over the years?
ROBBIE REISER: Well, first of all, a lot of the fighting was blown out of proportion. Our fathers didn't get along (laughing).
Matt and I just raced against each other. Wisconsin you could run five nights a week, if you wanted. There were a couple of drivers that toured to all the different racetracks, Matt and myself were one of them, and we just raced against each other all the time. And I was a couple of years older, so I had a little more experience. And I didn't like it that he was coming in and trying to beat me all the time. So we didn't get along.
And I guess through the years I've probably been the tougher side of our relationship. So that's kind of the way I was on the racetrack, and Matt didn't appreciate it at times so we went back and forth. But it was never to the point where we didn't talk to each other. We just didn't hang out.
I had the opportunity to keep the Busch Team going, and I needed a driver. In my mind, there was only one guy I knew I could put in that car to go out and win, and it was him.
MATT KENSETH: He liked it when I started working with him, I'll tell you that. He's a lot of fun to work with. And it's way better being on his side. He's settled down through the years. Well, I guess I can't say that.
But if you're a NASCAR official, you can ask any NASCAR official who is in his pit if things haven't gone right or some of the drivers or Jack, it's great having him on your side, that's for sure.

Q. Matt, you stay out in front all day. In a race like this where it's the end of the season, how important was it for you to bring this one home for your team going into the off‑season with a change coming? To sort of, you know, for the momentum for next year? Was this a particularly big win for you and your team, given that, as you said in Victory Lane, you lost several close ones, and managed to hold on to this one?
MATT KENSETH: They're all big races. The Nextel Cup race is a hard race to win. We haven't won one since February. You kind of wonder if you're ever going to win again or if that last one was your last win. You have to enjoy every one because you just don't know what's going to happen in the future.
Feels good to pull it off. If some people would have gotten better and our car had gotten better, and they could have beat us in the middle of the race. If I had gotten beat on the last 10 or 12 laps, I would have probably been suicidal tonight.
We lost a lot of close ones and then Jimmie snuck up there and beat us in Texas, and Phoenix, and Atlanta. Anyway, you get the picture.
But we've lost some close ones this year. There have been times where we've won some close ones through the years, but we've lost a lot of close ones. When that happens on the track, me as a driver, I always feel bad. I feel like I let them guys down or something.
You have something get broke, and you feel bad for losing, but when you get passed and beat, you feel extra bad for that. So it definitely feels good to close it out with a win.

Q. In that same vain, with this last five weeks, what's that carry over in 2008 for you guys?
MATT KENSETH: I hope it carries over. I hope that, especially the last five weeks are going to have a couple of weeks. But I think our performance in the Chase without our problems was good enough to win any other chase besides this one.
Obviously, Jimmie and Jeff set an unable standard. It was amazing the average finish was and what they were able to do. You have to be pretty darn good to beat that.
But overall our performance was great throughout the Chase. We had a period during the year where we were maybe a little off. We started off pretty strong.
The thing I'm most fired up about is I've seen the direction of the company going the right way. I feel like we're gaining momentum this year. We had a new head engineer and new driver/crew chief combination and we've been adding people.
Just the whole momentum of the company feel like we're gaining on it. Greg won a few weeks ago, and Jamie won a race this year, and Karl won a couple times. So I feel like as a group, we're gaining on it. So that makes me excited for next year

Q. (Indiscernible).
MATT KENSETH: I couldn't see him because I thought I was on fire and I couldn't breathe. That is the reason I got out.
I honestly thought about that after we took the checkered flag. I thought I should go to Victory Lane because it's about the champion, and I didn't want to go out there and share the stage or take away attention from him. And then I started thinking, he's won ten races this year, and he's burned up 12 sets of tires in the last four weeks, and he won the Championship last year. So I figured it wasn't a big deal for me to go out there and do a burnout and then take off.
But I did it while I was over there. I feel good for Jimmie and Chad. They've been the dominant force here lately. But it is a great win for us.

Q. (Indiscernible).
ROBBIE REISER: I don't know. I just knew one of these years somebody was going to put it all together, you know, and have ten perfect races. And that is basically what the 48 did. And hopefully they don't keep that trend up, we can turn it around and do something like that.

Q. Are you sad to see this traditional car go, considering how much success you've had in it?
ROBBIE REISER: No doubt. For anybody that works on these cars and, you know puts their heart and soul into going stock car racing. The current car allows us to work on it, we can put bodies on it the way we want. And the rules are a little bit more wide open than what we've been dealing with, and it lets you be a part of the car basically. And the C.O.T. car takes a lot of that away.
So for guys like me that like to work on the cars, you know, I'm sad to see it go.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations. Great effort tonight, we'll see you in New York after Thanksgiving.

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