NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Chevy Rock & Roll 400
Topics: Chevy Rock & Roll 400
September 9, 2006
KERRY THARP: We are now pleased to be joined by our points leader heading into the Chase, and that's Matt Kenseth, he drives the number 17, DeWalt Power Tools Ford. Matt, talk about how it feels to head into the Chase as the points leader right now.
MATT KENSETH: I'm not saying anything with her typing all the words. If I talk real really fast can you keep up?
KERRY THARP: She's pretty good.
MATT KENSETH: Where did you want to go? I get distracted easy.
KERRY THARP: Tell us how you feel being the points leader heading into the ten-race Chase.
MATT KENSETH: It feels good leading the points. It's five points, but it's still five points. So I feel good about that. You know, my team has been doing a great job this year and we've been able to steadily, you know, pick away at Jimmie's lead a little bit here and I was able to finally get it last week. So feels good to get it but the main thing is to try to not give it back. So happy with what we've done the first 26, but the ones that are coming, we're not done.
Q. How has that Ford Fusion been this year, Matt?
MATT KENSETH: With your arm like that, be could be like the commercial with Strahan, that's why nobody could ask a question.
KERRY THARP: Got anything else you'd like to tell us?
MATT KENSETH: Not really. Man, so many of you here, nobody wants to know anything. Don't worry, Dale Earnhardt will be here shortly.
Q. What we've seen in the last couple of years is guys can get eliminated and fall way behind like Kurt did last year. Going into New Hampshire is that about finishing well and not so much about winning that you maybe go in defensively?
MATT KENSETH: No, same as any other race. First of all you can't get eliminated in the first race of the Chase, it's impossible. Not just mathematically; it's just impossible. If you finish last in the Race of the Chase and have a good last nine, a good solid run in the Top-5 every week, you're still going to have a shot in the championship. Kurt finished 42 or something in Atlanta in his run. You don't have to be perfect every race, you just have to do the best you can do every week, go out and win and try to lead laps and get the best finish in your car, your team and everybody will allow you to get each and every race. I don't look at one race being more important than any other. I try every race, try to win, and you know, gain as many points as I can.
Q. Matt, if you would, handicap your competition for the Chase, maybe not all nine guys, but who you see as your chief competition.
MATT KENSETH: I can't really even do that. You know, any of the ten could get on a roll. It would be easy to look back ask look at the season and say, well, there's been this guy, you know, he's in but maybe he's not running good enough or whatever or this guy is really on a tear. It's hard to say. There's ten weeks, ten different types of racetracks. You just don't know. Three weeks ago you didn't think Kasey Kahne was going to be in the Chase and now he won a couple races and he's been running up front and is right back in it and he's on a hot streak. You get somebody like him that could come in and stay on that streak and could be the guy to beat. I don't know, he would be one to say -- the 48 is one you would worry about beating, but every year for the last three or four years, they have been the guy to beat and have been leading.
Everybody in the Top-10 right now has been performing the last couple of months if you really look back and think about it, all of those guys have been performing. Jeff Burton sitting on pole and leading tons of laps and right next to winning. All of those guys that have been running up there, so really I think all of them got have got equal shot.
Q. As far as I know there's no trophy for being first after 26 races or no big bonus or anything?
MATT KENSETH: Jim Hunter just told me there's a million dollar bonus for leading the Chase.
Q. How significant do you think it is to win this portion of the schedule and be in front at this point?
MATT KENSETH: It's important. Who knows how many points is going to decide the championship at the end of the year, who knows. It could be two and it would be 200, so who knows. When you look at the points standings right now before they reset them from, I don't know, you guys are going to have to tell me about but from 5th to 11th, it's 30, 40 points, something like that and eighth, ninth and tenth is like three points. Ask them guys how important five points is here, five points there. It all adds up in 26 races so, in ten, I think that, you know, every point is going to be important.
Q. Any reaction to Tony getting knocked out today?
MATT KENSETH: I don't really know if they just didn't run good, I don't really know what happened. You know, Tony started off the year real strong, I thought he was going to be the guy to have to beat for the championship again for sure, you know, they started off like that. Then getting hurt at Charlotte and having some other problems, here and there, they just, you know, I didn't even really think about it until the race was over to be honest with you because I wasn't even thinking of Tony, just thinking of winning the championships and being in there.
I haven't really watched the points close enough the last few months to realize it was that close-up through there. I knew Kasey had a shot at it, but I thought it was just kind of, you know, it was only mathematically possible, everybody was talking about it for something to talk about. I didn't really realize as close as it was or one of he was one of the guys having that much trouble.
Q. You were the last champion before there was the Chase, you already had a better year this year than you did that year; how do you approach now the next ten races and attempt to become a repeat champion?
MATT KENSETH: Just try to keep it going. You know, I think an important thing is not to overanalyze. I know that's what we all try to do, but if you look at like how Tony won it last year, he won, I don't know how many races he won, four in the season, last time he didn't win won, ran consistent, didn't make mistakes, didn't drop parts, all that stuff, but basically you have it do the best you can every week, you can't drop, you can't make mistakes, you can't do all that. It's not that different than what we've always done. You just have a shorter time to recover from a mistake, but it's still about taking that ten races and being the guy who finishes high on average in those ten races. That's what we've got to do is go out and try to finish as high as we can every week.
Q. Do you plan on any conversations with your car owner because you and he are the only ones representing Roush's banner as you go into the Chase?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know, what would we talk about? You know, I don't really know what you do to help each other or really hurt each other. I don't really know. Everybody talked about last year the five of us being in there, but it might be more productive to have two in there. I don't know. I mean, the helping each other goes on during the week, it goes on when you get to the track, sharing information, sharing car builds working together, talking about your setups during the weekend, that's when the teammate thing helps. It doesn't really help on the racetrack. You're still trying to finish the best you can. You're not going to give up a position to give your teammate one. That's not the way this sport works. The teammate thing is still going to be there during the week. We're going to work with everybody the same regardless where we are in the points. All five of us work really good together, so we're still going to work together and race together and work on our cars the same as we always would.
Q. For the third straight weekend, the guy that won the Busch race won the Cup race. Is that just coincidence or is it really helping you guys to run the Busch races and win them Sunday or Saturday night?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know, but I'm going to keep running them Busch races and try awfully hard, I know that.
I don't know. That's pretty cool. Katie told me that when I got out of the car. I think it's pretty cool. I think it's a coincidence, I don't think it's any more than that. Harvick, seems like he's won half the Busch races this year, so if he won a Cup race, there's a pretty good chance he won a Busch race, too.
I think it's coincidence. The cars are enough different. It's an in-bound race this week, so it's not like you learned something great about the shocks or anything. The Cup race that's been locked down before the Busch race anyway, so I think it's probably more coincidence than anything else.
Q. Over the next ten weeks we're going to be analyzing, overanalyzing and analyzing some more, should we make anything oust the fact that the final breakdown shows seven Chevys, two Fords and one Dodge?
MATT KENSETH: Not really. I think that all of the manufacturers are honestly, you know, pretty even. I think there's more Chevys in it because there's more Chevy s in the garage. There isn't a lot of Fords in the garage today.
I think with the common templates and all the stuff they have got going, really the only thing different is some character lines and the nose piece and tail piece, they aren't different enough to even talk about. So it's just some looks and obviously the engines.
I feel good about the Ford. I think the Fusion is a great car. I'm very happy with the balance and all of the stuff it does. I know some of the Dodge teams have been struggling a bit with this model but there have been teams like Kasey that have had it nailed more often times than not.
Q. You are one of three drivers when made the Chase all three years, does that give you a leg up, does that make you a little bit maybe more of a favorite than a guy who, a, has not made it to this year, or maybe has struggled to make it for two years, but you've done it all three years?
MATT KENSETH: You know, I hope so but probably not. All of them guys that made it, are good. Jeff didn't make it last year and he made it this year and he's won four championships so I'm pretty sure he knows how to get it all done.
It just goes back to it all starts to having fast cars. You can make the Chase but if your car will only run 15th or 18th, you're probably not going to win a championship. And if you run up front and have good pit stops and don't have any problems, you might have a good shot at it. I still think it's more about that than anything else.
KERRY THARP: Matt, congratulations and good luck next week at New Hampshire.
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