NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Daytona 500
Topics: Daytona 500
February 27, 2012
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP: Let's go ahead and roll into our post‑race here for the 54th annual Daytona 500, and there is our champion walking up to the podium right now. Congratulations to Matt Kenseth, driver of the No.17 Best Buy Ford for Roush‑Fenway Racing. He's joined by team owner Jack Roush and crew chief Jimmy Fennig.
Matt Kenseth, how does it feel to win the 2012 Daytona 500? Your second Daytona 500 victory. Congratulations.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, it feels great. We even went overtime a little bit since we didn't quite go the whole distance the first time we won it. Feels great. We had a really fast car all day, had a lot of adversity to overcome, a lot of problems with the car. We were able to get it figured out and had a great pit stop at the end that put us in position, and it feels great. I wasn't expecting to win when I woke up this morning, so it feels good to be sitting here.
KERRY THARP: Jimmy Fennig, I just saw you guys up here the other day when you won the duel, and had a strong car really throughout Speedweeks, and congratulations. I know a lot of hard work and effort went into getting this car prepared.
JIMMY FENNIG: Yeah, everybody at the motor shop onto the car shop, everybody worked hard all winter long. As you seen, all the Roush cars were pretty fast this whole weekend. Really appreciated it from them boys.
KERRY THARP: Jack Roush, very, very strong Speedweeks for your camp, and winning the Daytona 500, how does that feel?
JACK ROUSH: It feels great. It's very fitting that Matt won the 300th victory here that we've had since we started in 1988. It's been quite a run. Jimmy Fennig has been with us most of the time, and Matt has been with us most of the time, as well. It's great to celebrate our 300th win here with the 54th Daytona 500, of course being Matt's second 500 win makes it special, as well.
KERRY THARP: As Jack alluded to, this is Roush‑Fenway Racing's 300th national NASCAR series victory. Congratulations on that milestone.
Q. Matt, at the very end of the race it seemed like maybe Biffle might take a run at you or Earnhardt might take a run at you, but it looked like you had a car that at that point was a little bit better than theirs. Is that accurate, or was it just better strategy on your part or what?
MATT KENSETH: I think the 16 had one of the strongest cars all week, and I think ours was right there, as well. Our car for some reason was a lot faster out front than it was in traffic. It took a long time to get to the front. But like Thursday once we were in the front, it was hard for anybody to get locked onto you. My car was one of the faster cars, so it was harder for some of the cars to push you and stay locked onto you. And I learned a little bit on Thursday that the last couple laps there, and kind of what to do and what not to do and what this car liked. And we had enough speed once we took the white, I felt sort of okay about it, but I still thought they were going to get a run and pass me. By the time I got to 3 and could see they couldn't get enough speed mustered up to try to make a move.
Like I said, the car had a lot of speed. Doug Yates and guys deserve a lot of credit. They did a great job on the engine and really go through the gears good and restart good, which was a key for all them restarts at the end.
Q. Matt, professionally you've been through a lot since your last Daytona 500 win, crew chief, sponsor changes. Does that make this mean more trying to get back to a level like this where you can win races consistently again?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah. I mean, last year was a great year for us. I think we went almost two years without a win or something like that. So last year was a really special year. I really still to this moment feel like I really let these guys down in the Chase, but I feel like we ran good enough in the Chase performance‑wise, and as far as what the team gave me to use and what Jimmy did and the pit crew did to race for a championship, and we were able to win a few races along the way. We were in position to win a few more that we didn't win. Last year was a great year for us. I think it built a lot of confidence. It really made me feel good and be happy.
So you always hope after the off‑season to go into the next season and be strong. You never expect to come down here and win, but I didn't expect to be as strong as we were down here. So I'm real anxious to get to the next few tracks and see how we are.
KERRY THARP: This is also Jimmy Fennig's second Daytona 500 victory. He crewed the 1988 winning team with Bobby Allison, so congratulations, Jimmy.
MATT KENSETH: 25 years for Jimmy.
JIMMY FENNIG: Yeah, thanks.
Q. Jack, when you entered the season and had gone through such a tremendous adjustment after last season going from four cars to three teams, did you ever anticipate you'd come into Speedweeks with the level of success you're experiencing now?
JACK ROUSH: The testing results over the winter were very encouraging. We brought better Ford Fusions here than we've ever had before, and we had more power in the engine relatively speaking than we'd had. Doug and the guys in the engine shop, like Matt said, did a really super job. I was more nervous about the durability of all the components that were unknown in the fuel injection than I was about whether we'd be competitive. And we had a fuel pressure problem that we've got to address in a couple of our cars or three of our cars tonight. Happily it wasn't catastrophic. It didn't cause them to burn up a piston or drop out. But I was really more worried about the unknowns than I was what I knew about what we were able to bring.
But the reduction from four teams to three was sad. We lost a lot of good people. But we've got a lot of people, great people, that remain on our program. So I was sure our three programs were as strong as the three would have been in the other circumstance. But we'll look forward to finding the sponsorship to get the 6 car going again, and hopefully we'll be able to get it on track before the end of the year.
Q. Jack, with two Daytona 500 victories and a championship, where does that put Matt Kenseth in your history and also in NASCAR history? Where do you rank him?
JACK ROUSH: Well, Matt and Greg Biffle, they kind of duke it out trying to figure out which one has been here the longest, who has the most seniority. I don't think they're in an argument over who's the oldest. I don't think they want that award. But for Matt to have the success or Greg to have had the success of bringing a 300th win would have been fitting, but tonight Matt had the best car, and of course Greg was unselfish and worked with him, and they pulled it off together.
Q. For Jack and for Matt: You talked a little bit about‑‑ in victory lane you thanked Greg for the help that he gave you. Can you talk a little bit about beating him to the line in that duel and then having his support when it counted here. And as an addendum here, how much was your patience tested over the course of the Speedweeks in terms of the last 36, 37 hours having to wait on Sunday and today, and then of course during the red flag?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I mean, my patience was tested a lot. It's almost 2:00 in the morning on Monday already, so we've been here almost two weeks, like I know a lot of you guys have, as well.
Yeah, I mean, Greg, if he could have passed me on the last lap or two laps to go or whatever, he certainly would have. But we did have a pretty good plan on restarts that worked well together to help both of us get to first and second and get in line, because that's where our cars were strong was on the bottom when we got in line like that.
You know, it was a combination of working together, trying to help each other, and it was best for both of us to get the best position we could get.
Q. Matt, can you compare this Daytona 500 victory with the last one? The last one I think you only led the last seven laps and you kind of were lurking a lot more. This one you were out front the whole way. Was it more vindication to maybe win this way and really put a stamp on it?
MATT KENSETH: Well, yes and no. The last one, I know a lot was wrote about it, and it was rain shortened and all that, but we all knew it was going to rain. We did a lot that day. We charged to the front, had one of the better cars, was able to make the pass right before it started raining, which is good timing, but I still felt like we had a fast car and we didn't luck into that, and thought we worked hard for that. But yeah, it's nice to go the whole distance and survive a green‑white checkered, too, because you just don't know what's going to happen in speed races.
Q. I've been down here for the last two weeks, and I thought the only thing that had really changed was that the cars would overheat if they bump drafted, and it wasn't until the end of this race that I found out that two guys bumping each other couldn't actually catch somebody who was not being bumped. So it sounded like both Earnhardt Jr. and Greg were as shocked as me when they couldn't get to you. What do you know that nobody else does?
MATT KENSETH: If there was something, do you think I'd tell you? You know, we just had‑‑ our car was fast. Even on them restarts when Dale Jr. tried to push me, I tried to give him air and stay with him, but our car just ran so good, he couldn't quite keep up and stay attached to us. So I had to make other moves to keep the momentum up.
I think when you come to plate racing, a huge, huge percentage of it is the car and how fast the car is. But I think Thursday was really good for us because we learned some things in them last few laps that I think probably helped a little bit tonight.
Q. I know you're not somebody who races for fame or attention or really worries about it from that perspective, but because of the rain‑out and everything, this year there's no champions' breakfast, I assume the media tour is going to be truncated and there won't be as much time to bask in the glory. Do you care about that at all? You're doing less media. I guess that's probably a good thing, right?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I don't mind doing it, but yeah, that doesn't bother me too much. So it's a busy few days. I'm sure they have a lot of things planned. Last time I had a great time. Katie and I had a great time and got to do a lot of neat things and see a lot of cool places. So I don't really have any idea what they have in store for me this week.
Q. For Matt or Jimmy or Jack, I know, Matt, you probably had the best of all view of all the clean‑up duties in Turn 3. When you saw what had happened in there, what was your take? And Jack and Jimmy, how did you bide the time for those extra two hours?
MATT KENSETH: I honestly didn't see what happened. I heard secondhand accounts of it but I didn't see what happened. So these guys will have to answer that or what they were working on on the track early.
JACK ROUSH: It was pretty amazing that Juan Pablo's car broke just at the right time to create a trajectory that took him into a jet dryer. I still don't know what happened to his engine. I saw the engine was missing when they loaded the car on the rollback, and I thought they would roll out on the ground or it would be leaving after they moved the dryer, but I don't know where it went. It was amazing that NASCAR was able to have enough Tide and have enough oil dry and had people trained and were able to really save the racetrack. I thought surely that the racetrack would be damaged to the point that it wouldn't be suitable for continuing the race.
But the NASCAR crew and the management did a great job keeping the racetrack‑‑ saving the racetrack and having a race for the fans. I was actually thinking that if they didn't go back, that rather than get involved in a wreck that I thought surely was going to happen at the front, that having Matt finish fifth wouldn't have been too bad. But I'm glad they got it going.
Q. The incredible wave of emotion this month that you have gone through, certainly culminating here tonight and then this morning with one of the great wins of your career.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, it's been kind of a tough winter, so it feels good to get back to the racetrack and be able to get down here‑‑ just get down here and race really, and see the guys and be able to run. But to win the 150 and then to win the 500, as well, is certainly a lot more than I would have expected or really thought we were going to do. So it's always special to win races. It's really hard to win these races. The older you get and the more you race, you realize how hard it is, and you really try to enjoy all those moments.
Q. If the track had been damaged, would you have felt a little cheated? You had led so many laps, and it looked like you were going to be in contention to win.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah. I mean, sitting there, you for sure want to go back racing because we just came off pit road first after all them other guys were going to have to pit, and you wanted to go back racing. But yet Blaney was leading and we were going to finish fifth. It could have been worse than that. Like Jack was saying, you go back to green, and you feel like you almost have as good a chance of getting in a wreck as you do having a shot at the win.
Hindsight, of course I'm glad we went racing and did that, but it could have been worse than where we were. We were in a pretty nice position.
Q. Speaking of that repair when you were waiting, was there any kind of trepidation the first time you went over the passed area of speed or did you have enough confidence running a couple pace laps across that you figured it was going to be fine?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, it was far enough back in the corner where it wasn't too bad. The bottom was totally fine. I didn't much up much higher than the middle. When you drove through the middle you could hear gravel, so I was not wanting to be pushed real hard through that spot. But I was able to run the bottom almost the whole time, and there was really no issue at all on the bottom, and it was a very narrow patch, as well.
Q. Dale Earnhardt Sr., used to have a boat called Sunday Money. Would you buy a boat and call it Monday Money?
MATT KENSETH: I'm not a boat guy, so no, but that's a good name.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations to Matt Kenseth, crew chief Jimmy Fennig and owner Jack Roush on winning a memorable Daytona 500. Congratulations.
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