KENSETH GIVES FORD SEVENTH WIN OF 2011
. Matt Kenseth took the checkered flag for the 21st time in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career with tonight’s win and for the second time at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a points event.
. Tonight’s win is the seventh of the season for Ford Racing, equaling the total of the last two years combined.
. The win was the 125th all-time NSCS win for Roush Fenway Racing.
. This marks the first NSCS win for Ford at Charlotte Motor Speedway since 2002 when Mark Martin won the Coca-Cola 600.
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Fluidmaster Ford Fusion – PRESS CONFERENCE – “It was an awesome win for us. We had a pretty decent car all night. I felt like we had a car that probably the last 150 laps or so that if we could get it to the front it would be hard to beat, but it was just really hard to pass tonight, especially if you had about 20 laps on your tires. You had to get it done right away and we got a little behind that one time and got back to fifth or sixth and, honestly, it took that last 150 laps or whatever to get back to the lead. It was a good race. I had fun racing with Kyle there. We had a pretty decent restart, the second-to-last one, and got by Denny and Carl and ran Kyle down. It was tough to get by him and I’m glad we could make it happen because it was challenging.”
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner – “I’m really proud of what Matt and Jimmy did tonight. Crew chiefs have a really hard job. He’s out shuffling the car through the tech line to make sure the height measurements are fair and everything works out the way he thinks they should. That’s the reason why he’s not here right now, but with all the engineering and all the technical support behind these teams, it comes down to decisions – the last 20 percent of the decision for what the setup is – that’s worked out between the driver and the crew chief. Jimmy is a championship quality crew chief. He won with Kurt Busch a few years ago and Matt won with Robbie, of course, and Robbie is our general manager now. But we’ve got a lot of depth in the organization. All of the Ford cars ran well tonight. It was just a matter of time until Matt broke loose from his obscurity in the back and middle of the pack and worked his way to the front, but what happened to Jimmie Johnson is a sobering lesson for everybody. You can’t afford to break apart. You can’t afford to put a wheel wrong. A loose lugnut on pit road with an extra pass at the wrong time to serve a penalty could be a championship losing event. There is just a lot that these guys have to do that has to really be done correctly and Jimmy and Matt got it done tonight and I’m sure they’re going to be a factor in this championship going down the stretch.”
JIMMY FENNIG, Crew Chief – “It was pretty good at the end there. We made another adjustment and it seemed like the car came to life a little bit better. We still didn’t get it totally fixed, but it was good enough to win tonight.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED – HOW IMPORTANT IS YOUR IMPROVED QUALIFYING EFFORT? “It makes a big difference. It’s a lot different than it was five or six years ago. I used to probably not stress out quite as much about qualifying because if you started 25th and had one of the best cars, it wasn’t a problem to pass 24 cars in four hours. But everybody is a lot closer to the same speed, which obviously makes it a little bit more difficult to pass and track position is really important, so qualifying always helps. It helps you with your pit stall, it helps you with your track position. Hopefully, you can get out and get a bonus point and lead a little bit, so it’s always important.”
JIMMY FENNIG CONTINUED – “Qualifying is real important. For one thing, if you don’t qualify good you’re stuck back in the pack and you’ve got all that dirty air and it makes your adjustments for us a little bit harder racing against the dirty air and figuring out what to do, so it’s pretty important to qualify good.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED – HOW WERE YOUR RESTARTS BETTER TONIGHT? “Restarts have obviously not been my specialty lately. If you watch many races, especially when we restart second on the bottom, and I’ve done an extremely poor job of that. I was kicking myself on the third or fourth restart from the end when I restarted alongside of Kyle and Carl got around me and then the 11 got around me on the next restart. I knew we had a shot to win the race if we could get in front of Kyle. I ran him down the last long run we had. I knew our car was a little bit superior to his and I was gonna feel pretty bad if I was the weak link and cost these guys a race again. Thankfully, on the second-to-last restart we were fourth on the outside and I could get rolling with Kyle right away and had a good couple sets of corners and got up to second, and then I was able to race him one-on-one so that was a big key.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT ONE RESTART WHERE YOU WENT THREE-WIDE? “That particular restart I ran three-wide through turn one and two, which isn’t really advisable, but it’s difficult to pass and what happens is there’s a lot of guys on two and you’ve got to take advantage of your four tires. Tonight it was real weird because you could run maybe 15-20 laps and you had an advantage, you can pass, and then it was like you flipped a switch and everybody was the same speed and you just couldn’t go forward anymore. We were real aggressive there and made our way back up to fifth or sixth and settled in right there. We had a good pit stop. Jimmy pitted me a couple laps early and we passed a couple more of those guys and got ourselves back up to third and that put us back up in the mix again.”
JACK ROUSH CONTINUED — WHAT IS THE SATISFACTION LEVEL TO WIN? “I don’t know if you saw the same race that I did, but we had seven of our cars tonight that ran in the top 10 most of the night, except for problems we had. We’re at the top of our game as far as our mile-and-a-half program. There are other teams that have got good programs, but nobody has a better mile-and-a-half program than us. Including tonight, there were three mile-and-a-half races left in the Chase, so I felt really good about that. Ford has given us great support for our Fusions. We’ve got a good aero package on them. Our kinematics work well based on the lab testing we’ve done and engines make a lot of power, so I’m not embarrassed that we haven’t won more races. We’ve had a lot of races that we’ve missed just because we made the wrong decision that worked out for two tires, no tires. We’ve been challenged with judgments about how much fuel was in the tank a couple of times, but we’re in championship form. In my 24 years I’ve never had better cars for the championship stretch than we’ve got and we’re anxious to see how it’s gonna work out. I don’t feel vindicated, I just think that the hard work everybody has done is paying off and we’re getting what we deserve.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED – “I’m happy to have won, obviously. Like you said, it’s been 20 races, which doesn’t really seem that long because I don’t know how many it was before that, but I think it was 70-some before that. You’re always thankful. I’m always thankful to get to victory lane. You never know if you’re ever gonna win another race or when your last win is, and I’m certainly thankful for them all and I greatly appreciate being in a position to be able to win races and these guys giving me the cars and the crew and the opportunity to do that.”
JACK ROUSH CONTINUED – HOW MUCH DOES JIMMIE’S ACCIDENT CHANGE THE CHASE FOR YOU GUYS? “For anybody that hopes to win the championship that has a wreck or breaks an engine or has a cut tire at the wrong time, you can’t expect to get a mulligan. You’ll be very lucky if somebody will give you back a chance to make up a whole race. I thought that Jimmie Johnson would be a factor in it and he’s definitely gonna have to stand in line and wait for the other folks that are in the top five to have problems for him to get back in it. He won’t race his way back in it. He won’t finish high enough above the top four or five cars to beat them on the race track. He’ll have to wait for them to have trouble, I think.”
WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT THIS SPORT WHEN A GUY WINS THE RACE AND HIS FIRST WORDS ARE ABOUT NEEDING A SPONSOR FOR NEXT YEAR? “We do need a sponsor for the 17 car. I didn’t hear him say that, but that’s a fact. The 17 car is secure in Roush Fenway’s livery. We will run it with or without a sponsor next year, but it would be a shame if we’re not able to attract sponsorship. We’re talking to people with some interest, but this is my 24th year of being in the business and this is the most difficult time that I’ve had. We’ve gone through a transition with our sponsors from a time when they wanted to compete for top car to where now the best sponsors want just enough of a car to be able to do their promotions and want to share the bulk of the expense of it if they can. It’s a really strange time. I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m not sure what we’ll have coming out of it. It’ll be different than it’s been in the past.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED – DOES IT BOTHER YOU THAT YOU KIND OF GET LOST IN THE SHUFFLE OF CHASE CONTENDERS? “It doesn’t really matter to me that much what everybody things. We’re in it or out of it or whatever. What’s important to me is trying to win races and trying to be competitive and go do the best job we can do every week. I don’t really care about Wii dance offs or how much coverage you get for doing certain things. If somebody wants to say I’m boring or whatever, I was hired to try to go win races and try to run good and that’s what I try to do every week. I take my job real serious when I’m at the race track. Jimmy and I and all the guys work as hard as we can on the common goal of trying to be the best and trying to win and trying to run for a championship and that’s who we are at the race track.”
IS THERE A SENSE OF URGENCY AS FAR AS SPONSORSHIP? “I’m not gonna get stressed out about it, especially right now in the Chase and with all the things we’ve got going on. I don’t know really what else we can be doing, except for trying to be competitive and run good. Those guys in the marketing and sales department need to figure that out and need to figure out how to get that done. Jimmy and I will keep working on the jobs that we were hired for and I’m sure it’s all gonna work out. I’ve been really fortunate through my career. We had DeWalt for over a decade. Crown Royal was involved at Roush for over eight years and have been great supporters of the organization and really thankful for all the time that they have been there and how much they have helped the whole organization – not just me, but a few different drivers there – so I’m certainly thankful for that and look forward to whatever is next.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT JOHNSON’S ISSUE TONIGHT? “I have to be honest, I don’t know where anybody is at in the points, really. All we have any control over, and we always can’t control the whole outcome of that, but all we have any control over is our own car and ourselves and what we do, so I honestly don’t spend a lot of time to see where anybody else finishes or what they have going. We go out every week and try to beat the other 42 cars and finish as high as can and that’s how you get the most points and not really worry about what everybody else does. I think Jimmie, I don’t know what happened to him tonight or where he finished or anything, but a few weeks ago everybody thought he was out of it and he finished first and second and he got right back in it. I don’t know the whole points thing, where anybody is at, but certainly anything can happen at Talladega and I think Phoenix is gonna be quite interesting as well. There’s a lot of racing to do. We’re halfway through it, but five races is a lot of races.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED – WOULD WINNING A CHASE CHAMPIONSHIP HOLD ANY SPECIAL MEANING FOR YOU? “If we could actually do it I could probably answer the question better afterwards, but certainly no matter what format they come up with or what point system they come up with or how they do it your goal every year is to try to win a championship and your goal every week is to try to show up and win. That never really changes. Yeah, you’d love to be able to win another one, but, I tell you what, they’re hard to win and you’ve got to have everything go right and you’ve got to have a lot of nights like we’ve had here the last two or three weeks, and the next five I think you’re gonna have to run in the top five every week to have a shot at it. That’s just the way I feel with the way those guys are running, so we’ll just keep taking it one week at a time. If that happened, that would obviously be great. The same guy has won it for five years straight, so I think anybody that could beat him, I think, would feel pretty good about it no matter what system or how they count the points or how they do that. I think it would feel good.”
JIMMY FENNIG CONTINUED – DO YOU LIKE HAVING THAT FIRST PIT STALL WHERE YOU CAN DICTATE STRATEGY POSSIBLY? “Picking back down there, I like dictating what people do. If we can control the race, then they’re at our mercy you could say, but I don’t really pay attention to what they’re doing because I’ve got that pit stall, I just kind of worry about what we’re doing.”
MATT INTERJECTS: “He picks 43 so I won’t get lost.” (laughter)
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED — WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES THESE NEXT THREE TRACKS PRESENT FOR YOU? “Out of the first five, Loudon I feel is one of my worst tracks and Jimmy got the car rolling there good, and we finished sixth. That was one of our worst tracks and I felt like we did okay. I guess moving forward, I don’t know what’s gonna happen at Talladega. Certainly in July at Daytona David and I had a plan and stuck to it the whole weekend and it worked out great. We finished first and second. I think it would be expecting a lot to expect it to go that smooth again and for that to all work out, but the way that kind of tandem racing is there, hopefully, him and I will be able to finish and stay together and make something happen there again. I don’t think anybody has an advantage or disadvantage at Phoenix. Who knows what’s gonna happen at that one, and Martinsville we’ve gotten better at lately. I feel it’s one of my worst tracks, but the last few times we’ve actually run pretty competitively there, so I don’t feel our cars are limited to only being fast at the mile-and-a-half tracks. Certainly, the tracks with more speed and more banking seems to fit not so much our cars or style or whatever, but it seems a little easier for us maybe than some of those other tracks, but I think we’ve been pretty competitive at most of the tracks this season most times.”
HOW DO YOU NOT LET CHICAGO HANG OVER YOU OR THE TEAM? “It’s gone and the only thing you can do from that is learn from it. I know Doug and everybody has been working really hard at trying to keep power, but also get us fuel mileage and tonight I think we were closer to where we needed to be if we would have been like that at Chicago. I don’t feel like, as a team, what we do on the 17, we could have done a thing about Chicago. I don’t think we could have executed the race any better. We were on the pole. We led quite a few laps. We were leading on the last restart. He put me in position to win. There’s just nothing else we could have done. I would have had to go so slow that we would have finished where we finished anyway and probably went two laps down, so we just didn’t have control over that. That’s just when the caution fell and we were getting a few tenths worse mileage than most of the field and couldn’t do anything about that. All you can do from those things, I think, is hopefully learn from it, work on it and try to be hopefully closer or better if the caution flag falls at that point again.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED – WHAT WAS IT LIKE THOSE YEARS WHEN IT WAS AN UPHILL BATTLE? “I probably meant more you’d kill for a couple wins. I think we’ve contended for some wins, even toward the end of last year it seemed like as an organization all of our cars started running better and by the end of last year I think Jimmy and I, we’ve always understood each other, but I think after you get to work together for awhile you kind of work better together and know more of what each other is saying. I felt good about things when we finished the year off last year. We had some really good runs. We were in contention a few times. Our finishes didn’t show, I don’t think, how good we ran, so I felt like the potential was there. You have to learn to enjoy these. Like I said before, you don’t know if you’re ever gonna get another win or if it’s your last win or not and I’ve certainly gone a long time before in my career without having a win at all and the longer you go without one, the more it weighs on your mind about if you’re ever gonna win another one or not. As you get older and you do this longer, I think you realize how hard it really is and I think you appreciate the wins and the success probably more so than when you first start.”
HOW IS THAT APPRECIATION IN THIS CHAMPIONSHIP RUN? CAN YOU APPRECIATE THIS? “Yeah, we’re gonna appreciate it. I might even talk Jimmy into having a drink tonight maybe after he gets through tech. I think this is the first time we’ve ever won a race in the Chase actually. It seems like for some reason through the years we’ve been better in the beginning of the year than the end of the year, so certainly you appreciate running that good. I know you guys probably don’t believe me, but I honestly don’t look at the points that much. If you go out and do the best job you can do every week and you leave the track knowing that everybody did their best, you executed as good as you could, you did what you could do on the track, any points you’ve gained or lost you’re not gonna give them back and you’re not gonna get them back – the ones you lost – so I don’t really look at it much. If we can keep running like this every week, I think we’ll be in the mix toward the end, so I really just take it one race at a time. I’m happy about this. I’m already thinking about Talladega and how that is all gonna go and when we get there, we’ll have a plan and be able in this new kind of racing there get that all figured out where we have a plan and a backup plan and be there at the end.”
WHAT DO YOU APPRECIATE? “Just winning. It’s hard to say exactly what you appreciate about it. I appreciate being with a winning organization, with a winning team, with Jimmy on top of the box calling the races and working so hard bringing me fast race cars every week. You just appreciate being in the situation. Never when I started racing did I dream I would ever be able to race at this level, much less be pretty competitive and be able to win a few races along the way and a championship. I just appreciate being able to drive that car.”
WHAT TRACKS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO? “If I had to look at the final five, I probably look forward to Texas and Homestead the most. It’s weird going to Homestead because it’s the last race of the year and a really different layout and you only race there one time a year, so you almost get there and it feels like a new track everytime you go there, but they did a really nice job with that track with the configuration and everything. It’s a racy track and a difficult track because you’ve got to run so close to the wall for most of the race, so those are probably the two I look forward to the most, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge of all of them and looking forward to hopefully staying on this run that we’re on.”
IF YOU WIN THE TITLE DO YOU THINK NASCAR WILL CHANGE THE POINT SYSTEM? LAUGHTER. “Jimmie had to win five of them before they changed it.”