FORD MARTINSVILLE FAST FACTS:
. Ford drivers Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth are first and second in the NSCS point standings.
. Ford Racing has 26 all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at Martinsville Speedway, but none since Kurt Busch won the Old Dominion 500 in 2002 (17 races ago).
. No current Ford Racing driver has a NSCS win at Martinsville.
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, moved into second place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings after last week’s race at Talladega and stands 14 points behind Roush Fenway Racing teammate Carl Edwards for the lead. He answered questions from the media during his weekly Q&A session Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway.
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion – WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MARTINSVILLE? YOU HAVE AN AVERAGE FINISH OF 15.8. “I think that’s better than our average finish at Talladega, so it probably hasn’t been one of my best tracks. I feel like it’s one that I really struggle at, yet we’ve run really well here, for me, the last two or three races, so I’m looking forward to it, especially after last weekend and not having a lot of control over what goes on. It’s nice to come to a race track where you have a little bit more to do, I think, with your finish at the end of the day, so I’m looking forward for it to quit raining and get out there.”
IT SEEMS THAT WHAT TREVOR DID LAST WEEK WAS NATURAL, HELP A TEAMMATE IN TROUBLE. IT SEEMS LIKE THE POSITION HE WAS IN WAS PRETTY DEFENSIBLE AND NO ONE WOULD HAVE MADE SUCH A BIG DEAL OF IT HAD IT NOT BEEN OVERDRAMATIZED. “Yeah, I agree with everything you said there and another thing, I don’t know why it got so blown out of proportion and so much controversy – probably because we can all communicate with each other in other cars now, which I wish we couldn’t at the end of the day. I had no direct communication with him. My radio was busted, so all I had was my own channel, but even if you didn’t already make a deal with the guy in front of you, if you’re him, if you really think about it, his best chance to win that race was to slow up a little bit and move down in front of me because he was the one getting pushed and there was nobody in front of him. We just didn’t get attached soon enough and hard enough to get him up there, so if he pushes Jeff, he’s probably not gonna win. If he backs up and gets in front of us, watching the thing, I was honestly probably his best chance to get to the front, but it’s nothing new except for the shoving thing and having to communicate with each other. Ever since I’ve been around, which seems like a fair amount of time, there have always been deals being made on the spotter’s stand and people talking back and forth and drivers figuring out what they’re gonna do and how they’re gonna team up. That’s just always been plate racing. It’s a lot different style of a race now with the shoving thing and, like I said, all the radio communication, but, other than that, I don’t really see much change. That’s always how it’s been. It gets down to the last couple of laps and you’re gonna do whatever you can to get yourself the best finish.”
YOU AND CARL HAD AN INCIDENT HERE IN 2007. HOW HAVE YOU MOVED FORWARD WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP SINCE THEN? “First of all, I’m glad he just cocked it and didn’t fire it because that would have hurt. I saw the still photos of that the other day and I might still be laying out there somewhere. I think that our relationship has obviously changed a lot through the years. I think we have a much better understanding of each other’s personality and how we look at things. I don’t really know exactly what all triggered that back when it started. Honestly, we’ve never spun each other out, except he spun me out at Loudon, that’s right, but, other than that, we’ve never spun each other out or wrecked each other. We just had some disagreements, I think, throughout that season. I guess we did anyway that led to that, but I think things have been good. We get along fine. He’s certainly been a good teammate. He brings a lot to the table for the organization. The better the cars run it helps all of us run better and elevates how good we can run, so everything has been fine.”
IF YOU GO ONE-TWO THE REST OF THE WAY WILL THAT RELATIONSHIP CHANGE AT ALL? “If it stays one-two through this stretch there’s gonna be a big fight at Homestead (joking). There’s so much racing to do that I haven’t even thought about that. Nothing has changed. All of the teams are working together the same. All of the drivers are getting along the same and working together and doing all of that, so I don’t foresee anything ever happening to change that.”
WHO WINS THE FIGHT? “Who do you think (laughing)?” JUST TO BE CLEAR. YOU SAID TREVOR PUSHING JEFF HE PROBABLY WASN’T GOING TO WIN ANYWAY. “I didn’t say he probably wasn’t going to win anyway, I said if he comes back to us there’s probably a better chance for him to win.”
I WAS JUST WONDERING IF YOU THOUGHT CLINT BOWYER THOUGHT THE SAME THING BECAUSE HE PUSHED JEFF TO THE FRONT, STAYED BEHIND AND THEN MADE A PASS TO WIN? “Yeah, that two-car thing it’s easy for the second car to pass the front car if you don’t have another two-car group bearing down on you like David and I did at Talladega. We had Joey and whoever it was, I can’t remember anymore, was only about five car lengths behind and I could have never passed David without us both getting passed. Whereas, I believe, I didn’t see the race, I saw some clips and highlights, it looked like Jeff and Clint got way, way out front and when you do that, then the second car actually can make the pass. It seems like it’s been a big controversy all week for some reason. I don’t know what conversation Trevor and Jeff had. I don’t know. Like I said, I had my own radio. The only plan I had all day was to work with David like we did at Daytona and when he broke his engine on that final restart, I got to turn two and I saw one of our teammates in front of me, I was asking my spotter, ‘Can you get him with us?’ And then about two seconds later we were locked up, so that’s kind of how that went down. I really don’t know any more details than that.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT RACING CARL FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP DOWN THE STRETCH? “There is just so much racing to do yet that, honestly, it’s hard for me to really comment on that too much. I haven’t really looked at the points. I don’t know who is out of it, who is in it. I know that we’re in a fairly good spot right now, but yet I think we’ve got to out-run him every week. It seems like they’ve been able to get the finishes. Even on their bad days they’ve been able to get all good finishes. I feel like just on performance we’ve actually run better than they have at most tracks, except for maybe Dover. They had us beat, but the rest of the tracks I feel like on performance we can beat them, so I just feel like we’ve got to get the finishes, and, honestly, I don’t race him or think about him any different than any other cars out there. You want to beat all of those guys to get the maximum amount of points you can.”
HOW ABOUT HIM AS A COMPETITOR? “I think everybody racing out there is a pretty fierce competitor. Carl obviously has had a lot of success already in his career and he’s always a threat to go off at any time and get a bunch of wins or multiple wins, so I think going into the season he was probably one of the favorites with the way he ended last season and started this season.”
WHAT ARE YOU THINKING AS FAR AS TEXAS IS CONCERNED NEXT WEEK? “I probably have more confidence going to Texas than what I have coming here or maybe some of the tracks that aren’t your best. I mean, historically, it’s been one of our best tracks, but past success doesn’t guarantee anything for future success, but we certainly ran pretty well there. Our stuff at those style of tracks seems to run pretty good this year and it seems like you kind of have a feel for what you need there, so, hopefully, when we go back it’ll be like that again and we’ll get the car off the truck and it’ll get on the track fast. That’s what we’ve been able to do there lately, which makes it easier.”
WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF RACING AT MARTINSVILLE FOR YOU? “The pink curbs. That’s gonna be tough to look at for 1,000 times. The yellow you can kind of see where the inside is, but I think that pink curb is gonna be tough. Once it starts turning a little bit black, it’ll be easy to run it over.”
UPS SAID YESTERDAY IT’S COMING OFF THE 6 CAR AND GOING ON THE 99 AS AN ASSOCIATE. ANY NEWS ON THE SPONSORSHIP FRONT FOR YOU AND DOES YOUR GUT TELL YOU ROUSH FENWAY WILL RUN FOUR CUP CARS OR THREE NEXT YEAR? “I have no idea. I read on NASCAR.com last night about the UPS thing. I didn’t know anything about it until then, so I’m not really in tune to what’s going on or not going on – at least in the last couple of weeks with sponsorship – so if there’s any new news, I don’t know about it.”
WHERE IS THE LINE FOR YOU IN TERMS OF HOW FAR YOU GO TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? “I don’t know if that’s comment due to strategy or how you race or what that is, but all I know is every week we go out with the idea of trying to win, trying to do the best we can. You race as hard as you can for wins every week. For me and our team, I don’t think that would change whether we were 25th in points or first in points with the exception of the last race if you have a big lead or something like that like we’ve seen four out of the last five years. But, other than that, we don’t really change our mindset or our mentality. I think you do everything you can do in the car, on pit road, the whole thing, for performance and no more. Whenever I’ve tried to do more than I’m capable of doing, it’s never had a good result. I certainly didn’t finish better because of it, so you just go out and race as hard as you can, get the best finish you can. If you’re desperate the last race you might do something strategy-wise or something like that to get you in a spot and get lucky for fuel mileage or a couple tires for track position or something like that, but as far as the racing part of it, you race as hard as you can every week.”
WHY WOULDN’T YOU SAY, ‘I’LL DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP AND SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES LATER?’ “I just don’t know exactly what that means. The championship is made up from a bunch of individual races, so you do the best you can in each individual race and the guy who wins gets the most points and so on and so forth. You go out every week with the idea of trying to win. You go out and if the best you can do that day is third and you wreck your car trying to finish second, that doesn’t get you any farther in the championship than running third, so I think, at least as far as I’m concerned or how we do our stuff, we do the best job we can do and the things we know how to do every week and hope our cars are fast enough and our strategy and our luck with flat tires and things like that and get the best finishes we can and go from there.”
WILL YOU BE HAPPY LEAVING MARTINSVILLE SECOND IN THE POINTS WITH THREE RACES LEFT IF THAT HAPPENS? “That all depends on the circumstances. You’re never happy unless you’re the leader, but a lot of things could happen where you’d be happy with second or you’re second by a point. Did you win and he finished 13th? That’s a hard question to answer. It depends on the circumstances that go around it, but, no, we don’t come in with a defensive strategy. I don’t think you can. I think the only time you can come in with a defensive strategy is like I just mentioned, if you’re at Homestead and you’ve got a 20-point lead or something, you’re gonna come in and be conservative with engine stuff and strategy calls and stuff like that to make sure you don’t drop out, but, other than that, I don’t think there’s any possible way you can be defensive. I think you have to be on the offensive and try to outrun those guys.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE JACK ROUSH? “I think we’ve got practice in an hour-and-a-half or something (laughing). I don’t know him better than anybody. A good guy to ask that question, all joking aside, would be Mark Martin. Mark probably knows him better than anybody in the garage, but Jack’s relationship and mine has been pretty much all business. We really haven’t, maybe a little bit more the last few years, but we really don’t deal with each other on a daily basis or sometimes a weekly basis. Jack has always been a great owner and gives us everything we need and everything we ask for, and, hopefully, that’s everything we need to be successful. From a driver’s standpoint, the best part about always racing for him is usually whatever you ask for, if it’s somewhat reasonable and he can make it happen, he’ll get it for you to try to run better.”