Kenseth Meets Media To Discuss New Pavement At Michigan International Speedway

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion, has been at Michigan International Speedway the last two days doing a tire test for Goodyear on the track’s newly-repaved surface.  Kenseth, who finds himself in a four-way tie for third place in the overall point standings, spoke to members of the media about how the test has gone and his season to date during the lunch hour.

MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion – HOW IS THE TRACK?  “It’s OK.  The biggest thing whenever you get new pavement is to get it kind of burned in and get all the dirt off of it, so we really need more cars to be able to get more than one lane, but the track is just like how it was, really.  It’s just got new pavement on it.”

HOW ARE THE SPEEDS?  “I would probably say fast to too fast (laughing).  They’re pretty fast.  I think we saw 215 or 216 on the straightaways, so it’s definitely gonna be fast.”

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HOW MUCH WILL THE TIRE GOODYEAR BRINGS IMPACT THE SPEEDS IN JUNE VERSUS THIS TEST?  “The tire is always the biggest factor in the speeds no matter where we go or what kind of pavement we’re racing on, so I think Goodyear has done a really good job with all of these new repaves that have come up the last four or five years.  They’ve brought a tire that doesn’t fail and we can drive and maneuver on it. In the past, it used to be when they paved these places they’d bring a tire that was so hard, because they couldn’t keep them from failing, that we couldn’t drive the cars for 20-30 laps.  So I think they’ve done a good job of giving us something we can drive off the get-go and still seems durable.”

WILL THIS HELP YOU COMPILE NOTES FOR WHEN YOU COME BACK IN JUNE? “For sure it does, especially after a new repave and a different configuration.  I don’t know if you learn your exact setup and all that because everything will change when you get here, but it’s certainly nice to get a feel for the track and gather some data.”

IS THERE ANY CHANCE YOU HAVE TO TOUCH THE BRAKE WITH THE FASTER SPEEDS GOING INTO TURN ONE?  “This has never really been a heavy braking track.  I think everybody drives a little different.  At least for me, it seems like you’re still using it a little bit at times to get the front end set and you get the car to turn, but I think once everything gets burned in, and you get more cars here, and you get on the tire they’re gonna race, and work out your setup, I don’t think you’ll be using the brakes much.  I think you’ll be using a lot of gas.”

WHAT KIND OF DATA DO YOU RECEIVE AFTER EACH TEST?  “On normal weekends when we practice we can’t put any kind of telemetry on the car.  We can’t really look at any of that.  The only thing is with the electric fuel injection now we can gather some data with throttle and brake traces and some different engine data, but when we come here to test we can put whatever instrumentation we want on the car, so, really, we look at all of that stuff.  There’s a ton of things they look at like ride heights and bump-stop loads – all kinds of different things they can look at today and then gather it all up to take home and look at it before we come back.”

WILL THE REPAVE IMPROVE RACING AT MIS?  AND HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO OTHER TRACKS ACROSS THE COUNTRY?  “Michigan has always been one of my favorite tracks.  I think the racing has always been great here.  I think it would be hard to improve on what you had.  It was pretty slick before.  You would run real fast and slow up on old tires and the groove was all over the place, so I don’t think it’s gonna be better than that.  I think it’s gonna be faster than that.  I think qualifying is gonna be real exciting.  I think the race will be real exciting like it always is, but I think you’re probably gonna see a little different race at least for a year or two until it gets more worn out and the pace comes back.  We’re running at least three seconds faster than what we would run in race runs the last time we were here and that’s gonna change the racing a little bit, so you have to pave these places eventually or they’d fall apart, I guess.  I think most drivers probably like old pavement, but certainly the new pavement lately, everybody has been doing a good job of making it smooth and Goodyear has been giving us a tire that has some grip, and I think the racing has been pretty good at the new pavement tracks as well.”

HOW WILL AN INCREASE IN TEMPERATURE THIS JUNE AFFECT THE TIRE?  “In general, most tracks, as it gets warmer, lose grip and they get a little bit slower.  It doesn’t really necessarily change the tire and how it meets with the track.  It changes a little bit, but my car wasn’t quite right early this morning, but I think the speeds then were probably faster than we ended up right before lunch.  So usually as it gets warmer you lose a little bit of grip and the pace slows down no matter what the pavement is like.”

HOW HAS YOUR SEASON BEEN SO FAR?  “It’s been good.  Obviously winning the Daytona 500 was really big for our team.  If you look at every week, there have been a few weeks we’ve overachieved and there have been some weeks where you have a hard time like Vegas.  We ran in the top two or three all week and crashed at the end.  After six weeks, I’m happy with where we’re at.  You always wish that on some of your bad days you did better and didn’t make mistakes, but certainly there have been some races we overachieved, and I think we’ve been pretty competitive.”

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