Ford Texas 1 Thursday Advance (Matt Kenseth)

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion, enters Saturday’s race at Texas  Motor Speedway sitting fourth in points and is the reigning winner at TMS with his victory in the 2011 fall race. Kenseth, who has led 756 laps in 19 Cup starts at Texas, holds the record for the most top five (10) and the most top 10’s (13) in Cup action at Texas. Kenseth met with media members prior to the first practice session of the weekend Thursday.

Matt Kenseth, No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion –  TALK ABOUT COMING BACK TO A PLACE WHERE YOU WON A YEAR AGO. THAT HAS TO MAKE YOU FEEL PRETTY GOOD.  “Yeah, I always love coming here. It has always been a pretty good track for us in the past. It is always a great crowd and a track that I really enjoy racing at. I really look forward to coming back here.”

CAN YOU ADDRESS YOUR AFFINITY FOR THIS RACE TRACK AND HOW WELL THE ROUSH FENWAY ORGANIZATION HAS DONE HERE?  I’ve always liked the race track and sometimes you run better at some tracks more than others and you don’t always know why. I don’t really know why but it has been a pretty good track for us in the past. We have had a lot of good runs and finishes here. Whenever you come back to a track you’ve had success at then I think you probably always look forward to coming back to it maybe a little bit more. As far as mile-and-a-half tracks, we have only been to Vegas and I thought we performed really well there. That track is a lot different than this track but I thought we ran really good and we were a contender until the end when I wrecked it. At California we seemed to struggle a little bit as a group. Until we get deeper in the season I am not really sure but the bulk of the schedule is the mile-and-a-half tracks and you’ve gotta be good to have success.”

American Muscle

YOU WENT BACK TO DAYTONA THIS WEEK. HOW DIFFERENT WAS THE EXPERIENCE CELEBRATING THAT THIS WEEK AS OPPOSED TO THE DAY AFTER THE RACE? “Yeah, it was a little different. The race got extended a long time so I guess we are extending all this stuff too which is fun. It was really neat to see the car. I haven’t seen the car since it left victory lane. It is always neat to see that thing sitting there all dirty with all the confetti on it. The morning after was really neat in 2009 because all the crew guys could be there. That part of it was more cool then, that part of the experience, but it was neat to come back and relive that and have that feeling when you saw the car again and kind of remember it since it has been a couple of months.”

HOW IS THE ATMOSPHERE AS AN ORGANIZATION FOR YOU GUYS LEADING UP TO A RACE WHERE YOU HAVE HAD SUCCESS AS OPPOSED TO A TRACK WHERE MAYBE YOU HAVE STRUGGLED IN THE PAST?  “It is kind of the same but it is different. Your expectations are higher I guess and the result has to be better to feel satisfied leaving a track that you feel like your organization is strong at. You really feel like you need to capitalize when you come to this track. You feel like yourself or one of your team cars needs to have a shot to win and you should all be running up toward the front. If you go to Martinsville, which is historically not our best track, and you get two or three of them sprinkled in the top-10 then you feel like it was a pretty good day for there and maybe you are learning and gaining on it. When you come to these places it feels like one of you should have a shot to win or the boss will probably be disappointed Monday morning.”

YOU ARE A MULTIPLE TIME WINNER HERE. DENNY IS, CARL IS AND TONY IS. YOU GUYS ARE ALL IN THE TOP-10 OR TOP-15. DO YOU THINK THIS RACE AND NOVEMBER WILL HAVE A CHANCE TO SEPARATE YOU GUYS? “Oh man, I don’t know. It is hard for me to look forward to November. We have so much racing to do right now. I think when it comes to the whole season that if you run real good and have a good performing team that even if you get behind a little bit you can have a few mulligan’s with the way the Chase is set up. When it comes down to the Chase you have to be pretty much spot-on at all 10 of the tracks. You can’t have many real bad finishes and expect to be a contender.”

YOU HAVE BEEN TIGHT WITH DALE JR. FOR AWHILE NOW. HOW WOULD YOU GAUGE HIS CONFIDENCE RIGHT NOW? IS IT HIGHER THAN IT HAS BEEN AND IF SO, WHY?  “I don’t know. For whatever reason this year we have probably spent more time talking to each other around the races and sending texts or whatever. I have seen him more this year than in years past and I have seen him on the race track a lot more too. He has been running really well and we have gotten to race for position and stuff like that. For me that is really fun. It has been a long time now but we used to race for wins and tried to run with him for championships in the Busch series and stuff. We moved up to Cup the same year and raced for Rookie of the Year and wins and stuff. It is so competitive in this series that sometimes you might go a couple months without racing each other. It has been enjoyable to be around him on the track more. I think the better you run that everybody gains confidence.”

FROM THE TEST AT MICHIGAN, HOW FAST DO YOU THINK YOU WILL BE GOING IN RACE TRIM AND IS IT TOO FAST?  “I don’t think we were going too fast as far as the cars being out of control or not having a good race or anything like that. I don’t really know the magic number on the speed. I know there is a point where they worry about the cars flipping over when they turn sideways and they need to keep them slower then that or figure out something to keep the cars on the ground if they get out of shape. I think that is the biggest concern if something happens toward the end of the straightaway and corner entry or something, that none of the cars go flying up in the air. That is a little bit of a concern. Other than that, I don’t think it is a big concern. They are big numbers but I don’t know if you would realize you were going that fast if you didn’t have all that telemetry on the car. It is about what we expected. It was a ton of grip and we have been getting faster at all the tracks in the last year or two, trying to make the cars better, and tracks have a ton of grip and it is real fast. As far as speeds, I don’t know why it would be any slower than what we just ran. I assume it would be a little faster as the track gets dusted off and rubbered in, it should pick up a little bit. When we are in race trim we were almost four seconds faster than we were racing last year. That is quite a bit.”

DON’T YOU GUYS EVER SIT BACK AND THINK THAT IF YOU WERE GOING 195 INSTEAD OF 215 THAT MAYBE IT WOULD BE BETTER RACING?  “Every track is different. Obviously the bigger the track is the faster our cars are going to go. Do I think we need to be running 215 to put on good racing? No. A track like Michigan where it is real wide, and if the whole track gets dusted off, there will be multiple grooves and the racing will be good.  Pocono, I have said it for years, if I was repaving the thing I would have cut the front stretch in half and made the track a mile-and-a-quarter. It would be a fun track because it is so unique. Do we need a straightaway that long in this day in age with all the horsepower and engineering and aerodynamics and stuff we have? To run 220 or 210 going into that corner, when you think about the number of something going wrong, that is just silly fast. We don’t need to go that fast to put on a good race but I don’t know what the alternative is or how you slow it down.”

IF THEY REPAVED THIS TRACK, WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE?  “I can’t really predict what exactly is going to happen if they repave the track. I think Charlotte since they repaved it hasn’t changed much at all. I think it would be pretty similar to Charlotte after the repave.”

NIGHT RACE SATURDAY, WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE RACING UNDER THE LIGHTS AND WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT IT?  “I don’t know what specific challenges you have different than during the day. I think day racing is more challenging because of vision and the track changing with the sun and clouds and time of day with the sun setting. I think there are more challenges during a day race with keeping up with set up changes and the track changing. I like night racing. I think it is fun, especially here. I think that it looks faster and it sometimes looks more exciting and you see sparks flying and all that kind of stuff. I don’t know when the latest practice session is but the challenge we face is that we don’t practice in the conditions that we race in. That is probably the biggest challenge.”

THIS IS THE REAL WINDY TIME OF YEAR HERE. WHAT AFFECT DOES THAT HAVE? “Well, it is the same for everybody but the wind does affect you a fair amount depending what direction it is blowing and how hard. The entries and exits to this track, at both ends, but it seems like one and two have more banking or is faster. It is flat on exit. You have to be careful on exit of two, depending which way the wind is blowing, and the entry of three. Those are the two trickiest spots.”

BECAUSE YOU ARE SO GOOD HERE, DO YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO LEAVE HERE WITHOUT A GOOD HIGH FINISH?  “I don’t know if I would put it exactly that way. You want to try to overachieve every week and take whatever you are given and get at least the finish where your car performed or hopefully better. That is what helps you at the end of the day with points. I guess like I touched on earlier, if you go to a place like Martinsville which is one of our worst tracks and you get a top-10 or top-5, you feel like that is a win. If you go to a place where you have had success and left here maybe eighth, you might feel defeated. Last week we would have felt good about it. It changes your expectations a little bit and what you are satisfied with and not satisfied with.”

RACING RETURNS TO ROCKINGHAM THIS WEEKEND. YOU WON THERE IN 2004. WHAT ARE YOUR RECOLLECTIONS ON THAT PLACE?  “I’ve always really like the track. I still don’t understand all the reasons why we left. I thought it would be cool if you could pick that track up and put it wherever you get more fans to show up and watch it so we could keep racing at that track or a track like that. I think it is exciting they are going back there and who knows what it will turn into. I think it is neat it is going back there. It has been a special track for me over the years. We won our first NASCAR race there ever, the Busch series race in 1998 which was one of the most thrilling days in my racing life. We wrapped up the championship there in 2003 and then we won the last race there. We have had a lot of neat stuff happen there and I have always enjoyed the track and the challenges that it presents.”

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