TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS)
Matt Kenseth — Notes & Quotes
Charlotte Motor Speedway – May 17, 2013
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What are your expectations for the All-Star Race?
“Well, you never know what to expect. I think that’s one of the exciting things about the All-Star event. I feel great — obviously we had a great week last week. Glad to have Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) back at the track, looking forward to getting on the track. I think qualifying is going to be very, very, very interesting getting on pit road wide open like that so getting ready to go try a little bit of that. Hopefully, I’ll get a decent balance today and go race tomorrow night.”
What are your memories of Dick Trickle?
“Man, Dick (Trickle) was a legend, you know especially up in Wisconsin short track racing where I grew up. Really, I think Brad (Keselowski) touched on it too, but really that era of stock car racing up in that area really died with him. It’s just crazy, surprising news. I don’t really know all the circumstances. Last time I saw him was at Slinger (Speedway) last year. We won the Nationals and he always went up there for years and years. He actually created the Slinger Nationals with Wayne Erickson, the guy that owned the track. I talked to him for awhile — it was right after the news came out that I was moving to Joe Gibbs Racing — and he kind of peaked in the trailer afterwards and of course he asked if we had any beer in there and he came in there and, man, we sat in there for two hours last July and that was the last time I saw him. We talked for two hours and he always had a lot of — he had a unique way of looking at things, he had a ton of common sense and he was really smart and always had a really funny way of putting things. Man, he went on for about an hour just about my move and what he thought was great about it and just a lot of other interesting things that made me feel good. Ninety percent of the stuff he told me at least through all the years I raced with him and stuff always proved to be right. That’s the last time I saw him. I’m still in shock. I don’t really get it. I don’t really know what all went on there. That’s about it.”
How do you approach the changes to the All-Star Race and can a driver win all the segments?
“I think certainly it could happen. I don’t know about the odds. I haven’t looked it up. I don’t know. I have to think about the formats a little bit, when everybody’s racing to pit. I think it would be hard to lead every segment because everybody has to pit at least once through those first four for fuel at least. I’m not sure. You don’t approach it any differently than any other time. I think the approach was different was when they used to do the invert, which was probably never the best idea because people didn’t try as hard as they could the whole time. Really even last year, once you won a segment and those other segments and I think Jimmie (Johnson) and I think we won a segment and stuff so you’re just waiting for the last one. I think the way they have it setup is good. Everybody has a lot of incentive to race as hard as they can every single lap. I think that’s what you’re going to see.”
Do you race differently in the All-Star Race because it’s a non-points event?
“I race exactly the same to be totally honest with you. I think maybe that changes with the drivers. I think the only thing that’s a little different is you’re probably not going to cut somebody a break if they’re faster than you. You’re not going to do some of that stuff because it is a shorter race and you have to be in position for the end of the race where if you’re racing 600 miles it’s not that you don’t race as hard, but if somebody is pressing you for position 100 miles into a 600 mile race it’s not really smart for either one of you to really hold them up. You’ll usually get out of the way so you can both be making your very best time because you know you have another three hours to get back in front of him and get your car better. I think that changes. I don’t think you’re going to see people giving up spots. Everybody is going to be racing really hard the whole time. As far as being rough or wronging someone or something like that, I don’t change that. If I can’t beat somebody the right way, I probably won’t beat them. I think if you’re fast enough to get to somebody, I think you’re going to be fast enough to pass them. There’s plenty of lanes here. I think that always puts on a good race.”
How much motivation is the money from winning the All-Star Race?
“There’s a lot of things. I’ve never been in a race I didn’t want to win, whether it paid any money or you paid to be in the race or you’re getting paid to race. Certainly it’s an awesome pay day if you can win. I look at it in several different things. It’s the All-Star Race, you want to win. There’s a good pay day, cool trophy and you get to be on that list for winning the All-Star Race. But, I do think a really big part of it too is to be ready for the 600. Tomorrow night is the only practice in the conditions the track is going to finish up the 600 in. That’s the way it’s going to be at the end of the race. Really, your only chance to gather some good information and kind of figure out what you’ll have for next week. Certainly you want to be the best you can be tomorrow night. Good or bad, you’re going to learn off that for the 600, so I think you try to pay a lot of attention to that as well.”
What made Dick Trickle so good at short-track racing?
“Well, first of all, by the time that I started racing short track stuff, Dick (Trickle) was down here running Cup stuff. He was gone for probably five or six years before I started, so being a little kid in the stands I used to watch him a lot. And, man, there was some great races up there. I remember the first time we went to Madison — it was called Capital Speedway then — and there was a ASA (American Speed Association) race and it was Trickle and Mark Martin and Ted Musgrave and Bobby Dotter and I mean it was just like you believe all the people that were in that race — Alan Kulwicki. I remember watching them guys. I mean like I said, Dick was a — is a legend and for a lot things. For the way he raced, for the way he conducted himself after the races, for all his different formulas for how much sleep he needed and just all the different stuff. He just was a racer’s racer. That’s all he cared about and all he worked on and that was all he did.”
Why does Wisconsin produce so many racers?
“I don’t know. When I go back that far — when I started racing short tracks — there was still a lot of places you could race up there. I mean, the season is relatively short — middle of April or beginning of May until October 1 was the last race up there because of weather — so the season was short, but you could run five nights a week at weekly shows. The only nights that you couldn’t race was Mondays and Tuesdays on a weekly basis, so there was a lot of tracks. There was a lot of race cars. They had a different way of racing. You always if you had fast time you always had to start in the back, so you always had to learn how to work traffic and pass cars. So, I don’t know. It was just when I was growing up, it was still big too, but it was just always real big around there. Just always a ton of pavement short track racing up there.”
What is the biggest contrast between Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Fenway Racing?
“You know, I’m really just looking forward and not backward. I mean, there’s a lot of things that are different, so I’m not really focused on anything that happened or didn’t happen in the past. I think since the day I walked at Joe Gibbs Racing I felt really good about everything that they had going on there — about the personnel and the whole company, certainly my respective team and Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief), certainly TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and the whole engineering support and their engines and all the stuff that they provide for us. I felt good about everything I saw there and the more I got plugged into that probably the better I felt about it.”
Does the All-Star Race serve as a warm-up for the 600?
“Yeah, it’s not really a practice session for the 600 — I mean, because you want to win the All-Star Race — but I think you’re going to learn some stuff in the All-Star Race that’s going to help you in the 600. So I think that very biggest thing is you practice — obviously, conditions right now are much, much different than they’re going to be tomorrow night and the same thing goes with the 600 and with practice. The only other time we’re on track at night probably is qualifying next Thursday, so I think the biggest thing you’re going to learn is how the track changes from the middle of today when we get to go out for practice tomorrow night and hopefully we’ll be able to apply that to next week’s practice to the race.”
Do drivers worry about the format of the All-Star Race?
“Yeah, I mean, usually you decide whether you like it or not afterwards — see how it works out for you — but yeah. It was funny because Kyle (Busch) on Monday at our meeting was telling us there is no pit road speed coming into the pits and — well, I know he’s crazy, but we’re all like, ‘Man, you’re crazy, man. There’s, no — they haven’t done that in years and years and years.’ So, anyway, I found out the other day that he was right, so you can write that down — he was right. So, that is going to be kind of crazy. I was a little concerned about that. I was like, ‘Man, I hope I don’t get beat to bad getting on there or spin out getting on there,’ either one, so I think that’s going to create a ton of excitement for qualifying. I don’t know how many people have caught on to that or how many more people will come to watch that, but I would buy a ticket to sit in the stands and watch some of them guys, probably including me, get on pit road. The rest of the format I think you just look at the rules when they come out and try to figure out a strategy and go from there, so it’s the same for everybody. It’s always fun to change it up a little bit.”
Was Did Trickle treated like royalty and what did he do away from the track?
“Yeah, in Wisconsin especially. Now certainly there’s been a fair amount of time that’s passed since he raced a lot and certainly that changes over the years, but, you know, I was going back to Slinger (Raceway) — he would always come back up there and just sign autographs and kind of be the grand marshal and wave the flag. He’d do all that. I can’t remember the last year that he raced up there. So, really that’s the only time that I really seen him very much. He came out here I think three or four years ago and I saw him for a little bit — I’d see him every year at Slinger and that would be about the only time that I would run into him. So, to be honest anybody that knew Dick, when you’d talk to him about stuff — I don’t know that I ever talked to him about anything except for racing, so I’m not really sure what he did outside of racing once he retired. I really don’t know. You’d kind of ask him and he’d kind of give you a three or four word answer and then he’d go off into a racing story. Almost every conversation I’ve ever had with him was about racing — either current events or going forward or he’d be telling me what he thought about something or stories from the past because he had a whole bunch of them.”
Is it expected that a Joe Gibbs Racing driver will win in Charlotte based on recent results?
“I hope you’re right. I really feel like as an organization we’ve been pretty strong everywhere — I mean at all the race tracks. I feel like there’s a couple where we’ve been off a little bit, but one of them was California (Auto Club Speedway) and Denny (Hamlin) was leading the last lap and Kyle (Busch) won. So, yeah, I mean I think their cars have pretty fast everywhere. It’s hard for me to put my finger on exactly what it is because this is my first year. It’s a whole new race car. It’s hard to compare to last year’s car — it’s a Gen-6 car.”
Can you compare the current car to the previous car?
“Like I was saying, I haven’t drove a Gen-6 car in any other manufacturer or any other team or any of that kind of stuff, so it’s hard for me to compare that. And I didn’t drive a JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) car last year when it was the Gen-5 car, so obviously you always kind of measure where you are compared to your competition and obviously our group has been really good compared to our competition. I don’t have an exact reason why. If I did, this wouldn’t be the forum for it or I wouldn’t tell anybody about it, but, man, we’ve just had — our cars have just been really fast. The engines run great. The cars have been handling really good. They’ve had a bunch of speed. I think Jason’s (Ratcliff, crew chief) done a spectacular job with strategy. I think my over the wall guys have given me fast pit stops. We’ve just — as a group, they’ve just been doing all the things you need to do to win races and our cars have just been fast.”
What do you think it was like prior to the pit road speed limit?
“It’s remarkable to me that more people didn’t get seriously hurt on pit road not having a speed limit and getting to the pits. So, I think as like anything I think probably way, way, way back in the day when they started doing pit stops people probably didn’t think about pit road much. They probably thought about how to make their car fast on the race tracks, so there probably wasn’t people totally crazy coming in, coming out and people practicing pit stops. And through the years when everybody’s — as the competition keeps getting tighter and tighter and tighter, everybody kept working harder and harder and that probably took more and more risks getting on and off pit road and doing all that stuff and I’m sure that’s when the last bad accident on pit road I think that’s when the pit road speed came into play. I’m glad that I didn’t have to do it with no pit road speed. I think it could be pretty crazy and dangerous and a lot of people standing out on pit road. Now certainly tonight is different because nobody is on pit road and it’s a safe environment, but it’s — I can’t imagine what it would be like today if there wasn’t a pit road speed. I’d think you’d have a lot wrecks on pit road.”
Do you ever think about the potential of being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame?
“I really don’t. I hope that I have a lot of great years in front of me and I hope that I accomplish a lot more before I’m done racing, so I hope I’m not near close enough to not be in racing any more to have to think or worry about that yet.”
Why were you so emotional after the Darlington win?
“I’m actually a really emotional guy. I just don’t usually show it. Yeah, I was fired up after Darlington. First of all, it’s really fun to win. It’s really hard to win races. I’ve never had a start to a season like I have had this year and not just in the wins, but in the laps led and how dominate a cars we’ve had and the poles. I mean, it’s just been — gosh, we got done with the Southern 500, it capped quite a week. I had quite the week last week. It was really fun on a lot of different levels — did some traveling, did some other things, so it was a really fun week. Of course, wish Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) would have been able to be there, but just being able to put all that together and then the Southern 500 in my mind is one of the biggest four or five races of the season and it’s one that I’ve always really, really wanted to win and I’ve never really been close, so that kind of made it extra special as well. So, man, I just — and Kyle (Busch) was so dominate I’m like, ‘Nobody’s going to beat Kyle.’ We took off on that last run and we were closer to the same speed then we were all night, but I felt like he still had a little something there. Then for all that to happen at the end and to actually be able to win and I really wasn’t expecting it. I was hoping to hang on for second or third and to put all that together and everything, I think just all the circumstances added to the emotion and sometimes it hits you more than others. It’s still even though I’ve been doing this for a while, it’s just unbelievable that I get to do this for a living and race against Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson and all those guys out there and to be able to go do that and do it at a really competitive level and be out there and be able to win races at this level is just really it’s unbelievable and sometimes it sinks in more than others. Most times you’ve just got your head down and you’re thinking about the next week already and how to accomplish the next thing you want to accomplish and maybe don’t enjoy it as much as you should. And other times like last week it just capped off an awesome week and I was just pretty excited that we were standing there.”