Kenseth Happy With Las Vegas Weekend — So Far
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, has posted consecutive top-10 finishes to start the season and finds himself seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. Kenseth, who has a pair of NSCS wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, spoke to the media before practice on Saturday.
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion – HOW HAS THE WEEKEND BEEN SO FAR? “The weekend so far has been really good. We unloaded and the car seemed to have halfway decent speed, so we worked a lot on race practice yesterday because of the threatening weather and a chance of rain today. We didn’t work real hard on qualifying, but still got a really good lap. Chip and Todd made some really good adjustments and the car drove well for qualifying, so hopefully we get to practice today a little bit.”
IT’S ONLY BEEN A WEEK, BUT HAVE YOU NOTICED ANY CHANGES IN THE TEAM’S ATTITUDE WITH TODD ON BOARD? “Actually, yes. I can see a difference and it’s interesting because Todd has been around for a long time and he’s obviously won a lot of races and a championship. I know the last couple of programs probably didn’t go the way he hoped, and I’m pleasantly surprised by his excitement level and his enthusiasm, and how excited he is to come back and have another shot at being in a competitive program and winning races and trying to run for a championship. Yesterday was a perfect example. He was on the radio yelling and came in the trailer giving us high-fives after our qualifying run because we improved it so much from practice. The other thing is that I can tell everybody on the team, including myself, really respects Todd and his experience and leadership abilities. It’s been fun. It’s only been a week, but he’s got a lot of enthusiasm and he’s really fired up about doing it again.”
DREW SAID YESTERDAY HE WASN’T TOTALLY SURPRISED WITH THE CHANGE, BUT IS CHANGE SOMETIMES GOOD JUST FOR CHANGE SAKE? “It wasn’t really that Drew and I couldn’t work together and we didn’t get along or we weren’t friends because we really could. I think he understood me and I understood him, it was just that we felt like we needed to make a change. Honestly, I think it’ll probably turn out better for us and I think it’ll probably turn out better for Drew. I really think it will and I think it will give him a chance to think about a lot of stuff and go back and, obviously, getting in Carl’s program he has a very good shot at winning a lot of races and championships. That’s where he was before I picked him out of there. The timing seems weird, but I wanted to make sure he had all winter and really had a chance to make the team his own and lead the team. Anyway, in the long run, I think it’ll probably be good for both of us as a learning experience. I have had a couple of crew chiefs the last few years, but I’ve still had only three in 12 years, so it’s just been the last couple of years that have been a little busier trying to figure out the whole chemistry thing. I used to think that it was a driver-crew chief thing, but it’s really not. It’s the whole unit and, really, the crew chief spends way more time with the team and the guys than they do with the driver, so it’s just a mix. We’re having a team dinner tonight and I think there are 26 of us going, so it’s really a mix to get everybody pulling on the same end of the rope. Having everybody’s attitude and everybody’s goals aligned with everybody following that guy is really what it’s about, so you never know. It’s only the second race and we’ve got to work on it for awhile.”
WHAT IS YOUR EXPLANATION FOR THE SPEEDS YESTERDAY? TIRES IS WHAT EVERYBODY POINTED TO. “The real answer is I don’t know exactly why. I would think the tire is most of it because there really hasn’t been any rules changes, but you’d also like to think that everybody has gotten a little smarter on their cars from last year to this year. So probably a combination of the tires, and the cloudy and cool conditions, and everybody getting their cars a little bit better are the reasons.
WHAT HAVE YOU GUYS DONE TO FUNDAMENTALLY TRY TO IMPROVE THE RACE CARS FROM A PERFORMANCE STANDPOINT? “The cars not running up to our expectations probably had very, very little to do with Drew and I and trying something different. I hope we’ve made some improvements over the winter. I don’t know exactly what we were missing last year as a group. We only have a very small snapshot of it because we’ve only run one open race, but I feel like we still probably have some work to do as an organization to get our cars a little bit better and faster. We’ve done a lot of work over the winter and done a lot of things to improve. I think working with the Petty cars and having them switch to Fords will be an advantage for all of us. They’ve done a lot of work at the shop over the winter to improve our cars and make them lighter and improve the bodies – everything you do to try and make them better – but I don’t know how we got so far behind. Hopefully, we’ve closed that gap some and we can keep closing it and one day get ahead of them.”
IT’S A TOUGH SPORT. “Yeah, it’s not easy. This sport reminds you that it’s not easy a lot of times pretty quickly.”