Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DEWALT Ford Fusion, held a Q&A session in the California Speedway infield media center during the second day of testing at the two-mile oval. Kenseth addressed a variety of questions during the lunch break:
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Ford Fusion - WHAT MAKES YOU SO GOOD HERE?
"I think it's like anything else, it's a team effort. I've had really good cars here and I've had a really great team for a long time, so I think one of our strong suits in the past on the DEWALT team is the off-season. We've always been able to come out of the box pretty strong and usually get an early-season win or some good finishes and I think our guys have just always been really prepared and really had stuff ready to go in the off-season."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE COT?
"Yeah, it's different. I think the thing about this season that will be a lot better than last season is that we'll have one car to work on. We won't have to go back and forth. You won't, at least after the first few weeks, you probably won't have to hear the constant comparisons about the cars, so this is the car we have to work on. We have to make it work the best we can for us. It's different. When you get it to drive good, it doesn't drive that much different. It's still a race car and we're still trying to go in circles as fast as we can, so all the basic stuff applies. The bodies are kind of locked into place. There's not a lot of stuff you can work on there and the cars are very, very technical and they seem to be very, very finicky with the bump stops and springs and the splitter being so low to the ground. So things are really technical and really touchy. If you get them off just a little bit, they don't run very well. It's just different that what we've done before, but it'll be fine."
DO MOST PEOPLE LOOK AT JIMMIE JOHNSON AND FEEL THEY HAVE TO CATCH UP TO HIM?
"I think we thought that every week for 10 weeks. The goal isn't really to catch up, the goal is to be the best. The goal is to win and to win races and win championships. If you just look what somebody else is doing and copy it, you're always gonna be a step behind somebody. So you're trying to pay attention to what other people do and you're trying to be more competitive and make your stuff better, but the goal is to be he best and to do that you've got to be a step ahead of everybody and not a step behind or even at the same level they're at, so that's the big thing is just keep working as hard as we can and try to get the right people and parts and equipment and all that stuff in place to try and get better."
ARE DRIVERS AND CREW CHIEFS MORE DEPENDENT ON ENGINEERS NOW WITH THE NEW CAR THAN THE OLD ONE?
"Yes and no. Even if I knew what was in my car for springs and all that stuff, I wouldn't tell you guys. You're not gonna go tell everybody a trade secret or something you learn or something you can do to get an advantage on somebody, so that might be some of it, but I think certainly they are more technical than our other cars. But I also think that some of it is technology or time moving on. The other cars were getting more technical, too. As they figure more stuff out with engineering and the wind tunnel and computer simulation and all that stuff, so part of that is just the modern era and moving on. But certainly it's different than it used to be. I used to be able to feel like I was more important. I used to get out of the car and if it wasn't handling right, I could tell them to change that spring and more times than not it would make it better. Or I could say that really feels like we need a different sway bar and more times it would help than it would hurt. I can't do that anymore. It's kind of frustrating. I won't even really necessarily ask what's in my car for a setup before I come to the track because most of it was spit out of the computer or the seven-post deal or other simulation stuff that we have. So it's definitely a lot different than it was even two or three years ago."
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU MISS ABOUT THE OLD CUP CARS?
"I don't know. It doesn't really do any good to sit and think about it that much. I've been thinking more about these cars because this is what we have to work on and move forward with. It's just something different. You always go through those transitions. I remember when they went from the big car to the little car however long ago that was - twenty-some years ago or whatever - and there are always gonna be changes. You just have to adapt to them and come out the best you can."
HOW HAS IT BEEN WITHOUT ROBBIE REISER?
"It really hasn't been much different. It's been a really good week actually. We've had a little bit of everything, so I think it's been good. I think the biggest adjustment probably is more for Chip than it is for me. We've worked together for nine years and if we can't communicate by now, we've got a major problem. We've been working together for a long time and he's been a very, very huge piece of the 17 team since its inception, so I feel good about everything. Chip's got a few things that are different than what he was doing before. There were a lot of things that were left to Robbie personnel-wise and team-wise and all of that kind of detail stuff on the road that maybe he didn't have to think about, so he's got some of that stuff to adjust to, but I think it'll be a pretty easy transition as far as switching crew chiefs goes. If it was somebody from the outside and somebody I hadn't worked with from a different team or something, I think I'd have a lot more anxiety and it would maybe be a bit more hard to adjust, but this hasn't been a big adjustment. He's been part of the group for a long time."
WHAT HAS BEEN DONE TO IMPROVE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CARL?
"Everything is fine. I don't really want to get into stuff that happened five or six months ago, but everything is fine. Everybody seems pretty happy at Roush Fenway Racing. Everybody seems to be getting along pretty good. Like I said, we've had a pretty good week. All of the teammates have been getting along and things have been pretty loose. All of the crew chiefs have been working well together, so I think everything is fine."
WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS AND OPEN-WHEEL GUYS COMING INTO THE SPORT?
"From a fan's standpoint or something I think it's kind of cool to bring some different fans who might pay attention to the sport that maybe didn't before or watched other things. Just purely as a driver it makes very little difference to me. I think it's really cool to be able to race against drivers like Juan Pablo and Jacques and all those guys that you've seen race on TV or race F1, and get to race against the IRL champion and Indy 500 winner and all that stuff. So it's cool when you think of it like that, that you're on the track with them, but when you're out there competing and racing, you don't really necessarily care who you're racing, you're just trying to beat them. They're all just cars and you're trying to figure out how to get yours in front of them all."
WHAT DID YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT WORKING WITH ROBBIE?
"The thing is that we're still working with him so much. He's doing so much at the shop. The only thing I'm really gonna miss is the three days a week we're at the race track. Probably just hearing his voice on the radio and him calling races and doing that stuff, I mean we've done it for so long, but it's hard to say what I'll miss about it because I haven't really missed it yet. I guess he's been my only Cup crew chief, except for when Chip filled in last year, so certainly he's been a huge part of it and it's gonna be really different without him being there everyday. But, yet, I really think with the role that he took, I think it's gonna be better for everyone at Roush Racing. I don't know if it will necessarily be better for the 17, but I think it'll be better for everybody as a group and I think our production will go up as a company with him in that role. We've been needing somebody like him, in my opinion, in that role for a long time and I think Chip is as ready as he'll ever be. He's been a big part of it and the cars have become more technical the longer that we keep going on, so I think overall it will be a good thing for everybody."
About Roush Fenway Racing
Roush Fenway Racing is NASCAR’s largest team operating 14 motorsports teams, five in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup with drivers Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and David Ragan; five in the Busch Series with Kenseth, Biffle, Edwards, McMurray, Ragan, Todd Kluever, Michel Jourdain Jr. and Danny O’Quinn Jr.; and three in the Craftsman Truck Series with Edwards, Peter Shepherd, Travis Kvapil, Erik Darnell and T.J. Bell; and one in the ARCA/REMAX Series with Colin Braun and Darnell.