Below is the transcript from Matt Kenseth's media question & answer session, which took place before practice on Friday afternoon behind the No. 17 DEWALT transporter at Daytona International Speedway.
Kenseth finished the one-hour practice session on Friday with a fast-lap time of 47.614 seconds, good enough for 15th fastest of the 43 cars in the session.
WHAT’S THE BIG STORY GOING TO BE ON SUNDAY?
“I don’t know. I suppose it will be the same as it’s been the last four months – is Dale Jr. gonna win the Daytona 500 with his new team. I imagine that’s the story that will be the most covered.”
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE RACES YESTERDAY AND WHAT DO YOU NEED TO WORK ON FOR SUNDAY?
“Our team, we’ve just got to work on handling. We were a little off on that. We had pretty good speed. I thought the cars drafted good and I thought the races were pretty good, but we just have to keep working on how to get ours to handle a little better.”
HARVICK LED ONLY FOUR LAPS LAST YEAR, SO DOES IT CONFIRM THE THEORY THAT THIS RACE DOESN’T START UNTIL THERE ARE 20 TO GO?
“Not really. I think the race is happening the whole time, it’s just that with this type of racing with drafting and whether you have people pushing you or helping you or what lane you’re in – all that stuff comes into play here and Talladega and it really doesn’t come into play at any other race track, so you just don’t really know what’s gonna happen until the end, especially if there’s a late caution and you get everybody bunched up.”
DO YOU HAVE TO RUN UP FRONT EARLY TO PROVE TO OTHERS THAT THEY CAN WORK WITH YOU ALL DAY?
“If you go off of what you just said about last year’s race, I would say no. But I do think that it does help to be in the front. A lot of times, people draft with certain guys because they’re good at it and because they run up front or whatever. But you’re gonna draft with cars that your car runs fast with and vice versa. They’re not gonna want to run with you if your car is slow and they’re not running with you and maybe they didn’t see you all day. So I think you want to be up front and you want to try to get with some different cars and see how your car handles with their cars and how fast they’ll run.”
IS IT SILLY TO BE SETTING UP A GIBBS-HENDRICK SHOWDOWN ALREADY?
“Well, not really. We have tested throughout the winter and they’ve run the shootout and the Gatorade races yesterday, so from what I see on the track, Dale Jr. is real good, the Hendrick cars are good and the Gibbs cars are unbelievably strong. Really, from sitting back and watching, unless some other people really get their stuff going, I really think it’s gonna be somebody out of those couple groups unless something weird happens.”
DO YOU SEE A DIFFERENCE IN THE POWER OF THE TOYOTAS?
“I don’t know if it’s power, but the Gibbs cars are always strong anyway and then when they hooked up with Toyota this winter, I think that was somebody that everybody thought they were gonna be strong. When you put Kyle Busch in one of them cars, a guy who can make any car go fast it seems like, and when you get the three of those guys that’s a really strong team. Yesterday, when we ran around Kyle in the 150, it was unbelievable how fast his car was. I mean, it made our whole line go faster, so they’re pretty tough.”
ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH HOW JUNIOR HAS STARTED?
“No, I saw it coming.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS FLEXIBILITY ON THE TRACK BETWEEN THE HIGH LINE AND THE LOW LINE?
“You want your car to handle everywhere on the track, but a lot of it is always dependent on tire wear and where the rest of the cars are, and it’s not so much which groove is faster on the track, it’s where all the cars are. If the guy who is leading the pack and everybody decides to follow him, his car is looking better on top, then it’s gonna look like the top groove is good. If the guy’s car is handling on the bottom and everybody sticks to the bottom, it’s gonna look like the bottom groove is good. So handling does come into play and you want to get your car to handle all over the track, if you can.”
DOES IT SURPRISE YOU A COUPLE OF GUYS SEEM TO BE ABLE TO RUN ON THEIR OWN OUT THERE WITHOUT HELP?
“Yes and no. I didn’t really have any expectations or know exactly what this car was gonna do, so it seems like if you do handle good enough, if everybody is running the top for instance and your car is good enough, you can make some passes down there almost by yourself. But certainly there’s that group of four or five cars that seem to be quite a bit stronger than the rest of the field that can hang out by themselves a little longer than the rest.”