Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth was made available to the media at Phoenix International Raceway:
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is your mindset going into this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway to get into the Championship 4?
“You know, really not any different than any other weekend really. Our mindset when we show up is to always try to qualify the best we can on Friday and race the best we can on Sunday, so really no different this weekend. Just try to get a car that will run a fast lap today, hopefully get qualified good and work on our race setup that hopefully is fast and drives good.”
Will what has happened at Phoenix in the past affect you for this weekend and what about this race track works for you and what is a challenge?
“I’ve been at a lot of these tracks a lot of times so I feel like if you dig deep enough in the numbers all the tracks have been hit and miss to a certain extent depending on the year. So, I feel like we’ve had some good runs here. It hasn’t been our strongest track I guess probably the last four or five years, but in the spring we didn’t run bad. Carl (Edwards) almost won, just a little bit short there. And Kyle (Busch) was running up there and I think we were in the top-10 somewhere, maybe seventh or something. We didn’t run bad, it hasn’t been the best place for us but I don’t think it’s a bad place. I think when we’re on we on we can be competitive here. I feel like we have been pretty competitive everywhere lately. I don’t really have a part of our track that necessarily doesn’t work for me or works for me. It’s just the ends are quite a bit different. It’s always hard to get a really good balance in one end and still be really good in the other end. There’s always a little bit of a compromise there and the guys that are really good here figure out how to make that compromise smaller than the rest of the guys. So, I guess that’s what you always work on is try to get both ends the best you can.”
How do you and your teammates approach this weekend?
“I hope not any different. I don’t really think any different. I think we always, at least since I’ve been there things changed a little bit obviously with additional – Carl (Edwards) and that team and Martin (Truex Jr.) and that team, but, I think that we work better together as a group than anything I’ve never been part of. So far that hasn’t changed at all over the four years that I’ve been there. So, I wouldn’t think that it would change this weekend and I wouldn’t think it would change next weekend. Certainly, once the race starts obviously we’re all trying to get the best finishes we can for our respective teams but I think during the weekend we all share everything we learn throughout practice, bounce ideas off of each other and try to as a group come up with the best setups that we can for Sunday.”
Do you think there could be hurt feelings amongst your teammates for whoever doesn’t get in the Championship 4?
“Well, I certainly can’t predict what’s going to happen Sunday. Obviously the goal right now – we’ve got one car in and like I said three that aren’t. The goal is to have three out of the five in there next weekend, so obviously all of us want to be in there so somebody is going to be disappointed when they leave here. And, all three of us can be disappointed when we leave here. You never know what’s going to happen Sunday. That’s just the way that it is. I think out of the eight, the four that don’t make it are going to be disappointed whether they’re on the same team or not.”
Is your point’s situation going to be obvious to you during the race or do you want your team to communicate it to you towards the end of the race?
“I think it totally depends on the situation. I mean I think it’s totally just – if there’s five seconds in front of you and five seconds behind you and there’s nothing you can do about it I don’t know that it matters but if it’s like it was with Ryan Newman a couple years ago where he needed that one spot and he had to bonsai it in there to get that one spot of course you want to know that. So, I think it just depends on what the situation is at the time.”
Did you get a feeling this week that Carl Edwards and his team are much more relaxed?
“I didn’t really sense that. I can’t say that during the week, especially on kind of a short week and based on being in Texas an extra day to get all the cars ready for Phoenix and all of that, that I spent a lot of time with the team. You know, spent my normal amount of time with Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) but not with the team or spent time with other drivers. I don’t know. I didn’t really pickup on that. Obviously they’re probably a little more relaxed I would assume this weekend in a way but yet I’m sure they’re also thinking ahead to Homestead. I’m sure they’re thinking about this weekend and about getting their car running as good as they can to try to help two more cars get in there hopefully out of the organization. I don’t know that it’s a lot different.”
Are you okay with the Chase format in terms of how its setup?
“I can’t really speak for a whole group of drivers. All that I can speak for is myself and for me whatever it is and whatever the rules are when the year starts I’m fine with that. Everybody has got the same opportunity to make that work the best they can for them. I’m all for whatever the fans are into. It doesn’t really matter that much to me.”
Is it an advantage for Joe Gibbs Racing to try and get three cars in or would you be better off with JGR car in?
“I’m really thinking about that one. The goal is you really want to have them all in. You really want to have four out of the five at Homestead and the most you can have there is three now. Obviously for him (Joe Gibbs) and for the organization, the most bullets you have the better. Your chances go up of winning a championship so I think obviously you want as many as you can get in there.”
Have you ever thought of retiring early as a father with young kids like Brian Scott?
“No, not really. I think those situations – our situations are quite a bit different you know. I’m having a really good time right now. We’re competitive, the guys I’m working with and I wouldn’t have any reason to not want to do this. It’s pretty good right now.”