Ford Performance NASCAR: Matt Kenseth Charlotte Media Availability

Ford PR

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Wyndham Rewards Ford Fusion, won his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the 2000 Coca-Cola 600.  Kenseth spoke to media members about this weekend’s race after practice in the infield media center.


MATT KENSETH, No. 17 Wyndham Rewards Ford FusionCAN YOU REFLECT ON JACK MAKING THE NASCAR HALL OF FAME?  “I’m happy for Jack to finally get in the Hall.  He certainly deserves to be there.  He’s put over 30 years of his life into this sport, so that was really neat to see that yesterday.  I’m proud of him and happy to be able to be a small part of that and enjoy a lot of the successes that he’s been able to have in this sport.  That’s exciting.”


HOW HAS IT BEEN BEING BACK?  “We’re not very far into this yet.  Kansas was a struggle the whole weekend.  Last weekend was very unique, running restrictor plates and all that stuff at Charlotte and the All-Star format and stuff, so that was kind of different.  I was glad to be able to get on the track and get a full practice in today.  Hopefully, the weather will be good and we’ll be able to get in a qualifying session tonight and go back to work Saturday.  I feel like we learned a couple things today so far, and hopefully we can get qualified respectable and get back to work Saturday on race trim.”


HAS YOUR SCHEDULE BEEN BUSIER THAN EXPECTED OR DO YOU GET TO CONTROL WHAT HAPPENS?  “I wish I could control everything that happens.  I’ve been doing this a fairly long time and the schedule isn’t really any different than what I thought it would be.  I’m assuming you’re talking about my weekends and weeks right now, so, no real big surprises yet.”


WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON NOT RUNNING THE ALL-STAR PACKAGE THIS WEEK?  WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE IT?  “No, not if I’m driving.  This is my opinion, I thought the racing was pretty entertaining Saturday.  I thought Open was really good, but yet we all have really short memories.  If you think back a year ago the Open was really, really exciting too with this aero package, so I don’t know.  You’ve got to be careful about taking that little bit of a sample size and saying this is gonna be the greatest thing ever because we’ve all seen that and when you take a rules package and give it to the garage and let them work on it for a month or so, I think you’re gonna have things looking very similar to how they looked before you changed that.  I think the low downforce thing is a good example of that.  I think the racing, in my opinion even from being home this year, has been really, really, really good and really entertaining, and still about driving race cars and not just doing restrictor plate racing and being in line and doing all that kind of stuff.  I thought it was entertaining.  I thought it was a good thing to try.  I don’t know if it’s necessarily what I would want to see us run on a weekly basis, but it’s okay.”


DO YOU HAVE AS MUCH INPUT IN YOUR SETUPS NOW AS YOU USED TO WITH HOW THE SPORT HAS CHANGED?  “I don’t think a lot of drivers out here today, myself included, I knew bits and pieces here and there, but, really, no one understands necessarily the whole setups and the way they’re all derived today with the no ride height thing.  I think it’s more engineering and aero than it is anything else, so if you’re short in one department, if you’re off on downforce, you just don’t have a chance.  So it’s different than what it once was.  I think you need to understand the car the best you can and give the best feedback you can to your crew and try to feel changes and relay that and look at data with them and make them understand what you’re going through in the car and what you’re feeing like and what you’re looking for, but in today’s day and age you’ve got to have all the right people that are smart enough to diagnose all that and figure out how to fix it and give you what you need, so that’s a little different than it once was.”


WHAT WAS THE TEAM MEETING LIKE THIS WEEK?  “It was fine.  There wasn’t anything really different.  We’ve had two races with two very different formats, aero packages, engine packages and all that, so, for me anyway, it’s still pretty new and there’s a lot of different things to try to work through, at least what I would like to work through, and just trying to keep getting a better feel for it every week and kind of try to give my opinions for what their worth and what I feel like we could do different and better and what we’re doing good – it’s that type of thing – nothing really different.”


HOW IS YOUR FITNESS FOR THE 600?  “I think I’ll be okay.  I think I’ll make it (laughing).  Not that anybody ever wants to brag about anything, but as far as where I’ve been the last 20 years I’m in pretty good shape right now.  I’ve had a lot of time to train the last six months, so I’m not worried about the physical aspect of it.  I’m more worried about trying to keep up, get our cars a little faster so we can first of all stay on the lead lap, second of all hopefully start moving forward and getting kind of in the mix and start to get forward, but certainly I think it’s tough on anybody no matter what kind of shape they’re in for that long of a race – and if it’s hot and staying hydrated and eating right and getting sleep and doing all those things – but just pure physical fitness I feel pretty good right now.  I’ve had a good few months and I feel pretty good.”


HOW HAS YOUR PHILOSOPHY WITH THIS RACE CHANGED SINCE YOU WON IN 2000?  “So many things have changed.  It’s been a lot of years and there have been so many changes since then, mainly with the cars, but some of the biggest ones are probably not as adjustable as they once were and the track goes through a fairly big change, but there is no more pacing yourself or choosing a certain gear because you want your engine to live.  All of that stuff is kind of in the past, so it’s different and everybody just runs as hard as they can every lap for five hours to try to get the best finish you can because you just can’t afford to give up spots, you can’t afford to pace yourself and let somebody in front of you because you might not ever get back around them.  So I would say that’s the biggest part.  There’s not a ton of attrition and problems and the survival thing isn’t quite what it once was.  The cars are certainly more comfortable and more creature comforts than what we had when I started.  They drive better and have way more downforce and sideforce, so I think those things make it different.  You don’t approach a 600-miler any different than if it was 300 miles to be honest with you.  You can’t really not run hard.”


About Greg Engle 7420 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.