Toyota Racing – Matt Kenseth
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Kansas Speedway – October 20, 2017
Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth was made available to the media at Kansas Speedway:
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 DEWALT Flexvolt Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What has made you so good at this racetrack, particularly recently?
“Well, probably the same things that made me so bad last time we were here. Just fast racecars. I think after they paved it, we had a couple years there where we just had really fast cars, then kind of things went right in the race, we were able to capitalize on that. You’re only as good as your last race. Our last one here we ran really, really bad. Looking forward to getting on the track today and hopefully redeeming ourselves this weekend.”
Do you feel like you can have a good race here with it being an elimination race? Secondly, could you address driving school buses?
“Yeah, I mean, there’s always I guess five races left, last race of the round. We’re kind of running out of races this year. Obviously winning has been important to us. We haven’t been able to do that in about a year and a half. With all that being said, if we can’t run good here, we’re probably not going to run good anywhere the rest of the year, even though Martinsville is very unique, always feel pretty good going there. This has been, like you said, always one of my better racetracks from a driver standpoint. It’s a pretty basic racetrack, mile and a half, still not very bumpy. There’s multiple banking. But your intermediate stuff, if it’s ever going to run good, it should run good here. So hopefully we can make it run good. No progress on the school bus job yet. That was 95% a joke.”
What is the characteristic of this track that’s made it an exciting race every year? Anything beyond the fact that it’s a cutoff race and it’s in the Playoffs?
“I think every situation and every trip here is probably a little different. I think after they paved it, like a typical repave, you got to come with a very hard tire, it’s very aero dependent, I know there’s a lot of crashes here, the cars are real edgy. I think out of all the repaves we went to, this is the by far best one since I’ve been around. It was a great track before they paved it. Like everybody else, we’re afraid of ruining it. It’s really good with the three grooves, three different bankings, it widened out faster than any repave I’ve ever seen. It’s a great racetrack. Is always real racy. A lot of options out there to try to find somewhere to pass. Still pretty smooth, pretty fast. It’s a racy racetrack. It’s good.”
Do you feel like you have a chance to win this weekend?
“Yeah, I mean, I feel like I come to the racetrack every week with a chance to win. But with that being said, it’s been a year and a half since we won. I don’t know if it’s my longest winless streak or not, but it feels like it is, or close to it. I’m almost sure I’ve never went two years without winning a race. So it’s been a long time. So when you look at it like that, you’re, like, Show me. We haven’t been able to do it yet. I hope to at least get a win before the year’s over. We got five chances left, got some great racetracks coming up. We just got to get our cars running a little bit better. As a group, every single one of us has to execute better, and that starts with me. I know we’re more than capable, but we got to do it.”
Do you feel good about your chances to advance in the Playoffs?
“Yeah, I don’t know. I guess I could give you a better answer after all the practices are done tomorrow, kind of have a good idea where we’re at. Last time we were here we ran bad from the second we unloaded until we were done with the weekend. I’m optimistic we’ll unload a decent speed today, it will drive decent, we’ll get it driving good tomorrow, I hope. Charlotte was a struggle. Never got to drive good the whole weekend. Didn’t run very well. Talladega is Talladega. Hopefully we can go this weekend and perform well. Obviously we had, you know, whatever, eight months to collect stage points and bonus points and get wins, do all that. Even though we finished last weekend, we’re still out of the next round so far because of all the bonus points and stuff that we did not collect. We’ve got to go there and have a solid run, obviously, to get to the next round. Like I say, if we don’t run good Sunday, then we don’t deserve to be in the next round anyway. It’s a great racetrack, one I really like. Hopefully we can hit it right this weekend and as a group we can all execute, perform at a high level like we’re capable of doing and move on to next week.”
What does it say about the series right now and the competition that four champions are on the cusp of not advancing in the Playoffs?
“Well, I mean, I think the sport has always been ‘what have you done for me lately’ sport, you’re only as good as your last race. If I’m Kyle (Busch), I’m feeling pretty good, man. He’s crashed two weeks in a row and he’s still in, I think he’s still in. That’s pretty amazing. Plus he’s been running so good, it’s one of his better places now. So I wouldn’t be very concerned if I was Kyle, I guess, ’cause he’s had the performance. Now, the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) hasn’t run quite as good as he’s accustomed to running. We haven’t run as good as we’re accustomed to running. Assuming they’re close to us in points, like I said, I haven’t even looked at it. I’m taking your guys’ word for it. The guys who aren’t running quite as good and haven’t been winning are obviously probably more concerned about it than the guys that have the wins and have the performance every week, been sitting on poles and leading laps and winning stages and that type of thing.”
Being a Playoff elimination race, how much has that been on your mind the last few days?
“I mean, it hasn’t been a lot really. I mean, like I said, you have all year to collect all those points, which we didn’t do a very good job of getting very many. I know Talladega is very unique. But all three races are equally as important, really. If you look at Martin and Brad, they got their wins the first two weeks, so then this week doesn’t really matter. It still does, you want to collect bonus points, all them things, Playoffs points, whatever. But each race is equally as important. I mean, they always, I guess, feel more important the way everybody looks at them when it’s actually a cutoff race because we don’t have next week if you don’t perform well in this race. You do, but not live trying to run for a championship. So to me, it’s just another weekend, another opportunity to go out and try to win, try to get this ship turned around a little bit.”
Do you have any news for us now on your future going into next year?
“No, about an hour from now, we’re ready to hit the racetrack, try to get running good this weekend. Nothing beyond right now. I feel like we got a lot to do yet in 2017. Really kind of in the same spot. Not really worried that much about next year, have anything I want to talk about.”
Are you a driver that wants to know what’s going on with those around you or not?
“Yeah, I don’t really want to know anything unless there’s something I can do about it. If it’s the last lap, there’s somebody two feet in front of you, obviously you want to know you need that spot. Kind of like (Ryan) Newman at Phoenix that year, type of thing, you know you need one spot. Other than that, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to add any more to their plate than what they already have to figure out race strategy and adjustments, trying to capitalize on every stage and get as many points as we can. I think you just go out with the idea of trying to, you know, sit on pole, win all the stages, win the race, then you know you’re in for sure. Other than that, I guess when it gets down to the end, when it’s all over, obviously you want to know whether you’re in or not, if there’s something you can do about it different. But, man, you’re racing as hard as you can to try to keep your car in position the whole races right now. So if there’s nothing I can do about it, I don’t really want to know.”
There’s three former champions that are all on that cutoff line. Could you talk about that?
“Yeah, I got to be totally honest with you, and you’re not going to believe me probably, but I haven’t even looked at the points. I have no idea besides the two guys that won races where actually anybody is. I actually at the time when I watched Talladega, everybody crashing, not many green spoilers left out there, I figured we were going to be in halfway decent shape. Then somebody told me we were still like, I don’t know, eight or 10 out or something like that. Other than that, I have not looked at it, to be honest with you. I realize we didn’t get any stage points last weekend. A lot of guys did. Didn’t get many stage points at Charlotte. Think about it in the stages, it’s half the points that you get for the race. It’s a lot. It’s a ton of points. I realize we haven’t really got a lot of them, so I haven’t really looked at it. I’ve been saying all year, we have to perform better than we have been and finish better than we have been if we expect to be a contender down the stretch anyway. Hopefully this is the weekend for us, hopefully we can have a breakout, qualify good, lead some laps, and get a finish.”