Joe Gibbs Racing driver Matt Kenseth was made available to the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway:
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What makes this New Hampshire Motor Speedway so strong for you?
“Well, the last few times we’ve been here, we’ve just had fast race cars. Jason’s (Ratcliff, crew chief) done a good job of getting the car right for the race and keeping up with the race track and the changing conditions here, which happens a lot – a lot more than most tracks. Last fall, we had things kind of play in our favor. We had a good strategy and the way the cautions fell or didn’t fall we were able to be able to win that one. In the spring, we just had a really fast car, so but it always starts with that.”
Why have you suddenly become so good at New Hampshire since joining Joe Gibbs Racing?
“I mean, Kyle (Busch) and Denny (Hamlin) have certainly helped me here a lot I think when I started driving at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing). Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) does a good job with his setups here and some of his theories and such, so, yeah, I became a lot better certainly when I started driving there, but it’s funny how that works. Some of the places that were my strongest probably when I was with Roush (Fenway Racing) are probably some of my weaker places now and some of my weaker places when I was there are some of my stronger places, so I think a lot of it has to do with obviously the equipment and the people working on it and all that stuff, but it’s hard to figure out sometimes. But, yeah, this used to be probably one of my worst tracks on the circuit honestly and now it seems like it’s been one of our best. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be this week, but it has been in recent past.”
How important is track position or fuel mileage at New Hampshire?
“Well, it depends how the cautions fall, which you never really know for sure when you’re going to get them, so last fall ended up sort of turning into a fuel mileage race – all depended when you pitted and we pitted late enough where we had enough fuel to make it to the end. This spring, we – I felt like we had the best car in the spring and we pitted and some guys stayed out and we were fast enough we were able just to pass those guys and win the race. I think every race is a little bit different here. Track position is important everywhere, but if you have a really good handling car, you can pass as well.”
What has been your reaction to the protesting and unrest in Charlotte?
“Yeah, I mean I haven’t – honestly, I haven’t watched it nearly as close as what some other people probably have. I don’t know. You just hope it stops. I don’t know enough about what actually happened to start it all. Obviously, I think that we’re very, very, very fortunate to live in a free country and peaceful protest and demonstrations are okay. I mean certainly the violence and the vandalism and the theft and stuff isn’t – isn’t really a way to I think prove a point or try to make things better. It’s definitely not making things better in that sense, so hopefully we’ll get it all figured out and go from there.”
Why do you think the middle race in Chase rounds tend to be the most chaotic?
“I think it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen in any race. I mean, I know you look at history and go through some of that, but I think it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen week-to-week as far as the races and how wild they’re going to be or not be. I mean, that’s a tough one to say. We only have a couple years of history with this Chase format.”
How do you feel about NASCAR’s changes to the LIS penalty structure?
“Oh, rules changes. I don’t know. Personally, I’m okay with the change. I feel like maybe we should have changed it a couple months ago. I’m okay with that going forward, but I’m not so sure how I feel about no penalties because we all knew what the rules were last Sunday and what the penalties were if you broke those rules and then to come out a week later and say, ‘Okay, well, we changed our mind. There isn’t those penalties for the rules.’ I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’m okay with the rules being changes going forward. I’m always okay with whatever they want to come up with as rules as long as we all know what they are ahead of time and we all know what the penalties are ahead of time for breaking those rules.”
Does the close proximity between the two New Hampshire races help you prepare?
“I don’t think so because it’s really a lot different I think. I have not looked today or I guess I haven’t looked today, but I think it’s supposed to be 25 degrees cooler Sunday than it was the last time we raced here on a Sunday, so I mean on the calendar it’s kind of close, but that seems like a long ways away as far as track conditions and weather. I feel like it changes quite a bit depending on which series on the track, how hot the track is, the kind of rubber that’s on the track and all that. I think it changes quite a bit.”