Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards both held their…
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Affliction Clothing Ford Fusion, comes into this weekend 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings after finishing 21st last weekend at Chicagoland. Kenseth, who trails points leader Kevin Harvick by 24 points, held his weekly Q&A session at the team hauler before Friday’s practice.
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Affliction Clothing Ford Fusion – HOW DOES IT FEEL KNOWING YOU RAN SO WELL LAST WEEK BUT DIDN’T GET THE FINISH YOU PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE? “It’s hard, but I guess you just have to forget about it because there’s nothing we can do about it now. The most disappointing part of me is that I felt like, as a team, we executed and did everything just right – from qualifying to practice to the race. We made the best adjustments at the end. We got off pit road first at the end. We took the lead at the end. We did all that stuff, but we just didn’t have good enough fuel mileage to be able to pull it off. It’s disappointing when you go to one of your better places and you feel like, as a team, you did everything right and when it’s all said and done you finished 21st. That’s disappointing.
DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOUR CHANCES AS WELL AS YOU RAN THERE? “Well, you feel good about the whole team’s performance for the weekend, but you feel bad about being parked 10th in the garage being 10th in points with having an opportunity to come out of there in good shape.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT ALL THE FUEL MILEAGE RACES WE’VE HAD THIS YEAR? “This year there has been more of that than ever. It honestly could come into play every week. It probably won’t, but it could. It seems like we’ve had more of those races than we’ve ever had. With this tire and the Ethanol fuel, we use more quantity of fuel – we use less gasoline, but we’re using more fuel and our mileage isn’t as good, so therefore we run less laps between fuel stops. As hard as it is to pass, I mean, all of those things come into play. When the last caution falls is the biggest thing. If the caution would have fell four laps later, we would have run three more pace laps and we all would have made it and been able to race hard to the finish, but with the way the caution fell and a piece of metal being on the track, there’s not a lot anybody can do about that.”
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT CAN BE DONE DIFFERENTLY IN THE CAR THAN WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW? “Yes and no. Obviously the slower you go the more fuel you’re gonna save, but, in our case last week, we were almost five laps short. We saved three-and-a-half laps, which is a lot under a 50-lap run, and the only way I could have saved it all is to go so slow we would have finished where we finished anyway, so our hands were kind of tied. We hoped we would make it or hoped to get a caution with 30 to go and still have decent track position, but I don’t really feel like there’s anything more any of us could have done in that spot to get a better finish.”
HOW DID THE WHOLE PUSH HAPPEN? “At the end of the day we might have finished a little better if I could have coasted back to the start-finish line. If we couldn’t have made it back to the start-finish line that’s where we would have finished anyway. As soon as you run out, I mean, the first thing I said on the radio was, ‘Get somebody to push me. Get somebody to push me.’ And Jimmy’s like, ‘You can’t be pushed on the last lap.’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah, make sure nobody pushes me.’ So I don’t think anybody even got to J.J. (Yeley) to ask him. He was just trying to do me a favor, which is really nice of him. A lot of people wouldn’t do that. It’s easy to forget about that. At Charlotte, for instance, there was a teammate pushing a car around the track for four laps under yellow to save gas without his engine running, so there’s just so much of that that goes on that it slips your mind.”
WERE YOU THAT UPSET WHEN YOU FOUND OUT YOU WERE PENALIZED? “Not really. After I got pushed and I realized it was the last lap and you can’t do that, I knew that was gonna happen. I didn’t know what the penalty was, for sure, but I knew we were in the wrong for what the rule book says, but it probably is something that needs to be looked at because what’s to stop you at the last race of the year and the guy leading the points runs out of gas, you get one of your teammates to go push him quick. That, and the under yellow stuff if a teammate is wrecked or you hire somebody that pushes you around so you can make it on fuel – even at a place like this when nobody else can. There are a lot of things with this style of racing that could happen. I know we don’t need more rules now. I don’t like more regulations or more rules either, but that’s probably something they should think about because it does change the outcome of the race somewhat unfairly. If you’re Penske, for instance. You’re a two-car team and you’re both in the Chase you don’t have somebody, or if you’re a four-car team and you’ve got somebody that’s wrecked and can push you under yellow if you can make it on gas and they can’t. I think it might not hurt to look at that.”
WHAT’S THE LONGEST CONVERSATION YOU’VE HAD WITH JIMMY FENNIG AS THE CREW CHIEF? HE’S NOT KNOWN AS MUCH OF A TALKER. “I’ve never timed it (laughing). We talk a lot. We’ve flown together a lot and sat beside each other for three hours, so we talk a lot.”
HE’S BEEN AROUND A LONG TIME. HOW HAS HE BEEN ABLE TO ADAPT FROM BEING AN OLD-SCHOOL RACER TO A LOT OF THE NEW TECHNOLOGY THAT’S COME INTO THE SPORT? “I think the biggest thing for Jimmy is that racing has always been number one. Even when he was successful before and made some money, he didn’t care about having a big boat or going on a big vacation or being on a TV show talking about how he did. He didn’t care about any of that, he still cared about racing all the time and that’s where he still is and I think that’s his biggest asset. That’s all he cares about is trying to win on Sunday and that’s all he’s ever done is raced. Besides hot rods, that’s about all he’s really super-interested in and focused on and I think if you’re talented like Jimmy and smart and a hard worker and you put all of your effort into it all the time, you’re gonna be successful and you’re gonna be able to roll with the changes.”
HAVE YOU LOOKED AT HOW YOUR TEAM CAN RECOVER FROM LAST WEEK? “It’s still one week at a time. You’re one race in. It’s not that there is a Hail Mary you can throw, but it’s not time to throw it anyway. If the same thing happens and you’re short on fuel at a place like this, I mean, we couldn’t have done anything different last weekend so there’s no reason to fret over it any longer because it’s already passed. As a team, I don’t think we did anything as far as making a mistake or a wrong call. I don’t think we could have done anything different to get a better result. We did the best we could and it was pretty darn good. We should have been in the top three for sure by the end of the day and probably even had a shot to win, so, as a team, we can’t ask for anymore than that, so we’ll just go on this week and do the best we can again and hopefully get a better result.”
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE FUEL MILEAGE? “For us, the motor shop might be able to help you with some stuff, but there’s not a lot you can do and there’s also a cross there between horsepower and fuel mileage – which one do you want and how much do you want to give up to get more of the other. That’s something they’ve all got to weigh out, so we take what we’ve got and do the best we can with it. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to worry about fuel mileage and we’d all race as hard as we can to the finish, but, like I said, the way the caution fell last week everybody was kind of in the same box.”
IS THIS A GOOD TRACK FOR YOU TO COME TO AFTER SOMETHING LIKE THAT? “I don’t mind coming up here. I don’t mind the track, it just hasn’t been a good one for me. I’ve struggled here, especially since they brought the COT car, but this place has always been a struggle for me and I don’t know why. That was one thing about Chicago. We were hoping to get off to a good start and feel good about it and even if you leave here, then we go to Dover which has been one of our best tracks in the past, so we felt good about that. Hopefully, we can rebound a little bit here and get a good finish. We have run well here before, but it’s been a while.”
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, sits third in the point standings and is 10 points behind leader Kevin Harvick after one race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Edwards held a press conference with reporters in the New Hampshire Motor Speedway infield media center after practice.
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion – THOUGHTS ON CHICAGO AND THIS WEEKEND AT LOUDON. “Chicago ended up being a great finish for us and at one point in the race we had really great performance, so it was a good race. We learned a bunch and now we come here to one of my toughest tracks and our toughest tracks as a team. Practice didn’t go really well. It wasn’t bad, but qualifying might be a struggle for us. I’m a little nervous about qualifying here. We only got one qualifying lap in. We focused on race trim and we were not super-fast, so I’m gonna have to lay it out there on the line in qualifying and see what we get this afternoon.”
AT CHICAGO YOU REMARKED ABOUT A PIECE OF METAL THAT FLEW UP IN THE AIR. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT IT WAS OR WHERE IT CAME FROM? “No, I don’t know. I thought that maybe it was my imagination or something because I saw it and looked like a piece of metal that got flung like a boomerang off a car and just took off at an amazing height. It might have been something outside of the race track that I was seeing far away or something, but I only caught it down the back straightaway and I just wondered if anyone else saw it, but I’m pretty sure it’s a piece of something that came off of a race car. As high as it was, I can’t imagine it made it back down to the surface. It probably ended up outside the race track.”
THERE WERE OTHER METAL PIECES THROUGHOUT THE RACE FOR DEBRIS. “I think lately, I talked about it a little bit after the Nationwide race, but I thought NASCAR did a really good job of letting that race play out. I hope that they aren’t as quick to throw the cautions in this Chase as they have been. I know that could hurt or help you, but, in the end, I think it lets the races play out more naturally and lets the fastest cars, the ones with the best strategy, win instead of late race cautions to bunch things up. I’m not complaining about the race track. The race tracks always look real clean to me and I’ve never had an issue with too much debris on the track. I’ve always had trouble finding the debris that we’re under caution for (laughing).”
SOME DRIVERS ARE WILLING TO TALK ABOUT TECHNIQUES THEY USE TO SAVE FUEL AND SOME AREN’T. IS THIS ONE OF THOSE TRICKS OF THE TRADE THAT CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE? “The first trick is to drive a Ford. Everybody knows they get better fuel mileage than the other brands. I don’t think anyone wants to talk about the specifics because that’s a part of the sport that’s becoming more important and you want to get every advantage you can and keep every advantage you can with fuel mileage. With the old engine we had some amazing fuel mileage and in those fuel mileage races we could stretch it out really, really far. We talked a little bit this week and our new FR9 engine makes a little more power and doesn’t get that amazing fuel mileage that our other engine did, but it’s something we’re working on. The engineers are working on it, the engine guys are working on it and there are tricks that the drivers do. Everybody has their own tricks, I’m sure, but I’m not gonna tell you any of mine. But I think they work. I think there are ways to save fuel.”
CAN WE ASSUME THESE FUEL MILEAGE RACES WILL BE A PATTERN THROUGHOUT THIS CHASE? “I hadn’t been paying that much attention to it until we were at Charlotte this week talking about the Charlotte race and some of the media there was pointing out how many races were coming down to fuel mileage and it seems like a larger number. I think it’s gonna be a bigger part of the sport. Until a guy can pull in, get tires on and go past 15 cars, until we get back to that type of racing, I think the guy that can stay out, keep the track position and stretch fuel mileage is gonna have an advantage. It’s probably a byproduct of the parity among cars, the difficulty of passing – that’s where I think it comes from – and it will be a bigger and bigger part.”
TONY STEWART WASN’T RUNNING UP FRONT AT THE START OF THE YEAR LIKE YOU AND THE 18 AND THE 48, BUT NOW HE IS. HOW MUCH MORE OF A THREAT DO YOU CONSIDER HIM NOW? “I’d like to agree with him and say he’s not a threat and we don’t even have to worry about him (laughing). But I’m gonna disagree with Tony and say that I think he is a threat. The first time that I actually started getting nervous about that team was at the end of the Atlanta race when he was just marching forward and I thought, ‘Man, they’ve got something here.’ If you remember back to our win at Vegas he was screaming fast there, so I think they’re gonna be tough. I think Tony is obviously a great race car driver. He’s been through championship battles and won them, and I think he’s gonna be tough unless they have some sort of slump like everybody can have and everybody has had, then they’re gonna be tough. He’s not gonna make mistakes.”
HOW CLOSE DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE TO CONSISTENTLY WINNING? “I felt like we were really close at Richmond. We had a dominant car. Atlanta was pretty good. Chicago, in the middle of the race I thought, ‘OK, we’ve got it here.’ But it kind of slipped away towards the end of the race. The handling went away. I had a poor restart where Tony got around the outside of me, but I keep seeing these flashes of real speed and raw performance. As we go to these tracks like Dover and Kansas and some of these tracks I think we’re gonna be very good at, I’m expecting us to go out and win a race or two. I’m pretty excited about it.”
BECAUSE YOU’RE THAT CLOSE? “Yes. The problem is everyone is that close, everyone is fast. If you look on the last restart any one of the top 10 cars could have won the race. It’s pretty amazing right now for everyone to be that competitive.”