Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. & hellip;

Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. met with media members Friday at Kansas Speedway.

Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.…

Ford Chase Contenders and Nationwide Leader Talk Kansas

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, is currently in seventh place in the Chase, 14 points behind co-leaders Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards.  Kenseth met with media members Friday at Kansas Speedway prior to the opening practice session.

“It has been good so far for us from a performance standpoint. We have been pretty fast and had top-five cars all three weeks with pretty good finishes the last two weeks. So far it has been alright.”

THE MEDIA LIKES TO CALL THE CHASE AFTER TWO RACES BUT WE SAW AFTER DOVER THAT IT IS STILL WIDE OPEN. DO YOU GUYS PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU READ OR SEE ON TV?  “No, not a lot. Last week I went in and everybody was asking and saying that Jimmie was out of it. I was thinking that he had won the last however many Dover races. I thought that was interesting because you can have some pretty wild point swings. The farther you get down the road you can start looking at it and see who you think is more legitimate than others but there are a lot of cars really close right now. I think it is pretty early to be eliminating anybody.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE BE BETTER ANYWHERE SPECIFICALLY OR DO YOU HOPE TO MAINTAIN WHERE YOU ARE AT?  “I think our car performance I have been super happy with the first three races. We haven’t finished those three races, really any of them except maybe New Hampshire, to our best run or our potential for that day. I think Chicago we were on the pole and led a bit and we were on the lead the last restart but had to slow down because we were running out of gas and we still ran out. I think we would have had a top-three there. If a caution would have came out five laps later so we could have all made it on fuel then I think we would have had a top-three without something weird going on. New Hampshire was a good run and finish for us. Dover, there was one run there where we had the best car by far and ran Jimmie down and for whatever reason we changed tires and got behind and finished fifth. I am really encouraged with how we’ve run. We have to improve on finishing it off a little better. Whatever our best run of the day is and best stop and best restart and performance needs to be the last run of the day. We need to get the finishes a little bit better.”

WHEN DO YOU GET TO A POINT WHERE PEOPLE START GETTING ELIMINATED AND IT BECOMES CRUCIAL THAT TEAMS THAT ARE SITTING FIFTH, SIXTH, SEVENTH, EIGHTH NEED TO STEP IT UP?  “I have to be honest; I haven’t really looked at it. For me, I take one race at a time and try to get my car running as fast as it can and get the best finish I can that week. I am not really worried about what everyone else is doing. All you can do is control your own car and your own team and to a certain extent, most of the time, the outcome of that race for your efforts. I don’t worry about that yet until you are mathematically eliminated or almost mathematically eliminated I think you feel like you have a shot because you don’t know what can happen. I think Chicago is a perfect example. It is a pretty normal track like this and a pretty normal race but the way the caution fell and not having another caution, a lot of the guys that ran really good got really poor finishes because of fuel. Some guys you didn’t see all day and probably ran in the bottom half of the teens got great finishes and moved up in the point. You don’t know what can happen. You can have pretty big swings and a lot of strange things have happened before.”

IS THERE A POINT THAT YOU LOOK AT MAYBE THE TOP FOUR OR FIVE AND SAY THAT IT IS CRUNCH TIME NOW?  “I think it is always time to go. I don’t think you take any of the races off or be like, ‘Well, it isn’t a big deal. It is still early.’ Every point in every race is equally important. I am sure that the farther you get down the road you can look at people, I hope I am not one of them, but you can look at cars and see how many points they are behind and you can probably pretty much put them out barring a miracle. Especially the more cars that are in front of you. It is hard to make up points on more than a few cars. I think it is still pretty darn close and I think it will stay pretty close for awhile. You never know what is going to happen.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT CARL BEING THE POINTS LEADER, BEING YOUR TEAMMATE AND WHAT YOU ARE SEEING OUT OF THAT TEAM RIGHT NOW?  “Carl has ran pretty well. I don’t think he has ran much better than us, just off of performance. I think we passed him three times at New Hampshire and Chicago I think we ran better and we ran out of gas and he didn’t. Dover he ran a little better most of the race. I think we have ran about the same but Carl has been able to get all the finishes. The main reason he got the finish at Chicago is that he was back farther in the field and able to save gas closer to the end. That is important. You have to be good at all aspects of it these days. That didn’t used to come into play a lot but it has recently. You have to have the performance and economy when you need it and pit strategy when you need it. They have been pretty rock solid all year and in position to win a lot of races and up front in a lot of races. I think they are one of the guys you have to think about.”

YOU GUYS USED TO GET CONCUSSIONS ALL THE TIME BUT WE HAVEN’T SEE THAT MUCH LATELY. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU GOT A CONCUSSION DRIVING?  “What did you say? I forgot. (laughter)  I am kidding. Thanks for bringing that up. I don’t know. Knock on wood but I hope nobody has that bad luck, including me now that you brought it up. I have never had one to my knowledge. Not yet.”

HOW DO YOU LIKE THE PACKERS CHANCES AT ATLANTA THIS WEEKEND?  “Oh, I thought you were going to ask me if my hammy was okay. If I pulled a hammy running up here or something. (laughter)  Packers, gosh, they are one of the only 4-0 team. Who would have thought the Lions would be the other one. It has always been fun being a Packers fan, especially the last few years as good as they have been playing. I hope I will get to see most of the game on Sunday night. I look forward to checking that out. Them going to Atlanta I think will be a high scoring game and indoors Rodgers seems to be able to light it up pretty good.”

CAN YOU COMMENT ON PHOENIX AND YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF HAVING AN ALTERED TRACK AS THE NEXT TO LAST RACE IN THE CHASE?  “I think it is the same for everybody but the configuration is pretty nice. They did an excellent job of paving it. It is really smooth and pit road is really nice. The only thing that concerns you is that when we start out on track it was so dirty you could run a 30-flat and by the time we were done we were running 26-flats basically. If you got out of the groove at all you were pretty much going to wreck. I don’t know what they did but it is just so dusty and dirty, I almost hope they get that big Texas tire monster or something and run it around the outside before we get there and get that stuff run out of the pavement. Hopefully by the time they run the support races and we get all the practice it will widen out so you can get two grooves. The entries especially and the exit of four is really narrow. You can’t get up out of that at all. Once it burns in and everything I think it will be nice. They did a nice job with it.”

RUNNING TWO RACE HERE THIS YEAR. WILL THIS RACE BE VASTLY DIFFERENT FROM THE FIRST RACE HERE OR WILL YOU USE STUFF YOU USED HERE LAST TIME TO TRANSFER TO THIS RACE?  “I don’t see any reason why it would be a lot different. I don’t think there have been a lot of changes. I don’t know that the weather is that much different and it hasn’t been long since we ran here. We have the same tire and all that stuff. I don’t expect it to be a lot different. Usually here and Chicago and some of those tracks that you race once a year at you pretty much forget the last time and show up there and kind of start over because it has been so long and so many things change. I don’t expect it to be a lot different.”

WHAT DOES YOUR RACE TEAM DO, AND WHAT DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE DONE BY NASCAR TO ATTRACT MORE OF A COLLEGE AGED CROWD?  “Well, not that I don’t worry about it but it isn’t something that me and my race team worry about. We are just focused on trying to get that car to go fast and try to win and run for this championship and that has us about maxed out. I don’t know what they do to try to attract that crowd. I see a lot of younger guys that go to the race. My son is a freshman at Clemson and he has a lot of buddies there that are race fans and they all tried to go to Atlanta, of course it rained out. I think there is a lot of interest there. The little bit that I have been around there, he has a lot of buddies there and knows a lot of people that are races fans there that enjoy watching it.”

WHAT ABOUT TWEETING. I’VE HEARD SOME IN NASCAR SUGGEST THAT SONS OF DRIVERS TWEETING ABOUT THE SPORT MIGHT BE A WAY TO GAIN ATTENTION OF YOUNGER FOLLOWERS. DOES MATT HAVE A TWITTER ACCOUNT?  “Matt does and Ross does too. He does tweet. But like I said that is kind of a promoters job to figure that out too and NASCAR and everybody else and certainly they have meetings and suggestions of how you can reach out to the fans better or you can get more people interested or keep the people happy that you have and all of that. We always listen to that and try to do what we think is the best for the sport to get people interested in the sport, watch it and come out to the track and be part of that.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 with a 22 point cushion over Elliott Sadler for the NASCAR Nationwide points title. Stenhouse spoke to media members at Kansas Speedway prior to the first NNS practice of the weekend.

  “I didn’t know that this is where we took over the points lead. That is cool. I like Kansas. We finished second in the ARCA race here and this was my first mile-and-a-half race track to race on in the ARCA series so that was a  good deal to get here and get one out of the way. We ran really strong here in the Nationwide race last year. We ran in the top-five and had a penalty and had to restart in the back. We worked our way back toward the front and restarted top-five on the last restart and ended up falling to sixth. This has been a good track for us. We did the tire test here so we have high expectations. It isn’t my favorite tire to bring here. It isn’t the one I wanted to bring here but it is the one that didn’t wear out. I corded the other ones that we were going to want to run here. You have to drive this one a little bit easier, which doesn’t play into my favor but hopefully I can figure it out pretty soon.”

PROBABLY THE MOST BIZARRE STORY THIS WEEK WAS REED SORENSON BEING BOUNCED OUT OF HIS RIDE. DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON THAT?  “That was definitely a shock. When I first heard about it I thought it was maybe for next season. They I found out it was for this weekend. I feel like that is a big shock, especially being third in points. He won two Dash for Cash races and won the race at Road America and has ran really strong. I thought it was a shock but I guess really you don’t know everything that is going on over there within their organization. There are a lot of things that could add up to their decision but definitely a shock to me for sure.”

LAST YEAR JACK PULLED YOU ASIDE AND TOOK YOU OUT OF THE CAR AFTER YOUR SERIES OF CRASHES AND TOLD YOU THAT YOU WERE HIS GUY. LOOK WHERE THAT HAS LED TO NOW.  “Yeah, it is tough when you get pulled out of a race car. From what it sounds like it is a different situation for Reed. When I got pulled out of the car it was a big shock when I got that news. You just have to keep plugging away and keep your head down and keep digging and do as much as you can to get either back in another race car or do whatever you need to do to keep your career going. It is going to be a pretty tough road for Reed and I am sure he was shocked more than anybody by it. He hasn’t had a bad season at all, so I think that is what is the biggest shock. When I got pulled out of the race car it wasn’t a huge shock to anybody. With his season the way it has gone I feel like it is a big shock for sure.”

IS YOUR REACTION TO THE NEWS SORT OF MIXED? IT ISN’T GOOD FOR THE SERIES BUT IT COULD BE GOOD FOR YOU IF HE DOESN’T HAVE A RIDE.  “You know, you don’t ever want to see anybody without a ride. You wouldn’t want to wish that on anybody. You don’t want to end up without a ride yourself. Right now I think the Elliott is our biggest title contender and we are battling it out pretty good right now but with Reed only 49 point back, I think in four races I was 31 back and went to the lead so anything can happen with five races left. Reed was very much in it for sure. It is good to see that he has a ride this weekend and hopefully keep some of those points that he would have lost not being here. It is tough when you have to start bouncing around to different teams. He was with a solid team there at Turner Motorsports and felt like he had a good shot. He was running consistent every week and I think that was going to keep him in it if we had a bad weekend and Elliott had a bad weekend. It is probably up to me and Elliott right now.”

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO KNOW THAT YOU HAVING A RIDE HAS JUST AS MUCH TO DO WITH HOW YOU REPRESENT A COMPANY AND DEAL WITH SPONSORS AS IT DOES HOW YOU PERFORM ON THE TRACK?  “It is a difficult situation. Coming from Sprint Cars you just raced. I raced for my dad and you race as hard as you could. Now coming over here to Roush Fenway you have companies you have to represent. We have Blackwell Angus Beef and Cargill and they are a huge privately owned company. You have to give them the right image on and off the race track and perform for them. The one good thing about being at Roush Fenway is that Jack does go a lot off of performance. I think that is a lucky situation that I am in right now. Jack believes in great race car drivers and figuring out sponsorship for them. Whatever he has to do he will do it. Obviously we have ran our cars unsponsored this year. I feel like I am in a different situation than a lot of people and that is just having a great car owner.”

I KNOW YOU GET HIT WITH A LOT OF DANICA QUESTIONS. AS POINTS LEADER, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HER PROGRESSION THROUGH THIS SERIES AND HOW SHE HAS IMPROVED?  “I think she has improved a lot. Obviously going to race tracks and in these stock cars for the first time is difficult. She ran really well at Daytona and the mile-and-a-half’s. I think she will run really good here. I don’t think she has been here in a stock car. It takes getting used to but I think the short tracks are going to be her biggest challenge. She has what it takes to do it and I think she has gotten better and better every week. You watch her unload at Richmond to where she was in the race she ran a lot faster, better and more consistent. I think next year, once she starts racing every weekend, I think you will see a big progression from the beginning to the end of the season. It took me awhile to get going and I think that she should have a lot of time to get adjusted to it too.”

Carl Edwards enters Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway tied for the Chase lead with Kevin Harvick. Edwards, who led in points earlier this season, met with media members prior to qualifying.

  “It feels like we have been running Chase races for a year. The time has really slowed down. We are only three races in and it feels like a lot has happened. I am looking forward to the last seven races. This race I feel for our team, is an opportunity to capitalize on one of our strong points, which is these mile-and-a-half race tracks. I am hoping that we can do that and hoping that we can run as well as we have historically at this type of race track. This week, next week, we have to do everything right so that we have a little insurance for those bad days that are inevitably going to come.”

DID YOU REALLY GUARANTEE LAST WEEK THAT YOU WERE GOING TO WIN HERE?  “Well, that is how it was written. I just told my guys, I was feeling pretty motivated at the end of the race at Dover because of the mistake I made on pit road, I told my guys on the radio that we were going to go to Kansas and we were going to win and let’s just go do it. Like I told Randy from the Kansas City Star, that is still my plan. I hope I can come through with that. I feel that we can do it and I really felt like we could do it at Dover. I was really amped up at the end of that race. We are running pretty well now. We will find out in race trim tomorrow how confident I am.”

YOU MENTIONED MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY COMING UP. YOU HAD A GOOD RUN THERE A COUPLE YEARS AGO AND A SECOND PLACE RUN AT RICHMOND A FEW WEEKS AGO. WHAT ARE YOUR OVERALL THOUGHTS GOING INTO MARTINSVILLE?  “Richmond was unreal. We were as fast as we have ever been there and I was really excited to go to Loudon and then Martinsville. Loudon we really struggled with and had some trouble there. Eighth place was a gift. We should have been 15th or 20th. I am a little nervous about Martinsville. I think that if we can find some things. If we can pick up just a tiny bit of speed there we will be good. Otherwise, that will be one of the tracks we go to and just fight and claw for a top-10 and that is how it usually is for me there. I would like to be surprised and would love to run better but I am a little nervous about that one to be honest. I won’t be finishing this race and going, ‘We’re going to Martinsville and gonna win it! (laughter) I will go into that one with my eyes open pretty wide.”

HOW ARE YOU DIFFERENT NOW THAN YOU WERE IN THE 2008 CHASE?  “A lot has happened since 2008. A lot has happened. I have gained a ton of experience in the sport just with the ups and downs and the way things can go. That has been one thing. I think I appreciate the way we are running now more than I did then. I thought that every year would be like that and it would be easy. Then the other thing that I think is very important is that I believe our team has been through more together and we went through 2009 and 2010 and we kind of galvanized our relationships and I think that has been really good.  All of that is good plus I think for me personally I have a different perspective and more realistic perspective and am able to focus on the task at hand a little better than riding the emotional rollercoaster of good weeks and bad weeks. I think I am better at just going in and doing the job. There is a lot that can happen between now and the end of the Chase. I think that helps me.”

HOW MUCH DOES IT HELP YOUR MOMENTUM BEING TIED FOR POINTS RIGHT NOW AND WITH THE YEAR YOU HAVE HAD WITH A NEW BABY AND RESIGNING, WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO CAP IT OFF WITH A CHAMPIONSHIP?  “This is just who can score the most points over 10 races and we are three races in. The feeling is nice to know we are tied for the points lead. That feels good but it doesn’t mean anything right now. There are still seven races left and I understand that there are 19 points separating the top nine guys who happen to be pretty darn good racers. I don’t plan on it getting any easier. As good as it feels as a team we are experienced enough to know that this can change in a heartbeat. We can come out of this race tenth in points. We need to stay focused on the task at hand. For me personally it would mean more than I can describe up here to win the championship. This year it would be very special considering the amount of confidence that Roush Fenway Racing and Ford and Aflac and Fastenal and all our sponsors have put into me. It would be very special to be standing there with the championship at Homestead.”

THERE IS GOING TO BE A FUEL INJECTION TEST THE THURSDAY BEFORE TALLADEGA. ONE OF YOUR RIVALS SUGGESTED THAT WILL BE AN OPPORTUNITY TO TEST FOR THE RACE. DO YOU THINK THERE IS ANYTHING YOU MIGHT TAKE AWAY FROM THAT EXTRA TEST THAT MIGHT APPLY TO THE RACE?  “This is the first I have heard of the test, so you know more than I do about it. I think Talladega is going to be insane. The last race we ran at Talladega is one where eight cars were separated by a few hundredths at the finish if I am not mistaken. That race is going to be wild. Any testing you can get, anything you can do to practice will help. There is still that huge variable of the wrecks and things that can happen. We will see what happens. I don’t even know if we are going to that test or not. I have no clue. I should know. Randy is telling me I am not going. Okay then. There you go. I probably won’t learn a lot then. (laughter) ”

  “It really doesn’t matter to me. Obviously I hope to win the Chase and I believe that I am the favorite and our team is the favorite because we believe in one another. All the speculation in the world doesn’t change who is holding the trophy at the end of the year. At least you hope it doesn’t. I try not to subscribe to anyone’s opinions. I just try to go out there and do the best job I can and if we win it, we win it. I have been picked for a lot of things and usually it ends up being the opposite. I have been the media favorite to do things and not a favorite to do others. It doesn’t seem to correspond with the results. I am just trying to keep my head down, focus on what is important and go run. The crazy thing about this Chase is nobody would have picked Tony Stewart three or four weeks ago and then it looks like he was going to dominate and he has one bad run at Dover and now they are talking about other people. With the closeness of the cars every week things could change. Then you throw in Talladega, the new surface at Phoenix, Martinsville, there is no telling. I don’t think you will know who the favorite is until about a third of the race through in Homestead. Then you will see who is running well enough to win it.”

IS THE PRESSURE MORE AS EACH RACE GOES ON. DOES IT MOUNT AS YOU GET CLOSER TO THE END?  “I believe the pressure does crescendo. You are going to see who can handle pressure if there are four or five guys going into Homestead. I think we saw a lot of that last year. There was pressure on three guys. That is tough. As close as it is, I realize as a driver that everything you do can determine the outcome of your championship. That is why that penalty last week as so crushing to me. I knew right then that if I ended up finishing 20th when we had a car that could win, that was going to be very difficult to accept. There is a lot of pressure. Everyone knows how close it is and like you said, it is because of that that the pressure is greater than normal.”

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE ANTICIPATION OF THE NIGHT RACE AT CHARLOTTE? “The Charlotte race is very interesting. We struggle a lot there. It is a hit or miss track for us. We won the All-Star race which I was in denial as to how fast our car was the whole race. We were going along and I thought our car was pretty good but thought we would slow down. We kept going fast and I thought we might actually win the thing. I really approach those Charlotte races with a little anxiety for me because I know how poorly you can run there with just a small problem with the car. It is a very exciting place to race because it is home for everybody. The team guys and shops and everything. It is such a long race and a tough race. It took part in ruining our hopes for the championship in 2008 with our ignition problem there. I will never forget that. That was such a bad day for us. I feel like winning a points race there would be huge. It would be a big hurdle for me to get over as a driver and there would be no better time to do it than now. There will be guys that run well there. A lot of the guys in the Chase run well there.”

JIMMIE WAS SAYING THERE IS SOME KIND OF MOMENTUM THAT COMES FROM HAVING EVERYONE ELSE CHASE YOU AS POINTS LEADER, THAT SOMETHING COMES FROM HAVING THAT TARGET ON YOUR BACK. DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT?  “Well yeah, I want the biggest points lead I can have. I don’t know if there is momentum from it but it sure gives you a little more piece of mind when you have that bad day. You want all the points you can have. I think for a competitor that is confident in themselves and a team that is confident I believe having the points lead is good. It lets you relax a little more and focus on racing and you know in the back of your mind that you have a cushion for a little mistake here or there. For a new guy, for myself personally when I first started this, the more success you have in a way it adds pressure. You think, ‘Wow, I don’t want to mess this up.’ I have messed it up enough now that I am glad to have the lead and just enjoy it. The farther out we can get and the bigger points lead we can get, the better.”

  “No, they are two entirely different sports. I have hit my head enough to know. It is hard for me to watch an NFL game something because those guys hit their heads a lot. There are a lot of impacts. Anybody here who has hit their head knows it is not a good feeling. I think that if you look at the number of impact we take, if things are going normally and going well there are only a few impacts a year where the NHL and NFL, it seems like those guys, every time they tackle someone or stretch out to catch a ball they whack their head on the ground pretty hard. I believe NASCAR does a really good job and I know the times that I have hit my head pretty hard they have done a really good job of monitoring me and keeping track of things and I feel that we are pretty fortunate in this sport. The impacts we have, when we have them, are pretty big but they seem less frequent.”

GOING BACK TO DOVER AND YOUR PENALTY THERE. WHAT DO YOU DO MENTALLY TO GET BACK IN THE GAME?  “It is very hard. I was very, very frustrated. This sport can be one of the most frustrating, disappointing sports on earth. Anything can happen and there are a thousand ways to lose a race or mess up. Anybody who has raced anything knows that. I think that the way we came back, there was a lot of luck involved. We got a caution when we needed it. The way we came back and stuck together as a team, I am really proud of that. I think it was a good exercise for us, even though there was a point’s penalty. Man, that is tough. I felt really, really small. I was very upset at myself.”

WHAT ABOUT MISSOURI GOING TO THE SEC POTENTIALLY?  “I don’t know enough about that. I texted Pinkel the other day about something else and he didn’t say anything about it. I am sure he is tired of talking about it.”

HOW IS FATHERHOOD?  “It is good. The best thing in the world.”