Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Valvoline NextGen Ford Fusion, is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings to Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle. Kenseth, who is 20 points out of the top spot, met with reporters before Friday’s first practice session.
YOU’D LIKE TO GET ANOTHER WIN OR TWO BEFORE THE CHASE STARTS, RIGHT? “Yeah, I’d kind of just like to get things rolling more like we were during the early and middle part of the season. The last three out of four weeks have been pretty much disasters in my book, so I’m pretty surprised and excited that we’re still second in points after everything that has gone on these last four weeks. I’m glad to be here at Bristol. We had a great run in the spring and hopefully we can have a good one here tomorrow.”
WHAT’S YOUR IMPRESSION OF HOW THE RACING IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT WITH THE TRACK CHANGE? “I haven’t been on the track yet and I didn’t really get to watch all the Truck race, so, at this point, I really don’t have any idea. Whatever I told you would be totally fabricated because I just don’t know yet.”
THE REAR SUSPENSIONS AND WHAT PEOPLE ARE DOING HAS BEEN A BIG TOPIC THIS WEEK. GREG AND JACK BOTH TALKED ABOUT IT AFTER THE WIN LAST WEEK AND SAID YOU GUYS WERE WORKING ON THAT AREA AND HAVING SOME SUCCESS. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT IT? HAS IT CHANGED THE WAY THE CARS DRIVE? “I guess that explains why our engineering department was so mad Monday when I talked to them. I didn’t realize we were talking about all that, but I don’t really talk about any of the technical stuff with the car just because if there was any kind of advantage we were working on or trying to gain or get better than somebody that would certainly give it all away as soon as it’s in the media, so I don’t really get into that. We’re always working on our car within the rules as hard as we can – everything we can do from front to back to try to make it faster.”
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE THAT WHERE THEY’RE WORKING IS STAYING WITHIN THE RULES? “I think these days you can’t afford to have something illegal. You can see how huge the penalties are when you do, so I think we’re always trying to work within those rules and work within the framework of NASCAR’s rules to get your car to go as fast as possible without crossing the line.”
DO YOU LOOK AT THIS AS A CRITICAL WEEKEND FOR THIS TRACK WITH THE CHANGES THEY MADE? “I don’t know. I think things snowball and a lot of it is maybe what a few peoples’ opinions are. Obviously, these days with social media and everybody on the internet and reading the stories, I think that has more to do with it than anything. I think if you didn’t listen to the guy sitting next to you in the seat, I mean, I think everybody has got different opinions. I thought the race in the spring was pretty entertaining. Everybody talks about the old Bristol and people knocking each other out of the way and fighting and all that stuff. Well, we raced these cars at Bristol before they reconfigured it and there was hardly any passing. There wasn’t any of that stuff. It was different. Things change over time and I thought the race in the spring was pretty good. Brad won the race. We came out with the lead, I think. After that last stop we ran side-by-side for 10 or 15 laps and rubbed on each other for a little bit and he ended up getting the lead and getting the win. I thought that was great, but everybody is gonna want something different. We tried to narrow the track up and take grooves away to take passing away, so I’m a little confused on the whole concept to start with. We’ll see how the racing is, but I think the racing is always exciting here.
“It’s a really cool facility and venue no matter what the track is like in the middle of it, honestly – with the night race here and putting all those people in there. The racing is always close and there’s always a lot of action, so I didn’t really answer your question, but I think all of the races are pretty good here. I haven’t really seen a real bad one here. I think the racing is always entertaining.”
HOW DOES THIS TRACK COMPARE TO RICHMOND? “It’s totally different. I’ve always really liked Richmond a lot. I’ve always really liked Bristol a lot, but they’re totally different race tracks. Lately, we’ve run really bad at Richmond. It’s always been one of my favorite tracks, but we’ve run really bad there and we haven’t run as bad here. Usually how you run is how you rate the race tracks in terms of how much you like or dislike going to them, but I think they’re both really great tracks and facilities and great events coming up right before the Chase being Saturday night races, so I really like them both.”
WHAT MAKES A DRIVER GET AROUND THIS TRACK REALLY WELL AND DID THAT CHANGE AT ALL WITH THE RECONFIGURATION? “It’s definitely changed a lot. The car has changed a lot and the reconfiguring of the track has made it a totally different track than what it was before they did it. It was real old and had a lot of patches. The apron was a little less banking than the track, so you could use the apron to turn, which you can’t do any of that now, so the track is totally different since they reconfigured it, honestly. That made it drive like a bigger track almost, so things change for a driving style from changing the race track, from changing the cars – all of that stuff has changed a little bit. First and foremost, having a fast car helps your driving style a lot when you come here, so getting your car to turn better than everybody else’s and still being able to get off the corner where you can pass is really the key because people are gonna be running as high as they can possibly run and it’s hard to finish that pass on the bottom.”
HOW DOES RACING AGAINST A TEAMMATE DIFFER AS OPPOSED TO EVERYONE ELSE IN TERMS OF GIVING ROOM AND BEING KIND? “For me, I race them the same. I still race Mark Martin and Jeff Burton the same as I did when they were on our team, so I don’t think that really changes. I mean, you never want to put your teammate in a bad spot, but I don’t know that you ever want to put anybody in a bad spot that you want to race against all the time. You’re gonna go race hard against them and you want to beat them, but I don’t think you really plan your strategy much different – Talladega and Daytona aside because that’s a little bit different when you’re trying to work together and draft – but I think at the rest of the tracks, once they drop the green on the race, it’s still one against 42, except for the two drafting tracks.”