Originally written on Start 'N' Park Blog  |  Last updated 9/6/14

BRISTOL, TN - AUGUST 21: Matt Kenseth, driver of the #17 DeWalt Ford, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2009 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Tools Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing | Starting Position: 1st What made the lap so strong? “It’s not me, it’s everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development), JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Jason Ratcliff (crew chief) and the boys. Thank Home Depot, Husky Tools and Dollar General. This thing was kind of a struggle most of the day. I felt like I wasn’t giving Jason really the best feedback and they made awesome adjustments for qualifying — it was pretty bad to the bone.” What did you struggle with in practice? “I struggled in (turns) one and two all day and I tried something really different there qualifying — actually watching Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) and a couple other guys get through there. I kind of changed my approach to the corner and I thought I got through there pretty good, but, man, I didn’t think you could do any better in three and four. It felt pretty good. But I put them guys behind hitting the wall today and they did a great job fixing it and getting her tuned up for me.” How is the relationship between yourself and Jason Ratcliff? “It couldn’t really be any better. I really enjoy not just Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief), but really this whole group. It’s definitely the right place at the right time for me. I’ve been having a great time and we’ve been having some great runs and we have a lot of speed. Looking forward to the race Sunday.” What was the most important thing you looked for in Joe Gibbs Racing? “Well, the most important thing in my whole career has been having fast race cars. You’ve got to have first of all it’s about people and you have to have the equipment. So, I think having fast race cars I just — even though I didn’t know him, I had a really great feeling about Jason Ratcliff (crew chief) and it was really important for me to be teamed up with him. You can see everything that TRD (Toyota Racing Development) has done and how good their stuff runs and all that they put into the engineering, that side of it and the engine side of it. Kyle (Busch) and Denny (Hamlin) are really, really fast all the time, so I think having teammates that are as good as them guys — and, by the way, I’ve always had really good teammates and that always really helped you — but having guys like that. As you can see, Kyle won the last couple weeks. It just elevates your game more, makes you better, makes you a better driver, it challenges you more. There wasn’t really anything when I went and talked to Joe (Gibbs, owner) and J.D. (Gibbs, president) there wasn’t really any reservations at all about anything really. There wasn’t anything that I didn’t like. I liked everything I saw and just had a strong feeling about it then and obviously I still do now that it was the right place for me at the right time. Certainly I think we — it’s a little different right now with Denny (Hamlin) being out and Denny unfortunately being hurt, but certainly the three of us have spent a lot of time talking. We spend a lot of time talking throughout practice, during the week, after practice — all that kind of stuff. So, I think we work as close together as any teammates can work together. Do you enjoy racing at Kansas? “I’ve been comfortable — I really like the track. It’s one of those tracks when you first get on it and you come here with them first couple of runs, you have a hard time feeling where the edge is. Whenever you go to a new race track, you have to bring a relatively hard and durable tire just because the track has so much grip. Here and Michigan, it gets a little better every lap you run and the longer you’re here, but they’re difficult tracks to get the balance right.” Why are you so happy about this pole? “Just for a lot of reasons, but mainly because I didn’t think we had a chance of sitting on it really. It’s probably the fastest track we go to all year. I just wasn’t really expecting it. We thought about a lot and talked about a lot. Them guys made some great changes and we picked up a tenth and a half and a lot of people weren’t really picking up. Carl (Edwards) and Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) were a lot faster than the rest of the group by a pretty big margin by today’s standards. Everybody is usually within a half-a-tenth or so and I think they had a tenth or so on third. To run that kind of lap felt good. Go out late – you’re the second-to-last car to go out and then go out and jump over top of them guys was pretty fun.” Why are you a better qualifier now than earlier in your career? “Through the years it’s probably become more important. I think that the cars are more equal. I think if you want to go way back in time, there’s times where we never had qualifying engines, we just didn’t do a lot of that stuff that a lot of people really put a lot of time, money and effort into. In the days when I started, they just didn’t do that stuff over there. Then I think certainly when they went to impound races there was a big bump in our qualifying because everyone basically qualified what they raced and our race package was usually pretty good. I think that was a big bump in our starting position. The COT stuff and even this car, when we would race decent, we would usually qualify pretty decent, but if we were off all weekend then we wouldn’t qualify that well. I think everybody is a little more equal and we just have better cars and better qualifying setups.” KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing | Starting Position: 5th How was your lap? “Well, it was certainly a really good run for us. From what all we’ve gone through today whether it’s been on the Truck side or the Cup side, these guys really, really worked their butts off, so I can’t say enough about my crew and everybody on this team giving me a great M&M’s Camry to go out there and do my job with right now. It’s a good starting spot for us. I didn’t think we were allowed to keep our spot, but they said, ‘Yeah, we get to keep our start because we wrecked before qualifying,’ so I’m like, ‘Alright, well, I guess I won’t lollygag around. I’ve got to go get something here.’” What were the weather conditions like? “The wind is playing around a little bit out there. It’s a little bit inconsistent and I think that’s the biggest thing because you kind of don’t know what you’ve got. You’ve just got to drive through it.” MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing | Starting Position: 7th What do you think about featuring the Boston Marathon bib number your car? “Well, it’s a bib like they’d wear on their running uniforms, I guess you call them. It’s pretty cool really that Michael (Waltrip, co-owner) and Rob (Kaufmann, co-owner) and Ty (Norris, executive vice president) and everybody thought of this. It was really gracious of NAPA obviously and all of our sponsors of all of our MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) cars to let us put these numbers on the car. It’s obviously a terrible tragedy that happened in Boston this week and we’re thinking about all of our friends up in New England, that’s for sure. Hopefully, this will just show them that we’re thinking about them and just can’t really believe things like that keep happening, but it’s just a shame and we’re thinking about them. We just want them to know that. That’s why the number is on there like that.” Are you getting impatient with second-place finishes? “Seconds are good, right? We all want to win that’s for sure, but proud of the team and our efforts last week obviously. It was a great race for us and it’s a shame we couldn’t finish it off, but that’s part of racing. That’s how sometimes things just don’t bare your way and they certainly didn’t last week for us. So far, it’s been a great day for us in our NAPA Toyota. That wasn’t quite the lap we were looking for. We were better than that in practice and thought there was some more out there. I think we maybe messed up a little bit on the tires we went on. You come to these newer tracks and you have to go on scuffs because they’re faster and sometimes you don’t have enough practice laps to say, ‘Okay, do we want two-lap scuffs, four-lap scuffs, six-lap scuffs?’ I think we maybe put about one or two many laps on this set here. Still a good lap for us. We’ve got a great car and looking forward to the race on Sunday.” MARK MARTIN, No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing | Starting Position: 8th How was your car? “This is the best our race car has been all year. We’re not getting the full potential out of it yet. That was not perfect, but it had more speed and it’s got the feel that it had last year, so tomorrow is going to be a really good practice for us to try to get it maximized. But, the car is working better than the other race tracks. I knew we were in trouble last week because it didn’t have the potential. We didn’t have the speed and it wasn’t in the car. Now, the car feels like it’s there and we just have got to tap into it.” Did you and Martin Truex Jr. find something today? “I think Clint’s (Bowyer) on it too. He slipped in qualifying. His car got loose. Them boys — those guys are good. Clint’s tough and Martin Truex Jr. is tough and he showed that last week. I feel good about where we’re at. I think that we’ve got more work to do, but we’ve made progress.” CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing | Starting Position: 10th What were the conditions like out there? “It’s just windy. I don’t know. We’ve just got to keep digging here, try to make the car have as much grip as possible on this new surface. That’s what you’ve got to have. You’ve got to work on balance and work hard tomorrow in practice. We’ll be fine.” BRIAN VICKERS, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing | Starting Position: 16th How was the qualifying lap? “It was not good. Quite honestly, I was shocked with how fast we were. When they said 28.50 (seconds), I was like, ’Whoa.’ I thought they were going to say it was 29.50. The whole FedEx team did a great job. We unloaded so fast and I was really happy with the car in race trim. I think we were one of the best if not the best car in race trim today. We got to qualifying a little late and we were just loose. We thought we had it fixed and it got really, really loose in qualifying. I had a couple big bobbles. The fact that we still ran a decent time I guess is okay, but obviously you always want to do the best that you can. The guys did a great job and the whole FedEx Toyota team did good and, again, I think we have a good race car so hopefully that will show up again tomorrow.” ELLIOTT SADLER, No. 81 ALERT Energy Gum, Joe Gibbs Racing | Starting Position: 24th How was your qualifying effort? “It was alright. I made a little mistake getting into turn three and couldn’t get to the bottom as quick as I wanted to, so left a little bit of time on the race track. But, being in this position you really can’t attack the corner 100 percent either. If I get loose or lose a car and we don’t make the race for Sunday that’s not good either. We actually — the car is driving pretty good. Out teammates found a lot of speed today in race trim. We’re going to lean on those guys for tomorrow, but very excited about the opportunity to be at Kansas this weekend with our ALERT Energy Gum and JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) giving me a good, good shot for this weekend and we think we’re going to have a good day on Sunday.”
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