The winner of Monday' night's Daytona 500, Matt Kenseth, talksabout his second victory in the “Great American Race,” which also kicked off Roush Fenway Racing's 25th season with the team's 300th win.
Q. Now that you had some time to take it in, when you look at everything you've accomplished in this sport, have you thought at all about where you rank among some of the all-time greats who have done this? Is your legacy important to you at all?
MATT KENSETH: I really haven't spent a lot of time thinking about that. I mean, it's important to me to win races and be successful. Everybody wants to be successful no matter what they're doing.
If it were all over today, I certainly had a great career. We've done a lot of things that have been beyond my wildest dreams honestly. I never thought I'd get a chance to run in this series, run a Daytona 500, much less win one or two. Certainly, I appreciate and enjoy the success that we've had so far.
Q. Does this typify Matt Kenseth in the public eye, overshadowing obviously the fire, the delay, Danica, that you were overshadowed, your accomplishment over the weekend, winning two races, really? Secondly, are you still looking for full-time sponsorship? How do you think this will help as far as people noticing you to pick up the rest of the season?
MATT KENSETH: Well, it seems like it goes like that quite a bit for me. I'm not really in it for the recognition or credit or any of that stuff anyway.
The sponsorship thing, I'm not entirely sure. I don't think they have anything new between Best Buy and Zest, Valvoline. I think they have about 15 races sponsored. They still have some inventory they're trying to sell. They give me some updates, but other than that I let the sales department do their thing, I try to do our thing from a performance standpoint. Hopefully, they'll do their part there and we'll find some more sponsorship to get the car filled up.
Q. In 2009 you got off to a great start, then it led into a slump. Is that anything you think about at all or is your team in such a different place right now that that's not even worth contemplating?
MATT KENSETH: I always look at Daytona as almost like a separate season. I've looked at it mainly for the reason that you can have a big wreck or something can happen. We've left there with bad finishes, low in the points.
Usually, by the time we get to the next race I put that behind me and don't count that as a race for the season, although the points count, then start off racing and feel like every race toward there is a race toward trying to get yourself and team at a championship level and able to work toward getting in the Chase and trying to race for a championship.
'09, I can't recall the whole year, but we won the 500, we got out to California and actually won that, too. It was crazy to start off the year with two wins. It seemed like we were destined for a wonderful season. Then we had a lot of different things go wrong. We went to Vegas and blew an engine on, I think, lap two and finished dead last the third race of the year. We had two wins and a last-place finish in the first three weeks. We had little problems here and there that held us back and kept us out of the Chase.
Q. You've won two Daytona 500s now. Obviously there's a lot of effort put into that one race. Does it feel any more special to win that? Does it make it feel more special because you were able to win this year's race with all that went around it?
MATT KENSETH: I think it would be about the same. Obviously there was a delay in the middle of the race. The race started Monday night, all that. It was the same for everybody. I don't feel like there was any kind of odd circumstance that made us win the race, like we didn't deserve it or something like that.
I think we had some problems at the beginning, lost track position, almost got lapped. Battled through that. Jimmy [Fennig, crew chief] made some great calls to get us some track position. Had a great pit stop. We had three or four restarts, had the green-white-checkered, was able to hold those guys off, so we had a pretty dominant car. We were able to race a little more than 500 miles and come up with the win. I feel good about that.
I'm proud of my team for how fast a car they gave us, what a good, dominating race we had to win the 150, then back it up winning the 500. It was just an amazing week for us.
Q. You've been so consistent over the years, accomplished so much. Are you surprised at the difficulty that you've had in getting a sponsor for a full season?
MATT KENSETH: Yes, I am, actually. I think I've been very fortunate through the years. Black & Decker, we had them for 10 seasons, maybe 11 seasons in the Busch Series, but had a great relationship with them. Different situation when Stanley bought them out. Stanley already had a car. We had a long relationship with them. Even with Crown Royal, back to ‘03, ‘04, they've been at Roush for a long time.
I hoped, I guess, that the way our performance was last year, all that, it would have been a little easier for the sales department to fully sponsor the car. I know that's been a struggle not only for our car but for some of the other cars in our organization. They shut the 6 car down because they didn't have a sponsor. They're trying hard to sponsor Ricky Stenhouse's Nationwide car. He's fresh off a championship here. I think it's tough out there right now for some reason.
Q. You're a low-key guy. Do you ever think if you were more flamboyant, more out there, it might be simpler to get these sponsors?
MATT KENSETH: Well, I mean, we could all dissect my personality or my looks or what I say, what I do, don't say, don't do, pick on that, I guess. But you can look at the opposite end of the spectrum. You can look at 20-year-old Trevor Bayne, won the Daytona 500, everybody was doing back flips because he won the Daytona 500. They can't get a sponsorship for him in Nationwide or Cup either.
I think he and I are, I wouldn't say we're opposite, but on other end of the spectrum as far as what we've done and where our career's are at.
You think about it. Maybe there's something I'm not doing right or saying right or whatever. But, I don't know, I've been in the sport for quite a while. I've always just tried to be myself and never really change for anybody. I don't think that's really been a bad thing. I'm pretty much a face-value guy.
Q. The fact NASCAR had its first Monday night race, the Daytona 500, the TV ratings were super, do you think that would be kind of neat to plan to have the Daytona 500 on a Monday night?
MATT KENSETH: I thought it was a great call by NASCAR with the weather on Sunday. Looking at the forecast Monday morning, knowing the track was still wet. Instead of having everybody sitting in their seats from 11:30 to 5 when it would be dry to just do it at 7. I thought that was great for all the people who did stick it out. I thought it was really great for all the people at home.
I think the Monday night thing was a great idea. The Daytona 500 is a pretty big deal, kind of like the Super Bowl. I think a lot of people have parties for it. Instead of getting it pretty much canceled, they could still have it after work on a Monday night, kind of like Monday Night Football.
I thought all that was good. But I'm not sure. I think NASCAR is a little bit different than a football game. Monday Night Football, most people are fairly local. When we go to a race, a lot of people travel pretty long distances to get there. So I'm not sure about a weeknight race, but I thought it was exciting.
Q. Can you compare this to winning the championship? How does the Daytona 500 win compare, media-wise?
MATT KENSETH: '09, especially, I can probably touch on that a little bit better because it was more of a normal week. When we won the 500 in '09, it was more than a little surprising to me all the stuff we did, all the fanfare, how excited everybody was about it.
I guess I never thought that much about it, winning the 500, what comes with it. When we won in '09, we had the champions breakfast the next day. We got to do stuff at Daytona in the morning, flew to New York, did Letterman, then did San Francisco and all the West Coast stuff as well.
After we did that, that week after we won the Daytona 500 in '09, reminded me a lot of the week after we won the championship in ‘03. Everybody seemed almost equally as excited about that as winning a whole championship, which surprised me a little bit, caught me off guard a little bit.
Q. With the fuel injection, does clean air still mean what it should? With the high shark fin in the back, did it make drafting a little harder?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know if having clean air or not having clean air, fuel injection would change that anywhere or not. I really don't know. At most tracks when we talk about clean air, it's all about downforce, not so much about the air getting into the engine. It's all about the air being on the nose, having more downforce than the guy who is behind you in turbulent air.
I really don't know if there's any difference with the carburetor fuel injection, being in the draft, that kind of dirty air, horsepower difference or anything like that. I really don't know the answer to that question.
Q. With the high shark fin, it seems like a lot of the small bumps were spinning people around. Did that make it tough for you?
MATT KENSETH: No, I don't think so. The high shark fin basically would put more side force, I believe, help you cut your car more if it got sideways. I think the cars right now in their configuration, NASCAR has a ton of side force in them. You can see that each and every week. When people get loose, they catch it. Sometimes people over-correct it and go into the wall head on. The old cars four or five years ago didn't used to be like that, the quarter panels weren't as long. They didn't have as much side force. When they got side force, they were much easier to spin out. This car is a little bit more forgiving when it does get sideways.
Q. What do you think about NASCAR's rule that, during the race, the drivers are not allowed to communicate and talk to other drivers?
MATT KENSETH: I really like that rule. I mean, for years I've had all my teammates on my frequency. That's kind of fun sometimes if you're under caution. Greg Biffle is a good friend of mine. I'll call him up, shoot the bull with him, talk to him a little bit on a red flag or caution or something like that. You might want to get a hold of one of your teammates if you think you have a tire rub. That was kind of nice.
I kind of like it, because it gets away from any kind of team coordination. I think racing has always been about one car, driver, trying to beat the other 42. The two-car draft, all that stuff, I just wasn't really a fan of that. You were working with somebody else the whole time to try to help him, he's trying to help you. I think it should be you against everybody else, trying to beat all them guys.
Q. What problems does Phoenix present for you after such a short week, a week with so many activities that you have to do away from the track?
MATT KENSETH: A couple things that pop into my head right away when I think of Phoenix is last year it was repaved. We all came to test. The surface was slick, to say the least. It took a long time to burn it in. When we came back to race, it didn't take quite as long, but it still took some time.
Now with it sitting all winter, I'm not sure what kind of track activity there is. I think there's a little wondering when you get out there of what the surface is going to be like, how long we're going to have to run to get it burned in, if it's going to be ready, all that kind of stuff. That's one thing you think of right away.
Then the different weekend schedule, having all the practice on Friday, all you do is qualify on Saturday, so that gives you a little less time to think about things overnight, try things on Saturday. You have to be ready to get it done in two practices, get it all done. So I think that presents a little challenge for the team and the driver, as well.
Q. You mentioned earlier on that you always look at Daytona as a separate race. It seems to me that so many things can happen at these superspeedways. Would you be in favor at all of looking at the superspeedways and counting them differently in the points championship?
MATT KENSETH: I think for the points championship, they should only count the tracks I'm best at. I think that would be the best idea, if they just let me pick the places (laughter).
I don't know. Plate racing is a little unpredictable. I thought this week, I felt like the driver had more control than what he's had before about making your own moves, putting your car in position, doing all that stuff.
The faster cars, once they got in front, it was harder to get back around them. I thought it was more about how restrictor plate used to be, closer anyway to what I would call a normal race.
I think the great thing about whoever wins the championship every year, they have to be good at all kinds of racetracks, from Martinsville to somewhere like Talladega where maybe there's a lot of crazy things that can happen, to road courses. You have to be pretty good everywhere to be able to win that championship. I think that's the way it should be.
Q. Once your media obligations were over after the race, what did you do to celebrate? Have you been home yet?
MATT KENSETH: No, I haven't been home. I walked back to the motor home. I was going to go back, spend some time with [wife] Katie, talk a little bit, get a couple hours' sleep before the kids got up so I could tell them goodbye for the week.
I think all my over-the-wall guys were back at my motor home. They were all looking for beer. Katie walked down and found Harvick's motor home driver – because that's a good place to look for beer – got a couple 12-packs and some ice. I sat there and talked to my team guys for an hour and a half, something like that, before they took off.
That was nice. Got to hang out with them a little bit. Other guys were still working on the car. When they got done, they wandered over, had some fun spending time with them. Got to do that Saturday night racing-type thing. Don't get to do that anymore. Usually, everyone is hurrying to the airplane to get home.