Toyota NSCS Pocono: Matt Kenseth quotes

Matt Kenseth: “Well Pocono has not been one of my best tracks historically, so I’m not really sure what to expect..."

Toyota NSCS Pocono: Matt Kenseth quotes

Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

What are your expectations for this weekend in Pocono? “Well Pocono has not been one of my best tracks historically, so I’m not really sure what to expect, but I’m looking forward to getting out there. Last year’s results weren’t real great here, so hopefully I’ll be able to do a better job this week and run decent. I’m looking forward to getting out there and seeing what turn two looks like and just getting at it.”

Do you think NASCAR is safer than the NFL? “I don’t know. I mean, I just don’t know. Obviously it’s hard to tear your ACL driving a race car, stuff like that when you look at typical, normal football injuries, certainly it’s safer. You don’t tear a lot of rotator cuffs shifting at Pocono and tear a lot of ACL’s running around Martinsville. Obviously from that aspect, it’s safer.”

Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Matt Kenseth, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Do you feel safer in a race car than you did at the beginning of your career? “That’s hard to say. Certainly they’ve come a long ways with safety for the cars, race tracks, pit crew and everybody -- fans actually -- everything. Certainly they’ve worked on a lot, NASCAR has spent a lot of their own money to do that, which we all really appreciates. Seats, all that stuff is so much safer than it used to be. It’s still always there. I think it’s been quite a while, but before that they went a long time without people getting seriously hurt and then had a rash of them. I think you always keep working on it and don’t take it for granted. Right now they have us going faster than we’ve ever went before – well over 200 at a lot of tracks we used to not get close to that fast before. The cars are really, really fast. You know that anything can happen at any time, but I feel like they’ve done a good job of making everything a lot safer, for sure.”

What will be your qualifying strategy on a road course like Sonoma? “I’ve had a lot of experience getting out of the way at Sears Point (Sonoma Raceway), so for me I don’t know if it will be as big a problem. On a serious note, when you get done with your lap and your trying to have tape on there and all that stuff and to get back around, that certainly is going to be interesting, for sure. There’s certainly a potential of somebody being in the way, or you being in the way more so than any other track, for sure.”

What is your impression of what’s happening at Roush Racing? “I honestly don’t know. I haven’t been there in a year-and-a-half and a half-a-year before that I was fairly unplugged once they knew I was going to go and do something different. So, I don’t really know, I’m not really in tuned to what’s really going on over there, or not going on over there.”

How does it feel to be the point’s leader without a win at this point in the season? “What would I rather be in with this (points) system? You’d rather have a win, because being in the top whatever it is in points -- top-30 in points really shouldn’t be a problem, so of course you’d rather have a win at this time of year than be the points leader. It’s definitely different. We knew it was a radical change, but you’re sitting here because you’re the points leader but you open up the paper and they don’t have you in the top-10, it’s a little bit confusing at times. So yeah, hopefully we can get a win.”

Will the removal of the curbing in the tunnel turn affect the racing at Pocono? “I don’t know, I haven’t really seen it or been on the race track yet. I haven’t even talked to people that tested very much. That curb was always a very tall one, it was real easy to jump your car off it, for sure. I’m just not sure, I can’t imagine you’ll be able to run all the way across flat on the bottom because it’s too fast of a corner and there’s too much banking and it’s too smooth, but I don’t know -- I haven’t seen it yet. If you can put the lefts (tires) on the flat or something, that might help a little bit but if it’s better, the guy in front of you is probably going to be there, too. I’m not sure how much it will change, guess we’ll have to wait and see.”

Does the way you race change when you’re the points leader? “No, it doesn’t change at all, really. You know every week you go out with the idea of trying to win. You try to do everything you can to win the race. People always ask about changing your strategies or trying harder or doing this or doing that, but if it was that easy, you’d win every week. You know, I’ve never not wanted to win. If there was a way to force wins, I’d force it every week. Really nothing you can do different, I feel like my team has been doing an unbelievable job this year with adjustments, race strategy, pit stops -- all the race day stuff has been, I think a lot better than last year. We just haven’t, they put me in position to win, we just haven’t had the speed to hang on and get one yet. I feel like we’re making steady improvements and we’ll keep getting the cars a little bit better and hopefully we’ll keep operating like that and be able to get a couple here.”

Can you find something to help you succeed at Pocono like you won at new tracks last year? “Pocono is a really different track. I don’t know. We did win at some tracks last year that we haven’t won at before. Certainly there were some tracks I felt like were the weakest in the past, were some of our strongest last year. I think just with the organization switch being stronger at some tracks -- Martinsville, New Hampshire -- those tracks. I don’t know, I never thought I’d win a race at Loudon, so who knows. Here we didn’t really have a lot of success last year when we were running good everywhere else, but one of the races we did run pretty good, but we didn’t really have a good finish in either race. Hopefully we’ll be okay and we can do a better job here as well and hopefully be up front and have a chance.”

What is the best Father’s Day you’ve had as a son, or a parent? “That’s a tough one. As a parent, I guess the more kids we keep having, the more fun Father’s Day is, the more special it is. As a son, I don’t really remember particular Father’s Days, but kind of like Jimmie (Johnson) was alluding to, you remember things you did with your dad when you were young. I think Father’s Day to me is more about thinking things your dad did with you and did for you, and then try to return that and do even better for your kids.”

How do the speeds at Pocono compare to the superspeedway tracks? “You know, a lot of these rule changes and I think what NASCAR was looking for was one track that you’ll probably be able to do a little bit more drafting or straightaway moves, this would be it. The cars have more drag than last year and you might be able to get pulled up and make more moves on the front stretch. I wouldn’t be surprised with more passing from the start finish line to turn one than maybe what we’ve seen in the past.”

Is there any concern about Jimmie Johnson being a threat again this year? “Well, we don’t really concentrate on what anyone else is doing, we just kind of try to get our stuff better. Some of the stuff about Jimmie (Johnson) finally winning and that stuff -- what was it, 10 races? He just got off a championship and he went 10 races without winning or something, it’s not like he was worried about his job and I don’t think anybody else was really being like, ‘Oh man, Jimmie’s finally not winning -- this is our shot, he’s done.’ It doesn’t surprise me at all that he won those two races and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he wins this weekend.”

What do your team need to improve upon? “Well, if we knew exactly that, it would be a lot easier to fix. Just working on getting the cars better. There’s a lot that goes into that. It’s not quite that simple. There’s been times you get pretty good car balance, but you haven’t had the speed. You always try to look over everything and look over how you get your vehicles setup better, how you can get your aero setup better, how you can get your engines better. You just keep trying to work on everything as hard as you can and just keep trying to improve.”

Is there a fear of overthinking it? “No, I think one thing that JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) does a really good job at is continually trying to get the cars better whether you’re ahead or behind or average, trying to go and make them better every time. At least since I’ve been there, I’ve never seen them hit the panic button. Certainly you can hit the panic button and go and make things worse, but I think you have to keep at that pace and try to make things better.”

What’s the hottest race you’ve ever been in? “Well, early in my NASCAR career the insulation wasn’t as near as good in the car, the seats didn’t fit near as good, so you’re a lot more fatigued because you’re slouching around, not comfortable in there. You didn’t have air conditioner. The environment was a lot worse when I started to what it is today. They’ve made huge strides. The biggest improvement is honestly just the seats – they fit so much better and your body stays more relaxed. Some of the races I’ve had some hot ones. When we ran one of our five (Cup) races in ’99, I think it was at Charlotte in the Fall race, it got really, really hot.

That was the only time I got really dehydrated in the car and didn’t feel good and that kind of stuff. I learned a lot about my body and also learned about making the cars better, since that day I’ve never had that happen again. There’s been some hot ones. My first Nationwide race it was really hot, burned my heel the size of a 50 cent piece and that never really heals after that, so that’s not a lot of fun. It’s like getting bad frostbite, your heel’s always messed up since that first one. I remember the first couple years getting the big blisters on your heels it would be so hot.”

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