Ford Texas Post Race (Kenseth Press Conference)

MATT KENSETH PRESS CONFERENCE TALK ABOUT SNAPPING THAT LOSING STREAK AND WINNING HERE TONIGHT. “It feels good to get back to victory lane. It has been a long time and we have had a lot of second place finishes and gotten beat at the end here a lot. It is great to finish second if you can’t win but it is also like getting kicked in the guy. Like last fall I had to come back and look at my guys after leading and then not winning. That is always really disappointing. It is nice to have this night and get this win.”

JACK, TALK ABOUT THIS WIN TONIGHT. JACK ROUSH: “I am really proud of what we have been able to do in 2011. We tuned up our engine with Fords help over the winter and got a new Ford nose, everybody got a new nose this year, but our new nose is better than our old nose and we have our FR 9 engine up to speed. All of that is going well. I can’t say how proud I am to be here with Matt. Realizing he has not gotten the success that his effort has deserved. Jimmie Fennig is a great success story. He is our oldest crew chief. Jimmie, what year did you start being a crew chief for us? It was 1997. He has been with us longer than anybody else and has worked with a lot of different drivers. He and Matt are as good a combo that I have experienced in my 24 years here.”

JIMMIE, WHAT KIND OF ADJUSTMENTS DID YOU HAVE TO MAKE TONIGHT? JIMMIE FENNIG: “Basically we kind of just tweaked on it a little bit. The car wasn’t perfect all night and we never got it perfect. The speed seemed to be there so we didn’t want to go overboard. We were creeping up a little here and there with air pressures.”

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JIMMIE, KURT AND TONY GAMBLED. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING ABOUT THAT AT THE TIME AND WHAT WERE YOU TELLING MATT? “Kurt I figured we knew he was going to have to stop. I didn’t know about Tony if he was going to make it all the way to the end or not. I think he would have but it would have been close. Kurt we figured he was going to be short anyway. That is what we were thinking.”

IS IT MORE SATISFYING TO WIN THIS WAY, JUST GOING OUT THERE AND KICKING TAIL LIKE THIS? “Well, this sounds dumb but we had such good track position all night and pit stops and qualified well so we never really got behind which was a big advantage for us. This tire really changed the surface a lot I thought too. I think it would have been tougher to come from behind. It always feels good to win no matter how you do it. More times than not the fastest car ends up winning and that happened tonight. I was real worried about Tony’s deal, of course I worry about everything, right Jimmie? We had a real fast car and pitting the way we did forced everyone else to and we got track position. When Clint was in front of me I was trying pretty hard to get back by him and it took awhile until he slipped. It was important to make some ground and the way Jimmie pitted the race it gave us some cushion.”

DOES THIS WIN GIVE YOU SOLICE OR AT THIS POINT IN YOUR CAREER ARE YOU SAVORING EVERY WIN BECAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW WHEN THE NEXT ONE WILL COME? “I enjoy every one of them. Daytona is kind of difference going up to California that next week and winning was huge for me. In a way it was from a racing standpoint bigger than Daytona. Obviously it wasn’t a bigger win, but that is what you have to do every week and you only plate race four times. I felt better the last six month and things have been looking up. The previous 12 months before that were frustrating for me and as you get older and aren’t putting up the results and it had been two years since we won, you can’t help but think if this is the way it is going to go. Are we going to keep trickling backwards? You keep working at it and hopefully you have more chances to win. This gives us a lot of confidence and it is a big relief. It has been a long time and we have been having fun at the race track the last couple months of last year and this year. It feels like we are back in contending form.”

HOW HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JIMMIE EVOLVED? “I’d rather not with him sitting here. No, my relationship with Jimmie has always been really good. He came on in 1997 which was the first year – I have Mark Martin to thank for sitting here. He saw me race and told Jack about me. That first year, 1997-98 is when Mark when the testing rules were different would let me hang out at the test and hang with the guys and Jimmie a lot and ask a lot of questions. I was probably a pesky little kid and he was probably getting tired of answering questions. I just wanted to learn as much as I could. I have known Jimmie and respected him for what he has done for a lot of reasons for a long time.”

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS TRACK THAT AGREES WITH YOU SO WELL? “I don’t really know why we do better here than some other tracks. The thing that makes you a good race car driver is a fast race car. I have been able to have really fast cars here and great engines and crews and teams and all that. That makes my job easier. I think there are some tracks that for whatever reason you have a better feel at and can give better feedback to help your guys more so than other tracks. Martinsville and Sears Point are probably my worst two tracks for that. We had a great car last week, probably the fastest I have ever had there but I got behind because of a mental error in the beginning. That is an example of a track where I can tell him what the car is doing but I can’t help Jimmie. Here I feel like I can help a little more. I know the feel I am looking for which probably helps.”

IS THERE ANY COINCIDENCE YOUR PACKERS JUST WON THE SUPER BOWL HERE AND DID YOU GET TO GO TO THE GAME? “I did not go to the game. My wife told me I could and she was mad that I didn’t because she said someday I would give her a hard time about it. She was pregnant and due about two weeks after the Super Bowl and the last thing I needed was to land in Dallas and have her call to tell me she was going to the hospital by herself. I had to go to Daytona the next week. I figured I would stay home and watch on TV and we had a great time. The Packers winning the Super Bowl was huge. 1996 was the last time they went and I didn’t have enough money in 1996 to get a ticket or fly to a race or do any of that kind of stuff and I always said that if they ever went again and I made enough money that I would go. I am hoping they go back again. Last time they went they went two years in ago. Hopefully they make it back.”

TONIGHT’S RACE WAS VERY UN-KENSETH LIKE IN THAT YOU LED A LOT OF LAPS. WAS THE CAR JUST SO GOOD THAT YOU COULD NOT RUN ANYWHERE BUT FIRST? “The car was really good but starting there made a big difference. If we had started 24th where we used to qualify all the time it would have taken us a lot longer to get to the front. Hopefully we would have still got there. Qualifying is really important with these cars and Jimmie has turned me into a better qualifier. We have done better the last six months than what I used to do. Our starting position keeps improving which is really important. We have had a couple wins like this but not a lot. Vegas comes to mind but that was a long time ago, I think 2003. It felt like the car was perfect there. You don’t get a lot of those days. Today’s competition level is too tough to do that and dominate a race like that and get the win.”

JIMMIE, DID YOU EVER THINK YOU WOULD GET BACK TO THIS POSITION AGAIN? “Well, yeah I am glad I am back here and glad I have Matt driving this race car because it makes my job easy. I am really enjoying working with Matt and hopefully we will win some more races.”

JACK, SPEAK TO THE WORK JIMMIE DID BEHIND THE SCENES BEFORE YOU PUT HIM TOGETHER WITH MATT MOST RECENTLY? “Jimmie is a consummate stock car racer. He can run your R&D team, he can teach a rookie driver. He even won a championship with Kurt Busch. He can do anything (laughter). That was the biggest job I have ever seen. Managing a program to get the most out of it with Kurt that was a great job. Jimmie has done it all. He has only worked for three people, Mark Martin early on, Bobby Allison and Roush Fenway. Jimmie is one of the guys that I look to for advice behind, around and above the engineers on what is right or wrong with our deal. Nobody did a better job with our R&D program than Jimmie. When we went through a number of crew chiefs finding a combination that was best for Matt, kind of the dark days when we couldn’t seem to get it right, Jimmie was having a great time in R&D. He was running his program to find out how to make his race car fast. You don’t have the freedom here that you have at R&D and can organize your tests and all that. He stepped back up and jumped in front and he is doing a better job than I think anybody could today with Matt.”

JIMMIE, YOU SAID THIS AFTERNOON THAT YOU GUYS WERE CLOSE. AT WHAT POINT DID YOU FIGURE THAT YOU HAD IT. “Lap 334 I think it was. No, it was all night that we worked on the car and it still wasn’t perfect at the end of the night but it was close. We gained a little on it but it still wasn’t perfect. There is still room to get it better yet.”

MATT WHAT IS IT LIKE TO DRIVE THAT CAR WHEN IT IS AS GOOD AS IT WAS TONIGHT? “It was probably a little harder than it worked at times. It was a big advantage to be out front tonight and the few restarts we had I didn’t do the best job. It took awhile to get that back but once I could make the move and get in clean air I could put the car kind of where I wanted to. I had to adjust my line a lot when the car would change during a run. We never had it perfect but it had such good speed. We knew if we kept it up front it would be hard for anybody to beat us. We didn’t want to mess with it too much.”

JIMMIE, WERE YOU GUYS HAVING FUELING ISSUES AND IF SO WHAT IS BEING DONE TO ADDRESS THAT? “No, that wasn’t a hardware problem. It was me on top of the box yelling at Matt to go. I didn’t want to spend a bunch of time in there, so it was on me. It was my fault. I had them drop the jack and with the new system we were a gallon short.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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