FORD IN DEBUT RACES
• Saturday night marks the first Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway and Ford has enjoyed success in track debuts. Blue Oval pilots have won three times in debut races since 1988.
o Alan Kulwicki, 1988 Checker 500 (Phoenix International Raceway)
o Jeff Burton, 1997 Interstate Batteries 500 (Texas Motor Speedway)
o Mark Martin, 1998 Las Vegas 400 (Las Vegas Motor Speedway)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, comes to Kentucky’s debut Sprint Cup race in fifth place in the point standings. Like the Sprint Cup cars, Kenseth is making his Kentucky Speedway debut Saturday night and talked about racing in the Bluegrass state.
MATT KENSETH, No. 17 Crown Royal Ford – IS THERE AN ADVANTAGE FOR THE GUYS RUNNING NATIONWIDE AND CUP HERE OVER THE GUYS JUST RUNNING CUP? “Probably a little bit, especially the guys that have been here before. I think it helps. I think track time always helps especially when you go to a new race track. I think running either the truck race or the Nationwide race or both should give you a little bit of an advantage about what will go on for Saturday.”
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES THAT YOU AND YOUR TEAM FACE WHEN YOU COME TO A NEW TRACK? “For the driver it is getting used to a track, where the bumps are, where the preferred line is and where you need to go to make your car drive the best. Then you need to relay what you need in your car to your crew for them to give you what you need. When it is new for everybody, especially on a track that isn’t really brand new, a lot of these guys have raced or tested here before but when you come here and don’t have any time on a track it makes it a little more challenging.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO LOUDON, WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE SUCCESSFUL THERE? “Well, it is a lot like a big Martinsville. Your car needs to turn real good there, that is the biggest thing I always fight, getting your car to turn in the middle of the corner. It seems like if you can have a car that turns really good then it makes the rest of it a lot easier.”
IS THERE ANOTHER MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT TO LOUDON? “No because it is a pretty big challenge. If you can get that, you usually have a pretty good chance. Usually the guy that can roll through the middle of the corner fastest is the guy that will have a shot to win.”
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE LESS, THE SAME AMOUNT OR MORE ROAD COURSES ON THE SCHEDULE AND IF MORE, WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE THEM TO ADD? “I think zero road courses would be a great number, but that is just me. I will say that after the introduction of double-file restarts maybe all the drivers don’t really dig it as much because it is crazy but it is fun to watch. The restarts are just crazy running side-by-side at places where with the way road course etiquette was before five years ago, you would never dream of running side-by-side. It has made it an exciting race to watch for the fans.”
THE PRESSURE TO PERFORM FOR A YOUNG DRIVER. THEY USED TO BE ABLE TO COME IN AND DEVELOP BUT NOW IT SEEMS THE PRESSURE TO PERFORM IS IMMEDIATE. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS? “I thought there always has been that. I don’t know that it has really changed that much really. I think when you get to this level with as even as all the teams are during this period and all the cars are pretty competitive and pretty close to the same I think that pressure is there to be good right away. You can really use the excuse about your equipment like maybe you could 15 or 20 years ago. I think that pressure has always been there. I think to be able to stay here in this garage you are expected to perform.”
WHY DO YOU THINK THERE IS NO DOMINANT CAR THIS YEAR? “Well, I think since they have introduced this car it has kept all the cars the closer to the same speed. Now you look at it and say, ‘Jimmie has won five straight,’ if you just look at it on paper then there is one guy that has dominated. We are only half way through the year and there have been some cars that have performed better than others but it has been a really competitive season with all the different winners we have had, but there is a lot of racing to do yet.”
WITH THE RAIN TODAY AND COOLER TEMPERATURES, WILL IT BE TOTALLY DIFFERENT OUT THERE TODAY? “I don’t know. Never being here before I don’t really know. Whenever the rubber washes off it changes it for awhile until you get the rubber back on the track. I hope it dries up because the way we ran yesterday we could used all of our practice so I hope we get some more.”
DOES THE BUMPINESS BOTHER YOU AT ALL? “Yeah, I think it bothers everybody. It is almost ridiculously rough, even on the front straightaway it is so rough that is kind of knocks you all over the place. It is pretty rough. It could use a coat of pavement.”