Pocono 400, Page 1
June 8, 20127
· Ford Racing enters Pocono with three drivers in the top-12 of the latest NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, including leader Greg Biffle and second place Matt Kenseth – just one point behind Biffle – while Carl Edwards stands 12th.
· Two current Ford drivers have NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at Pocono. Carl Edwards has a pair of victories (2005 and 2008) while Greg Biffle is the most recent Ford driver to win in 2010.
· Although winless so far at Pocono, Matt Kenseth has enjoyed decent success at the track over the years, achieving three top-five and nine top-10 finishes at Pocono in the Cup series
· A Blue Oval has claimed victory 21 times at Pocono, second most among manufacturers.
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Ford Fusion, trails Roush Fenway Racing teammate Greg Biffle by one point in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings heading into Sunday’s race. Kenseth spoke to the media before Friday’s first practice session to discuss how his team’s test session went and his expectations for Sunday.
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Ford Fusion – WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE TRACK CHANGES? “They did a great job with the track. I think it’s probably the nicest repave I’ve ever seen. Of course, there was definitely a lot of room for improvement so that’s probably why it seems so nice. They did a good job fixing the inside and paving it and with the SAFER barriers and the track is really smooth, so I think it’s a lot nicer than anybody expected it to be. I’m excited to be here. We’ll see what today brings and go from there.”
CARL SAID THINGS LOOKED AND FELT DIFFERENT TO HIM AS FAR AS HIS VISUAL POINTS OF REFERENCE. WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR YOU? “It’s a lot different, especially turn one. The markers are still there to the right side, but before the track had so much character. It had a lot of bumps and a lot of different visual cues to look at going into the corner. It was easier to feel how far you could get in the corner, when you could get off the brakes – all that stuff – but turn one for me has been the hardest. The other two aren’t too bad, but turn one is hard for me to figure out how fast to roll in there. You kind of get in the brakes in the same spot, but it’s hard for me to visualize how fast you’re going, if you can get off the brake earlier or if you’re gonna be going too fast and miss the bottom. So that corner has been a little tough for me to get used to just because everything kind of looks the same.”
SOME OF THE FAST LAPS HAVE COME AFTER THE TIRES HAVE COOLED DOWN. DO YOU SEE GUYS SAVING A SET OF SCUFFS FOR A POSSIBLE SHORT RUN AT THE END? “I don’t know about that so much. I think the track, as it gets warmed up and gets some cars to run on it, after you run a few laps on the track – a new pave always goes a little quicker, not necessarily I think the older tires, but as you burn fuel off and as you go back out and their warm. I don’t think you’ll see a lot of that. I think as soon as you’ve got fuel to make it to the end, I don’t think you’re gonna come to pit road again unless you’re the last couple cars on the lead lap. I think if you do need fuel and it’s the end of the race and there are 10 laps left, you’re not gonna put tires on because I think you’ll be better off to leave the ones you have on, so I think you’re gonna see a lot of that – kind of like Clint (Bowyer) touched on. I think you’re gonna see a lot of strategy, just make sure you’ve got the best track position you can and the most fuel that you can hold.”
WHERE DO THINGS STAND FROM A CONTRACT SITUATION WITH ROUSH FENWAY? “I’ve made it a habit to never talk about my contract in the media and I’m gonna try to keep it that way. I never said it was my contract year. Other people might have said that, but I never said that in the media.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT THE SPEEDS WE’RE SEEING HERE AND NEXT WEEK AT MICHIGAN? “As far as this track I don’t have any more or less concern than I did before they paved it. If you go off into turn one and blow a tire at 200 compared to 207 or whatever we’re running now, I don’t know it’s much of a difference because you’re still gonna hit something pretty hard. Other than that, it’s not any harder to drive here. It’s actually probably a little bit easier just because it’s not bumpy and the line is pretty defined where you’re gonna run. Michigan, it’s hard to say until you get all the cars there, but it’s extremely fast. You’re not concerned about it. It’s not like it’s harder to drive at 215 than it is at 200 or anything like that, but certainly if something happens at the wrong place at your top speed – I don’t know where the cars get upside-down and all that stuff when they spin out, I know they’re doing the shark fin and some other things to make sure they stay on the ground – but there’s not a problem if there’s not a wreck.”
ARE THE SPEEDS HIGH ENOUGH WHERE THIS RACE WILL HAVE A PLATE RACE FEEL IN SOME PORTIONS – LIKE DRAFTING AND THAT SORT OF THING? “No, I think you draft because you close up on someone off the corner, but it’s not like a draft like Daytona or Talladega, where you’re wide-open and you’re just trying to position yourself and you’re getting pushed. It’s nothing like that. You’re not gonna want anyone near you when you enter the corner here going that fast. It’s a lot different than that, but certainly the higher speed you have, the more you can suck up on somebody when you’re behind them. Certainly there’s more of that that goes on.”
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO HAVE FIVE DAYS AT ONE TRACK? IS THERE ANY CONCERN HAVING YOUR CREW GUYS SEQUESTERED FOR SO LONG IN ONE AREA? “I’d be more concerned about my team if we were in Vegas for five days than Pocono (laughter). I don’t know what they’re gonna do here. Hike themselves to death? I’m not sure (laughter). I’m not too worried about those guys. It’s been alright being here. There’s not a lot going on. I’ve enjoyed the couple days of testing and it’s been fun to get on track and try some stuff. We don’t get to test at any places we really get to race, so I’ve enjoyed that. We ran through some different stuff and got used to the track, so it’s been good. It feels like the start of a normal weekend. It’s been alright and it’s been nice to have a couple nights to just kind of relax.”
WERE MORE TEAMS WORKING ON JUST TESTING AND TRYING THINGS AS OPPOSED TO TRYING TO GO AS FAST AS THEY COULD? “You try to run hard so you can get good information, and there are probably some drivers and or teams that are more concerned about where they stack up in practice than others. I didn’t really look at much. I looked at it at the end because most of the cars in front of us were doing qualifying runs at the end, so I was just curious how much they were gonna pick up and trying to watch whether they’re going to stickers or scuffs and stuff like that. Everybody is different. I didn’t put a whole bunch of stock in practice speeds. We were just mainly trying to gather information, get a feel off stuff. Certainly you want to see if it runs faster or slower than the other stuff you were running, but I wasn’t overly concerned about where you rank. Still, you never want to be on the bottom if that’s all you’ve got and you don’t think you can be better today.”
HOW DO YOU THINK STRATEGY WILL PLAY OUT WITH THE RACE BEING 100 MILES LESS? “I don’t think the strategy is really gonna be any different. I think track position is gonna be really important here like we talked about, especially with the new pavement. You just start thinking about those last couple of stops earlier because it happens sooner, but I don’t think the strategy really changes. You’re gonna go out there and run hard every lap and try to keep the best position you can the whole race.”