TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS)
Matt Kenseth — Notes & Quotes
Atlanta Motor Speedway – August 30, 2013
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is your team’s mindset coming to Atlanta Motor Speedway?
“I love coming to Atlanta. It’s probably not been my best track over the last few years, but it’s a great race track. It’s really wide. The cars that handle good really show a lot of strength as the run goes on and the tires drop off with slick pavement and all that stuff. I’m excited to be here and excited to come off a win last week. Hopefully we can come here and perform good again this week and get a good finish and keep some momentum.”How do you feel entering the Chase with five wins and potentially being the top-seeded team?
“Well, like you said, I’ve been really fortunate through the years to make a few of the Chases. I think we’ve entered as the leader before, we’ve entered the last seed before. I feel a lot better this week after winning last week and I think we had a pretty good test this week at Chicago. I feel pretty confident right now. I feel like we have a really good race team. Right now, we’re really on top of our game on pit road and with car prep and the rest of the stuff. I feel good about all that, but you have to perform each and every week once you get there. The wins are great — obviously as long as we make the top-10, that seeds us up toward the top. We should be at least a tie or hopefully ahead. That is good. You have to put together 10 strong, solid weeks for sure.”
Is this the best you’ve felt this season?
“It’s been a great season for sure. Hopefully we can put forth a good effort this weekend and next weekend as well. They’ve both been good tracks historically for JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), so hopefully we can do that. Even if we don’t, I still think we’ll feel pretty good going to Chicago. I think it would certainly help to have a good week, especially here — this place is really similar to what I think the conditions we’ll face in Chicago and probably Texas as well. I’m looking forward to getting on the track, seeing if we’re better than when we were here a few weeks ago for the tire test. Like I said, put forth a good effort and hopefully get a couple more solid finishes here rolling into the Chase.”
What were your expectations earlier this year joining a new team?
“I really felt as good about it as I could possibly feel about it, honestly. When the whole thing came up, it really didn’t — it’s hard to explain — but like I said, the few times when we talked about it, it wasn’t a hard decision. It was really an easy one for me to make. I felt 100 percent confident it was the right thing for me and obviously I still feel that way, it’s been a great season. I think you always have a certain amount of anxiety no matter where you are or how you’re running or what’s going on around you because it is a performance business and doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past. It doesn’t really matter what we did last week. You have to do it each and every week to stay here and I’ve always kind of felt like that. I don’t think you ever get comfortable and I don’t think you ever want to get comfortable — I think you always want to be moving forward. Then, there’s the first time I walked into there (Joe Gibbs Racing) when the season was over. I had a little bit of anxiety, especially when the secretary didn’t know who I was or what I wanted there. You always have moments like that to kind of get used to it and it always humbles you. Certainly I felt really at home there from the beginning, at least after that first 15 minutes until she realized what I was there for. Since then, I’ve really felt at home there and it’s a special team. We all get along really good. We work together really good. I think we understand each other, have the same goals and ideas and stuff. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Does it matter how you win the championship?
“It makes no difference. When they start the season and they tell you what the format is and what you have to do to win the championship, and to my knowledge they’ve never changed that during the season. At that point, everybody starts at zero and has the same opportunities no matter what format you’re working under. I’ve never felt bad about that. Never felt anything but good about it.”
When did you know your partnership with crew chief Jason Ratcliff would be successful?
“I think you know very, very quickly — within the first day or so. I think you know whether it’s a good match or whether it’s going to be a challenge and you’re not going to see eye to eye. Certainly some of the stuff on a personal level, it’s been a bonus because we get along really good away from the race track besides working together. I enjoy being around him (Jason Ratcliff, crew chief) and all that stuff. That’s a bonus. You don’t necessarily have to have that to be successful on the race track. I think you know pretty quickly. I think everything lines up or doesn’t line up, timing — all that stuff. I think that all kind of happens for a reason and everything — it’s kind of the way things go, so it was the right time for both of us. This is his second year in Cup. He’s worked really hard to get to where he is at and I think he really appreciates where he’s at and I know he just works really hard and knows this is his time and he’s working really hard at it. We definitely got lined up and got together I believe at the right time.”
How do you feel about the young drivers coming up through the ranks?
“If you’re just asking about the young guys, drivers coming in and some of the older drivers getting out, I think there’s always — I think the changing of the guard is good unless you’re the guard getting changed. Then it’s not so good for you. I think it’s always good for the sport to have some younger kids come in and unfortunately for them to come in and get some new names and faces and all that for the fans and for everybody else to follow, obviously somebody has to get pushed out which always stinks for the person getting pushed out. I think it also goes through cycles. I remember when I first came in, there were a lot of guys that were strong for a long time and there was a big group that came in the rookie class I was in. I think there were seven or eight of us that tried to run for ‘Rookie of the Year’ that year. Then you’ll go through like we have the last five or six years where there’s been maybe one or two rookies or maybe none in a year. I think that’s just how this sport works. I think as some drivers get older and maybe aren’t performing as good or whatever, they’re going to get replaced and the owner is going to gamble with a younger driver and start building for the future that way.”