This is Matt’s 23rd career win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. His first win at Talladega. It’s his second win here at a restrictor plate track in 2012. Matt, take us through this win here today. Certainly a shot in the arm for the 17 team. You had another example of just the talented racer and race team that you guys have over there.
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, thanks. Plate racing is really a testament to everybody at Roush Fenway Racing, the guys that build these cars and put bodies on them, and Jimmy and all the guys that set them up and work on them in the pit crew, and certainly everybody at the engine shop, Doug Yates and all them guys.
So plate racing, especially at Talladega, has always been about a fast race car, not necessarily a good handling one. I never felt like the driver was a huge factor. So certainly this win is really about them guys a lot more than me, but glad to get them the win.
The plate stuff has just been unbelievable this year. All four plate races they put me in a position to win, and I felt like I let them down here last time on the move I made or didn’t make. At Daytona, again, we had a shot to win that thing and messed it up at the end and got beat by Tony.
I’m really proud to be in Victory Lane with these guys. They worked on it hard today. We had an up-and-down day. We had a couple of near-misses on the track, and had to work our way back through the pack two or three times. We had the car pretty loose and pretty tough at times. But glad it all worked out for us in the end.
Q: Crew Chief, Jimmy Fennig, talk about today’s race, and maybe how things looked up from your vantage point this afternoon.
JIMMY FENNIG: Well, all weekend we were struggling with a little bit of speed. Today we ended up with the car a little bit on the free side, and we tried adjusting it out but really couldn’t get it out. So Matt did an awesome job as you saw him going down on the apron there to save that thing.
But it was a good race. I feel bad for Matt to drive it that free, but in the end we ended up with the trophy.
Q: Owner Jack Roush, talk about this win here today. Certainly, again, it’s just a testament to the hard work and the overall organization that you have over there.
JACK ROUSH: We’ve got great sponsors and we’ve got great technical support behind our race cars. We’ve not won as many races as we should this year. Certainly in my 25 years, this has been the best year we’ve had in restrictor plate racing. Unless I’m misinformed, Matt is leading going into the final lap of every restrictor plate race we’ve had this year. He’s won two, and come up a little short on the other two.
It’s great to be here with the Breast Cancer Foundation, with the EcoBoost Ford Fusion, and with Best Buy and Fifth Third, and with Zest as well.
Jimmy Fennig is really good at his trade, and when he rolls his car into the tech line, I’ve got every confidence that he’s gotten every bit of consideration that the tech people will allow, and he gets the speed out of the cars where a lot of people couldn’t.
Matt did a nice job today. As I said, he had a couple of occasions where he could have wound up on his roof or on his side, and he managed to have the presence to be able not to do that. The presence and skill not to let that happen, and he wound up in the victory circle.
Q. Matt, how would you describe your strategy going into a race like this? You’ve raced just to wait for the finish to go to win, or are you just racing for surviving?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, that’s kind of an easy question. I don’t have a strategy when I go in except for the same as every other race. When they went to – I don’t know how many years ago – when they went to the strips on the roof and everything, it drastically changed restrictor plate racing. It used to be when I started here it was very difficult to pass. If you could stay in the lead and stay at the bottom, it was hard for people to pass you. There was no pushing and tandems. There wasn’t any of that.
Since the evolution of changing these cars and making them where we can pass better or in a bigger pack and all that stuff. The first couple years we try to make a strategy. Let’s all hang back. Let’s go up front, but if it looks scary, let’s go to the back. Honestly, we got tired of it, so I think Jimmy and I talked about it last July before Daytona. We decided the fans pay a lot of money to watch us race. These guys pay me money to drive the race car fast. We just race hard every lap. We try to qualify the best we can. Go up, try to lead the most laps we can, and put ourselves in position to win the race, and not really worry about all that.
As you saw today and you’ve seen a lot of times, there is no safe place. Tony was just leading. I might have passed him or he was in second when he got wiped out. So you’ve got to race sooner or later. The last lap is the last lap. Everybody’s trying to get to the front. I’d rather already be there if we can be.
Q. Jimmy just said he felt bad that you had to drive that car that free all day long. But when you really come down to it, wasn’t having to drive that car that free exactly what kind of forced you in the lane that helped you escape from all this mess?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, it kind of did. The second to last run I was on the bottom there, and I think we were leading. And Jamie was behind me and he was trying to push me down the back a little bit and bump me a little into three. I about wiped out and had to move up the track and lost a lot of momentum and a lot of spots. I knew in the end I couldn’t be on the bottom with cars pushing me, especially through the tri-oval. I knew we’d get wrecked. The last lap everybody tries to push you around the track because it’s the last lap.
When we got way out in the lead coming to the white, I just sized up the lanes behind me. I didn’t want a lane to go fast by me on the bottom, but I decided not to go to the bottom. I was going to try to grab the middle guy. That was Kevin. Tony was out front a little farther than him, but he was lower. So I moved up in front of Kevin, and it all worked out.
Q. Jack, you’re a businessman, costs a lot of money to run these cars, run these teams. Does it cringe when you come here knowing the investment it takes to build these cars and knowing there is a pretty good chance you’re going to come home with a lot of them torn up?
JACK ROUSH: I’m really conflicted about restrictor plate racing. It’s NASCAR’s marquee, the high banks of Daytona and Talladega or they have built the foundation under a lot of their promotions and a lot of fans relate to particularly these racetracks. But to the driver and the crew and their strategies you can organize yourself for, have got less to do with keeping you out of harm’s way than they do at a short track or intermediate sized track. So I really just figure this car’s a write off whenever I load it up in the truck to bring it to one of these restrictor plate races.
If we’ve got the speed we’ve had this year, you’ve missed most of the wrecks. But if you’re caught back in the middle there, you’re certainly in jeopardy and have a little to protect yourself with as Carl was not able to protect himself today.
Q. Matt, you had a couple of moments today. How do you regroup when you get into that kind of situation where you’re fishtailing the car, trying to keep it going in the right direction and all that? How quickly does that leave your mind because you’ve got to concentrate on getting back there up?
MATT KENSETH: Yeah, I’ve probably had a faster car so it helps you make better decisions. But I’ve probably gained just a little bit of patience over the years. A couple of times we get hung out. It’s so easy to say I’m going to go drive it three-wide because I have a huge run to catch in the back or go ten miles an hour faster. And, you drive out there and pass about five rows and you stall out and they pass you back.
So just had to be really patient two different times. Had to work back to the lead. The middle worked pretty good for me most of the day. There was one time it seemed like it took forever. I don’t know how many laps, but it felt like a half or three-quarters of the field run to get back up there. If I was patient enough with it and waited for the holes and had the right people around me, I could kind of make it happen and get in a decent position.
Q. On the first lap of the green/white checkered, did you think you had forced Clint below the yellow line, or did you think while you’re the leader you could do it? Or were you just racing, and you had no clue what was going to – whether you had done anything to him that might cause NASCAR to react?
MATT KENSETH: I didn’t even think of that until you just said it. Honestly, I thought I was clear. We had a pretty good run on the outside. I knew it was going to be close. I thought we were clear and I looked. I started moving. I kept moving. I didn’t feel anything. We were all the way to the yellow line before we touched. As soon as we touched, I moved back up, but he was already slowed down just enough.
I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if I was clear, and I was a little indecisive and moved too slow to make sure I got in front of him or he was there the whole time. I’m not really sure. I’d have to honestly watch everything happened so fast there at the end.
Q. Matt, if you could, please, if step one is you take the lead, how did you find out there was a wreck happening behind you? Was it radio? Did you see it? At what point did you know, okay, this is mine? This is victory.
MATT KENSETH: Well, I saw Tony’s back bumper. I saw him getting spun out. I don’t know how that happened or how he got in that position. But I saw him spinning out. We were clear of him. I didn’t know if Kevin was still back there. You check your mirror in a lot of these places.
I looked in the mirror and there was nobody back there. I thought that it was our race then. So just kind of slowed down and got it back to the finish.
Q. Jack, one of the greatest drivers you’ve ever had to drive for you, and he won’t be here next year sitting side by side with you. How much does this victory mean from an historical standpoint from your relationship with him to you?
JACK ROUSH: Well, I hope it’s not the last race we win together, but it wasn’t my choice that we would end our relationship this year. But it is what it is, and I’ll take what I can get between now and then, and I’ll remember it with great pride and satisfaction.