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Mayhem In Talladega…Kenseth Survives

Transcript: Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 at Talladega

An interview with:




THE MODERATOR: Let’s go into our post-race with our winning team.  Today’s 44th Annual Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 here at Talladega Superspeedway.  Our race winner is Matt Kenseth.  He drove the No. 17, Ford EcoBoost, National Breast Cancer Foundation Ford for Roush Fenway Racing.  He’s joined by team owner Jack Roush and crew chief Jimmy Fennig.

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.

THE MODERATOR: 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.

THE MODERATOR:  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.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

An interview with:



THE MODERATOR:  Let’s roll into our post-race for today’s 44th Annual Good Sam Road Side Assistance 500 here at Talladega Superspeedway.  Our race runner-up was Jeff Gordon.  He drove the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.  Jeff, heard you out on pit road talking about the action there in the last couple of laps.  You came out on the good end of it, and certainly kept your championship hopes alive.  Maybe just talk us through those last laps or so here at Talladega.

JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, wasn’t looking really good there when we took the white flag, I’ll be honest.  I found the restart we had – we had to come in and take fuel which was unfortunate.  We had worked really hard to get ourselves up there, and you’ve got to believe there’s going to be more than one green/white checkered, typically so.  We had to come and do that.

So we were in a decent position, still up there about 10th or 9th or something.  I had the 5 in front of me, and the 18 behind me.  It was like, man, we’re looking good.  We’ve just got to get an opening, and this group is going to run.

But we took off, and I was pushing from the start/finish line and never stopped pushing them.  We weren’t going anywhere.  I have no idea.  I have to go back and watch the video because I just don’t understand what was stalling our line, but it just was not going anywhere.  Then the middle lane, the outside lane, they were just trucking by us.

We started to make a little bit of ground down the back straightaway.  We were like four-wide, went into three, and I saw smoke.  When I saw smoke, everybody checked up in a hurry, and I hit the 5 and the 18 hit me, and it just turned me right down to the apron and I drove by pretty much everybody but the 17.  So we got really lucky there.  Like you said, it keeps the championship hopes alive.

THE MODERATOR:  We’re joined by our third-place finisher in today’s race, that is Kyle Busch.  He drove the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.  Kyle, congratulations on a strong run here today.  Maybe talk us through how things went out there today.  You certainly had a strong race car, led some laps, competed for the win, and talk about how things went today.

KYLE BUSCH:  Yeah, it was a really good race car.  The guys did a good job building that thing and bringing it out here and debuting it for a one and only race here today.  That’s the last race for this body style here at restrictor plate stuff.

The guys did a really good job on pit road.  I made a mistake there early and got to pit roadway too hot and was speeding there, so we got a lap down.  But fought hard all day, made that back up, got back on the lead lap, and we were racing with the win there with everybody.

Got behind Jeff who was behind the 5 who was behind the 15.  I was quarter throttle running all over the 24, we just weren’t going anywhere.  The outside lanes were kind of going by us, and got to turn three and the wreck ensued.  Hopefully Tony’s all right and everybody that got banged up there.

But it turned Jeff just enough to turn me and we got through there all right.  It’s good to come out here unscathed and have the car in one piece.

Q.  What is your reaction running out there at 190 miles an hour and seeing all of that?

JEFF GORDON:  I mean, do we have a choice?  I guess we do, but I don’t feel like I really do.  It’s just part of racing here at Talladega.  You have to accept it.  You have to know that you’re going to be going through that at certain times during the race, but at the end, for sure, especially with a green/white checkered.  You put a lot of faith in your safety equipment and you kind of white-knuckle, hold on tight.

I can’t even describe to you.  Kyle was describing it, I was describing it, but it still just doesn’t put into words what that is like.  I don’t know how we made it to the white flag.  Coming through that tri-oval, being hit from behind, hitting the guy in front of me, you’re sandwiched in between basically cars.  There are cars doing the same thing on that side of you, cars on that side of them doing the same thing.

I really don’t know how we made it to the white flag.  It was just insane.  But you’re doing all you can to try to move your lane and hope that you make it back around.  In today’s case, we did.

Q.  You guys knew it was coming, didn’t you?

JEFF GORDON:  You’ve got to believe that it’s coming.  It always seems – yeah, pretty much.  Because what you know is inside the car certainly, but you might see it a little bit as well.  You start seeing more cars getting out of control and losing some positions because the aggressiveness just goes up.

We understand we’ve got to make it to the end of the race.  There are certain times in the race where you feel I’m going to be a little more aggressive here to try to get to the front.  So you’ll see a little bit of that.  But at the end everybody’s got that philosophy from the front all the way to the back.

I almost lost it on the front straightaway trying to get to the lead.  I saw the 16 got sideways.  The 51 was being pushed by the 1, he got sideways as I was outside of him.  That was earlier.

But at the end you know it’s going to get aggressive.  It started to ramp up, so you’re pretty sure there’s going to be a caution, and then with the green/White checker, you know you’re not making it back to the checkered.  You wonder if you’ll make it to the white.  You know you’re not going to make it back to the checkered without there being a wreck.

Q.  You touched a little upon this, Jeff, but Junior was saying he just does not like this style of racing.  Too many people are bunched up.  You know the inevitable is going to happen.  Is there anything that can change the dynamics of this?  I know we’ve gone back and forth with the restrictor plates.  Do you guys enjoy this kind of race?

JEFF GORDON:  Come on.  You want to take that one?


JEFF GORDON:  The older, elder statesman has to take that one?


JEFF GORDON:  I remember when come Talladega was fun.  I really do, and I haven’t experienced that in a long, long time.  I don’t like coming here.  I don’t like the type of racing that I have to do.

But if I’m a fan, I would love that.  I think it is incredibly intense.  It’s wild.  It’s crazy.  You’re going to see it.  Sometimes that balance that NASCAR has to deal with doesn’t mean – I mean, I don’t have to be happy and be all excited about coming to Talladega.  I don’t expect that.

But I do remember times when the draft and the thought that you had to put into it, the strategy working the draft and the cars in the lines was fun.  You had some room in between the cars, and you had to use the air instead of the bumper.  To me you could still come from the middle of the pack to first on the closing laps, but just how you did it was different, and it certainly wasn’t what –

I mean, that literally is bumper cars at almost 200 miles per hour, and I don’t know anybody that likes that.  Maybe Kyle does.  I don’t know.  He might want to talk about it.  I think he really likes this kind of racing.  This is for the young guys, not for the old guys like me.

Q.  Did you see on the white flag lap Matt going from the middle lane all the way across, running into the 15 and then coming back across?  Did you see that?  Were you surprised by that?

KYLE BUSCH:  All I saw was text 50555, that’s all I saw.

JEFF GORDON:  Yes, that’s perfect (laughing).

KYLE BUSCH:  I can’t answer that.  I have no clue what the 17 car did.  You watch TV.

JEFF GORDON:  My sponsor’s going to love you, man.  Thank you.

Q.  Jeff, did you happen to see that?

KYLE BUSCH:  You saw

JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, I saw  You can’t see anything but the bumper in front of you.

KYLE BUSCH:  You can’t see.

JEFF GORDON:  And you don’t have a move.  It’s not like you can sit there and say, oh, okay, I’m going to switch, go to the outside.  You’ve got no moves, man.  You’re just sitting there pushing that car in front of you as hard as you can.  I couldn’t tell you what was happening right in front of us.  I certainly couldn’t have told you that that was happening.  But that explains maybe why our lane wasn’t moving.

Q.  I guess first part of my question is kind of lost, but as far as what you guys can see.  I don’t know if you know, but Tony took a hundred percent blame.  He said he cut down across Michael trying to protect position and all.  So if either of you guys saw any of that, I’d be interested.  But when you’ve got a guy as skillful as Tony Stewart on places like that and he, leading the race, acknowledges causing this massive pileup.  Is that even more of an indictment of the way the racing is going here like y’all were talking about?  Does that just add to your stating the case for the craziness of it?

JEFF GORDON:  Kyle doesn’t seem to want to take any of these questions.  First of all, yeah, if you just isolate it to the move, I did see it.  If you just isolate it to that, I mean, somehow he got the lead, but then he had nobody.  Somehow they went to the outside of him, and they were coming.  There is no doubt.  The 55 was coming hard, and the 13 I believe was pushing him.  They were going to go right by him, and he just made a late move, and, you know, unfortunately, he turned himself and caused a big wreck.

But when you look at the bigger picture is that really what caused it?  Because this type of racing and the way the aerodynamics are and the power on these cars, that’s what happens.  When you lose that momentum, you lose a ton.  You’re going backwards in such a hurry and the other guys are coming forward with so much momentum, it’s inevitable that those types of things are going to happen.

You’re trying to judge making that move, but it’s almost impossible to judge it because they’re coming so fast.  That’s aerodynamics, that’s power, and that’s just the nature of the type of racing that we have right now at Talladega.

Tony is a guy that takes blame for things and you’ve got to respect him for that, but I think there is a little more to it.

Q.  I know it’s a risky assumption to assume that both of you men will make the Chase next year.  But this race next year is two weeks later, leaving you far fewer chances to make up in the Chase for something like what happened today.  Does the fact that this is a later race next year concern either one of you?

KYLE BUSCH:  Well, I think it was a later race last year.  Yeah, last year it was a later race, so it’s only moved just because of Kansas and their repaving and stuff like that.  Same thing happened last year, so it will just be back to normal.  Those air quotes that Michael Waltrip hates.

JEFF GORDON:  Does it really matter when this race is?

KYLE BUSCH:  No, it doesn’t, to be honest with you.  Yeah, it gives you a little less opportunity to rebound.  Maybe puts a little more pressure on some guys, but I guess it’s always been later in the year, so it’s always been a Chase race.  I don’t foresee that going away.

Q.  You said it’s been a while since you’ve had fun at Talladega.  Also it’s been a while since Talladega has been full.  There were some sizeable gaps out there.  Is there any correlation to – I know the economy gets a lot of the blame for attendance and things like that, but do you think the attendance is being hurt by this style of racing?

JEFF GORDON:  From an entertainment standpoint, they should be lined up out to the highway out there.  That I don’t get at all.  That makes no sense to me.  So there’s got to be something more to it.  If I’m a race fan, I want to see two and three-wide racing all day long, passing back and forth.  I want to see guys shoving one another.  I want to see the big one at the end of the race because guys are being so aggressive, and knowing that is not something that as a fan you could ever imagine putting yourself into and sort of defying danger.

Why they’re not lined up out to the highway is beyond me because I think they should be.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?

JEFF GORDON:  The gaps in?


JEFF GORDON:  I didn’t see many today.  I’ll be honest.  Not from where I was sitting, because I raced all day long.  Even though I fell back, I never said okay – I did save fuel for about eight to ten laps because the team asked me to.  But other than that I pushed every single lap, and I saw everybody else trying to do that too.

Now guys have learned, all right, if you can just push for maybe a lap and a half or two, even though you blow some steam off, you can get up there and get to the front.  I remember early on I did that with Kasey.  I think I did it with Kasey Kahne and Casey Mears, and then all of a sudden here they come doing the same thing to us.  So I moved up to the inside lane, and next thing I know we’re running tenth again.

I saw great racing throughout the day.  I didn’t really see that.  But I have no idea.  I’m only paying attention to what’s going on within my own race and around me.  I thought it was pretty exciting all day.  If it is, then they just shorten the race because all it really is a 20-lap shootout anyway.  They could shorten the race and there won’t be as many lulls.

Q.  Now that we’ve thoroughly discussed the type of racing we do here.  Can you both take a minute to talk about the performance of your team today?

KYLE BUSCH:  Our day was pretty good.  I had mentioned it earlier that we had a really, really fast race car and drove up toward the front a few times.  We were able to make the outside lane move a couple times.  We pushed Junior to the lead early today, and there was a time when I think it was green flag pit stops.  And I just did not get woed down near fast enough for the first segment, and I got busted for speeding, so that was my fault.

We had to battle through that.  That was probably one of the most tense part of the races for me is having a race for the lucky dog or get back on the lead lap.  I probably led more laps at the front of the field without leading those laps because I was the tail-end guy.

But all in all, our guys had some good pit stops, and we gained some spots.  We had some fuel-only stuff going on.  So typical Talladega day.  Just glad and thankful that I was able to get out through the aero with no damage and make it through unscathed.

JEFF GORDON:  Our team did awesome.  We had a fast race car.  Awesome race team, great pit stops, great calls from a team standpoint.  It was a great day.

Q.  You finished third and second the last three weeks.  But I think you’ve only gained five points on the leader.  Is that frustrating to you?

JEFF GORDON:  After today, it’s a little frustrating.  Our team is doing a great job.  We’ve been performing really, really well.  We can sit there and really get mad about what happened in Chicago, but the reality of it is all we can do is go each and every week and keep trying to put ourselves in position to win and get top 5s.  It’s not over yet.  It is certainly not over yet.  So we’ll see what happens.  If we keep doing this, I really think we might have a shot at it.

Q.  Do you think with the new car coming, if it will have any effect on the racing or are we just going to be prone to this whenever we come to Talladega and Daytona?

KYLE BUSCH:  I wasn’t here testing.  Were you?


KYLE BUSCH:  We weren’t here testing, so not a question I guess either have us have any experience with.  I haven’t driven the 2013 car at a restrictor plate track.

JEFF GORDON:  It’s going to be awesome.  Start buying your Talladega tickets now.

KYLE BUSCH:  Daytona 500 tickets.

JEFF GORDON:  And Daytona 500 tickets.

Q.  I know one had nothing to do with the other, and I know this might be just a weekend in the life of Kyle Busch.  But many of us were following your exploits in another wacky race last night.  Was this at least an unusually, I don’t know, strange weekend for you considering the mess in Nashville last night and the mess at Talladega today?

KYLE BUSCH:  Well, it’s a good thing I went to Nashville to get my bad luck out of the way, so I didn’t end up looking like Tony Stewart today.  But besides that, just a typical weekend of Kyle Busch’s year.  Leading the race, five laps short of a rain shortened event, and then they send us back green, and I blow a left rear tire and wreck.  Just continues on.

So just stay away from the 18 car for the rest of the year.

Q.  I’m not sure if you were asked this, Jeff.  And I want to get Kyle’s perspective too because of the crazy save you had in the Daytona 500.  On these types of tracks when somebody gets a crazy run on you – I think the 88 is who got the run on you today and turned you completely sideways at 200-however many miles an hour.  After you save it, what is that moment like when you realize that you’re not going to clear?

JEFF GORDON:  Let’s clarify this first.  That happened because Jamie McMurray’s car is wide as that racetrack out there.  I’ve never seen anybody run so many lanes in my life.  He does a great job staying up front.  It’s amazing how he stays up front.  But I guess it’s because he just moves so wide that you can’t pass him.

So the 88 had a run pushing me.  I mean, we were just pushing.  He didn’t have a run on me, we were just pushing.  And I’m sitting there going, Which way is he going to go?  Which way is he going to go?  So he started to move left.  So I go up to go around him.  He decides not to go down.  So at that point I’m having to put wheel into it, and all the 88 can see is my rear bumper.  Text 50555 (laughing).

So I did go sideways.  I mean, he was doing that all day long.  I don’t know.  It seems to work for him, so I guess he’s going to keep it up.  But it about cost us today.

Yeah, it went sideways, and I thought for sure I was around it caught.  Thankfully for that shark fin, I think that must have done it and straightened me back out, and Junior got off of me, and we went back racing.

I caught my breath there for a second.  Then I was like, okay, let’s go back racing again.

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