Matt Lenseth, who has already clinched a spot in the Chase, brings the experience of a 2002 victory in the fall race at Richmond into the 2010 event. Kenseth discussed how he sees this year’s Chase shaping up and what he hopes to improve upon down the stretch.
HOW DO YOU SEE THIS CHASE SHAPING UP? “They have all been tough for me because we haven’t won one. They are all tough. Every race is tough. Just watching from the outside, if I go home watching races, it is hard to pick a favorite right now. There have been different parts of the season where guys look really strong and then they struggle a little bit. I think until somebody beats the 48 it is still theirs.” WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN PRACTICE TODAY? IS IT THE SAME TOUGH RICHMOND? “Yeah, we have struggled today. We have struggled since we switched to this car I think really. It seems like we made some improvements at the very end of practice and got our car going a little bit better. Hopefully we will have it going okay for tomorrow night. I hope.” CAN YOU COMPARE THE MINDSET OF WHERE YOU WERE A YEAR AGO TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY, LOCKED IN AND MOVING AHEAD TO THE CHASE? IF YOU LOOK BACK TO THE LAST 15 RACES YOU HAVE AVERAGED LIKE A 12TH PLACE FINISH. IS THE TEAM CAPABLE OF STEPPING UP ENOUGH TO BE COMPETITIVE IN THE CHASE? “I hope so. To your first question, my mindset is really not as different as what you would think it is. Last year we wanted to get in, yet on the other hand we could see how we were running and the direction we were going. I felt like if we got in we would have been ninth if everything went great and 12th if everything went how it was going. You want to be in there, but just because you are in the top-12 doesn’t mean you have a chance at a championship. I am glad we are in now. We have been running better lately and been more consistent lately. Looking at my team cars with Greg and Carl, those guys have been running really well and have picked up their performance. That gives me some encouragement that if we get everything right, maybe we can be a contender. Greg has won a race and Carl ran second last week. All our equipment seems to be running better. That gives us hope that if we can get things together that maybe we can contend.” CAN YOU TALK ABOUT JIMMY AND HOW THAT HAS GONE SO FAR THIS YEAR AND THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE HAD THREE CREW CHEIFS THIS YEAR AND I THINK YOU ARE THE ONLY GUY THAT HAS CHANGED ALL YEAR? “Yeah, it takes three crew chiefs just to get me in the Chase. It has been going well. I have known Jimmy for a long time. We worked together on the Nationwide series cars. It has been going well. It has been an adjustment for him and for me. It has been an adjustment for me probably since Robbie stepped down just because I was so used to that and we knew how to handle each other. It has been an adjustment that we still haven’t nailed down as well as we probably need to, but that isn’t going to happen in just a couple of weeks. We have been working on it and getting progressively better though.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED … IT SEEMS EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT OTHER GUYS AS THE FAVORITES IN THIS THING. NOBODY IS REALLY SAYING MUCH ABOUT YOU. DO YOU FEEL LIKE A DARK HORSE IN THIS AND DO YOU LIKE THAT ROLE? “It doesn’t matter to me really necessarily what people say about it, but I would rather be the guy out there leading laps and winning races and be a legitimate contender. If you look at what we did all year, I wouldn’t be talking about us either and saying that we have a shot as much as the top six or seven guys. We haven’t really been in that position. We haven’t won and Jeff Gordon hasn’t won this year either, but at the beginning of the year he led a whole bunch of laps and was in a position to win a bunch of races. He needed to be in that position to be a contender down the stretch. I still have hopes that we can do that the last 10 weeks. If we can keep our consistency we could have a shot at it. We still have to do it. You can talk about it all day, but you have to be able to go out there and do it, compete on pit road, lead laps and put yourself in position to win races.” YOUR TEAMMATE CARL EDWARDS WAS SAYING HE THOUGHT THIS CHAMPIONSHIP WOULD BE DETERMINED BY MISTAKES RATHER THAN HOME RUNS. WHAT IS YOUR FEELING ON THAT? “I think that every year somebody says that before the Chase that the mistake is going to cost you. It could. It just all depends. One year we finished second to Jimmie and we didn’t make any mistakes. We were really consistent but we didn’t run well enough to win. He had a couple of bad races and came back to win all those races to beat us. If you are marginal and haven’t been winning a lot of races and on your best day you can run third or fourth and be 10th, 11th or 12th on your off days you can’t make a mistake. If you are a dominant car the last 10 weeks and winning races and leading laps, you can afford to have one mistake or problem or whatever.” WHAT AREAS DO YOU FEEL YOU GUYS NEED TO IMPROVE THEMOST ON TO BE EITHER A FACTOR IN THE CHASE OR NEXT SEASON? “I think that for the 17, the main thing we have to improve on is unloading faster. We need to get the car to be quicker off the trailer. We need to make positive changes quicker. Last weekend for instance, we were terrible off the truck and never got it good until two runs from the end. We drove up and finished 11th and actually had the car pretty good if we would have got it better two hours before that. That is the biggest thing, starting off faster. You always have to try to improve every area from pit road to the race track to getting the cars to run off the truck. You always work on everything, but our biggest thing is the cars need more speed and need to be closer starting off. We need to be able to figure out what adjustments we need to make it drive better for me.”