Newsmaker: Matt Kenseth

Posted: Wednesday, September 01, 2004

FONTANA, Calif. Many people believe Matt Kenseth's dominating performance last year led to the creation of the Chase for the Championship. Now ranked fifth in the standings with lesser credentials than a year ago, he's in great position to compete for another NASCAR Nextel Cup Series championship once the final 10 races start.

Kenseth talked about his season and what it will take in the final 10 races to repeat as the series champion.

Question: Where would you put yourself in the Chase right now?

Kenseth: I don't know. We're fifth right now and you want to stay as high as you can up in the points. Obviously, if disaster strikes we're in a pretty comfortable position to make the top 10, but more so than thinking about making the top 10 these last two races, we're thinking about running good and trying to get to Victory Lane and carry some momentum into the last 10.

Question: The format for the Chase seems to be popular with fans. Why did that happen?

Kenseth: I don't know if it's bringing more people in or if it's not bringing more people in, but, obviously, you're focused on the 10 spots because the top 10 are within 45 points with 10 races to go and they're basically evened up for all of the mistakes and problems you've had during the year. I think in the past people have always watched the championship battle. I think it's always been important to be in the top 10 and, obviously, it's a lot more important now. But people always watch the championship battle.

Question: Do you think you've been running under the public's radar most of the season?

Kenseth: I don't know. I get that question every year, but I don't think so. We won a couple of races, plus the all-star race, and we've had a great year. It's been more up and down than what we had last year. Last year we were just real consistent the whole time, whereas this year we haven't been quite as consistent. But lately it feels like we're getting that consistency back and I think if we can get running better than what we're running right now, hopefully, we'll be a contender.

Question: Most people consider Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson as the favorites to win the championship. Where do you fall in that?

Kenseth: I think we're right in there somewhere. I think right now the 24 (Gordon) has a ton of momentum. He's been winning a lot of races and he's been running really, really well, so I think he's probably the favorite. The 48 (Johnson), if they get their mechanical stuff fixed, obviously they've been really strong all year and last year, so I think those guys are the favorites because on average they've been running better than what we've been running. But if we can have our consistency and get some good finishes toward the end there, hopefully we'll be in it too.

Question: Is there any concern than in the final 10 races you might have teammates not in the Chase helping their teammates by wrecking and blocking other competitors?

Kenseth: No, this isn't 'Days of Thunder.' That's not going to happen. First of all, everybody has way too much respect for each other in the garage area. We have to live with these people basically every week of the year for 40 weeks, plus it's dangerous. That's just not going to happen. There may be teammates who can do little things to help each other -- maybe let them have a position, although I wouldn't see that happening either. But there might be little things like giving somebody more room on the track or something like that, but nothing at all is going to happen like what you said.

Question: What is it going to take in the final 10 races to win the championship?

Kenseth: I don't think that the consistency is any less key having only 10 races. I think it's more of a key having only 10 races because if you have one (did not finish), you only have nine races to make that up. The system is still thirty-some points for last and 190 for first, so that's a huge swing. I think the guy who wins this thing is going to be the guy who can run fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh every week and doesn't have any DNFs. I don't think it's going to be the guy who wins two or three races and drops out of two or three races. It's still going to be the guy who is most consistent.



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