Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 6 Wyndham Rewards Ford Fusion, addressed the media on Friday morning, May 11, before the first practice session at Kansas Speedway. Below is the transcript, with the moderator written in all caps.
HOW SPECIAL IS IT FOR YOU TO BE BACK WITH ROUSH FENWAY?
“The last few weeks have been fun. Obviously, just trying to get a little bit caught up an re-acclimated there with the system and the people and what’s changed and that kind of thing, and been anxious about today and getting back in the car. I’m hoping everybody can get through tech and we can get on track in time. There’s not a lot of practice today, so I’m pretty anxious about getting in the car and seeing where we’re at and what my comfort level is, where we are on speed and what we’ve got to work on for tomorrow, that type of thing, so I’m just ready to get going.”
DOES THIS FEEL LIKE THE PERFECT PLACE FOR YOU TO COME BACK?
“Yeah, actually the last time here they told me I couldn’t race anymore and we had to load up last fall, I think. The last time I was here was not a very good emotion. That was our last race in the Playoffs last year, but it is a fun track. It is fairly straightforward. It’s been a great track since the repave and the banking changing, so it’s a good track, especially for an intermediate side and I do look forward to that.”
SOMEBODY JUST ASKED ON TWITTER WHY WOULD YOU GO TO ROUSH IF YOU DIDN’T THINK YOU COULD BE COMPEITIVE AND MY RESPONSE WAS, ‘I DON’T THINK YOU WOULD HAVE COME OFF THE SIDELINES IF YOU DIDN”T THINK YOU COULD BE COMPETITIVE.’
“Somebody on Twitter reading minds again? I never said I didn’t think I could be competitive. If I didn’t, I certainly wouldn’t be here. I feel good about the direction that Roush Fenway Racing has taken the last couple years. Certainly, all the Fords are very competitive this year. The 17 has shown a lot of speed on and off. You don’t see it necessarily in all the finishes, but certainly they’ve been better, so, like I said, I feel like we’re headed in the right direction. I don’t have any expectations necessarily for this weekend. I think the goals and expectations will probably continue to adjust once I get through this week and kind of see where we’re at and evaluate from there.”
FOR CLARIFICATION YOUR WYNDHAM ANNOUNCEMENT AS FAR AS WHAT RACES WYNDHAM WOULD SPONSOR CAME OUT YESTERDAY. I’VE HEARD YOU SAY YOU WERE GONNA BE IN THE NEXT FIVE RACES. WHAT DOES YOUR SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE? HAVE YOU BEEN GIVEN A NUMBER OF HOW MANY YOU WILL RUN?
“I’m doing the next five in a row plus all of the Wyndham races that they announced. There’s more on top of that. They didn’t want to announce the entire schedule yet that we were running, but those are the ones that we can talk about right now and the rest of it we’re still kind of working on.”
WHAT DOES A VETERAN DRIVER LIKE YOURSELF DO FROM A ROUTINE STANDPOINT TO GET BACK ON THE TRACK?
“Honestly, not much with the testing policies and all that, so I haven’t been in a car at all since Homestead last year. So, really, not much. Besides all the mental prep that you can do with notes and film and things like that, but as far as the driving, really nothing. My training has been the same or probably more than last year because I’ve had more time, so physically there’s nothing really different – just kind of getting the mental stuff ready – but didn’t get a chance to get in the car at all. I was hoping I could get in a car and at least drive one a little bit and get acclimated with their systems and kind of the way they do things, but that’s what I’m looking forward to here in about an hour or so I guess.”
WHAT ARE YOUR GENERAL EXPECTATIONS FOR THE WEEKEND?
“I don’t have any expectations for the weekend, to be honest with you, because I just don’t know. I haven’t been in the car yet and I don’t know how fast we’ll get up to speed. What are the things we’re gonna fight, that type of thing, so I don’t really know. I came into this weekend pretty much with no expectations, just kind of open-minded and take it one practice at a time, one session at a time, that type of thing, and go from there.”
WHAT DID YOU MISS MOST DURING THIS HIATUS AND WHAT DID YOU APPRECIATE THE MOST?
“I would say the fans and the competition. The thing you miss the most is always the competition. That’s why we all started racing on Friday and Saturday nights with a couple hundred people in the stands against all the rest of the drivers is because you like to compete. I think when you’re not competing, if there’s one thing you could pick out, that’s probably the part you miss the most. As far as how the last six months have been, they’ve been great honestly. I don’t think I’ve ever had a better period in my life, so that’s been really good.”
WHAT’S YOUR LONG-TERM GOAL?
“Professionally, I don’t know that I have a long-term goal. As far as the rest of it, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove to anybody either. Short-term, I hope to help the organization. That’s kind of why Jack and I decided to do this. They needed to get their performance up. He’s hoping I can help with that. I’m hoping I can help with that. It’s yet to be seen. I haven’t been on the race track yet, so I’m not really thinking very far out at the moment to be honest with you. I’m just trying to concentrate on this and do the best we can this weekend and kind of evaluate and see where we’re at and try to do better next week and so on and so forth.”
HOW WILL YOU ENTER THIS PRACTICE?
“It’s a two-day schedule, so it’s different. All you get is two 50-minute practices today, so I’m gonna assume that most people are going to work on race trim most of the time. We’re no different, but even if it was a normal Friday, Saturday, Sunday schedule, we would probably run some race laps just because I haven’t been in one of these cars for a while. I haven’t been in a Roush car for a long while, so just kind of get acclimated and hopefully get up to speed, probably take a few laps to kind of get comfortable and do all that and hopefully work on qualifying later this afternoon.”
DO YOU ANTICIPATE ANY ADJUSTMENT PERIOD?
“I think most of that comes pretty natural. If you can’t tell where that is anymore, then you’re probably in a fair amount of trouble. I’m sure it’s going to take a little bit of time, but I’m talking minutes and not hours to kind of get readjusted to everything and make sure everything fits. You might have to come in a couple times to adjust a few things, but I think as far as getting up to speed of the track I’m not extremely concerned about having six months off. I remember Kyle Busch had about six months off and he came back pretty strong a few years ago. I’m not extremely concerned about that.”
YOUR PHYSICAL FITNESS HAS CONTINUED DURING THIS PERIOD. IS THAT JUST PART OF YOUR LIFESTYLE OR WAS IT IN CASE A SITUATION LIKE THIS CAME UP?
“I think for me, especially as you get older, you think a little bit more about your health and staying in shape and eating and exercising. I enjoy training. I love running with Katie. I enjoyed doing that half marathon last fall. I enjoy riding my bike. It’s not quite as enjoyable when you’re doing a lot of miles by yourself, but I’ve been trying to get back in shape to the assault on Mt. Mitchell on Monday, so that was the main reason my miles have been up and trying to get ready for that. As far as trying to stay in shape for this, I don’t know that would be any different. I’ve probably been training maybe a little bit more not going to the track every week, so I’ve had a little bit extra time. I really felt like something like this was gonna happen this year and I was probably gonna do some racing this year, but I didn’t know if or when that was gonna pop up. Certainly, you try to stay in physical and mental shape and pay some attention and be ready for it just in case.”
IS IT FAIR TO SAY YOU’RE IN THE BEST SHAPE YOU’VE EVER BEEN IN?
“I don’t know. Definitely the last three or four years I’ve probably been in better physical shape than I’ve ever been in, but if you would have trained like this when you’re in your twenties or thirties you’d be in better shape than you are today, but, yeah, I feel good.”
HAVE YOU WATCHED THE RACES ON TV AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO MAYBE GO OUT ON YOUR OWN TERMS?
“I have not been glued to the TV. Certainly the last few weeks when I knew I was doing this I’ve watched more and read more competition-related stuff than I did earlier in the year. Earlier in the year, not as much but honestly it was pretty busy at our house. The kids go to school all week and we have Saturdays and Sundays off, probably spend more time running around with them and spending time with them more so than watching the TV, but I’ve certainly paid attention and the last few weeks I’ve watched more of it than I did before that.”
WHAT ABOUT GOING OUT ON YOUR OWN TERMS?
“I haven’t even given that a thought, to be honest with you. That part doesn’t really matter to me, I guess.”
WHAT ABOUT THE DIGITIAL DASH AND THINGS INSIDE THE CAR YOU’VE BEEN WORKING ON. IS THAT DIFFERENT?
“I haven’t been on the race track yet, but that’s all stuff you can kind of set up at the shop and I basically went through all of that and got what I thought I was comfortable with and basically where I’ve been before with it all. Everything seems like it’s gonna fit pretty similar. You never know 100 percent for sure until you get on the track and run some laps, but that seems like it’s all pretty close and buttoned up.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ON THE DASH?
“Just whatever information they want and a little bit of information I want. I’ve done it pretty much the same since they came out with it.”