MATT KENSETH, NO. 42 CREDIT ONE BANK CAMARO ZL1 1LE, spoke with media via teleconference to discuss his anticipation to returning back to racing, how he has been able to prepare for his first race back, the challenges that come with racing at Darlington Raceway, and more. Transcript:
WHAT IS YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE SETUP OF THE CAR WHEN YOU GET THERE? YOU HAVEN’T BEEN IN A CAR SINCE THE END OF 2018. HAVE YOU GUYS DISCUSSED WHAT SETUP YOU GUYS ARE GOING TO USE?
“Chad (Johnston) assures me it’s going to be perfect (laughs). I mean, yes and no. I leave that job to him, the engineers and everyone here at CGR. They’ve ran really well at Darlington in the last two years, so I’m thinking they’re probably not going to veer too far off of that. I think you’ll run those first thirty laps and you’ll get kind of the extended caution there to be able to make some small adjustments and go from there. So, I don’t think it’s really different from what they ran there last year or maybe even the year before.”
JUST CURIOUS, HOW MUCH TIME HAVE YOU SPENT IN THE SIMULATOR TO PREPARE FOR THIS WEEKEND?
“About fifteen minutes or so. There are a lot of good things about it, but it’s still not exactly the racecar. I’ve been doing as much as I can, as far as being prepared, looking at data and reading notes. Going to the simulator was one of those boxes that I wanted to check. So, I did go over there to drive it and make a few runs at Darlington to just kind of drive it, feel comfortable and all that stuff. I didn’t really spend an extended period of time there because, in my mind, it’s still not like driving the racecar. There are a lot of things that are very similar, but a lot of things that are different as well. I did spend a little bit of time there, but not a lot.”
WHEN YOU ROLL OFF AT DARLINGTON AND THINK ABOUT THE FEEL AT THE START OF THE RACE, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? HOW DO YOU THINK IT WILL LOOK? IT COULD BE A LITTLE BIT CRAZY OR MAYBE NOT. HOW DO YOU INVISION THIS ALL HAPPENING?
“Well, I don’t know, we’ll have to see where everyone starts. Nobody has been in a car in a while; certainly, it’s been longer for me. I think the biggest difference for me, also, is that I haven’t driven these racecars or for this team. So, there are a few more unknowns. I’m not sure how exactly everything is going to feel and all that kind of stuff. There is certainly a little bit of anxiety for those first few corners to kind of get rolling and get used to things. At the same time, everybody is going to be ready to pounce. Restarts are very important, track position is very important and you always want to get what you can get when you can get it. So, I don’t expect people to be taking it real easy or maybe giving you a bunch of extra room or anything like that. You certainly don’t expect any kind of special treatment. You know everyone is going to be out there ready to pounce on whatever spot they can, so you just have to be smart. Especially for me, just be smart and get through those first bunch of laps to get in a rhythm, get a little bit of room to move around, breath, get kind of acclimated, and go from there.”
DRIVERS ARE BEING TOLD TO STAY IN THEIR MOTORHOMES. SO, I WAS CURIOUS, DO YOU HAVE A MOTORHOME OR WILL YOU HAVE TO DRIVE DOWN AND STAY IN YOUR CAR?
“I was just planning on driving my car down for the first bunch of weeks, but I heard that as well. I know they are trying to keep everybody kind of by themselves as much as they can and away from a bunch of other people. I still own my motorhome. I was hoping to sell it, but didn’t, so thankfully I still have it and I’ll have that there to have somewhere to hangout for a while.”
KURT BUSCH WAS JUST ON THE LINE AND SAID THAT HE HAS PLANS TO HEAD TO THE RACE SHOP AND TALK TO HIS CREW CHIEF. I’M CURIOUS IF YOU HAVE ALREADY BEEN TO THE SHOP IN PERSON OR HAVE PLANS TO DO THAT BEFORE HEADING TO DARLINGTON?
“I haven’t met with Tony (Raines), my spotter, yet. I met with Chad (Johnston) a bunch of times. I’m actually at the shop right now and was just meeting with him and Chip (Ganassi) when I ran upstairs here to make this call. So, yeah, I’ve been over here a fair amount. Like I touched on before, it’s different with the shifts and there aren’t a lot of people here at the same time. I was actually just going through all the final details for the car for Sunday, just making sure everything was good and going through all that stuff to get ready.”
YOU STARTED RACING AT DARLINGTON IN 1997. AT WHAT POINT IN YOUR CAREER DID YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH DARLINGTON AND ALL THE CHALLENGES IT PRESENTS AS A DRIVER? HOW DIFFERENTLY DOES THIS TRACK RACE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SPRING COMPARED TO LATE IN THE EVENING AT THE END OF SUMMER?
“Things change rapidly. I think Darlington and, when Rockingham was still on the schedule, those tracks down there in that part of the state with all the sand and the environment seem to change more than most tracks that we go to from year to year. Darlington has obviously changed a lot during the years. There has been a re-pave in between there and certainly keeps getting bumpier and all that kind of stuff. But I think the cars, setups, rules and all that stuff seem to change probably faster than a lot of the tracks change. So, it’s a little different every time you go down. I don’t know that I have a good comparison for a day race in May compared to a summer race in September. It sounds like it’s going to be the first hot day of year on Sunday. It sounds like it’s going to get up to 90 degrees the last time I looked and that’s about the same that it usually is when we’re down there Labor Day weekend. I don’t really anticipate it being that much different at the start of the race, but it’ll certainly still be light by the end of the race. So, I think the end of the race will be different than the second one. I think it changes a little more at night. I think it picks up speed and changes balance just a little bit.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO BE ABLE TO SHOWCASE YOUR SKILLS GOING FORWARD AND MAYBE SETTING UP A FUTURE FOR RACING BEYOND THIS YEAR?
“Right now, I’m not really looking too far beyond Sunday, to be totally honest with you. Certainly, the learning curve is going to be steep. I know being out of the car that long, starting with a different team and piling on top of not being able to practice for the foreseeable future, or testing and anything like that, is going to be very challenging. But, I’m really excited. I have to admit, I’m just as excited as I’ve been to go racing in many, many years. So, I’m really looking forward to getting to the track. I really like this group of guys, the cars look nice, the Camaro looks like they’re really fast, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity, I just know that it’s going to be a big challenge. I’m going to have to work hard and do my best to try and take advantage of the opportunity.”