Matt Kenseth put paid to some of the detractors who claimed that he was unable to win races in NASCAR's senior class by taking victory after a 37-race dry spell in Sunday's Subway 400 at Rockingham.
The success elevated the reigning champion to second in points behind Daytona winner Dale Earnhardt Jr, and handed team owner Jack Roush his eleventh win in the last twelve Ford successes.
Matt, when did you realise that you were going to have to react [under pressure from Kasey Kahne] coming off turn four?
Before the middle of the corner you're already wide open anyway. I got a little loose up off of four. I knew he was a little bit lower, but I didn't really pay that much attention. I figured as long as I can get into three in front of him, there's no way he was gonna beat me off four down the straightaway. So I was surprised he had that big of a run. I was probably halfway from turn four to the finish line before I looked down and saw his nose was up by the door. I was like 'man, he's gaining momentum on me'.
So I probably did the wrong thing, I turned right. The line is a little bit of an angle, but I actually turned right to get away from his car so he couldn't pull the air off my door and fill my wheel wells there and slow me down, so I tried to get away from him as much as I could and just hold it wide open. I was surprised because I didn't expect that. I expected him to make a last-ditch effort, but I didn't expect it to be there. I didn't expect him to get that good of a run, so it was kind of a surprise and I was glad we made it back there.
Did you have a view of [team-mate] Mark [Martin]'s restart?
I didn't see any of it, so I can't really comment on it too much. I will say that all day we were getting really good restarts. Every time we got a restart when we were in the lead, I cleared the lap-down car every single time getting into turn one. By the end of the backstretch I had a ten or 15-car length lead and the lapped car was in between me and the second-place car every single time. So I don't think it was something different.
I know Mark pretty well and even if it's me, he isn't gonna do something that's gonna hurt his reputation. You know how he drives. I don't really think he did [block], but I didn't see it, so I don't really know. There was one restart where Robby Gordon was in between me and the second-place guy for 35 laps. They're doing what they can to
stay the first car a lap down and get that lucky dog thing, so I'm sure he was trying to stay in that position. But the short answer is, no, I didn't see it.
Did you have a sense of security today?
That's exactly what happened with not making adjustments. We were so good in the middle of the race that I didn't want to do something to the car that would be hard to reverse - like pulling a spring rubber or going too far on something and getting behind. We were so good in the middle of the race. There wasn't anybody that I felt like that could run with us the first 300 laps. I should have adjusted on it more. The car was giving me every sign that I needed to get better traction up off the corner and I just couldn't figure out how to do that without hurting the middle of the corner. I thought we were gonna be okay for a short run, but we weren't. We were too loose and I almost gave that race away because we didn't adjust on the car the way we should have. It would have been really hard for me to face me crew that had those perfect pit-stops and kept me up front all day if I would have lost that thing in the last hundred yards.
Is it a relief to win again?
Yeah, it feels great to come here and be able to win right out of the box and lead all those laps. That didn't look like us. Usually we don't lead all those laps. Even if we win, we usually sneak up kind of at the end and we had such a strong car, so it feels good to do that because, obviously, some people wrote or some people have said that we can't lead laps and win races, and we just finish seventh every week. So it was great to go dominate the race the way we did.