Matt Kenseth and his Joe Gibbs Racing team rolled into Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race on exactly that: a roll.
That all came to a halt for Kenseth on Lap 111, when the engine in his No. 20 Toyota blew. But it’s been a good month for Kenseth, who had won two of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ previous three races, after also winning the spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway and is among the favorites to win this season’s Cup championship. Entering Saturday’s race, JGR teammates Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards had helped JGR win seven of 12 races, starting with Edwards’ victory in May’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Kenseth answered questions from reporters Friday before he qualified for Saturday’s race:
Q. Should a Joe Gibbs Racing team be favored to win the championship?
A. I don’t think you sit here in the middle of August and pick favorites for the Chase. I know we’re only a month away, but when you’re on a roll, it’s fun and you have to enjoy it because they never last forever. You don’t know how long they’re going to last. You just keep working at the same pace and keep trying to get better.
... When you’re on a roll, it’s fun and you have to enjoy it because they never last forever.
Q. How will the Chase be different from this summer’s races?
A. There have been a lot of really unique, really different tracks that we’ve been to the last couple of months. A few different aerodynamic packages. So there’s been some moving targets there. When you get to the Chase, obviously everybody knows what the rules are and what the tracks are coming up.
Q. Is there any reason why JGR didn’t have as much success last season as it’s having now?
A. I think as an organization, last year was a down year. I don’t think there’s any one reason for that. There never really is, although when people start running good or running bad, everybody – especially when they get panicked – always tries to find one thing to either give the credit or blame it on. It’s really a combination of a lot of little things, and we just got ourselves behind and we’re certainly catching up now. It’s kind of the way the sport is. It’s the way it goes.
Q. How much do you enjoy racing at Bristol?
A. I think everybody loves racing here at Bristol. It’s a really unique environment unlike any other one we have. I remember the first time we won a night race and how fired up my guys were. They were almost more fired up than any other win we have ever had and, in a way, that sort of surprised me.
Q. How different is it driving at Bristol?
A. Once I get racing, I don’t feel any different than any other race. You’re trying to do the same things and approach things the same and think about things the same. You don’t really get into that. But certainly pre-race and seeing the crowd and some of the stuff that happens post-race, I think it’s certainly one of the more fun environments to be around.