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RICHMOND -- Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, clinched a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup last weekend in Atlanta with an 11th-place finish. A year ago, however, it was a different story as he entered the 26th race at Richmond on the bubble. He spoke about the anxiety a driver feels in that situation and how he hopes this year’s Richmond race will have better results.
Q. WHAT’S THE ANXIETY LIKE WHEN YOU’RE ON THE CHASE BUBBLE? DO YOU CARRY IT AROUND WITH YOU ALL THE TIME?
A. Yes and no. It does come down to Richmond. Like for us last year, we were in it going into Richmond and got bumped out there. But while some people think I’m pessimistic, I think I’m a realist and last year I could see it coming for three months. You kept trying to hang on and get as many points as you could every week and run the best you could, but you can usually tell, you can feel if you’re gonna be good enough to get in on performance or not, and this year has been very marginal the last couple of months on performance. But we’ve been making improvements the last four or five weeks and we’ve been feeling better about it each and every week. We’ve still got a ways to go, but we’ve been getting a little better.
Q. DO YOU WAKE UP WORRYING ABOUT IT LIKE THE SITUATION YOU WERE IN LAST YEAR, OR DO YOU JUST THINK ABOUT IT IN THE CAR?
A. I don’t worry about it in the car and I don’t wake up worrying about it either. You spend your week trying to figure out how you’re gonna run the best you can no matter where you’re at in the points and no matter where you’ve been running every week. You work as hard as you can all the time to try and put together a competitive effort with the goal of trying to win races and championships.
Q. HOW EXCITING IS THE RICHMOND RACE?
A. It’s always exciting. I think Richmond is one of the best races on the schedule. Before the Chase happened, the races were all full and every race was really exciting and it’s really no different. The Chase is kind of an added bonus to the end of the year to kind of level everybody up and get some guys who are on the outside looking in a chance to maybe get in there and race for a championship if they can put everything together the last 10 weeks, but every race is really exciting. There are 43 guys out there every week trying to win the race and racing as hard as they can and that never changes no matter where you are in the points.
Q. WHAT DO YOU NEED TO RUN WELL AT RICHMOND?
A. We haven’t done very well since the introduction of this car at Richmond. We ran pretty good there before this car, but lately, as the track has been wearing out, it seems like the biggest issue is getting off the corner straight and not spinning the rear tires. You’re always working on rear grip without killing the front end in the middle.