Matt Kenseth is now a two-time winner of the Daytona 500, having collected his second victory in the Great American Race just three years after capturing the title in 2009. The 39-year-old is one of only five drivers in NASCAR history to win a Sprint Cup Championship, the Raybestos Rookie Award and the Daytona 500.
Kenseth caught up with The Huffington Post to discuss the bizarre race, including his thoughts on the Juan Montoya fireball explosion, Brad Keselowski tweeting episode and whether he thought teammate Greg Biffle passed up the opportunity to overtake his lead coming out of the late caution.
What did you do during the rain delay? Did it change your game plan at all?
Not really. The rain delay, all we really did was sit around and eat too much, and wait for the race to start, so that didn't really change any preparation. The cars were locked down by NASCAR. There wasn't really a lot to do.
When you see such a high profile driver like Jimmie Johnson crash in the second lap, does that affect your outlook on the rest of the race?
It really made me want to stick to our strategy. You know, our strategy was that we had a great qualifying spot; [my teammate] Greg [Biffle] had a great qualifier, and we were going to try and get him pushed to the lead, and try to stay out front and lead some laps, stay in the top few and stay in front of any possible trouble. We really wanted to make sure we didn't get shuffled toward the back and get in the middle of the pack in case there was another accident or some more trouble.
What did you then do during the fire delay caused by the Juan Montoya explosion? How does that affect your mindset, so close the finish?
That was a little bit different because we were in the middle of the race, and there were only 40 laps to go. We had just got done with our last pit stop and were ready to go until the end. That was hard, especially after the first hour, hard to keep your mind on what was coming up next. I mean, that was kind of a tough one, sitting out there in the back stretch; we couldn't really get to our pit boxes or haulers, or get something to eat. Usually what happens is they throw a red flag, and you're kind of allowed to get out of the car; you're allowed to go and do whatever you want as long as you're close to the car, so it was a little different because was getting late. I don't know about everyone else, but I was getting hungry, kind of getting tired. I wanted to get to the end of the race; there was kind of a lot of anticipation about what was going to happen. I really wanted to get the thing restarted.
What did you make of driver Brad Keselowski tweeting during that delay? Have you ever seen that before?
No. I sure haven't. That's the first guy I've ever seen carry a phone in a car during a race. That was entertaining; it seemed like a lot of people got a kick out of that.
Would you ever do that?
Not during a race, and I don't think during a delay either. I don't really know. I enjoy getting away from my cell phone every once in a while and I'm sure not going to bring it with me in a race car when I have to go race for 500 miles. I was more concentrated on our strategy and trying to get to the front and what we were going to do when we got back racing. Probably a little less worried about Twitter at that point.
Take us back to the end of the race after the caution. Did you feel that Greg Biffle passed on the opportunity to overtake your lead?
Well, where I was watching him, I could see he couldn't really get a run on me. Just to pull out a line, you're not going to pass somebody; you have to be moving toward him, and you have to be going faster than a guy in front of you to get up alongside of him. It seemed like we were all going about the same speed, which was a really good thing for me, and a bad thing for him because it was hard to get position. I just don't think he ever could get the run put together to try to make a move.
Were you at all worried about Dale Earnhardt Jr. who was right behind Biffle?
I was a little worried about them two getting together. After Greg and I got to the bottom [of the track], I knew he probably wasn't going to make his move with two [laps] to go, once we took the white. I was real worried about him making a run at me down the back stretch. I looked in the mirror in turn two, and had about a two- or two-and-a-half car length lead, which is too much. I didn't want him attached to my bumper so he could go right around me off of turn four, but I didn't want him more than a car length-and-a-half behind me because someone starts pushing him and it gives him some room to try and get enough momentum to go around me. I just kept watching the distance real close and was hoping he didn't get too far behind me to muster up a big run coming to the finish.
At what point did you realize you had a great shot to win this race?
Honestly, once the race was over Thursday. That's probably when I thought about it the most, when we won the qualifying race. I knew our car was really fast. I knew if we could do the right things and have everything go our way -- have good pit stops, not have anything break, not get in a wreck -- I knew we had a car that had enough speed to challenge.
Are the feelings of winning your second Daytona 500 different than the first?
It's a little bit hard to explain. They're both really exciting and not a lot different as far as how much you enjoy or how much emotion that goes into it. To win two of them is really a great feeling -- having to go win in overtime, having the green light checkered and still be able to pull it off in that last two-lap shootout.
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