The 2013 Sprint Cup Series runner-up and 2003 champion discusses his ideal race track, meeting Metallica and a bad movie experience

369 58 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Our series of NASCAR driver interviews continues this week with Matt Kenseth, who enters Sunday's Sprint Cup Series event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the defending race winner.

Q: OK, I've got 12 questions here for you.

A: I'm not good at these. You print all the "ums" and "ahs."

Q: Not all the time. Uh, so when you guys are driving around the track ...

A: You just said it.

Q: Said what?

A: "Uh!" Make sure you put that in there. No double standards!

Q: OK, fair enough. So, uh, when you guys ...

A: (Laughs) This is fun!

Q: Shoot!

A: See? It's hard.

Q: Anyway, when you're on a long green-flag run and not racing around anyone, what are you thinking about?

A: It really depends where you're running, how your car is handling, how many laps are left in the race. It really depends on a lot of things. If the car is handling terribly and you can't catch the people in front of you, you probably spend most of your time thinking about what your car is doing and trying to relay that information to your crew chief. So it really depends on the situation.

MORE: 12 Questions with Joey Logano

Q: When fans come up to you and want to talk about moments from your racing career or a race they've seen you in, which one usually comes up?

A: I think it depends on the fan. And typically, it's probably the most recent race you've had success in. If you're just coming off a win, people want to talk about that. Although if you're just coming off running into the tires at Dover and the car ends up on top of them at the end of pit road (like he did in the 2004 Chase), they'll want to talk about that for about six years.

WATCH: Kenseth crashes into the tires at Dover

Q: If someone paid you $5 million to design any kind of racetrack you wanted with an unlimited budget, what would you build?

A: I would make it high-banked, probably about a mile. Probably similar to Dover, but I'd figure out how get a little better of a second groove somehow. And I'd definitely make it asphalt, not concrete. I'd try to come up with the asphalt formula from about 10 years ago that actually wore out and was more stone and stuff in the aggregate to make the tires fall off.

Q: If you had one day off to do anything in the world you wanted — but you couldn't race — what would you do?

A: Just hang out with my family. Play with my kids. If I had time, I could probably think of something a little more creative than to just hang out with them at home, but I can't think of anything right now. I just really enjoy hanging out with them, especially since the girls have been born.

Q: You guys get to do a lot of cool things because you're NASCAR drivers. What's a cool experience you've had through the sport?

A: There's a lot of them, but probably when I got to meet Metallica about 10 years ago. I've always been a huge Metallica fan and I'd always wanted to meet them. I was like, 'Man, if there's anybody I would want to meet, it'd be them. I'd love to hang out with James Hetfield and all them.' But it's dangerous when you meet people like that, because it's never what you expect.

So it was kind of an interesting experience. It was pretty cool, though. I'd probably have never gotten to do that if I wasn't in NASCAR. I went to a concert and got to meet them, hang out and stuff like that.

Q: Were they nice?

A: Yeah, really nice.

Q: When you have a bad day on the track and you go home, who hears about it? Do you talk to someone like your crew chief or your wife about it, or do you just get over it yourself?

A: By the time I get home, my crew chief is sick of hearing about it. (Laughs) I probably talk to my wife (Katie) more than anybody else. We fly home together and she travels with me a lot. She's my best friend, and she's been around before I even started Cup racing through the whole thing. So I probably talk to her the most.

MORE: 12 Questions with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Q: Which drivers in the garage would you point to as an example for your kids as someone who conducts themselves the right way?

A: Well, the first one that always comes to mind is Mark Martin — even though he's not here all the time anymore. He was kind of my mentor and sort of a role model, I guess. He helped me a lot getting to Cup, he helped me a lot when we got there on the track, off the track, away from the track. He has so much experience in all aspects of the business — the right way and the wrong way to go about things. So I really tried to lean on him a lot. He's the one that never really steered me wrong.

Q: When you guys stand around and tell racing stories, what's one of your favorite ones you either like to tell or have heard?

A: It's funny you say that, because I was out at New Smryna (Fla.) when I was in Daytona to watch (son) Ross race one night, and I ran into some people I used to run short-track stuff against. They started telling stories about when I raced with them that I'd even forgotten about. So there's always some great short-track stories.

One of my most fun short-track races was actually about four or five years ago at Madison (Wisc.). I beat Steve Carlson on the last corner of the last lap of the race and it was a really fun race and he's one of the best. You can never rattle him or get him off his game, he never makes a mistake. So that was pretty fun.

PHOTOS: Matt Kenseth through the years

Autoplay
Show Thumbnails
Show Captions

Q: What's a TV show you're really into right now?

A: I guess The Blacklist. We started watching that this year, and it's been pretty good. I never watched 24 when it was on until the last season, and I love that kind of stuff — the counter-terrorism stuff. So Katie and I started watching 24 from the beginning from Season 1 and we watched all the seasons in a year. So that was probably my favorite show.

Q: What's the last movie you saw, either in the theater or at home, and how was it?

A: I just watched something the other night and I can't remember the name of it. That's terrible.

Q: What was it about?

A: I can't remember. Oh well. Anyway, a couple weeks ago I watched The Counselor because it had a lot of big-name actors in it, and I thought it would be really good. I thought, "Well, this kind of looks like my style. Maybe I'll watch it."

Well, it was awful! And it was embarrassing, because it was pretty graphic when it started off, and I was watching it with my wife and my in-laws. I was all embarrassed. It was actually kind of funny.

Q: If you give the younger version of yourself a piece of advice — something you know now that you didn't know then — what would it be?

A: You know, that's one of those weird things. You could go back and change a million things you did, because you're so much smarter now. But on the other hand, all those things you did wrong are kind of what made you where you are today and who you are today. So that's a tricky question. It's kind of like Back to the Future — you go back and it messes everything up, you know? I don't know. I've done a lot of dumb things in my career and in my life, and I'll probably do a lot more dumb things. Heck, I just spun out in the pits (at Daytona). So you're always learning and trying to get better.

Q: I've been asking each driver to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Joey Logano, and he wanted to know: "You've raced against so many people on short tracks throughout the years. Who is someone you thought had the talent to make it to the big leagues or should have made it but never did?"

A: For sure, Joe Shear. Joe was a really great short-track racer, an excellent fabricator. Just maybe not the most motivated guy in the world, is maybe a way to put it. He was older when I met him. He'd show up and work on the cars at 10 o'clock after having coffee and breakfast and he'd win that night. Anyway, he was extremely, extremely talented. Just a real quiet guy. Really good, hard racer and he had a ton of talent.

Q: And do you have a question for the next interview?

A: (Kenseth asked to wait and see who the next driver will be before coming up with a question.)

Follow Gluck on Twitter @jeff_gluck

369 58 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1c5XUYA