Atlanta Motor Speedway Post-Race Press Conference March 7, 2010 An interview with: KURT BUSCH - Winner STEVE ADDINGTON - Crew chief THE MODERATOR: We have the winner, Kurt Busch, of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, his winning crew chief, Steve...
Atlanta Motor Speedway Post-Race Press Conference
March 7, 2010
An interview with:
KURT BUSCH - Winner
STEVE ADDINGTON - Crew chief
THE MODERATOR: We have the winner, Kurt Busch, of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, his winning crew chief, Steve Addington.
Kurt, second straight win at this race. It was a hard day. Share your thoughts with us, please.
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, it was a great battle for us. Our Miller Lite Dodge was set up for being a utility-type car. What I mean by that is it was good on long runs, good in the middle runs and good on the short runs. We weren't excellent in any area, but good overall with the different stints you have to run on tires.
Then sometimes there's cautions and you stay out on old tires. The car reacted well on those. That's what it takes, is a well-rounded car. I felt like this year's battle was much tougher with the competition than last year. But it's just because the tires change a little bit, aerodynamics change a little bit.
But I'll tell one thing that changed, and it changed for the better, is the guy sitting to my right. Steve Addington has taught me how to drive cars different, how to look at them differently. When you want to get up on the wheel for somebody like Steve, good things happen.
I'm happy to bring it home for Steve, this team. Overall win for Dodge early in the year means a lot to us, means a lot to the people up in Detroit.
THE MODERATOR: Steve, they say it's not like the first time. Your first win with both Kurt and Roger Penske Racing.
STEVE ADDINGTON: It feels awesome to get that first win at Atlanta. This is the site of my first Cup win. To come back here and put this together, this was a team effort. It all started on Friday with the feedback from Kurt. You know, he told us, you know, he was like, We got to work on this thing. If we're going to win, we got to work on this. We made a lot of adjustments. We hit on some stuff on Saturday. He was happy with it.
We kind of messed around there. It was just like, Hey, let's go back here, we're not that far off on the second run from Happy Hour, let's adjust from there. That's what we did. And we felt confident going in.
I slept good last night, you know. That was a different feeling that I've had in a long time, to be able to go in and rest because I felt confident that I had the feedback I needed to go out and win this race with Kurt Busch.
THE MODERATOR: Let's take questions.
Q: Steve, after everything that happened with his brother, I know you had unfinished business in this garage, do you feel a little bit vindicated?
STEVE ADDINGTON: I think if I denied that, I would be lying. You know, it feels good. It honestly feels good to be with this race team, with Kurt as the driver, and come back and win before the 18 car got a chance to win. That's a personal deal.
There's nothing against that. I'm still great friends with Kyle and everything. But it's a good feeling. It's a relief in a certain way.
It all comes back to the team. You know, I didn't win this race today. Kurt won this race with these guys on pit road, these guys that put this car together and worked on it through practice. This was a total team effort all weekend long.
Q: Kurt, put pressure on you for next weekend? Trophy in the drags?
KURT BUSCH: Next weekend is going to be about having some fun, but yet putting together a serious effort. Being a car owner, I guess, and understanding all the ins-and-outs of putting together a car to go drag racing with, it's been fun, a challenge.
Today I got to lean on some of the experience I've been through in Roy Hill's drag racing school, to get that forward bite right out of the box. Today on all these restarts, I felt like we had the right grip. We weren't getting a lot of tire slip. That's what it's going to take for me at the Gator Nationals next week, is to have everything go our way.
Just having an off week, enjoying a great sponsor with Miller Lite, the camaraderie with the guys on my drag car, volunteers, I'm excited about next week. Yet what the season can bring us. Working with Steve, working with this team on the Cup side of it, I wouldn't want to be with any group of guys other than this.
With Roger Penske and our group, I saw all cars of Penske in the top 10 at one point today. I know they all didn't finish there. We've definitely turned a good corner. Steve is working real good with Travis and Jay. All the thoughts of how is Steve going to be able to handle a different Busch, feels good to be able to get to Victory Lane right away. I haven't even yelled at him yet, so it feels good.
Q: Kurt, do you feel like you won this race three different times today?
KURT BUSCH: Well, I said that sarcastically on the radio. That's who I am when I'm out in the groove, out in the zone, saying something sarcastic. A lot of times it comes over the wrong way.
In years past, the leader would have took the yellow, won the race, it would have been done. Then it would have gone to a 'green-white-checkered'. Now we've gone to multiple 'green-white-checkered's. You have to adjust to no matter what the circumstances are to win these races, no matter if there's a wing on the back, spoiler on the back, no matter if there's multiple 'green-white-checkereds', old tires, new tires, you name it.
I feel like we won the race outright today. No doubt we did our job on pit road, no doubt we did our job on long runs, and I think we hit the right combination for restarts. That's what I'm most proud of.
Q: Kurt, can you kind of explain the move there on not the final restart but the one that actually put you in the lead when you split. Menard was on the bottom. Were you anticipating that move? What were you expecting to do?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I definitely saw Clint Bowyer was cheating up towards the topside to block that top groove. Menard had to block the low lane with Jamie McMurray on the inside. So it worked out perfect that the two were too busy thinking about what they had to do on two tires, we were on the offense. We had four tires.
The car stuck really good on the restart. We shot that there like a slingshot. I was happy about that move. I was going to look to the high side in one and two, make it three-wide, hold it wide open, see what we got. Luck had it where we just split the middle, held it wide open and we cleared those guys.
It's like at Daytona. We wanted four fresh tires at the end to run to the finish. Not enough guys pitted with us. Today we flat out knew we needed four fresh tires. Steve made the call. That's what it's all about, is hitting it right when you got a good car.
Q: Kurt, you briefly touched on it, but your Penske teammates and yourself ran really well today, had strong cars. How do you see the organization on the Cup level right now? Also, comment on the fact that Dodge and you won't have a car at the Darlington tire test on Tuesday. Is that a problem?
KURT BUSCH: Just on your first portion of the question. It was great to see all the guys running in the top 10. Sam had a little bit different setup than the 2 and the 12. But to see Keselowski run well and find his groove with these Cup cars, he put in our setup about halfway through on Saturday, and to talk with him, to not have him in a Nationwide race, to have him focus strictly on the Cup deal, I was excited about what this weekend to bring for him.
Then Sam has been tripping over some of these ideas that he has in his car that have helped him run successfully.
As a whole, I see us gaining strength, gaining momentum. We now have to get through the short track portion of our season with Martinsville, Bristol and Phoenix coming up. But, hey, we feel like we had a good package. Now we have the real spoiler coming on to the car. We'll have to adjust to that as well. Not going to Darlington, I'm sure they're going to test with spoilers. We don't have a Dodge there representing our brand. That's kind of a tough cookies type of deal.
Darlington has been a struggle for me the last few years. Hopefully Steve will work up some magic. I'll lean on him to help get us through that weekend.
Q: Steve, what was your role there during those last couple of restarts? Were you burning through cigarettes, coaching?
STEVE ADDINGTON: No, that's what I just told him, I said I looked over at our race engineer, Dave Winston, I told him, I used to get so nervous that I'd want to puke there at this situation. I said, Now it's out of our hands. There's nothing we can do. We can't control any of this stuff.
So you just sit there, you take what it is. You got to have confidence in your driver that he'll get it done. I had confidence in the driver to get it done.
Q: Kurt, what was your opinion on the tires? Some people experienced some problems with them. What was your explanation of it?
KURT BUSCH: Just, you know, a quick observation on Friday, on how fast we were going in qualifying trim, I heard that was the quickest lap ever turned by a COT, which was Dale Jr. sitting on the pole. When you have that happen, that means the tires are really grabbing ahold of the racetrack. That means you're going to have speed. And when you have speed on a track that's very abrasive, yeah, you're going to be worried about tires, whether it's blistering of the right front, blistering the right rear. You have to find that right combination.
That's what I was really focused on with Steve and the group, was not to abuse one tire versus another tire. It's real easy to make a car turn. But, hey, is it going to abuse the tire. So we wanted to stay away from that.
Q: Steve, given how last year ended for you, how great is the added sense of satisfaction that you're sitting there right now?
STEVE ADDINGTON: It's awesome. You know, and the thing that really I feel good about was when all that went down, I mean, I'm at a point, let's move on past that. But this guy right here, he's the first one that called, you know. So it's a good feeling to know that the driver wants you to come over here and go to work for him. That's the most satisfying thing, is to get him to Victory Lane.
I hope we do it many more times together here this year. You know, I mean, I think that we can. He's been awesome to work with. Great feedback. The thing that I enjoy about it is, we can sit in that lounge three hours after practice, and he finally looked through all the stuff, go over with us, he'll go, All right, what do you want to do now? It's like we talk about a lot of stuff, and it's good times to have somebody sitting in there.
You know, we don't have to say a lot. We're all looking through the information together, looking at what we did, looking back at runs. It's very satisfying to be working with Kurt right now. I'm looking forward to it. I think that great things can happen with this race team.
Q: Kurt, I don't know if you saw any part of Brad's wreck or a highlight, but he said that Carl should be suspended for retaliation, a wreck like that. Do you have an opinion on that?
KURT BUSCH: The first time that I saw the replay was when I was on the SPEED Channel Victory Lane show. What I saw, you can find my reaction. I was a bit disturbed by what I had seen.
To see a guy that's a hundred laps down take out a guy that's run really well, that was a tough, tough pill to swallow. It reminded me of when Keselowski was racing Edwards hard for the win at Talladega, and Edwards ended on the short end of the stick. That was racing for a win. That wasn't where you were a hundred laps down.
Yeah, I felt like we had great restarts all day long. If I had anybody to challenge me, he was gonna be one of the toughest ones because of all the standing starts he had to do in his career in Formula One. He's good at finding that forward bite, that traction you need on a restart. There's a restart zone. You get into that vicinity and hammer down on the gas. I feel like we didn't have any tire spin at all and that squirted us ahead. If you get into a panic, the guy takes off in front of you, you end up slipping your tires. I think he ended up slipping his tires and didn't get that restart that he wanted.
Q: Steve, this race went 16 extra laps. As a crew chief, is there any way in hell anybody can devise any kind of strategy to cope with that?
STEVE ADDINGTON: No. We tried to keep the balance on our car. We talked about it before we came down pit road there during the caution of whether -- we were good on fuel, you know, for all three of the 'green-white-checkered' restarts if we went to three. So we just wanted to keep the balance on the car. So we put fuel in it with tires. We hadn't had a problem on restarts all day long. We just stuck with what we'd been doing all day long.
Q: Kurt, at the end of it seems like a million miles, at the end of regulation, Montoya had closed the gap significantly on you with two laps to go. Were you holding back a little bit or was that about to get real interesting?
KURT BUSCH: I feel like it was about ready to get interesting. Our car was great on the short runs. But on that run, we had a tire cycle. We had a one-lap green run, then the yellow came out. So now the tires were harder. They weren't quite getting the grip that they needed. We were struggling with getting that right rear planted in the racetrack.
I saw the gap that I had back to him, you know, starting to decrease a little bit. But I was timing it out with the race finish. He could have got to our outside coming to the checkered, but there was no way he was going to get by the Miller Lite Dodge.
Q: Kurt, how do you assess the past three-race stretch? Does this serve as a barometer with the spoiler change coming up? If it does, what does this tell you after three races where you are and what you need to do?
KURT BUSCH: I feel like we've been a ping-pong ball in the points standings so far this year with Daytona, we were 23rd, bumped up to ninth after California, back to 19th after Vegas, and then I don't know where we are right now. I'm assuming we gained some ground.
We need to have some more consistency. But we've had some off-the-wall things happen to us. It's a good gauge of, yeah, we've been competitive three out of the four races so far this year, and the race we weren't as competitive as the others was our best finish. So that's what a championship team does.
We feel right now the right moves are being made, the right pit stops are being created. Who knows what the rest of the season has. But we look at the short track season coming up. We got Bristol, Martinsville, Phoenix is in the mix. For us to win here at Atlanta, it is the last race for a wing on a mile-and-a-half, we've got to put this setup to rest or we'll see how it blends in with the new spoiler and adjust from there.
I think the new spoiler is going to throw a wrench into it and everyone is going to have to adjust once they get past Texas.
Q: Kurt, is there a line between what happened today with Keselowski and 'Have at it, boys'? Steve, you've won with both the Busch boys. Which one do you enjoy more?
KURT BUSCH: He's going right for the throat, isn't he (laughter)?
I feel like what happened out on the racetrack is those two drivers' business. I feel like I have to be in my teammate's corner. When Roger Penske stuff is torn up, I feel bad about it.
It's one of those circumstances that a young driver goes through and that a veteran shows that he's going to stand his ground. I've been on the receiving end. I've been on the giving end. It's really not my place to talk.
STEVE ADDINGTON: To answer your question, like I said earlier, to come back here, this is the place that I won my first race as a Cup crew chief, and it just happened to be his brother. That was very special. That was very big. But to be with a new organization, to have the relationship that I've already built in a short period of time with Kurt and this race team, this one's pretty damn special.
To put it on a measuring stick, I can't, because I feel pretty damn good right now.
Q: Steve, you were good on long runs. Evidently you had a pretty good setup. There were some teams that had trouble with tires today. How were the tires when they came off your car after the long runs?
STEVE ADDINGTON: Everything looked great all day long. We had that one set that we felt was pretty loose. We had a right here -- I told him we had a small blister on the right rear. That run was pretty loose from the beginning. We missed it a little bit on the adjustment.
I don't know. You can look at those things forever and not see why it's a looser set or a freer set. It goes along with your adjustment.
All our stuff looked great. That's one thing that I can see we pay attention to the tire wear on the car, especially when you come to a place like Atlanta and have a big fall-off in the tire wear. We paid attention to that and tried to be easy and put grip in the car with our setup. So it worked out. We didn't have any issues all day long really.
Q: Kurt, I want to clarify. With the Brad situation with Carl, whether NASCAR issues a penalty or not, how can that impact how the rest of the garage reads that in the sense of if there is a penalty issue to Carl, what does that tell the drivers, and if there isn't a penalty issue, what does that tell the drivers?
KURT BUSCH: The best way for me to approach this is to put myself in both drivers' situations. If I was in the situation, you know, it's one thing to sweat somebody and pinch him a little bit up against the wall, take their line away, or to make it hard on them for a few laps, or for a full run if you want to, but to see what had happened, why it happened, I don't know what led up to that.
I can't really speak on which way NASCAR's gonna view it. But the way I view it is, hey, if NASCAR disciplines Edwards for it, that's what they saw in their mind. If they don't, that's what they saw in their mind and that's why they didn't react.
It's not for me to judge how to penalize somebody.
Q: Do you feel it can open things up for drivers to understand how this all works?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I know what answer I think you want. If we drew a line in the sand and 51% of the garage area said he was over the line, then you're gonna have a group that agrees with what had happened. If everybody's on one side and NASCAR decides another, then we'll all scratch our heads and go, What really did happen?
I don't have the booth to review. I don't know what happened the laps leading up to that. It's a call that NASCAR's going to have to make. That's why I'm happy that we're in Victory Lane and we get to celebrate and drink Miller Lite for an extra week because we don't have to go to Bristol for two weeks.
THE MODERATOR: On that note, thank you, gentlemen. Congratulations.