Following is a transcript of Kurt Busch's second post-race press conference, which came following his win in Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch, along with car owner Jack Roush, spoke about the victory and other issues...
Following is a transcript of Kurt Busch's second post-race press conference, which came following his win in Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch, along with car owner Jack Roush, spoke about the victory and other issues from the past week.
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/Rubbermaid Taurus
ARE YOU RESIGNED TO BEING THE BAD BOY IN THIS SPORT FOR A WHILE AMONG THE FANS
"It seems like that's the direction it's been taking. With winning races comes an opinion of the fans and whether they like what they see or whether they dislike it. We've been to victory lane eight times in the past two years and that provokes fan's opinion."
HOW CONCERNED WERE YOU WITH YOUR ALTERNATOR AND HOW IS YOUR CONDITION GETTING OUT OF THE CAR WITH EVERYTHING YOU HAD TO TURN OFF
"That was the least of my worries. We've got two battery systems in the car to where we can swap over and have that additional battery. At a short track, a lot of demand is put upon the charging system, therefore, you've got to run all those fans and the cool box. It's like nothing else I had to put up with this week, we just shut it all out and went for it."
WE USUALLY SEE A GUY PRETTY POLITE WITH THE MEDIA AND PRETTY STRAIGHT-FORWARD, SOMETIMES AGGRESSIVE ON THE TRACK, BUT TO BE VERY SPECIFIC ABOUT YOUR PEERS, KEVIN HARVICK WAS ASKED WHY HE THOUGHT THE CROWD WAS BOOING YOU AND HE SAID, "HE'S A COCKY, ARROGANT PUNK." DO YOU THINK THAT'S THE FEELING OF YOUR PEERS AND HOW HAS IT GOTTEN TO THAT POINT WHEN WE IN THE MEDIA DON'T SEEM TO SEE IT THAT BIG?
"I grew up with Kevin Harvick out on the west coast and watched him race. I was maybe two years behind him with his Southwest Tour effort and then with Winston West and he's changed quite a bit as well. If he feels that way, that's fine. You just have to consider the source. I've got great teammates on my side. I talked with a few of the veterans about the situation and, obviously, it's a re-building process so it's just gonna take time."
ON FRIDAY YOU SAID THE SITUATION BETWEEN YOU AND JIMMY HAD BEEN MISCONSTRUED AND THEN IN YOUR PRE-RACE INTERVIEW YOU SAID, "I DON'T RESPECT JIMMY SPENCER, I WOULDN'T DO WHAT I DID TO ANYONE ELSE IN THE FIELD. I'M NOT GONNA BACK DOWN TO HIM." HOW SHOULD WE CONSTRUE THAT? "I'm not supposed to tell you how to do your job. You guys are gonna write what you're gonna want to write, but I was assaulted sitting in a race car after no actions that I believed deemed that necessary. So I was a victim and if you look at the scorecard I've got two wrecked race cars."
EARLY IN THE RACE YOU WERE AROUND THE TOP FIVE BUT NOT THE LEAD. WHAT HAPPENED TO GET YOU UP THERE
"I believe that the way this team works at Bristol is by far better than any other team with the way we plan ahead and we calculate our changes around the track's changing condition. It's real fun to work with Jimmy Fennig here. He's taught me everything that I know about this place and with the way that we had our car set up, it was a little loose in the beginning just like it was in the spring. It got a little bit tight when we over-corrected through the mid part of the race and then at the last stint I said, 'The car is perfect.' We had those yellows, we knew we were staying out, the track came to us just like it did in the spring. That's what makes this place so fun is when you have an ill-handling car you've got to drive the track differently. If you've got a loose car, you drive it one way. If it's tight, you drive it another way. That's what makes this track so much fun and I love to come here everytime."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EMOTIONS AND FEELINGS AFTER EVERYTHING YOU'VE GONE THROUGH THESE LAST FEW DAYS
"It's very satisfying to know that the team was behind me the way they were and there was added pressure with this being the Sharpie 500, but those people really gave me the full-fledged support from one end of the company to the other. It was really satisfying. I just tried to take it one day at a time, whether it got worse or whether it got better, to get into that race car was where I felt most comfortable and I was able to do my job and block out most of it anyhow while I was focusing on what the car needed to handle right."
HOW MUCH EMOTION CAN YOU PUT INTO DRIVING AND HOW HARD CAN YOU PUSH IT UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES. "Just the whole week and the way it progressed, I had to step up on Friday to qualify. We were a decent car. We ran a good practice time and we needed to be in the top 10 if that was gonna help our chances to win tonight. I threw it all on the line. That was all I had within my heart to put out a lap and to twist it as hard as I could. We ended up qualifying fifth and that put us in position to race. From then it was every lap that I had to focus and not slip a tire and make sure that I kept my nose where I needed to. Then, of course, the unfortunate slip with Sterling. He tried to let me go and I was already focusing on turn two on trying to get by him and I accidentally bumped him. That's really a heartfelt situation. I didn't mean to do it by no means and I've got to go get a six-pack of Coor's Light and hang out with Sterling."
WERE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO COMING TO A TRACK LIKE THIS AFTER EVERYTHING THAT HAS HAPPENED
"Yeah, whether it was this track or just the next race, I was looking forward to putting it behind me."
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner - No. 97 Sharpie/Rubbermaid Taurus - YOU'VE GOT A DRIVER IN KURT WHO MAYBE MAKES SOME MISSTEPS, BUT THERE'S A CERTAIN AREA OF HIM THAT DARES TO BE GREAT - HE RISKS MAKING MISTAKES, BUT HE ASPIRES TO DO THINGS THAT MAYBE OTHER PEOPLE DON'T. DO YOU FIND THAT EXCITING? "I see all that. With one year in the Truck Series watching how Kurt adapted to changing race tracks, to new technology, to changing challenges and to people that we put around him that had experience and knew how to meet the challenges that the race track had and how to optimize the hardware for competition on any given day. He did better and has done better than anybody I've ever worked with at taking a whole new set of parameters and putting them in focus to where he can get the most out of his package on that day. I looked at that and said, 'Why stop at the Busch Series? Why not just go in to the Winston Cup Series?' I asked him, 'Kurt, what do you think? It's gonna be hard. Do you want to do it?' He said, 'If you think that I can do it, I want to try.' So we've really cut this whole program of getting ready to go race at this level short in order to take advantage of his youth and to make the best part of his productive career in the series where he wants to be. There have been many bumps in the road that I hadn't expected and that he hasn't expected. I put my head in the window before every race and try to give him some piece of wisdom or make a joke or do something to put him at ease about what's gonna happen. We have not seen the last of the different things he's going to experience that will frustrate him. But with everything that happens he either says, 'Well, we handled that very well' and that becomes a model for what we'll do in the future, or, 'We handled this not well, but we won't let that happen again.' And neither you, nor I, nor Jimmy Fennig, nor his mother and dad could brief him on all the things that he hasn't learned yet, but he has learned a lot. In three years now, and we're not finished with the third year, he's won eight times. So I think the decision he made to come Winston Cup racing early was a good one. The decision I made to offer that to him with a sponsor that was anxious to go with a young driver was a good decision and it's exciting to watch it unfold. I'm real happy with Kurt. I'm glad to have Rubbermaid as a sponsor and I'm glad to have the support of the fans that see Kurt for what he is - a young man that's doing the best he can on every day that he's out there."
WHAT ABOUT MATT KENSETH AND THE STRING OF LUCK HE'S HAVING RIGHT NOW? "Boy, I need to be pounding on this wooden head. In fact, I may pound on this one over here (laughing). Matt is having a great year. We haven't broke a part of consequence. We haven't run over a tire a time that has put us in jeopardy. Robbie Reiser, along with Jimmy Fennig and all the guys are doing a great job, but Robbie Reiser is certainly an example of how to really take advantage of a good car on a good day and put it in its best circumstance, and on a bad day to do the best that he could. Tonight, he had great strategy. Where they were with 50 laps to go or 45 laps to go, he made the decision to come for tires and was able to make a run from the back. It was an exciting thing to see happen today. He got his old tires off. If there was a hole in them, he got rid of them and was able to come back and put Matt and his car in a low-risk situation by having better tires than the cars that were around them. But they've done that all year. The engine guys in Michigan have done a great job putting him in hardware that has not had a problem. Matt and Robbie have enjoyed the support of Kurt and Mark and Jeff Burton and Greg Biffle in the things that have been tested and the information that has come back to help his car. So it's all come together and it's a real Cinderella story this year for that team. There are a number of teams that have not had the year that we would all expect. I'm sure the Gibbs organization and Hendrick and Yates and Childress - all those folks that you expect to have cars that run at the front - have had more broken parts and have had more crashes and more other things that have frustrated their year. We haven't had that with the 17 yet, but I still won't believe if we don't have some bad races coming where we will miss opportunities that were there for us before this year ends. But everytime we dodge another bullet I say, 'Well, that's one more."
KURT BUSCH CONTINUED - I BELIEVE YOU MENTIONED SOMETHING ABOUT DALE EARNHARDT IN VICTORY LANE - ABOUT HE WHO GENERATES THE MOST NOISE AND WINNING IN SOME RESPECT. CAN YOU EXPOUND ON THAT
"Yeah, just the way that the crowd embraces the driver. Obviously, their emotions were turned by what was mentioned all throughout this week. The great thing about this weekend was that we were able to sweep the Bristol races and come in here competitive with everything that was going on this week. There were great fans out at my souvenir trailer this morning with their support. We do a Rubbermaid block party every Saturday-Sunday and just the way that you have to go out there and see the fans and have their feelings and feed off of that. Of course, this place here will let you know because they surround you and the circumference you in a way that they're gonna be pretty direct with what you have to say. The old saying goes, I guess, if they're making noise about you, then they're buying shirts and they're respecting the way that you drive on the race track. Or they don't like you and they're gonna root against you. That's the unique thing about this sport is that you've got one driver that you want to root for, but you root against 42 others. So if one guy likes the likes of a Matt Kenseth, he might like the Roush group but he's not gonna like the other drivers. It's really unique the way the crowd is in NASCAR."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR DRIVING STYLE HERE
"You just stay two corners ahead of you and that may have got me into trouble once this evening, but just trying to forecast where people are gonna be, where lapped cars are gonna go, when somebody is checking up and when you've got to make a pit stop. You have to stay ahead of the game at Bristol to keep yourself out of trouble and looking forward is the easiest thing and keeping things in your peripheral vision is what you have to focus on. What's in front of you and what's beyond you and, of course, the spotter really helps you here as well. Obviously, a good handling car from the crew chief makes for an easier day and Jimmy Fennig gave that to me. I'm not saying it was easy by any means, but I was able to focus on hitting my marks on the race track."
THERE ARE WORSE PLACES TO BE BOOED THAN VICTORY LANE I GUESS, BUT CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PRE-RACE AND HOW HARD THAT MUST HAVE BEEN? IS THAT THE FIRST TIME YOU'VE HAD TO GO THROUGH SOMETHING LIKE THAT
"No, I got a lot of training from my Saturday night race track back in Vegas winning all the time there. They had a unique blend of fans that would come out and see us there. With my little brother and I racing there, and my father, the Busch name out there really wasn't all that well liked. But they are great fans out there."
JACK ROUSH CONTINUED - COULD YOU CLARIFY MIKE HELTON'S COMMENTS TO YOU ABOUT FLATTENING FENDERS BEING AN ACCEPTABLE PRACTICE? IS THAT AT ALL TRACKS? AND I DON'T KNOW WHICH BUSCH RACE MICHAEL WALTRIP WON THAT YOU REFERRED TO EARLIER.
"The conversation that I had with Mike was with regard to - I wasn't aware until I saw Dave Despain's show on it must have been Tuesday night or Wednesday night. I think it was Wednesday night. And they had a recording that I hadn't heard where Kurt and Jimmy talked about that. I called him and told him that had I been aware of that I might not have been as quick to put my ore down and say that there was no basis for holding Kurt to be on probation for the rest of the year. I said I would certainly have to think about that if I was gonna take that position. He said, 'Well, yeah, I might have told you that, but I thought about it after and figured that maybe I should have when we had a conversation about the penalty or about the probation.' But he said, 'The fact is that is a practice that we recognize is done but it's normally not talked about, but we recognize that it is done.' He didn't regard that as something that was really bad, like I had a situation the first time Jeff Gordon was racing for the Winston Million at Darlington. Buddy Parrott was the crew chief and Jeff Gordon rubbed on Jeff Burton and passed him with two laps to go and Buddy Parrott jumped on the radio and said, 'Wreck him. Wreck him." And I had to go to the big red truck for that and that was much more serious. We talked about all the implications of a crew chief telling a driver to wreck another driver and how that would look if somebody got hurt and all the questions we'd have to answer to everybody that was involved concerning the instruction he had received. But he said that he didn't feel that way about this - that there was an understood practice that the drivers had in rubbing on one another from time to time and that there was much conversation that they looked at, that NASCAR looked at as the heat of the moment conversation and not something that was tensional and cold-blooded. It was something that came up and they fussed and they bragged and they complained, but it is a known fact that teams listen to other teams. You could maybe affect somebody's strategy if you made him mad - one crew chief to another - so there are a lot of things going on at many different levels out there. But it was clear to me that he didn't consider that as a huge problem, as a real serious problem. It wasn't the case that either Jimmy indicated or Kurt indicated or Mike and NASCAR felt that it was Kurt's intention to cause a wreck. That was never discussed."
KURT'S COMMENTS IN THE MEDIA CENTER SEEMED TO FUEL THIS CONTROVERSY. DID SOMEONE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION PREPARE THOSE AND IN HINDSIGHT WOULD YOU TAKE A DIFFERENT APPROACH
"I wasn't in the media center and I haven't read the notes for that, so I'm not really well enough informed of what happened. The impressions that I had was that it was a fairly good interview for him. If you guys feel otherwise, I guess that's the stuff of editorials. That's what you do."
JUST TO MAKE SURE. ARE YOU SAYING THAT MIKE HELTON TOLD YOU THAT IN NASCAR'S VIEW THAT INTENTIONALLY FLATTENING ANOTHER DRIVER'S FENDER TO CAUSE AERODYNAMIC DISADVANTAGE IS A FAIRLY COMMON PRACTICE AND IS ACCEPTED BY NASCAR AS OK
Mike indicated - I'm not gonna quote Mike because I didn't write it down and I don't have something to take back, and I'm not gonna let you quote Mike directly and agree to it - but the sense that Mike had was that that was not a huge problem for Kurt or for the team - that that discussion had occurred because discussions like that were common between drivers and crew chiefs on an ongoing basis on the race track. I tried to think about how I learned about Michael Waltrip's indication of that and I'm pretty sure that Dave Despain is the guy that told me about that. I had an off the record conversation with Dave Despain about what really happened. There has been some discussion about where did this business with Jimmy Spencer and Kurt get started. Some people said it was here at Bristol, but it wasn't Bristol. I wanted to make sure Dave understood that because Dave had misrepresented where the problem had started. In Kurt's first year, which was three years ago, at Phoenix, Kurt had had a terrible year. I made a crew chief change that Kurt wasn't happy with. He was in a situation early in the year when he was trying to go as fast as he should and he was wrecking his car. I had to step in and fix it. We made a crew chief change. We tempered some of the technology that was going in the car, so that it would keep Kurt out of harm's way and Kurt was running at Phoenix in the top five. He had the prospect of having his best finish all year and Jimmy Spencer was a lap down. Kurt came up to pass him and passed him clean. He didn't rub on him from what I saw and passed him clean, but Jimmy used him for braking going into turn three and spun him out. Then when Kurt came back and had a chance to win here with a car that was faster and rubbed on him a little to go on and get his position on the race track, Kurt should speak for himself, but he didn't have any bad feelings about it. I certainly didn't feel it was inappropriate given what the first shot was that had gone down with Jimmy at Phoenix. Neither one of us understood that. But, anyway, in the discussion with Dave Despain over what had really happened at Phoenix and how all this thing got started in terms of the bantering that had occurred between the two, he indicated to me that Michael Waltrip had a victory circle celebration in the Busch Grand National Series and made a comment about planting in somebody's fenders and that was one of the things that helped him. I didn't remember that. I didn't know it, but I'm sure it was Dave that told me that."