KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Smirnoff Ice Taurus (Points Leader) ON JIMMIE JOHNSON'S STREAK. "It's definitely impressive. It's something that is a feat within itself. He's got eight wins now and compare it to my career wins, 11, it's phenomenal just...
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Smirnoff Ice Taurus (Points Leader)
ON JIMMIE JOHNSON'S STREAK.
"It's definitely impressive. It's something that is a feat within itself. He's got eight wins now and compare it to my career wins, 11, it's phenomenal just to do that in one year. To have this type of feeling of knowing that they're the guys to beat - Hendrick Motorsports as well as the 8 car - they've got to go against the 97, their own teammate, as well as the other competitors in this chase. One key element that I believe has propelled them to this position is that they had the feeling that they were eliminated. They were down so far after the first two or three races, maybe Kansas was the pivotal point for them. That strikes a different type of feeling within a team. I've been in the same position back in 2002. We didn't quite have the season we deserved, so let's just go throw everything we have at the race cars - not worry about a thing. We're either gonna win or we're gonna put it on the trailer early and he's done a phenomenal job to stay focused through this and to have this many wins in a chase with a 10-race playoff and everybody else competing for wins, right now they're on top of their game."
IT WAS A ROCKY RIDE TODAY.
"His (Mark Martin's) day was probably a little quieter than our eventful day. We really missed the setup on the Smirnoff Ice 97 Ford today and to be able to pull out a finish like this makes us smile, and it makes us feel stronger as a team to be able to go through that adversity. For the first nine races we've hit the setup, we've raced hard and we've felt good about our finishes, obviously except for Atlanta when we had a motor failure. But to be in this position at the end of the race today was a true tribute to my crew on passing as many cars as we did on pit road with a 12.4-second stop when it counted. And to have that first box, that was something the team decided to choose. It's tough. They've got to move all that equipment down there, but they were able to relish in the victory on pit road this evening and that's what kept us in position to finish sixth today."
WHAT DO YOU TELL YOU TEAM NOW?
"We'll go into the shop on Monday and pump everybody up. It's as if they're on the sidelines and the offense is taking a break and I'm the quarterback running through the bench area congratulating everybody on opening up the right holes and giving us an opportunity to try to win a race, even though we were down. Just on the setup side of things, it just seemed like we were trying to run a car that would gain forward bite and anything that we changed on the car would take that away, so we're a bit miffed. When we have an opportunity to race here again, we'll focus a bit tougher on it when we come back in April or May. But for us to survive today and to know that we've had a day that was down and we came back for a small victory, they definitely know that things are on our side and that we've got the ability to compete at this level. No matter what the outcome is, we've done the best possible job. Everybody can smile about it and we now have a clean slate going into the final race. We do have a slight advantage, but we need to finish in front of the 48, the 24, the 8, the 6 - everybody is running competitively and this is what the Nextel Chase for the Cup was intended to do. We have to go and win now."
DOES THIS REMIND YOU OF MATT LAST YEAR - PULLING GOOD FINISHES OUT OF BAD DAYS?
"That's what it takes for any team to win a championship is to prosper from a horrible day - one bad pit stop or circumstance on the race track. For us, if we wouldn't have had that motor failure at Atlanta, we could be breathing a bit easier, but knowing that we still have to compete and put our best foot forward, to have finishes such as this we feel as if we dodged a bullet today. Phoenix, we had a very fast race car, but we were never to obtain track position. The other races before that, we had top five cars. We led laps, led the most laps at two events and we've done our job. But the 48 has been outstanding. I don't know what the word is, but they knew they were down and out and they had to pull something from within to be in this position. I believe now we can go out and stop that momentum next week."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE A TEAM OF DESTINY?
"We've had a few things come our way that we really could have done without and to be able to race hard and worry about what's in our possession and what have to do is our focus. It's definitely a privilege to be in this position and to try to earn this position is one thing, to have things given to you is another. You have to add it all together. To be able to meet the opportunity and be prepared for it is the definition of luck and, so far, we've been able to do the best job out of anybody in this Nextel Chase for the Cup. We have one more week to accumulate points to our tally and, hopefully, it's higher than the other two or three competitors that are behind us."
WHAT DOES AN 18-POINT LEAD MEAN TO YOU?
"With that type of advantage, we've somewhat lost it over the past few weeks. We know we need to put a stop to that going into the final race. We need to go out and attack the race track, to lead laps and to make sure that we do our job at the end of the race. Miami is gonna be a much easier race track to race other competitors on. Darlington, it's the race track itself. I believe it's a clean slate. It's a fresh style of race track - not many laps have been run there. For us, we went down and tested two weeks ago as well as the 48 and the 24. I'm sure everybody had an opportunity to go make laps around that race track. It's gonna be a matter of who brings the most information from that test and who is able to execute the proper way to come out on top."
WERE YOU AWARE OF THE POINTS SITUATION TODAY AND WILL YOU WANT TO KNOW NEXT WEEK?
"Definitely not. It was an opportunity today to focus on the race track and my job. No matter where we were on the race track with 30th place - having to come in and tighten up lugs because we left them loose - giving up that track position once again - it's something to where you know you've got 500 miles, you're racing at Darlington and you can never step out of the box here because you'll be put behind the wall pretty quick if you think you can make up time or chance an aggressive pass or a miscalculated type pass."
HAVE YOU BEEN NERVOUS AT ALL THESE LAST NINE RACES?
"We knew going in how ferocious this style of points configuration that NASCAR led us to was going to be. It's been one race after the next not knowing when you can break away and take advantage of somebody's misfortune or when you can put together an effort such as Mark's tonight and run well all night long and not win the race and have everybody finish in the top five or six. That's what this format is intended to do. It's intended to bring out the best emotions in everybody as well as the worst and strangle a team in different directions to find out who is the weak link and who is gonna be able to pull through. It's just a matter of all the different circumstances that have come up, we've been able to smile at the end of each day knowing that we're in a great position and the 97 has never been a team that's been in contention for championships before. To be able to lead the standings as long as we have and put forth the efforts that we have, it's nerve-wracking to know that we're right on the verge of doing something unbelievable and something that is cutting edge in the world of motorsports, but yet there is so much work to be done this week as well as Sunday. But I do know that there are only about six days that are left in this Nextel Chase for the Cup and it's been a long trek just to go through these 10 weeks. I think we've seen NFL football start before we got into our playoffs. College football is almost over. Major League Baseball had their playoffs while we had ours. They've been done for three or four weeks now. This is a long stretch to put together as a team and the focus and to have everybody's drive stay consistent and to know that we're still in position and to know that we've got an advantage going into the final race, it is our drive and it is the inspiration that we need to do the best job that we can next week."