Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus, also held a Q&A session after Friday's practice session and discussed the points race. KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus USUALLY YOU RACE THE RACE TRACK HERE, BUT WILL THAT...
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus, also held a Q&A session after Friday's practice session and discussed the points race.
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus
USUALLY YOU RACE THE RACE TRACK HERE, BUT WILL THAT CHANGE WITH TWO RACES TO GO?
"It's still the fact that this place is Darlington and there's no other place like it. You don't want to get caught up in anything extra, which is looking at where the others are on the track. With the way our day has gone thus far is that we were a top-15 team. We can qualify up front if we need to and it's just a matter of making the right steps for all of our adjustments and what we need to do. We're not worried about where the other three or four competitors are."
MIGHT YOU BE MORE CONSERVATIVE NOW?
"It's just a matter of getting up to speed the proper way. It's been since April or May since we've been here and it's just making sure that each lap is a feel that you want to feel in the race car - knowing what you have to do in qualifying, which is pick up three or four tenths. Then once we jump into race trim tomorrow morning, that's when you get the feel of a long run underneath the race car and what you have to do to make it to where it'll turn and still be able to maneuver around other cars, but, still, it has to stick to the race track for 60 straight laps."
WHAT'S THE PRESSURE LIKE NOW AS THE POINTS LEADER?
"It's been tough over the past few weeks just with our motor failure and then last week going through all the different circumstances with getting that top-10 finish. But this is a race track where we get to race the race track. It's a breath of fresh air to come here and to race this place and to know that we're in charge of our destiny. We're in control and we need to do it. We've got that point advantage, but I think we can add to it this week."
HOW MUCH OF A PSYCHOLOGICAL ADVANTAGE IS IT TO HAVE THE LEAD WITH JUST TWO RACES TO GO?
"It's definitely the place to be. You don't want to be behind looking for the other guy to make a mistake. We're a team that has run well at this track. We tested at Miami last week. It's down to the final two. Mistakes now mean quite a bit and there are no mistakes that need to be made on our part."
JEFF GORDON SAID HE'D RATHER BE OUT FRONT THAN WHERE HE IS.
"That's where you want to be. You want to have the most points, where the other people have to catch you, and he's been in so many more of these situations than I've been in, obviously. I have to revert back to the IROC championship I won last year with the pressure of competing against the 12 best drivers in the world, and, right now, I've got four of the best stock car drivers right behind me."
HOW IMPRESSIVE IS IT TO SEE THAT GORDON HAS WON 6 TIMES HERE?
"It just seems like it was yesterday that he began racing and that was '93. We've gone 12 years since then and he's accumulated magnificent stats and we know we have to compete against guys such as that. Mark Martin has many stats at this race track, but the way that the setups continue to change and the way that things are so different every six months when we come back to these race tracks, it seems like it's a whole new ballgame every time we show up."
ANY CONCERN KNOWING YOU'LL HAVE TO BEAT HIM HERE AND OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS?
"We've had to beat them the last 10 weeks and this place is no different. It's a matter of beating them on an average of five out of the 10 races. We have to do that to everybody. We've got to beat the 8 car five races out of 10. We've got to beat the 24. So far, things have been in our favor. We had that stumble in Atlanta, but these final two just seem like they've got a different persona about them because you can't make anymore mistakes."
DO PAST STATS MAKE A DIFFERENCE AT TRACKS LIKE THIS?
"You just have to adjust for the day. That's what we do as a team. Today is a cloudy, overcast day and the setup is completely different than when we normally run here in September. With that is all the tracks that we go to and you just adjust for that day. Next year, this date will be Texas or Phoenix so this track won't be on the schedule next year. But, right now, to win this championship and to win the Nextel Cup in 2004, we've got to race Darlington this weekend."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN THE LAST SOUTHERN 500?
"It means quite a bit to our team. It's not the focus, but once the race is complete and once time has past, this race will have a different meaning to it. You want to know that it's different going into it, but yet there's such a bigger stake and a bigger prize that we're focused on, but this definitely has a big meaning to it. When Terry (Labonte) won this race last year in September, I think that had more of a definition to it than what we'll see this time around."
WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET THIS WEEKEND?
"This is the Lady in Black and you have to take your time in knowing what you have to do in a qualifying run versus your race runs to practice tomorrow. And then once the race begins it's a 500-mile race and not 400, and that's completely different at Darlington."
HOW DIFFERENT IS THE TRACK WITH COOLER TEMPERATURES?
"It's a fun race track and when you have the cooler temperatures it's that much faster. When you're out here in September, you're usually sliding around quite a bit and it's very difficult to know how far you're gonna slide before you do run into the wall. Today, it's been much calmer."
ARE YOU FEELING A SENSE OF CALM?
"I'm anxious to go and jump in the car and know that I've got to go make a qualifying lap later and practice tomorrow morning. I know it's 10 days until the race is over in Miami. I know that this has been a long trek, but there's still so much work to be done and I want to stay focused on every day."