KURT BUSCH (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T)
HOW DOES THE 500 PLAY OUT IN YOUR HEAD? "There's a ton of variables. I respect Daytona different than other race tracks. I feel my time is around the corner to break through for a win. You can't expect a win to happen; you have to put yourself in position to win. Over the years, to finish second early on, that was a nice surprise. To do it the second time against Jeff Gordon - I had a move I could have made on the back straightaway; I saw the draft filing in to my inside and I had to block my position and finish second. And (Ryan) Newman, pushing him to victory in '08, the thought was to go three wide and try to win it for myself on the back straightaway. And the way that things positioned, it was push him because we would have stalled out next to each other. What's good is that I've been in position to make those thoughts, to be there on the final lap and that's what we have to do again this year, put ourselves in position to win the race. There's so many unknowns - the two car draft, fresh pavement, tires not wearing out, new fueling system; there's a lot of new variable going into this year's race and I like that. I like when there's newness to a situation similar to when the Chase started back in '04. It's up to the guys that are able to adapt to the changing circumstances to win. I don't feel like I've been cheated or been robbed or disappointed that I haven't won here yet at Daytona. I was even leading in an IROC race with a quarter of a lap to go and lost it finishing second to Newman, which is funny. You just have to be there and be in position. This year, I think survival is going to be one of the key elements."
DO YOU BREAKDOWN A PLATE RACE INTO SEGMENTS? "You break it down by whose run well in practice, and then you see who's been practicing well. Over the years, you develop your buddy system. There are guys that haven't won that hang out together. A guy like (Kasey) Kahne, myself, (Juan Pablo) Montoya, it's almost like you have to battle against those guys that have won before with (Jimmie) Johnson, (Jeff) Gordon, (Dale Jr.) Earnhardt. As the race progresses at the old Daytona, you had your tire cycle - who is good on the longer runs. Now we don't have that. Everybody is going to be fast every single lap. You're going to have guys who flat spot their tires on pit road and come back out different in the cycle of either yellow-flag or green-flag stops. Then you break the race down into quarters- first quarter, second quarter, third quarter etc., and the different lap segments that you can make on fuel. In the end, you have to be positioned with two stops to go and be one of the cars that people have respected all day long up front."
WHO DO YOU LIKE WORKING WITH IN THE DRAFT? "Those are the guys that have been running a few years on the circuit. I know that when I first started, there wasn't one guy that chose to stay with me and I got ousted so to speak. It's just an unwritten law that when you're a veteran, you don't really work with the rookies. You go through those hard times; you want to give those hard times back. Guys like me, Kahne, Vickers, Montoya, and Newman - of course, we've worked well. I'll really be counting on (Brad) Keselowski this year. He's a good plate racer. He's smart and we're expecting to team up when we can. You find those guys that you can work with. I'd like to say that I'd work with the Hendrick guys, but I more or less use those guys when I need them because I know they won't work with me in the end when it counts."
YOU HELPED NELSON PIQUET JR. OUT LAST YEAR. DID SOMEONE HELP YOU OUT WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER? "There's always that one key guy that you can look up to for experience and I feel like Mark Martin was my guy being teamed up with him at Roush Racing. I met Nelson Piquet Jr. through my firesuit company in Italy. They said that he's a cool kid, just a little lost in the NASCAR world, go say hi. It was just an instant connection."
WHAT'S IT GOING TO MEAN TO YOU NOW THAT PENSKE ONLY HAS TWO CUP CAR TEAMS? "In a sense, we have the best quality people that we can possibly bring to the race track. We have just two teams - Sam Hornish's group, we've cherry picked them. We found the best key guys to help the 2 car and 22 car get stronger. We're now bringing an extra engineer to the track each week, one that filters information solely off the seven post and wind tunnel and who helps our lead engineer communicate to the crew chief and myself better. There's a stronger debrief session now that we're going to have after the practice sessions."
HOW WAS YOUR VISIT TO SHELL/PENNZOIL HEADQUARTERS LAST WEEK? WE'RE THEY PRETTY EXCITED? "It was neat to see the excitement level from that type of executive group. Here we are with some of the people that are in Europe, in Houston, they know what type of money that they are spending on the NASCAR program as well as what they're receiving on the business-to-business side with Roger Penske, with all of the oil and fuel that he needs for his car dealerships. To get the "101" and get all the tag lines and see all the big promotions start to hit the street now is neat. When I win now, if you have a Shell Gas Saver card from Shell, you save twenty-two cents a gallon on Wednesday at the pump. This is a huge promotion that not just NASCAR fans will see, but any person that goes to a Shell station to fuel up. Who want to save twenty-two cents a gallon? Everybody."
-source: dodge motorsports