KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS HEADING INTO ATLANTA THIS WEEKEND AS THE DEFENDING KOBALT TOOLS 500 CHAMPION? "We learned a couple of things when we went there last fall where we hit the wrong setup and that...
KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS HEADING INTO ATLANTA THIS WEEKEND AS THE DEFENDING KOBALT TOOLS 500 CHAMPION?
"We learned a couple of things when we went there last fall where we hit the wrong setup and that meant a little bit of aerodynamic change for us as well as some rear suspension that we know that we don't need to do. So we are going back with the same package that we ran in the spring of last year. Again, there's a tire change and that's one thing that we're going to have to stay on top of (this weekend). There's been a different set of tires there the spring, the fall and back to the spring, so 2009, 2010 there's been different sets of tires for us."
WHAT EFFECT WILL THE NEW SPOILER HAVE ON THE RACECARS?
"That's something that we were anticipating at Penske Racing. We've been in the wind tunnel trying to get ahead of the curve. What it will do to the race cars is create a looser driving race car. The rear end won't stick as good to the race track and maybe it will provide for better racing when cars get into traffic. It will start off small on the half-mile at Martinsville and then go to Phoenix, a mile race track and then make the step up to the mile-and-a-half at Texas. It's a nice progression to get use to it. Why didn't we start the season with it? That's a good question. Hey, whatever they give us to race, we have to find the best way to win."
WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR TWO TEAMMATES TO GET TOGETHER IN AN ON-TRACK CRASH LIKE MONTOYA AND MCMURRAY DID IN VEGAS?
"It's tough to see them run into one another. It's nothing that they did on purpose. It's the fact that you're trying to be a bit more cautious around your teammate and that might have gotten Jamie McMurray a little bit sideways underneath Montoya. Maybe Montoya felt like it was (McMurray) driving over his head little bit. Things happen. Weird circumstances come up. I've been in this sport long enough to where you see "this" and you see "that" and it's tough to be on the receiving end. The main concern for us is having a bad start to our season. We really hoped to come out of the box strong and we find ourselves buried in points."
WITH TWO RACES TO GO UNTIL THE TOP 35 OWNERS POINTS CUT OFF, DO YOU START TO WORRY ABOUT WHERE YOU'RE AT IN POINTS?
"No problem at all for us in the points early on in the year as far as top 35. Even when they reset the points, we've got champions provisional to fall back on. It's just a bummer that you won't be parked up front next to the compadres that we've been running with the last two years. It's always good when you're running with the front guys because you get to park next to them and see what's going on and be in the "in" crowd so to speak."
AT WHAT POINT WILL YOU START RUNNING CREW CHIEF STEVE ADDINGTON'S-BUILT CAR OR ARE ALL THE CARS AT PENSKE THE SAME AND THE CREW CHIEFS MAKE THEIR MINOR TWEEKS?
"The way that the cars are built at Penske Racing, the crew chief does have the recipe for whatever he wishes to bring to the race track or have built back at the garage. The way that Steve's been setting them up, we're branching off our 2009 setups to start with. We threw in a couple odds and ends that he was use to at Vegas and got us a pole position. There are good things and there are things that we have to run through as a team. The next three weeks, you're going to see us on-track testing. We've got a short track (test) in Georgia that we're heading to, Talladega with the spoiler on the cars and Charlotte Motor Speedway for two days. That's really going to get us up to speed much quicker than we would without testing."
WILL YOU BE USING THE SPOILER AT THE GEORGIA TEST?
"I'm sure that we're gearing up for the spoiler. We've got Bristol in the mix where it will have the wing on it as well. The short track, I'm not too concerned about spoiler or wing. I think it's more of a matter when you get to Texas when you have that shear aerodynamic challenge."
ANY IDEA WHY SPEEDING PENALITIES HAS INCREASED THIS YEAR?
"I don't know. For us, it really hasn't changed any. The rule is 45 mph on certain race tracks and the cushion is to go to 50 mph. You're always trying to push that envelope of that extra 4.99 mph because if you find yourself at 50 (mph) there's a red tachometer that comes up on NASCAR's computer screen and you get busted. Nobody's doing 45 mph. Everybody's doing 49.99."
HOW DO YOU PUSH YOURSELF TO MAKE YOURSELF A BETTER DRIVER? HOW HAS THE SUCCESS OF THE 48 TEAM PUSHED YOU TO CHANGE YOUR APPROACH ON WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO BE BETTER?
"The days that we've beaten them, the car has been near perfect. Days like Atlanta last year for us and Texas when we won in the fall, I know what the feel of that car is like and that's what we have to find every weekend because that's the feel that Jimmie Johnson has in his car and that's a race-winning car. The challenge to push myself is to find those setups each and every week. When we sat on the pole in Vegas, there was the indication of a perfect car. That's our job week in and week out and when you beat those guys (48 team), that's something special. The challenge that they present that no other team does is the fact that when it's the final pit stop or when it comes down to the final sequence and you have to have your car even better than perfect, that's when those guys seem to stand above the rest."
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO GET YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR NEW CREW CHIEF TO THE POINT THAT ON THAT LAST PIT STOP YOUR CAR IS PERFECT LIKE THE 48 IS DOING? "I put the responsibility solely on my shoulders and that is giving as good of information as I can to the crew chief to make his job easier so that he's able to make the call as easy as he can and that way we're on the same page. It's getting into depth on what the car feels like; whether that's right rear or right front, track bar adjustment. I think that it's the driver's responsibility ultimately to make the crew chiefs job simple when he's on that pit box because he's in a pressure cooker for when to pit, two tires, four tires...anything that I can do to make his job easier will make for success for both of us."
IS THAT AN AREA WHERE YOU'VE ALWAYS BEEN STRONG AT?
"It started very early in my career. I had my dad as my owner, crew chief and also a competitor on the track. I would explain to him the best that I could just so that it made his job easier and there was that stronger communication line. Steve Addington has told me that I give more detail feedback than my little brother (Kyle) and so that reassures me that I'm giving back the best feedback possible to the crew chief."
WHAT IS YOUR LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE AND EXPECTATION HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND?
"Confidence is up and on a high going into a race that you've won. The tires change and there's a little bit of setup change that we've seen since last year at this time. You hope that things come together just as smoothly as they did the year before. Honestly, you just go in there every week shooting for a top 10 finish and you have to build that consistency over time. We hope that we're able to do that again this time around. A top -10 finish would be great, but we're shooting for a win because we won (at Atlanta) last year."
WITH THE SUCCESS YOUR TEAM HAD AT THE END OF LAST SEASON, IS IT TOUGH FOR A TEAM/DRIVER TO SEE THE OFFSEASON LAYOFF HAPPEN?
"It's just one of those deals. That's how racing goes. We could have not pitted at Daytona and not gotten in that wreck in Vegas and we'd be sitting pretty. It's just the way that things shake out and you have to deal with it in this sport. There's no reason to hang our head low. We haven't done anything terribly wrong. We finished sixth at California which was a nice finish for us. The tough part of it is that the 48 car has won two races and we can't lose sight of what we need to do yet to compete at that level."
DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF AN ANALYTICAL DRIVER OR FEEL DRIVER?
"Over the years I've learned certain things about each race track, certain trends and you go off the seat of your pants. Then there are things in-depth that make your program even stronger. Whether that's scanning other drivers before your qualify or whether it's looking at race tapes on who's won races and how they've done it and find patterns. There's just A through Z that you can go through. The more that you stay engaged and the more that you do it with your own team and crew chief, the better off you're going to be in the long run."
HOW DO HAVE YOU DEVELPOED A STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR OVER THE WALL CREW?
"I've had a good group of guys. We've had the same group over the last three years. We feel like we're a consistent threat on pit road. We feel like we're a solid team. Anytime that we come in for a pit stop, we want to maintain our spot or gain spots. The relationship is there. If the team stumbles or stubs their toe a little bit, you pat them on the back and tell them, 'Guys, we're better than that' and you work through the tough times. If the car isn't going to be perfect on the track, they're not going to be perfect on pit road, but when everything clicks together, you hope that you're going to victory lane."
-source: dodge motorsports