Dover II: Kurt Busch - Dodge Saturday interview

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) COMMENT ON BATTING PRACTICE WITH THE PHILLIES "The Phillies were playing the Cubs at home Tuesday night, and I was there as part of the Dover winner's circle program. I got to take batting practice.

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)

COMMENT ON BATTING PRACTICE WITH THE PHILLIES "The Phillies were playing the Cubs at home Tuesday night, and I was there as part of the Dover winner's circle program. I got to take batting practice. It was only the second time I'd done batting practice with a professional team. The first time was with Ned Yost with the Brewers about three years ago. It's the coolest feeling in the world standing at home plate looking at the same thing the other players look at as far as the left field wall, just the way the stadium wraps around you. It's pretty neat. I hit a couple pretty solid, one bounced and hit the wall out in left field. All of my hits went to left field. I'd say maybe 290 in the air. It was right down the left field line. It's the mechanics of moving your weight and swinging the bat properly.

"The pitching coach was throwing them in there pretty good. It had been almost a year since I had been in a batting cage. I knocked the rust off and had a couple bounce off the ground and hit me in the legs. That wasn't good. I played Little League a lot as a kid. I played 10 years of Little League baseball. I didn't go out for the team in high school. The race car showed up about the same time and that's when my fork in the road changed. I don't think I could have made it as a baseball player. I've got a friend who plays AAA with the Toledo Mud Hens and he's twice the player I am."

DO YOU GET TO SPEND MUCH TIME WITH RYAN NEWMAN? "One of the thing that's really helped us bond is the Grand National program. He runs it seven races and I run it seven races. It's the same team. That crew chief gets a good feel for Ryan and me and he's able to blend our setups together quick. It helps Matt Borland and Roy McCauley get everything moving forward quicker. We haven't really hung out together much outside the track. We're right there in each other's trailer all the time talking about things."

HAVE YOU TALKED TO KYLE ABOUT THE CHASE? "We talked two or three hours Saturday night before the Loudon race. It was cool putting that mentor hat on again for him. Recently, let's face it, he's been out running me. It's a great feeling to be able to help him out with some of the approaches to The Chase. I guess I gave him a forecast for what I did to win the 2004 championship and what he needs to do this time around for him. Each race in the beginning has its own identity. You almost look at Loudon as being Daytona. It's the first race of the year. You want things to go smooth, but there's plenty of time to catch up if things do go wrong. Unfortunately he's 10th now and has the catch up role to play. You can't get overexcited about anything, and being young it's easy to do that. He's got his work cut out for him, but he realizes it's his first time in The Chase. He's not expected to win the championship."

HOW WILL YOU APPROACH THE LAST 10 RACES? "We can shoot for 11th and we'll get that by running better and if we try unique setups and they work. That will help us get ahead jumping into '07. Seven different guys are in The Chase this year. Only Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson made it back from last year. Those other seven guys that were in it last year start going to work for next year. That's just an element of racing The Chase has produced. We're doing very bizarre things."

HOW IS EVERYTHING WITH DODGE? "We're looking forward to getting better downforce as we get to the end of the year. We're going to have an easier time with the new nose and new tail next season, but we made insurmountable gains from May to August. The car we took to the first Michigan was the same chassis we took back to the second Michigan, but it had 12 percent more downforce. We've come a long way in a short time."

COMMENT ON DOVER "It's a tough place. A few teams bring their Bristol cars to Dover and go from there. My success from Bristol hasn't quite translated over to Dover. It's got that aerodynamic challenge because of the speeds here. You have a car that jumps down into the corner, a lot of shock travel. This is an interesting place, and we're using a completely different setup this time around in our Miller Lite Dodge."

DO YOU RACE DIFFERENTLY AROUND THE GUYS IN THE CHASE? "I've been in The Chase the past two years knowing I needed to protect my car and take care of other Chase racers as well. That's the way I'll approach this season as well. I won't get in any situation to jeopardize The Chase guys. I've still got to go out and race and try to win. We're still out here racing doing our deal and there's still an objective to go win."

HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO SETTLE DOWN AND ENJOY LIFE? "This has been a good season to take the backseat role. Roger Penske keeps assuring me Rome wasn't built in one season. We continue to try hard. In the end we're going to have fun because we work for The Captain. The door is open. Everybody knows we have to work together to reach the common goal which is to be competitive week in and week out. We're a busy group and we're all trying to get the stuff a little better."

YOU MADE YOUR FIRST CUP START HERE SIX YEARS AGO. DOES IT SEEM LIKE IT'S BEEN SIX YEARS? "It does in many ways and then it doesn't seem like I've been around for six years. To have an opportunity to race at this level is like a dream come true and then to be able to maintain that pace and be competitive... There are so many guys out there who have helped to anchor our sport -- Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin. Mark is competitive in one of his last few years. If I can have that type of run in my career, that'll be another blessing. It seems like six years went by real quick, yet there have been so many growing pains for me. With the experiences I've been through with missing The Chase this year to having a struggling rookie year to finishing third in the points in my second year to winning the deal in 2004. It's very special to be a champion in this sport. There's only a select few who can say they've done that. It's been great so far."

TO WIN THE TITLE AGAIN WOULD YOU HAVE TO DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT THAN YOU DID IN 2004? "We had a perfect 10-race stretch run in 2004, yet we were a competitive team every week. We didn't have a weak spot. I think we can get this Miller Lite Dodge to that point where you're positioning yourself for a good run each week, but you still have to have the luck to go with it. We had a great run through those 10 races. We had a DNF at Atlanta. If we hadn't had that we would have won the thing by about 130 points instead of eight. It was interesting. I really like the format and what it's done for our sport. Tony was a clear-cut favorite to win it last year. This year reminds me a lot of the year I won it. There's no clear-cut favorite. It's going to be whoever gets on a string in these playoff races to see who can win it. That's what happens to win any championship in any sport."

DO YOU SEE A FAVORITE FOR THE 2006 TITLE? "I see the RCR cars being quick on flatter racetracks. I see Jeff Gordon being strong on some of the banked racetracks. He was real good at Chicago earlier this year. He was good at Michigan. It's down to those two, but there's so many players you just hope you don't get X'd off the list after Dover or Talladega. You want to stay in contention and be there after Homestead."

WHY DO THEY CALL DOVER THE MONSTER MILE? "It's a monster because if you slip just a little bit and you get sideways and spin you usually don't have a car afterwards. It's called the Monster Mile because it'll chew you up and spit you out if you do just one little thing wrong. It's a high-speed, high-banked soup bowl just like Bristol. It's Bristol's Big Brother."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Roger Penske , Mark Martin