KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) THOUGHTS ON DAYTONA: "It was a great week and I know that I'm not as tired as Ryan Newman is with all the post-race excitement that happens with a Daytona 500 victory, but it was great to have a small...
KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
THOUGHTS ON DAYTONA: "It was a great week and I know that I'm not as tired as Ryan Newman is with all the post-race excitement that happens with a Daytona 500 victory, but it was great to have a small little part in that and to be able to pull together a Penske one-two finish. It's a dream come true. To go work for the guy is the first part of the dream, and then secondly to go and help him win Daytona. It means a lot to me. It means a lot to the team. We're excited for the way that our season started. With the points situation it's great. I thought that my poor guys were out in the rain this morning without a garage stall, but luckily we ended up with one of the last garage stall that they had available just because we don't have any points. It's a little odd to be second in points and not have a garage, but hey, that's the way it goes. That's the sacrifice. I guess I've been a real team player by handing over points to Sam (Hornish, Jr.) and pushing Ryan to victory, but it's a great start. Penske Racing has got a lot of great things going on right now."
HAVE YOU PICKED UP MORE FANS OVER THE LAST FEW WEEKS BY HELPING RYAN NEWMAN AND SAM HORNISH? "It's been overwhelming, having the fans support and people talking about what happened at Daytona and the excitement of how that race ended. To me I was just doing the best thing that I could for me to win the race, and secondly the next best thing happened, my teammate won the race. So yeah, it's been great. The points swap was something that I thought was beneficial to Penske Racing all the way around. It guarantees Sam into these races. We have a guaranteed spot due to the Champion provisional, so if it rains qualifying out today we should be looking good for the Waste Management award for picking up places, because we'll be 43rd again. We'll weather the storm here, literally, and hopefully after the first five races are in the books we'll be back up in the top-10 in points."
WAS THERE ANYTHING THAT KYLE BUSCH COULD HAVE DONE TO HELP TONY STEWART THE WAY THAT YOU HELPED RYAN NEWMAN? "I've been having that question a lot this week as far as if it was your brother or it was Ryan Newman and who would you push, and this opportunity gave me the opportunity to push Ryan Newman. Kyle wasn't in front of me. I wish I was in front of everybody else and they could have pushed me, but the way that the track and everything shook out there at the last few laps -- the outside groove had everybody stacked up together. On the inside lane there was distance between Tony and Kyle, and then whoever was behind Kyle wasn't right up to his rear bumper. That's why those guys just couldn't get hooked up. It wasn't that they were fighting each other on who was going to win; it was just that the momentum was on the outside lane. If we look at the last few Daytona races, back in July (Jamie) McMurray won. He beat my little brother. I was third and that was because the outside lane had the run. If we look at Kevin Harvick, he had the run last year in the Daytona 500, so that's what I think played out for us and pushing Newman to the win is that we were outside."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE OPTIMISM SURROUNDING DODGE AFTER DAYTONA? "Yeah, I mean it's just Daytona, but you work just as hard every off-season to have the best season that you can, whether it's at a restrictor-place race, a short track or the intermediate tracks. For Dodge to win three times last year, yeah that was bit under average from where we wanted to be. Years before I won a race, Kasey Kahne won six -- when you're getting close to double-digit wins that's more what a manufacturer wants. Chevrolet just had a strangle hold on the competition last year. They did really well. Hendrick Motorsports seemed to just click with the new car and so that is what I believe is the new focus with the car, and now we're racing it at places like California, Vegas, Atlanta and so it's going to the bigger race tracks and I hope that the Dodge teams can break through and win some more races this year. We're working just as hard as every other team.
"I've always thought that I've had a piece that'll win races. The manufacturer is there and they support us. They give us great information as far as tire data. Primarily it's up to the teams to do the win tunnel testing and now with the COT the wind tunnel testing is taking a back seat. I switched and Dodge was there. I felt like we were competitive right away no matter if the outlook was the same or the results were different. I thought that we were competitive cars."
HAS THE DAYTONA EXPERIENCE HELPED FORGE A TIGHTER BOND WITHIN THE TEAM? "Since I came to Penske Racing it's been a great relationship that I knew needed to develop over time. I couldn't just come in and say who was at fault for why Ryan Newman and Rusty Wallace didn't get along, but with Roger Penske changing the whole program around when I came in. What I mean by that is that he bought everybody's shares out and now Roger owns 100 percent of Penske Racing's NASCAR program. So, now it's Roger making the calls. It's not Rusty, it's not Don Miller and Roger over here - it's Roger. When I came over I was working with Newman and showed him that he could trust me, and that there is going to be that belief in one another that we need to get our teams that our running 10th and 12th every week up to one and two. It's always tough when the teams are on top. Like at Roush Racing back in 2005, we put five cars in the Chase. That's when everybody is on top of their game and that's when you start holding back information is when you have to beat your own teammate if you want to win. Now that our teams are doing better we're not at that point, but we're sharing information. We're helping Sam get up to speed and the way that our drafting connection has gone over the years at Daytona and Talladega -- Ryan Newman and I are on the same page. It feels great. That relationship really came forward at Daytona. With Roger you know he wants to win Daytona, but he doesn't tell you and beat it into the ground that we have to go and win Daytona, but in the back of my mind on the last lap it was great to push Newman to victory because my shot at winning wasn't quite there and his was."
DO YOU THINK THAT RYAN NEWMAN TRUSTS YOU MORE NOW THAT YOU'VE DONE THAT? "I don't think that the Daytona race is going to be that big changing moment. I think that we've worked on it the last three years together and he's seen the trust that we want to have in one another. I've seen it in him. This is three years worth of work finally paying off is what I think it is."
DO YOU WATCH REPLAYS AFTER A RACE TO SEE HOW THE WHOLE THING UNFOLDED? "Yeah, I try to let the restrictor place race just kind of fade away and then focus on California, Vegas, and so on. But then right before the next restrictor place race -- Talladega -- that week of, and then when we go back to Daytona in July, that week of is when I pull out the last restrictor place race at that track and review it. That's how I get mentally focused and pumped up for the restrictor place races. What can I do different? What went right? What went wrong?"
HAVE YOU SEEN A REPLAY? "I've just seen the quick replays that ESPN has had and all of the news channels across America have had, but it's almost fun to leave that book open right now for me and my mind. To go, 'what could I have done better to win?' because I really want to focus hard on the next restrictor plate race, which would be Talladega in April -- that's when I'll look at the tape."
HAVE YOU NOTICED A NEW LOOSENESS IN ROGER PENSKE OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS? "I was blown away when I saw Roger Penske in denim jeans at a Dodge appearance in Daytona. He didn't have his boat down there, so maybe he didn't have quite the same wardrobe packed in his bag I guess. There is that atmosphere around Penske that things are good at the race shop and everyone is feeling comfortable. Maybe it's gotten to the point that Roger feels so comfortable that he's wearing jeans -- I don't know. It's just great to see him -- his birthday was this week and to be able to celebrate his birthday with a Daytona 500 victory after 30 years of trying the guy is on an all-new high. It's just a pleasure to work for him and to be around him and put that smile on his face. I couldn't be happier."
WHEN YOU CAME TO PENSKE DID YOU SIT DOWN AND TALK TO RYAN NEWMAN ABOUT HOW TO BE TEAMMATES TOGETHER? "I wouldn't say that I just sat down with him, no. I just observed at a distance on who reacted to whom and which way. How did Ryan accept me as a new teammate? I just didn't go in there and say hey this is how we have to do things. It just took time. The first six months were a circumstance of hey how are we going to get along. Then the next six months you're like, hey this guys isn't so bad and everything is going to be fine. Then we helped each other draft at Talladega in the next race and it was like, oh, okay -- he is my teammate. He is going to be there for me. He is going to be my wingman. We really got a vibe off one another. It happened right away, but then it just takes time to develop. It wasn't just a sit-down meeting. It was just continuous efforts on both of our parts to be better teammates."
COMMENT ON THE MOMENTUM GOING INTO THIS WEEK FOR YOU. "I hope that we can carry the Daytona success everywhere we go. Finishing one-two is special and I know the few times at Roush when I finished one-two the team is just on cloud nine. Everybody is pumped up about what happened and the next week leading up to the next race it just seems like you're job goes easier. It didn't matter who finished in front of whom whether it was myself and Kenseth, or Biffle and then me. It's always great when your team finishes one-two because it doesn't happen all that often."
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE TONY STEWART? "I went up to him and shook his hand based on the job that he did at Daytona and told him that he was close. I was pulling for him because he had a strong car. We as drivers like to see who has the best car win races. My little brother definitely had the best car at Daytona and Toyota was really strong. He and I have always raced each other hard and we will always continue to do that. I see Tony as a two-time champion. I think the media does that as well and I think the fans do. I think that I see him in the same way that most people do and that he has a very colorful persona about him and he's very marketable. He has all kinds of sponsor deals going on, he owns his own race track in Eldora, he has his own radio show -- he has a lot of things going on that I choose not to do because I like to focus my racing on race cars, where he is able to do it in many different areas."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE CAR IS GOING TO PERFORM HERE? "I think that this is the first track that the car should he help up against a report card. Daytona is always exciting. The draft is something that keeps the cars equalized and the cars closer together for more exciting racing. This is the first track that I think we can grade this car on. It did well last year on a bigger track like Dover. It did well at Darlington, but now it's really time for this car to shine. The teams have had more than a half-year to prepare and to be ready to go, so it's time now for this car to shine and I hope that it does."
ON RYAN NEWMAN SHOWING APPRECIATION: "I'm so appreciative of what he's said and what he's done in his interviews. I think our relationship is shining through. He knew that he won that race and I give him all the credit in the world for positioning himself in the high groove at the right moment, so that I could push him. I love the fact that I was a small part. He took the car the way that he needed to do to win that race and I'm sure that he's just exhausted the fact that I've helped him this week and I'm very happy that he's given me some of that credit. He's given me all of the credit. He needs to just absorb it more for himself and say you know what -- I won the 500. Years from now it'll be that same scenario, everybody remembers who won the race and nobody remembers who finished second. In this position right now the weekend after people are remembering the nobody that finished second and that was me. I'm just happy that I've had that small part in pushing Penske to win and that he's been very gracious to give me all of these shout outs in his interview is great team camaraderie. To get a phone call from the CEO of Alltel this past week saying thank you. That was nice. It was a very nice surprise and then the next call was 'Hey, where do you want these two free cell phones from Alltel to go?'
"It's just been a great week. When you're on top of the world things are always good. I'm happy that Newman and I have developed the relationship that we have over the past three years."
ARE YOU HAPPY TO GET INTO THE REGULAR SEASON HERE IN CALIFORNIA? "It's always good to finish well at Daytona and to get to talk about it and to run to the bank and cash the check. Now to start the season, I'm excited to be at California Speedway. The regular season now really begins. We've got a long way to go before the Chase gets under way. Now this is what the core of our season is about -- the two-miles, the mile-and-a-half, and the newness of the Car of Tomorrow on these new styles of tracks and what the season has in store for us. Now it's finally time to start to work on it.
-credit: dodge motorsports