Fontana: Kurt Busch - Friday media visit

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) TALK ABOUT YOUR RUN LAST WEEKEND AND THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEKEND'S RACE AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY? b^0x001cIt's good to be back in the media center. My scheduling group said that we have to do top 10 media...

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)

TALK ABOUT YOUR RUN LAST WEEKEND AND THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEKEND'S RACE AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY? b^0x001cIt's good to be back in the media center. My scheduling group said that we have to do top 10 media and I looked at them cross-eyed because it's been quite a few races since we've had the opportunity to be up in the top 10. So it feels good to be where we are in the standings which is a reflection on our good Daytona SpeedWeeks. To be ninth in the Shootout and sixth in our qualifying race and 10th in the (Daytona) 500, I feel like we had a successful SpeedWeeks. The (Miller Lite Dodge) was handling great during that time; the power was there and there's things that we know that we have to work on for Talladega and Daytona in July. Overall, just a good SpeedWeeks for us which leads us to probably the beginning of the regular season... California Speedway...on to Las Vegas...and off to the rest of the race tracks. It's just a matter of all those ideas that we've compiled during the offseason...all the new things that we want to try when we hit the race track today. You have to manage your time well to make sure that you get those R&D questions out of the way (as far as what you would normally do during testing), but keep track of track conditions and get the car dialed in for the Auto Club 500 here on Sunday. It's going to be an interesting day today."

DO YOU FEEL THIS SEASON IS REDEPTION OF SORTS FOR YOU TO BE BACK IN THE TOP 10 AND COMPETE FOR CHAMPIONSHIPS? "This year...just as any year...is important. We have our work cut out for us, but yet it's expected of us at Penske Racing to compete in the top 10 and compete in the upper echelon with the top guys each week. With some of our program being solid...like on the short track and restrictor-plates....we know that we have to work on the mile-and-half style intermediate race tracks. So that's what we have to do to compete week in and week out to give ourselves a chance to make the Chase. Is it a make-or-break season? No. To me, it feels like if we do make the Chase this year, it's two out of four years at Penske. Is that adequate? No. We want to make it every year. So it's just a matter of doing our homework and making sure that we're staying ahead of the game to put ourselves in a position (to win races) which is exactly what we did last week. We had a pretty bruised up race car and still finished 10th. That's what we have to do....turn those bad days into good days."

WHAT WAS YOUR MINDSET LIKE LAST YEAR WHEN YOUR TEAM STRUGGLED? "To me, it's business as usual and that's to get the car out there and compete for a win. I believe that you have to be competitive every week if you're going to be talked to or talked about. We didn't do our job (last year) like we needed to. Does it bother me? No. I've been on top of this sport. I've been in the basement. You learn to draw a line in the sand right in the middle and to appreciate those good days and struggle through those tough days to make them think of what you would do better on those tough days. To me, it's just going out there and doing the job the best that I can and be a good teammate to my teammates. To be a driver that gives the crew chief and the engineer as much information possible to make their jobs easier. It is what it is. We want to go out there and run laps and get our Miller Lite Dodge out front and get the exposure they want to receive out of their sponsorship. It's a good partnership that we have with them. It's long-term. I know that there's always bumps in the road because with this new car, if you're hot, you're going to be hot. That's why Carl Edwards wins nine races. That's why my little brother (Kyle) wins eight. That's why Jimmie Johnson is a three-time champion back-to-back-to-back because this car is creating that environment that if you're hot, you're hot. If you're not, you're not."

WHAT HAS BEEN YOU BEST DRIVING MANEUVER? "That's an interesting question. The race in Darlington with Ricky Craven in 2003 where we produced NASCAR's closest finish is still one of my most memorable drives. To compete for a win and be there at the end throwing it all out on the line...we did everything possible to wreck each other. Both of us felt like we had the gloves off and we'd do anything to win that race. I had no power steering and I did the best that I could just to hang on and not give up that lead. For some reason they made a die-cast collectors piece afterwards. I thought it (margin of victory) was two-thousands of a second, but the car in the package they had him (Craven) a half a car length ahead. I was like, 'No, no, he didn't finish that far ahead.' To me that was one of my most memorable drives. A lot of times...you can ask many of the racers...they win and they don't have many of the details. When you've finished second, you feel like you've let it go and those are the one that stick in your mind the most."

DODGE HAD ANOTHER STRONG SHOWING IN DAYTONA. IS CALIFORNIA AND LAS VEGAS CRITICAL TO SHOW THAT YOU GUYS HAVE CAUGHT UP ON THE INTERMEDIATE TRACKS TO PROVE THAT YOU CAN COMPETE WITH CHEVY AND TOYOTA? "Yeah, that's why I think that the 'real' season starts now. These are the bread-and-butter race tracks that we race on every week. It's tough to say that we've caught up because we haven't had any off-season testing. It's just all the ideas that teams have compiled and now you're hitting the race track for the first time. You can't give us a grade after today or even after Vegas or Atlanta. Maybe after the next three you'll be able to see where you stand and what you need to work on after the first five races or so."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU WON'T KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE (PERFORMACNE WISE) AFTER CALIFORNIA? "The teams will all be searching for answers on their questions from the off-season on what they thought this set-up would do or what this package would provide. Once the race starts, you hope that the 2 Penske car is here and that the 77 car is here and the 12 is there. That way, the three of us gather as much information as you can. That's what the other teams are doing with their four cars or five cars...trying different setups...seeing who's racing the best. It may not be the best result at the end of the day that you want, but you have to do that research and figure out where you want to go for upcoming races."

WHEN AN ON-TRACK MOVE CREATES SO MUCH TALK DURING THE WEEK (LIKE THAT OF THE 83 AND 88) WHAT DOES THAT DO TO A DRIVER'S HEAD AND HOW EASY IT TO IGNORE? "It's always tough. You're in a race car making split-second decisions that impact quite a few people. And when it's a restrictor-plate race, there's always more than one or two that are involved, it's always a big pack. That split-second decision turns into discussion and talk; it's easy to be an armchair quarterback afterwards to see how you could have done it different or if you feel good about it, then you just live with what you did and you feel confident with the move that you made. That's why racing is racing. And that's why it's great to talk about it and create the stories that come from it. I think Brian Vickers whole-heartedly believes that he did the right thing. I think that Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) feels like he did the right thing. Unfortunately, those two opinions collided and caught a few other guys off guard and created some wrecked race cars that people weren't necessarily happy about. It happens. We all know it. If you're around this sport long enough, you're going to have those days when you're on that side of the fence. There's other days where you're like Matt Kenseth where you get to be on David Letterman and say that you had your eyes closed driving through the wreck and you won the race (laughter). That's how this sport works."

THIS WEEKEND AND NEXT WEEKEND ARE SOME 'HOME DATES' FOR YOU, HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE EXTRA PRESSURE? "I really enjoy coming out to the West Coast and race. It feels like home. Things are comfortable...I know my way around...I know my surroundings. It feels like there's always something to do. You're always busy catching up with people, going to dinners, going to appearances. The time flies by pretty fast that it's hard to sit back and take a deep breath. At the same time, that's how it is. When we come back to the West Coast you get to catch-up with all good friends from the past...it makes the time go by easier at the same time it feels like you have extra support out there when you have your close friends at the track."

IN & OUT BURGER? "In & Out Burger, that's usually the first visit that you make that's for sure. I still have these coupons that I found...I still got five-dollar-off coupons from In & Out Burger...those will be used this weekend for sure."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Matt Kenseth , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Ricky Craven , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards
Teams Team Penske