This Week In Ford Racing NASCAR Winston Cup Part 1 of 2 Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus, is the defending champion for this weekend's Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Busch, who won three of the final five races last ...
This Week In Ford Racing
NASCAR Winston Cup
Part 1 of 2
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus, is the defending champion for this weekend's Subway 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Busch, who won three of the final five races last season, spoke about the stretch run, along with crew chief Jimmy Fennig, during the weekly NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference.
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus
DO YOU THINK THERE'S ANOTHER YEAR-END PUSH COMING?
"That would be great. If we can just go to Subway and order that up, hopefully we can put that to work. It's just a matter of having everything going your way and we had a lot of luck at the end of last year to help us obtain those victories. But with Martinsville ahead of us, Atlanta and then Miami - the reconfiguration of the track down there - we do have to go back and look on those notes. With the way we've been running lately, that's all that we can do is just go back to the solid footing we had last year at this point and just go off of those notes, instead of trying to do what we've done this year because it seems like it just hasn't turned out for us."
DO YOU HAVE A PREDICTION ON THE CUBS GAME TONIGHT?
"I think it's gonna rain up there, but if they do have a chance to play tonight, I saw the way the team took the field in Miami a couple days ago and it just looked like they wanted to bring the series back to Wrigley and sew it up in front of the Cubs fans there in Chicago and then start the World Series off in probably, I'm gonna say New York, but it would be great to have the Sox and Cubs in the same series this year."
DO YOU FEEL THIS SEASON HAS BEEN ONE OF GROWTH FOR YOU?
"It's a junior year, you could say, with the freshman year being back in 2001 and then with last year having the questions of, 'Well, is he gonna be able to turn the season around and back up what he started?' So 2002 was a complete success and this year we tried to build off of that. We were able to start out in that fashion, but you could say there are a lot of things that are out of your control that I had to adjust to and now we've been able to absorb that with template changes or with different calls on the race track. So we haven't had as much luck as we had last year. I believe we only had three or four DNFs last year and this year we've had a total of six. Things that are out of our control are adding up to where we are in points right now, so you can say it's been a learning year. Of course, each and every time I take to the track there's a learning curve."
IS IT TOUGHER THIS YEAR THAN YOUR FIRST YEAR?
"I think the freshman year and when you're a rookie everything is overwhelming as far as the pressure put on you from the sponsors or the owner or even your own self, and then having to deal with that with the success. Now there's been some success base built with eight races won over three years and just being able to have the relationship with such great sponsors from Newell Rubbermaid. They sponsor the fall race at Bristol - the Sharpie 500. There are a lot of things that we do and they make it easier for me to go out there and do my job."
HAS THERE BEEN SOMETHING SPECIFICALLY MISSING THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS? "I don't think the team needs improvement. It just seems as if after the Bristol race, or whether it was even if you back up to the first Michigan race if you want to count aerodynamic-type race tracks. I believe what has happened over the past few months is that the Chevys have been able to polish up on what they can build for downforce. Last year you saw seven Fords in the top 10 in points and this year you're only gonna see two Fords in the top 10 in points at the end of the year, so it's been a big swing in the manufacturers as far as which way the rules have gone. So far, Matt Kenseth has just been the model of consistency and I think that's because of the fact we've been a little bit behind on the downforce this year."
IS RYAN NEWMAN THE EXCEPTION TO THAT?
"The Dodges did receive new noses and tails at the beginning of the 2003 season, whereas they had the optimum type of downforce in 2002 with Bill Elliott winning races and Dodge being very competitive."
HOW OPTIMISTIC ARE YOU ABOUT THE 2004 TAURUS AND HAVE YOU TESTED IT YET? "We've taken it to the wind tunnel and we're very optimistic. It's shown results right off the bat with just bolting the car together in stock fashion. It's heads and tails above what our Ford Taurus is now and it's more comparable to what the Chevys and Dodges and Pontiacs are running this year."
DO DRIVERS WHO AREN'T INVOLVED IN SILLY SEASON EVER WORRY ABOUT THAT HAPPENING TO THEM?
"For my situation, I'm signed for many years with Roush Racing, with Newell Rubbermaid and Ford Motor Company and it's no real worry for us at all. There are teams within Roush that don't even really have to have a concern with that because of the great support staff we have in the marketing department that help us obtain the sponsorship. We're able to relate back to the sponsors and get the exposure that they need for them."
DO YOU HAVE ANY EMPATHY FOR THE GUYS INVOLVED?
"I just worry about the contracts and the situations that I'm around and don't really worry about the other drivers. It is difficult at times to keep up with who is in what car some weeks. The 43 car has a different driver - the 1 - and with the way people are swapping around with the 0 car, it's tough to remember who is in what car. You just have to worry about what's on hand and what you have to do at that moment on the race track."
IS POWER STILL AN ISSUE AT ROUSH?
"I believe most of us here at Roush have always done the best that we can, whether it's building bodies or building motors, and drivers on the race track trying to keep up with the cutting edge of setups. It's just a matter of everybody being able to put it all in one ball of wax and having it produce results. Nobody is accusing one another of not producing a different type of work ethic. I think all of us are trying to work as hard as we can and we still need to pick up in all areas."
IS THERE ANY AREA WITHIN THE ENGINE PROGRAM WHERE YOU SEE ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT?
"It's probably just an overall theme of things. Whether you're at a speedway. Whether you're at a track that's a mile-and-a-half or two miles. Or if you're even at a short-track where you need the torque to get out of the corners, but, overall, it just needs to be bumped up a little bit because of the changing of the times. I mean, it seems like a few teams are able to produce horsepower and it seems like there are few teams that are able to get fuel mileage and horsepower."
DID THE JIMMY SPENCER SITUATION SHAKE YOUR CONFIDENCE AT ALL?
"I don't believe so. I think the way that we've been able to run lately, we've been able to show a lot of promise and lead laps and get up front, but we haven't had the luck to finish races. At Dover we had a motor blow and at Kansas we caught on fire and then we missed the setup at Charlotte due to the fact we only had eight laps of Happy Hour just playing around with MSD boxes all the time because we kept shorting them out. So it's just been bad luck, but we did have our finish at Talladega. We were able to come from 23rd to sixth in four laps, so we still have our speed on the race track, we just haven't had the luck."
HOW DID YOU BECOME A CUBS FAN GROWING UP IN LAS VEGAS?
"I always had the chance to catch them on WGN in Las Vegas and just being able to relate back to the Chicago roots. That's where my family is from - they're from the northwest suburbs.
ANY FAVORITE PLAYERS OVER THE YEARS?
"A bunch of favorite players. I really enjoyed watching Ryne Sandberg and actually got a chance to meet him at the All-Star game this year down at Comiskey. And, of course, Andre Dawson in right field and now Sammy Sosa and a bunch of the other players. I was always an infield kind of guy. Shawon Dunston played shortstop and Mark Grace over at first base. That's the era that I grew up with."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO GET IN THE TOP 10 IN POINTS? ARE YOU TO THE POINT OF GAMBLING TO GET THERE?
"When you points race you're not necessarily gambling. You just have to know which one to do. Right now, we've slid back the past couple of weeks with DNF's and things out of our control, and I was actually a little bit out of control on the race track just with our loose condition. It just seemed like from one set of tires to another set of tires we couldn't quite get a grasp on it. So it's just a matter of sitting down and getting back to the roots of our success last year and trying to be able to be consistent at Martinsville and Atlanta. Just go to the last few races with the frame of mind of we've got to stay in the top 10 because it's very important to me and to our team and to our sponsors."
HOW MUCH ARE YOU GUYS AS A GROUP SUPPORTING MATT RIGHT NOW?
"I'd like to say that I'd be his number one wing man if anything were to happen to him on the race track or off the race track. With Kenseth being in this position, we're doing all we can to give him the support and with our troubles, hopefully that doesn't blend over. They've been so consistent week in and week out. We did try to help them a little bit after Talladega and Kansas just trying to keep the morale up over there and let them know that they're the guys to beat. They went out there and still did their job and finished eighth at Charlotte and that's what they needed to do."
IS EVERYONE PUTTING IN EXTRA EFFORT?
"Oh yeah, you can see it all the way from Jack Roush to the guys who help with pit stop practice. There's also a lot of support from both buildings - the 99, the 6, the 16. Of course, Kenseth and I are under the same roof, but it's just a matter of helping them do their job and, yet, we've all got our jobs to do."
AN OUTLOOK FOR MARTINSVILLE THIS WEEKEND?
"It was a good race for us last year. This year it's the Subway 500. We went there and tested two weeks ago because we wanted to stay on top of our game. We won the race there last year and we had good track position at the end. Hopefully, we're able to put ourselves in that position again and utilize some of our test setups."
HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO GET ANY COMPUTER-SIMULATED GAMES FOR THE NEW HOMESTEAD TRACK?
"No, none of that is available to us right now because they haven't been able to make any, but Jimmy Fennig's assumption is that the track is gonna be very similar to the old school Atlanta, where both straightaways were straight and they had long sweeping corners. Atlanta has a little bit of the progressive bank, but it's just due to the fact that the asphalt has settled there, whereas they're building that into the Homestead Miami Speedway. Hopefully we'll be able to go down there and take a look at it and maybe get a visual on it, but the cars we're gonna bring there are gonna be very similar to our Atlanta cars."
WHAT ARE YOUR TRACK LIKES AND DISLIKES?
"The two tracks that I really enjoy and dislike at the same time are the same size - they're the half-miles of Bristol, which I thoroughly enjoy, and then Martinsville, which is a very difficult race track to pass on and to maneuver and to have the setups stay consist. Those are two tracks that are close. They fit under the same umbrella, which is short track, but I do enjoy going to the bigger tracks like the two-miles. We won California and Michigan this year, but Martinsville and Richmond always seem to be a bit of a struggle for us."