This Week In Ford Racing NASCAR Winston Cup Part 2 of 2 KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus HAS THE ATTENTION BEING PAID TO MATT HURT YOUR PERFORMANCE? "It's nothing we're necessarily worried about. With Kenseth and as successful as ...
This Week In Ford Racing
NASCAR Winston Cup
Part 2 of 2
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus
HAS THE ATTENTION BEING PAID TO MATT HURT YOUR PERFORMANCE?
"It's nothing we're necessarily worried about. With Kenseth and as successful as he's been, it really helps our team focus on what we need to do to be more like them. With our season we've had a lot of ups-and-downs with luck and being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Flat tires have been the big thing for us this year, whereas last year we were able to roll and get the good finishes that we needed. It's nothing we're really worried about. We've got a few races to go now to seal the deal now and to be in the top 10."
DID YOUR LATE RUN LAST YEAR DELAY GETTING UP TO SPEED THIS YEAR?
"I have to disagree with that. We were able to finish off strong three out of the last five last year and then we started off this year with three second-place finishes, a win at Bristol and then a win in early May at the California Speedway. We were able to carry the momentum over and it seems like we got a little bit behind with the Chevys being able to manipulate their cars a bit better and to have that new car to achieve more downforce."
HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED SINCE THE SPENCER INCIDENT?
"It just seems like it came out to forefront of the fans choosing which way to accept. They really don't accept a winner and that's what we have to deal with - with eight wins in the last two years and just going to the race track each and every week to do our job. Now they come out and they like to throw me into that category, but it also rhymes with the last name of Busch."
HAVE YOU EXPERIMENTED WITH A SMALLER CARBUERATOR?
"Yeah, we've been able to do some work with it and, of course, with a smaller carburetor you restrict a little bit of your horsepower so it's somewhat not an option for us. We've tried it at short tracks and speedways alike and, right now, we're probably just a little behind on technology as far as the way that the 12 car has been able to produce both and we're working on that as diligently as we can."
HAVE YOU NOTICED ANY DIFFERENCE IN FUEL MILEAGE?
"We've always been one to excel with fuel mileage over at Roush Racing with the way we jet our carburetors and structure the engine program around it, so we haven't been bitten by the fuel mileage bug at all. We just haven't been in position to take advantage of it. We were in a position at Daytona, but we ended up with a flat tire and that created the yellow for Greg Biffle to go all the way, so it helped out in one way. We were able to take advantage of it at Pocono later in the year and it just seems like at Kansas and Chicago and all these places where you can take advantage of it, we had a blown motor in the garage."
WHAT WILL THE RACE AT HOMESTEAD MEAN TO YOU?
"It'll be the finish to the 2003 season and it will be the return to where we were able to finish off a strong 2002 season. Everybody enjoys going to south Florida in the middle of November and, of course, we're gonna have that extra few days down there to do some testing. I believe they're gonna move Winston Cup in there on Wednesday to try to get a feel for the track and to see how much of the oil is coming up through the asphalt, but, hopefully, it will take a cure and it'll put on a great race."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CURRENT POINT STRUCTURE? THERE HAS BEEN TALK OF ALTERING IT.
"I've heard that rumor as of late and since that's the main topic, we've done some research at Roush Racing to look back over the years and to see if maybe you did change it around to see if you could benefit the winners a bit more and not penalize the guys that have DNFs. I think over the past 20 years you would have only had two champions change if they were to even try to influence a different type of structure for the points system. So it's not really that different. Whether they change it to give the winner an additional 10 points or 50 points and to not give points past 36th position, those are a couple of things that I might agree with, but it really wouldn't even have that much influence on the overall point system."
DOES THE FACT YOU CAME FROM SO FAR BACK TO WIN AT MARTINSVILLE LAST YEAR CHANGE THE THINKING ABOUT TRACK POSITION THERE?
"It does in a way and it doesn't in another. You have to be able to be fast and to pass cars at Martinsville and then if you do achieve track position based on a pit stop or a lucky caution here or there, you have to be able to maintain that. So one influences the other and that's what attributes to having a victory. You have to be able to take advantage of being in position, so it's a matter of your opportunity meeting your preparation."
JIMMY FENNIG, Crew Chief - No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus
IS IT GOOD TO BE THE DEFENDING CHAMPION OF A RACE?
"Defending a championship is hard for every race you go to. Everybody expects you to win and Martinsville is a tough place to win."
HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR PIT CREW AGAINST THE OTHERS?
"Our pit crew on good days I wouldn't replace them for anybody, but I would say our pit crew is an average pit crew. Like I say, we have our good days and we have our bad days."
ARE YOU LOOKING AT CHANGING ANY POSITIONS?
"We're looking at changing a few positions at the end of the year. Right now we're pretty content with what we have, but I see we need to get better and we've got to wait until the end of the year when more people are available. Plus, we have like a training camp here for pit crew guys that are working into our system."
WHAT RANGE DO YOU FALL IN ON PIT STOPS?
"I would say our crew is like a 14-second average stop, but nowadays you have to be like a 13.5 to have a top-notch pit stop every stop."
COULD YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOU LOOK AT THINGS GOING INTO THAT LAST FUEL WINDOW AT MARTINSVILLE?
"Right now the cars are pretty equal and the teams are equal. Track position is so important no matter where you go. It's hard to pass at Martinsville versus some other tracks, but you still need to be out front with 50-75 laps to go. Your odds of winning out front are a lot better than they are back in the middle of the pack trying to come through it."
HOW MUCH DOES PIT STRATEGY CHANGE IF YOU'RE IN THE TOP SIX WITH LIKE 80 LAPS TO GO?
"It depends how many cars are on the lead lap. You've got to look at that, too. With 80 laps to go if I was sixth and there were 14 cars on the lead lap, I don't think I would pit. Now if I was 16th and one of the last five cars on the lead lap, sure I'd pit. But, otherwise, to come back up through the field is pretty hard to do nowadays."
HAS PIT STRATEGY EVOLVED AT MARTINSVILLE MORE NOW THAN IN THE PAST?
"Yeah it has because the competition level is so great nowadays in our sport. There are so many great race car teams out there and drivers out there that it's so hard. You've got to more or less snooker them some way."
HAVE YOU OBSERVED ANY CHANGE IN KURT SINCE THE SPENCER INCIDENT AND HOW HAS HE HANDLED THE FAN REACTION?
"Kurt is doing an awesome job with that. There is no change at all in Kurt. His drive to win is there. The fans, he kind of blocks that out. As soon as that car starts up, he doesn't really pay attention to Jimmy Spencer or what happened. He's focused on winning that race at that time. Kurt's a competitor. He's an awesome race-car driver and I don't even think that bothers him anymore."
HOW DID THE SPENCER THING EFFECT YOU? WAS IT A DISTRACTION?
"It really doesn't bother me because we're professionals. That race is done. It's over with and we look and focus on the next race. How can we go and win the next race and prepare the car to give Kurt the best car we can. It's like any sport in reality, when that one is done and over with you move on to the next one."
IS THE ROUSH ENGINE PROGRAM MAKING ENOUGH POWER? ARE THERE AREAS WHERE IT CAN MAKE GAINS?
"The engine department is working hard on everything. I believe right now that Ford has had a cylinder head out there for about 12 years now. I'm not too sure, but it's the same head for 12 years. We've got a new head that's coming out that we're hoping NASCAR approves, but you can only massage on something for so long. The guys in Livonia (Mich.) are working awfully hard on getting horsepower considering what they've had for that many years. They're working hard at it."
IS ROUSH TAKING THE STEPS IT NEEDS TO STAY UP WITH TEAMS LIKE PENSKE AND CHILDRESS?
"Yes, I think we probably have 15 engineers on hand right here. Aero engineers, structural engineers. Each team has their own individual engineer too, so our engineering team is up and running."
HOW DO THE CREW CHIEFS WORK TOGETHER AT ROUSH RACING?
"We share notes. All of our notes are open to everybody who wants them. We both tested Martinsville last week and, in fact, we parked side by side. As our test went on we communicated and did anything to help each other. We know Matt is running for the championship, but we all work together as a big team. Mark and Kurt talk a lot. Even Jeff Burton, everybody communicates good around here as far as that aspect goes."
ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE TO GAMBLE TO FINISH IN THE TOP 10?
"No, we're just gonna stay focused. What we try to do now is we go out and try to win races. We try to run in the top 10 until the end of the day and then if the opportunity is there, we'll go after the win. We've got to focus on preparing good race cars for Kurt and get him in that position for the end."
IS THERE ANYTHING GOOD ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE SPENCER INCIDENT?
"I don't know. Spencer and Kurt's deal, that's old news. Like I said before, that week is done and gone. We look forward to the next week. That deal is done. It's just like any other sporting event from baseball to football. When that one is done and over, they go to the next game and play it."
WHAT IS YOUR ASSESSMENT OF FORD'S ALLEGED AERO DEFICIENCIES. I ASSUME THAT WON'T BE AN ISSUE AT MARTINSVILLE.
"Ford's got a new nose and tail coming out for 2004. They've done a lot of wind tunnel work on it and a lot of preparation on it and I think it should improve our cars somewhat. NASCAR has come with a new rule cutting the rear spoiler off these cars, so everybody is gonna be at a disadvantage this upcoming season, but we've been working hard on 2004 stuff right now in the wind tunnels and, hopefully, we'll be putting Ford back out in front."
HAVE YOU TRACK TESTED THE 2004 CAR?
"Not yet. We've been to the wind tunnel with the 2004 car and we see a little bit of promise right there."
JEFF BURTON SAID IT WAS VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR A FORD, UNLESS THEY HAD AN ABSOLUTELY PERFECT DAY OR NIGHT, TO CONTEND FOR A WIN. DO YOU AGREE? "I don't know. It's getting tougher and tougher. Now that GM has about a full year under their belt working with their cars, they had a new body change this year, that I believe they've learned some stuff and have a little bit of an advantage on us right now. No, you never give up. We've won four races this year and, hopefully, we'll win another one."
HOW MUCH TALK HAS GONE ON IN THE GARAGE WITH THE FUEL MILEAGE THE 12 CAR HAS BEEN GETTING?
"Fuel mileage is different. Jack used to be the king of fuel mileage and right now the 12 is right there with him. It's how hard you want to work at your stuff. You have to work hard on everything. Fuel mileage, horsepower, aerodynamics - everything nowadays - because the competition level is so tough. Any little bit you can get as an advantage, you're gonna benefit by it."
HOW MUCH ROOM IS THERE TO CHANGE THINGS AS FAR AS THE INSPECTION PROCESS? "The thing of it is that NASCAR has tightened up its aerodynamic rules and it's gonna be even tighter next year. It makes for good racing. You know everybody is the same. Nobody has a big advantage that we know of. It's just a case where you more or less can't cheat as much."
WHAT CHANGES HAVE TO BE MADE AS FAR AS GETTING IN POSITION TO WIN THE TITLE NEXT YEAR?
"We've got to get some bad luck out of the way. We lost some motors this year. We had flat tires. We had some stuff that was very unlucky, and we've got to keep working on our race cars and give Kurt better race cars. That's what we're working on right now as we speak - the 2004 cars. It's just all the little stuff that bites you at a race track. Flat tires, we had one at Pocono running good. We had one at Daytona running good. We had one at Charlotte running good - running over stuff has hurt us. Those are three DNFs because of flat tires."
HOW IS YOUR COMMUNICATION WITH KURT?
"We communicate good. We pick out the springs together and then Kurt has the final say on what springs and shocks he wants in his cars. We've been working good together. We kind of read each other and know which direction we're going in, but we're trying new stuff too every time we go test - different stuff for Kurt."
HOW DO YOU PLAN FOR A NEW TRACK LIKE HOMESTEAD?
"NASCAR is gonna open up a couple of days early and we're gonna be able to take a couple of cars down there and test. Just from being down there before and looking at the banking, we should come close. Like I said, we'll have one full day of testing before the event."