KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR SEASON? "It's been a long season, but yet it's been a successful season for us at Penske Racing. A real good, consistent effort week-in-and-week-out. To have 20 top-10...
KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR SEASON? "It's been a long season, but yet it's been a successful season for us at Penske Racing. A real good, consistent effort week-in-and-week-out. To have 20 top-10 finishes, that shows that we have that type of consistency to run up front and be contenders for the championship. We were eliminated last week due to the Jimmie Johnson-era that we all live in. To have Mark Martin run second in the championship standings after he's finished second in the standings four times before....we hope to have a good battle this weekend. We hope that we get to see something exciting happen. Either way, no matter who wins, Hendrick Motorsports...as soon as I see Rick (Hendrick), I'm going to shake his hand and congratulate him. He's done an outstanding job this season as well as all the years past. To have three guys 1-2-3 in the championship, that's impressive. It's a good group of guys...drivers, crew chiefs, engine builders, the engineering support system over there...it's very strong. For us at Penske, we put up a valiant fight. We won a couple races this season. Homestead is a good track for us. We should be OK this weekend and maybe we can jump into this Hendrick trifecta. We're only 40 points behind Jeff Gordon, so obviously that's a goal this weekend to see if we can get 40 points on Jeff which translates to about 10 positions on track. So if we go out there and finish top-five, he needs to finish 10th to 15th. We may have a shot at it. Overall, a great season; I'm very proud of it. We have nothing to hang our heads about at the 2 camp. We're gonna look for a glimmer of light this weekend and by doing that, we can try and finish third in points."
IS IT TOO OLD SCHOOL TO THROW THE GAUNTLET DOWN AND MAKE THE PREDICTION THAT YOUR 2 TEAM CAN CHALLENGE AGAINST THE 48 TEAM? "I went fishing this weekend, that's a big piece of bait to chew on (laughs). I may not be a big enough fish to chew on that bait. Really, I feel like we've done an excellent job advancing our program at Penske Racing. I look forward to more camaraderie with the teammates...with Sam Hornish Jr. now going into his third year...with Brad Keselowski bringing that youthful exuberance to our program. I want to compete with Hendrick. I want to be there running door-to-door with those guys because Roger Penske knows I'm upset when I don't finish ahead of those guys or be in the mix with for a top-five finish each week. This sport is a long season and you have to put together consistent runs week in and week out, but what we need to do to compete for a championship is to turn those top 10s into top-fives and lead laps. That is where we can be better next year if we're going to make a run at it. Last week at Phoenix, we finished sixth. That's OK, but that's not going to get you the same competitive edge the 48 car has put down on the race track week in and week out. But I would consider us one of the favorites. I'm not going to say on-record that we're going to spank them. They're gonna have to chase us around because it's anybody's game. This is a long season and a lot of things can change from Valentine's Day to Thanksgiving."
IS THE EMOTION YOU HAVE RIGHT NOW, "DAMN, WE DIDN'T WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP" OR "HEY, WE'RE BEST IN CLASS"? "I've been saying that in the back of my mind for a while that we were best in class as well as kicking myself for a finish here or finish there where we could have done better to get at least shot at it mathematically at this weekend's championship. We had a great season. We want more. Everybody always wants more. There are 42 guys that have said the same thing for the last three years, 'Man, we had a great year, but we didn't bring home the championship. It's up to all of us to go out there and knock Hendrick Motorsports off the top...mainly Jimmie Johnson. Those guys are just in a groove that we haven't seen since the late 70's. It's pretty wild. They're tough competitors. They're strong. All's that you can hope to do each week is to put yourself in position to win and when you're able to come out on top and beat those guys, you had a day."
WHAT IS BANQUET WEEK GOING TO BE LIKE FOR YOU IN LAS VEGAS? "It's going to be fun. There's going to be that atmosphere that everybody feels when they go to Vegas, that is let loose, let your hair down and have fun that you're going to have whether it's out at the gambling tables, nightclubs, restaurants, hotels, everything there to me says 'fun'. New York was a lot of fun as well. We were going to be bundled up in coats and slacks and mittens. We're going to go out to Las Vegas. I put together a golf tournament on Tuesday when the drivers are starting to show up. Nobody has thought about a golf tournament around banquet week. So I hope that this will be fun and a tradition that may start up. I've got Miller Lite making phone calls right now for a concert at a nightclub and just have fun with some things and put together different events that stand out and make this first trip to Vegas special...put it on the map so that we will come back year after year after year."
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO GO UP AGAINST THE HENDRICK ORGANIZATION WEEK AFTER WEEK? "We all respect, in this industry, what Rick Hendrick has done. And when they added Jeff Gordon years ago, it started this train that's been unstoppable. Then they add Dale Earnhardt Jr. a few years back and what he's done for that program internally, behind the scenes and then of course out on the race track. They're just strong in all areas. And yes, they feel like they are the empire of the (New York) Yankees when they're in the garage. That's Hendrick Motorsports. They're a tough group and it's up to the rest of us to go out there and beat them."
AFTER THE SUCCESS OF THIS SEASON, DO YOU NOW FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE THE FOUNDATION TO CONTEND FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP? "Next year is still next year and I think that I've been riding the wave of 2009 as long as I could because I don't know where we stand with the crew chief position and how that's going to gel into the program. The best part about the format that we have with our points system is that you get 26 races as your regular season and then you have to get ready for the final 10 (races). I don't feel any pressure early on that we have to perform right away. We just have to go through those baby steps of the crew chiefs understanding the engineering department, how to talk to the engine guys and so on. We've got a little bit of rebuilding that will happen in the crew chief position, but there are times in this profession that you'll see two guys get together and just go on a run. I hope that's what we get. I hope that's the success that we find right away with our new crew chief."
DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHO YOUR NEW CREW CHIEF WILL BE? "I really don't know who it's going to be. We have a guy internally that I think we've narrowed it down to. I think that we have a couple of candidates on the outside that show great potential. Roger Penske is meeting with a couple guys this weekend to say hello and go through that process. I know the guys in the garage. I've talked to them. Our team president and technical director have talked with these guys, so we're coming down on the homestretch on it. I don't know when we need to have a formal announcement, but it would be nice on Tuesday morning when we kick Pat (Tryson) out of his office finally to make sure that we're moving forward to get the new guy in there because the sooner the better. We're excited. We had a good year on the 2 car and we had a lot of fun when we did it and we hope that we can continue that next year."
WHAT'S MOST IMPORTANT FOR YOU BEING IN THE CHASE? "This Chase format for us feels like you're in a play-off atmosphere where every position counts, every decision that you make seems to be magnified. And every time that you feel like you leave something out on the track, you're clenching your fists a little tighter saying, 'Man, maybe I gave up something too much today.' And when you win, it's that much sweeter when you come out on top and beat the other Chase guys. All of us have a shot at the championship when Loudon fires up and then we go on through the Chase. Week after week, you hope you are gaining points and staying in the mix and you want to go to Homestead mathematically eligible to have a shot at the Championship. We didn't quite do that this year, so it's tough. Maybe that's why we were down in the Keys fishing this week, just getting the band back together one more time. We have a legitimate shot today at sitting on a pole and winning a race and going out with a very successful end to our season. I think that's the most important part, when you find yourself out of championship contention, you just hope to end on a strong run to carry that through the off-season."
DO YOU THINK THAT JOINING THE PENSKE RACING ORGANIZATION WILL CHANGE BRAD KESLELOWSKI? "I think it will. It definitely has helped me understand much more about this industry, about myself as a person, and being a leader with this group. Rusty (Wallace) left a great legacy behind and they were big shoes to fill. There was that pressure for me to learn at a fairly rapid rate. Brad is his own self. He's his own identity. We like his tenacity and that fire. Roger will talk with him and he'll learn things that will impress us all because Brad is a strong guy with the decisions that he makes outside the race car as well as inside the race car. I wish him all the best because if he gets stronger and faster, then it should help our program all together."
-credit: dodge motorsports