Kurt Busch and 'The Double': an interview with his NASCAR crew chief

Kurt Busch's NASCAR crew chief Daniel Knost ready to handle his half of 'The Double': 'I hope we can go out and win'.

When Kurt Busch, 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation “America’s Machine Tool” Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), arrives at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 – NASCAR’s longest event – he hopes to have already completed 500 miles more than any other driver in the Sprint Cup Series field that day.

On Sunday, Busch will attempt “The Double” – racing in both the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte.

Busch is just the fourth driver to attempt “The Double,” a feat that has only been successfully accomplished by Busch’s current team owner Tony Stewart. Stewart successfully completed all 1,100 miles in his second and final attempt in 2001, when he finished sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte.

In preparation for the most grueling feat in oval racing, Busch has spent the month of May traveling back and forth to Indianapolis from NASCAR events in Kansas City, Kansas, Talladega, Alabama and Charlotte.

While Busch has been splitting his time between IndyCar and stock cars, rookie crew chief Daniel Knost has led the No. 41 team and has kept it focused on the task at hand – the Coca-Cola 600.

Knost and team have diligently prepared and carefully gone over the No. 41 Haas Automation “America’s Machine Tool” Chevrolet in hopes of giving Busch a chance to not just complete the final 600 miles of his odyssey, but also to win the NASCAR side of “The Double.”

A victory at Charlotte on Memorial Day weekend would be a fitting end for Busch, who focuses his charitable efforts on paying tribute to the military. As part of the Memorial Day weekend festivities, the No. 41 Haas Automation “America’s Machine Tool” Chevrolet will feature a special red, white and blue paint scheme.

The paint scheme pays tribute to the American success story that is Haas Automation, whose products are manufactured at the company’s expansive facility in Oxnard, California – the largest, most modern machine tool manufacturing operation in the United States.

DANIEL KNOST, Crew Chief of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What does your schedule look like this weekend in terms of practice time for Kurt Busch and Parker Kligerman?

“We plan to have Kurt for all of our practices and qualifying. We have to get Parker a run in the car in case for any reason Kurt doesn’t make it back to Charlotte on time, so we’ll probably try to do that Saturday morning.”

What impact will Kurt Busch’s schedule have on the No. 41 team in terms of communication this week?

“I think everything has been OK so far. We spent some time after the race Saturday night just talking about what the car did and what it needs to do better. We had some ideas coming out of testing that we used last week so, if we can put together a good test plan, even while he is away, then he’ll be in the shop a little bit later this week and we’ll sit down to make sure we are on the same page in terms of how we need to practice.”

Are you expecting him to be at the drivers meeting Sunday in Charlotte? If not, what is your plan?

“We are not expecting him to be at the drivers meeting. If he does miss it because of the IndyCar race, then we’ll have to go to the back. That’s something we’ve known and we’ve accepted. The good thing is he’ll be fired up and ready to go. He is typically pretty strong, especially at the beginning of a run. I think he’ll be looking to move forward and make up the positions that we give away quickly.”

What is your expectation when he arrives at Charlotte?

“I hope we can go out and win. I think he’s been working a lot on fitness and that’s a real challenge, but I think he’ll be fine there. I think that the cars are really different, so it may take him a little while to get settled into our car. That’s kind of a challenge to work through the transition period, but he’s been driving these cars for a very long time, so I think he’ll make that transition pretty fast. I think, if the car is good enough, he’ll be able to go up there and compete. Tony Stewart led a bunch of the race when he did it. I think that part is really more on us to have a car that’s right, make the most of the practice time we have, and anticipate how the car is going to react from day to night.”

Are you ready to get back to the normal day-to-day after The Double?

“I don’t know that it’s really affected our day-to-day a ton. We have plans to make and May and June are typically busy, anyway, so there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. But, I’m sure probably for Kurt, it’ll be good for him to just get back to thinking about one thing instead of moving back and forth between the two. You know, at the same time, he’s probably learned some things from driving a different car in a different series that reacts differently that might spark some new ideas inside of him. I think it’s been a good experience for everyone overall, probably.”

Has he brought any new ideas back from the IndyCar side?

“More than anything, he’s just talked about the difference in the cars – the way they drive and the way they handle. The things he can adjust and the size of the adjustments and things like that. But, those cars are a lot lighter, have a lot more downforce and are a lot stiffer than our cars. They just drive really differently, and maybe there are some things you’d like to incorporate into the Cup car to make it more similar to what you are feeling in the IndyCar.

Were you at all nervous after watching replays of his IndyCar practice from Monday?

“You know, I was a little. Nobody wants to see a crash, especially with your driver, but I texted him afterward and he seemed to be in good spirits. He sounded like he was feeling good. At that point, you almost go, ‘OK, it is what it is and it kind of stinks, but we’ve wrecked cars and that’s just part of racing.’ It happens. As long as he feels OK from it, then you just put it behind you and move forward.”

Do you have plans to talk to Kurt at the shop this week?

“We’re planning to sit down at the Stewart-Haas Racing shop Wednesday and discuss what we think coming out of last weekend. Look at what we want to try going into this weekend to make sure we are all on the same page as far as just the routine or the schedule of how it’s going to happen. Then, we have a road-course test next week, as well as some other tests that we are trying to put together. We’ve got several things to go over for plans in the coming weeks that we’ll get a chance to look at Wednesday. We’ll get all of that handled while he is here.”

Did his travel schedule last week for the Sprint All-Star Race ease any of your fears in terms of logistics for this weekend?

“Honestly, I haven’t put a lot of thought into the logistics of it all. It’s one of those things that I don’t control and I like to focus on the things I can control. I try to worry about the things I control, but I’m sure I spend plenty of time worrying about peripheral things I don’t control. But, it seemed like everything went pretty well. I didn’t have a stopwatch going or anything like that, but it seemed like the logistics were pretty seamless. As long as there aren’t any delays on that end with the race procedure itself, then I don’t think it’ll be a problem.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Event Charlotte
Drivers Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Parker Kligerman
Teams Stewart-Haas Racing
Article type Interview
Tags charlotte, coca cola 600, indianapolis 500, kurt busch, nascar, the double, tony stewart
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