KURT BUSCH (No. 22 AAA Dodge Charger) Qualified 1st
“We feel like we picked up a lot of speed for qualifying with some of our adjustments. It’s nice that we can find that some days; other days it bites you. This has always been a tough mile-and-a-half track for me. It’s flat, but the track still has a lot of speed in it if you hit it just right. We just didn’t hit it right yesterday in practice. We feel like we’ve got some speed in the AAA Dodge. Tomorrow is going to be a hot, blistering day. This place, it’s really fast if you hit your setup just right. Otherwise, you’re sliding all around.”
WERE YOU ABLE TO FIND A COMFORTABLE RACE SETUP IN YESTERDAY’S PRACTICE? “We were very loose with one of our setups and just on the snug side with the other one, so we’ll shoot for the middle. The race here is a tough one. If you’re stuck in the back, it’s very hard to make up track position. You just want a nice smooth day on the track and on pit road.”
AFTER LAST WEEK’S STONG FINISH AT CHARLOTTE, YOU HAVE TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT BEING ON THE POLE HERE. “This is a great feeling especially after yesterday where we spun in practice and had to repair the front end damage. The feeling of being so close, yet so far away. I have to thank my guys for standing behind me, not just through yesterday, but some of the tough times we’ve been through as of late. The guys back at the shop, I know that they’re slapping some high-fives today. It’s an amazing feeling when you’re down a little bit and you’re not exactly keen on knowing what to change or where to go. Yesterday we were struggling in practice. We threw a bunch of things at the car today and got the pole. It’s an amazing world, the world of motorsports. One day you’re down and the next day you’re up. It’s a great pole of Penske Racing, to back up the pole that (Brad) Keselowski had last week. For us with AAA on the car this weekend, they have a big presence in the state of Kansas. With their insurance, it’s not just auto, it’s home and life insurance. It’s great to have a blue-chip brand like them on our car this weekend. And of course with Shell, Pennzoil and Dodge, our great sponsors, this gives them that breath of fresh air that they needed.”
HOW MUCH DO YOU ENJOY RACING ON A HOT, SLICK RACE TRACK LIKE WE’RE GOING TO HAVE TOMORROW AND WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE? “I enjoy it. I grew up in the desert southwest, in Vegas. We’d run at that little three-eighths-mile bullring every Saturday night that we could. We’d show up at two, three in the afternoon and it would be 110 degrees outside. We’d wait until seven o’clock to even hit the track for practice because of how hot and slick it was. When you’re a racer, you don’t care what the conditions are. It could be 40 degrees like the day I won at Bristol and did snow angels afterwards. It could be 110 like what we’ve seen out at Fontana in September for some of those races. It’s going to be hot and it’s going to be slick tomorrow. The fans will enjoy themselves with that atmosphere. It’s finally summertime. I hope everybody enjoys the nice sunshine that’s out. The racers will be out there putting on a good show.”
HOW HELPFUL WAS THE EARLY DRAW; DID YOU SEE THIS COMING AT ALL AND DID YOU FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CAR (IN PRACTICE)? “The way that practice was a struggle for us, we didn’t expect to be on the pole. The early draw definitely helped us. It didn’t hurt. No big issue with why we spun yesterday. We bolted on a set of shocks and I felt it was looser right away. I wanted to run three or four laps just to confirm it, analyze if it was more entry, middle or exit. I just felt like it was looser right away and then it bit me on corner exit. This (the pole) was definitely a surprise. We’re happy for it. It’s been almost a year since we’ve had a pole, so it’s nice to get our AAA Dodge up front taking the green flag here at Kansas in front of all our fans.”
Those strips are still there.
WHAT DAMAGE DID YOUR CAR RECEIVE YESTERDAY? “It bent the nose back on the car. When we hit the grass, with these bump stops and soft front springs, it rips the front end up. We watched Carl Edwards destroy his car after the All-Star Race. I’ve seen guys do harmless spins and have to go to back-up cars. We got lucky that we didn’t have to go to a back-up. That raises the question, if you have a harmless spin and you touch the grass, why should it damage the car so badly. That’s because we’re running on these bump stops, the things I’ve talked to John Darby about in the past.”
DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR SUCCESS TODAY TO THE SEASON WE’RE HAVING THIS RACE IN INSTEAD OF THE FALL? “There are a bunch of differences being here in June and how warm it is, but I always look at the law of averages. If you struggle somewhere for a long time, then maybe your due. So with (Juan Pablo) Montoya, Kyle (Busch) and myself up front when we expected guys like Gordon or Newman; (Joey) Logano has run good here in a Nationwide car. Those were all the tough bullets that I had to dodge at the end of qualifying and we were able to come out on top. It’s just qualifying. We’ve got a full 400 miles to race tomorrow and we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
HOW MUCH COOLER IS THE AIR THAT YOU’RE BREATING WITH THE COOL BOX? “The cool box knocks out about 20 degrees for sure, possibly 30 degrees. So if it’s 100 degrees outside, you’ll have 70-degree air coming inside. But then you have inside the car’s heat and the hoses get heat soaked, so it raises the temperature back up a little bit. But it’s nice. I always think of it as if I’m sitting in a hot tub and the only thing outside is my head, so I’m breathing that cooler air. Even though it’s warm, my body is in that heat and my head is in the cooler air. It’s not as nice as a hot tub.”
IS THE SETUP YOU QUALIFIED WITH CLOSE ENOUGH TO THE RACE SETUP FOR THE CREW CHIEF TO SLEEP COMFORTABLY TONIGHT, OR IS THE TEAM STILL IN A SEARCH MODE? “I still need to get with Steve (Addington, crew chief) to analyze where we made our good changes overnight and what we can continue to do tomorrow. It’s nice to have the feather in the cap with the pole, but race set-up is very different. You have to be less aggressive with everything – camber, sway bar, shocks, springs. We have to go through it and dissect it just like we did last night and map out what we need to do to have our best car for tomorrow.”
... they’re tough and they’re mean.
HOW BAD ARE THE TAR SPRIPS THIS YEAR AND HOW DO YOU GREET THE NEWS THEY PLAN TO PAVE THE TRACK NEXT YEAR? “Those tar strips are there to try and protect the track from absorbing moisture. This track sees dramatic extremes with frozen temperatures in the teens in the winter time and 100-degree days in the summer. Those tar strips were put down in 2008, the same year we came here with the COT. That was probably my worst year since my rookie year. I had a lot of things to say that year I guess. We struggled. Those strips are still there. You choose a lane. If you want the bottom lane, you choose that first lane. If you’re going in on a high groove, you choose that third lane and you really stay in it and not cross over the seams because they can upset the car. It’s not as bad now with those worn in over these last couple of years. I’ve heard about the repave. They’re looking to add banking to it. They want to make it more of what we’ve seen at Homestead or what we’ve seen at the progressive-banked tracks which I agree with. You’ve got to keep it within reason though to make sure the track has the right amount of banking if IRL cars ever want to come here. That way you’re not just tailoring it to the big heavy stock cars.”
AT THE OUTSET, YOU WERE THANKING YOUR GUYS FOR STANDING BEHIND YOU THROUGH THE TOUGH TIMES; CAN YOU EXPAND ON THAT? “My guys, they’re tough and they’re mean. We all care for each other and have love for each other. We’re in this together as a team. We win as a team and we die as a team. To elaborate further, it’s just the mental feeling of being down and out a little bit after Richmond. We struggled at Darlington. The engineer put the wrong set-up in the car mistakenly. And then to go to Charlotte, have a nice finish and get here and have the pole after a tough day. It’s one of those feelings where you know that things are just tough right now. It’s great to come in today, have a positive outlook and continue to work hard. The reward came today with a nice pole position.”
-source: dodge motorsports