Kurt Busch on Media Teleconference Transcript CHARLOTTE, N.C. (July 24, 2008) Â¾ The 3M Performance 400 Presented by Bondo held a media teleconference with NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch in advance of the 3M Performance 40 Presented by...
Kurt Busch on Media Teleconference Transcript
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (July 24, 2008) ¾ The 3M Performance 400 Presented by Bondo held a media teleconference with NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch in advance of the 3M Performance 40 Presented by Bondo set for August 17 at Michigan International Speedway. Busch, who drives the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, has won twice at Michigan, including last year's 3M Performance 400.
Deborah Robinson: Good morning everyone and thank you for joining us for the 3M Performance 400 Teleconference with Kurt Busch. We're thrilled to have Kurt with us today as the winner of last year's race in the very soggy 3M Performance last year.
Kurt had a great victory in that race and is looking for a great run in Indy this weekend. And then looking for some momentum there, go back there and repeat.
Kurt tell us a little bit about what you've got going on this weekend and sort of out with the rest of the season.
Kurt Busch: Well it's one of our biggest races of the year, the Brickyard 400. Everybody at Penske Racing always gets excited when you head towards Indianapolis, whether it's with an open wheel car or it's a stock car.
And we hope that we can capture victory in the biggest race next to the Daytona 500, which we were able to do earlier this year.
But then again, the week right after that we have Michigan. That's always an important race because it's in the auto manufacturer's backyard. And it was great to hoist up the trophy last year for Dodge.
And it's just a, it's just a matter of getting through the next few weeks here to see what we can get to make a run at this chase because time is starting to run out.
Deborah Robinson: So for Indy this weekend, long race, it's always hot there. What's going to be the key for you do doing well there?
Kurt Busch: Well I see these cars struggling to turn with the front end, the right front tire is going to be a question as far as the length of laps that you can run on it before it decides to it might not be able to go whole there.
The diamond-cutting surface, ever since they did that, just hasn't been kind to the stock cars since we've been going. So that will be the toughest part.
And then each, but you can get your car to turn, but yet not abuse your right front tire.
Deborah Robinson: Now you have grown up, and when you go to Indy is there anything really special about that place for you?
Kurt Busch: Well just the historic nostalgic feel of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Everybody knows I'm a big Cubs baseball fan and when I get to go to Wrigley, it's like a, the coolest sanctuary for baseball.
And that's what Indianapolis feels like to me. They've been running there since 19, the races, the same type of era that Wrigley Field was built in.
And so I get tickled when I get to go down the back straight away the first time to come around to take the green, whether it's just one lap of practice or a lap of qualify or even the first lap of the race.
But you have to soon put those emotions aside and go out there and do your job.
Deborah Robinson: Now you all have made some really smart calls this year on fuel mileage and strategy. Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with your crew chief and how that has really helped you?
Kurt Busch: Well that's the cards that we've been given so far I think with this new car. We're not one of the top teams that have figured out how to make it handle the proper way.
And so you have to be smart and creative to win other ways. And we've been able to do that with fuel like you said, and tire strategy. And that comes down to the crew chief's ability to understand the race and what needs to happen at what certain point.
And you have to have that chemistry to know what to think of at the same time and to be able to execute in split second decisions.
Deborah Robinson: Now, I'd like to open up to questions if we can do that please.
Q: Are you being involved in the interview process for Ryan Newman's replacement? And what would you like to see in a new teammate?
Kurt Busch: Yes, I mean that's what's on the burner right now at Penske Racing is finding a new teammate, somebody to fill the No. 12 cars role. And, you know, I think Sam has done a great job this year in maturing as a driver and developing from the open wheel ranks.
I mean he's a three-time IRL champion. And now he's over in the stock cars. And at Penske racing, maybe we need to be a bit more attractive if we want to find a top-notch type driver that wants to come over here and compete.
We need to get our cars a little faster, or we need to get the motors a little bit more powerful. All the things there I think Newman mentioned.
So we've got our work cut out for us. We're working hard, finding new people. And that's the same thing that we're doing with finding a driver is we've got four or five that we're interviewing and we're going through the process to find out who's going to be the best fit.
Q: Do you recall your first Bondo experience? Was it with the dwarf car?
Kurt Busch: Bondo? Oh, my first experience was, I don't know, I was probably still in diapers. I was out in the garage with my dad building a 1932 Ford. And he'd always give me a piece of wet sandpaper and I'd be sanding on probably nothing.
But I was out there hammering away. And that's how I got to the Bondo with cars and racing and all that.
Q: You've obviously got a lot of experience and, you know, Indy coming up. Is - it, the historic value of it I kind of think. But it would take a phenomenal brain to remember how many times you cranked up a car for a race. But is every race still an adventure for you?
Kurt Busch: Oh it is. I, you still get those butterflies before the Grand Marshall says gentlemen start your engines. And you're focused so intently about what the day's task is going to be, whether it's Indy or Michigan.
Whatever racetrack it might be, you're thinking of past times that you've raced there, what it takes to get around the racetrack and pass the other guys. And what's the general trend of some of the pit strategy.
And so it's always very nerve racking. I mean you get the green flag and you're underway. And so you have to put all those emotions aside and go to work.
Q: And as far as this very historical weekend, but in looking back do you think drivers today have to have more skills then the drivers of decades ago?
Kurt Busch: I think it's just whatever era that you're in, it takes a great driver of course to win. And it takes a balance of team, and it takes a balance of crew. And you have to have the whole package to win.
And so I wouldn't say the drivers today are necessarily more talented then drivers of years past. They didn't have power steering. They didn't have all the types of engineering support that we have today.
And so, but then again the competition might not have been as fierce. But I wouldn't want to say that and have to go up against a Buddy Baker or a Richard Petty and have to do it like they did.
I mean it's just the era that you grow up in.
Q: You've been involved in one of the biggest turnarounds in recent years for a driver or a team from one season to the next.
And you went from 27 of the points to 3rd of the points, 01, 02. And I wanted to ask you about that is just what kind of lead to that? And how challenging that is, you know, in light of looking at what your brother has done with his new ride this year?
And obviously what Tony Stewart may, would have to do next year with his situation? But you've gone through that path and being down on the points and getting way up there, you know, near championship's attention.
Do you recall how challenging it was? Were there many changes with the crew guys or is it basically the same guys from back - the one year to the next? And just what can you tell me about that season and just the come back?
Kurt Busch: Yes that's an interesting comparison. I find it similar in some ways. And then in the ways, Tony is a two-time champion and has quite a bit of experience and will be going to a new team.
And in the - and that's the extreme end of being experienced versus going to a new deal. Kyle, he's a mid-range driver now. And in the years that he has, he's got four years under his belt, working for that first championship.
He has all the right pieces in the right place. He had all of that at Hendrick. And maybe, who knows, glide just as quick with the five car.
But it seems like Joe Gibbs and their Toyota team is on top of their game and you throw in a driver that's on top of his game, and that's what happens is success breeds on all different types of racetracks.
In my scenario I was a young rookie that just came from late model six months ago, went through the truck series, and now I'm already into cups.
So it's - it was such a dramatic escalator that I was on. It was degreed at 90 degrees. I was going straight up like a rocket ship into space. And I was thrown in with the sharks. They said sink or swim in this cup deal.
And the timeline that I was given was the - when you see these tracks for the third time, you better be posting some top 10 finishes or some top 5. And I just came basically straight from late models.
I had no idea how to race these cars, how to race the veteran drivers. What these racetracks were like. I didn't see the same racetrack for six months. They were all brand new.
And so that's when you're sitting there going wow, I'm way over my head. I don't know what I'm doing. And am I going to be able to make it?
And then they changed the whole crew around. That's when Jack Roush decided to give me Jimmy Fennig. It was a surprise to me. I was up at the banquet experiencing that for my first time. And I was told that my crew chief was changing.
So a very dramatic circumstances all around those events. And away we went. And I had Jimmy Fennig for my second year. And I knew how much experience he had. I knew the quality of cars that he was building.
And the biggest key to me was that I knew I had to grow to his level if I wanted to compete and stay at this rank. And so catching up to an experienced crew chief like Fennig led us from 27th to 3rd.
Q: How much, I mean certainly you've accomplished a lot. How were the rank, or how significant is that in your career? And I know that you said you were going from, you know, a young guy who hadn't been to these tracks before as much to more experienced.
But, you know, do you see this happening more often down the road in this sport? Or what you did and maybe what your brother might be doing this year is going to be things that you won't see as often.
Kurt Busch: No I think it can happen at any given time. You know, there's a guy like AJ Allmendinger that has the same type of story going, but it isn't as well documented with missing the races that he did last year. And now he's, it's - he's competing for top 10 finishes almost on a weekly basis.
I think you'll see it. I think it can happen. As far as the accomplishment rank, for me it was a huge success, a huge turnaround. Something that helped me understand that I might be able to make it in this sport.
And that I - that, you laugh at one point that you got the most improved award. That means in my mind, hey you didn't do something all that well the year before.
And so this year was a great year. So it sometimes is a funny award for a driver. That means you didn't do this so good one year before that.
Q: Looking at the last seven races, different types of tracks, different demands on the car teams and everybody. What as you try to chase a chase position, what key, obviously I know you've got to do well and want top 5, top 10s everywhere. But what are the things that, I mean is it, you know, do you need key horsepower's got to come through since you've got Indianapolis, Pocono, and Michigan still on the schedule.
Is there something else that's going to be like a key element that you really need, you know, in some of these last seven races?
Kurt Busch: Well I think the key is to be well prepared, to be ahead of the game and to keep an open mind. You have to understand that all these track are different.
And what we've been doing recently is learning so much week to week that we would take the same set up that we ran at one track. That it might not be the smartest thing to take that set up for the next track, but it was the most recent news that you had.
It was the most correct information that you could use. But now once we clear these next seven or so, we're going to see these racetracks for about the third, fourth time now with this new car.
And hopefully patterns have developed. And we can get back to, okay this is the, this is Loudon, New Hampshire, this is the fourth time that we've been here with this car and this is what we need to do.
Instead of oh woe, we were just at Richmond last week, what did we learn there and what do we need to do now?
Q: What do you see the overall climate of sponsorship in the garage with these tough economic times?
Kurt Busch: It's something that I'm not very closely related to other then of course, our Penske sponsors with Miller Light and with Dodge. You know, Exxon Mobile is on Sam's car and we have Alltel that's in a pickle I guess you could see with the new logo, or the Verizon takeover.
And yet you hear the same thing about Sprint with them being in a possible sale right now.
And so, yes businesses are all in a turn around state, or in a what it seems to me is that they're all in a, they're in a combining effort situation to where one's buying one and taking over another.
And so there's still a need though to advertise. There's still a need to get out there to our race fans and to make the brand awareness a more positive situation. Because race fans are the most loyal fans, fans in general to any sport.
And so it's still a very positive environment. I think to advertise, maybe with some of the fuel prices and some of the grocery prices, we don't see the race fans exactly packed full at the racetrack.
But what's happened is our TV numbers are up. So there's more of a need to be exposed to commercials or to getting your car out there up front, out in the racetrack.
Q: What do you think of some of the things that Newman has said about the state of Penske Racing?
Kurt Busch: Well I think that there's some of the things that can be adjusted very easily. Then plans that need to be put into place to get us to where we need to be.
You know, if we've asked our engineering department to step it up, to bring us some more quality ideas and they haven't, then those things....
And then also I've noticed that there's just a timeline of things that if you ask for something it takes a little bit longer then it needs too.
And by the time that you wanted to get that (bold spark) bolted onto your car, that part bolted onto your car, then three weeks have gone by and the competition has already got that.
And so we just need to be a bit more proactive. And I think that this situation could help us build a stronger program.
Q: David Stremme's name has always been mentioned as a candidate. What would you think of him as being a teammate? And do you care to share who the other four guys are you're talking too?
Kurt Busch: I think that you're right in mentioning his name. It wouldn't be my place to bring up the names of the others. I've been through a contract negotiation and a process of switching teams.
And so I think that there's quality drivers out there. And that we're going to find one of those to help make this team stronger and build it up to where he'll be able to work with Sam and myself. And make this team a more impactful team to where we could actually go out there and compete to the top five's week in and week out.
Q: Kurt with Tony Stewart being a car owner, and even your brother with your dad doing the late model team, is ownership something that you would look at down the road? Or what do you want to do when you get old and decide you don't want to drive?
Kurt Busch: Well I think that the ownership role is something that bunch of drivers are looking at because of the, just you can't drive forever.
And there's these young guys that will come in and spear your seat in a way. And the tables will turn, you know. And so I think that he's starting out at a really basic level, and I'm talking about my little brother with the late models.
But yet he's spending a lot of money. You have to find the sponsorship. You have to find the people. It's part of the headaches that come along with that.
And so it's something that maybe I'm not so much interested in. And I might joke around with the end of this question and say hey, I might want to be a golf superintendent out on a golf course and mow the grass when I retire.
I have no idea what I want to do after racing. I still think I have a good 10 years left in trying to wheel around with Miller Late, Dodge and get some more victories and hopefully bring a championship to Penske Racing.
Q: Well you could always get that try out with the Cubs.
Kurt Busch: That would be a dream job. There we go, I'm sure I can keep the ground up at Wrigley Field.
Q: Can you describe what you think happens to the mentality of most drivers when they slip a helmet over their head and then go racing?
Kurt Busch: Well that's what we do for a living is go out there and race these race cars at speeds that are around 200 miles an hour into the park from the next guy.
There's a tremendous amount of focus that has to be applied to the safety of you and to the other drivers. And we're out there putting the car right on that edge of being out of control.
And sometimes being in that adrenaline rush can overtake you and you get into that red zone. Which is, you know, are you upset with another driver? Or, you know, is your car not handling exactly perfect and you need to get the adjustments made?
And so it's something to where you try to stay as smooth and calm and collected as you can. The more years of experience you have, the easier it is to do.
But then there's the fire in the belly that overtakes you. And it can be the driver that takes you to victory lane, or it can be the drive that takes away from your effort of doing well that day.
Q: What does digging deep mean to you?
Kurt Busch: Well that means giving all your best and making sure that you leave nothing out on the table. It's something that every driver does, every lap. But then you got to be able to dig a little bit further and know that you don't have the best car on maybe one occasion.
Or that your crew took you from running 5th place back to 12th, and you really want to get back into that top 10. And so you dig a little deeper. You just, you get your footing underneath you a little bit more solidly and you take that car to the 105% level and hopefully not set over when you earn that extra 5%.
Deborah Robinson: Well if there are no further questions we'll let Kurt go and head up to Indy for a great race weekend. Kurt, thank you for your time this morning and thank you everyone for joining us.
Kurt thanks again for your time. Have a great day.
Kurt Busch Thank you so much. I appreciate all the questions and heading up to Indy. It's Roger's campground in the open wheel. And hopefully we can bring it home from one more time here in the stock cars this year.
Deborah Robinson: They'd love to see you kiss the bricks down their Sunday.
Kurt Busch: Thank you very much.
-credit: 3m performance