Kurt Busch Preseason Thunder - Dodge interview

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) OPENING REMARKS "We're really, I believe, ahead of schedule from where we wanted to be. We got a lot of work done on Monday with run after run after run, just going through out checklist. You have...

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)

OPENING REMARKS "We're really, I believe, ahead of schedule from where we wanted to be. We got a lot of work done on Monday with run after run after run, just going through out checklist. You have to start with just your normal does the car like this? Does the car like that? Then you might deviate and go into some tangents afterwards. When you learn one thing it might take you in another direction. We've brought our cars up to speed. Both cars are relatively quick. The B car, which was slated to be our Shootout car ended up being a little quicker, so we've moved it into our A car for the 500 slot. We swapped the two cars, but that's just how close they are. It's a testament to Penske Racing and the crew building such close cars up to high standards. Today, we're starting with our car of tomorrow. We're going to start working with it to get ahead of the game. Roger Penske is definitely ahead of the curve when it comes to getting cars prepared. We just need to know what to do with them. We're here testing, getting ahead of the game we believe. We'll still have our regular car. I've nicknamed it CORN, car of right now. We've got our car of tomorrow and we've got our car of right now, so we'll be busy today. We're hoping the weather holds out so we can get our homework done. It is going to be a bit windy, so we've got to keep track of the wind speeds on our sensors to make sure that we gain the speed where we need to gain it versus getting the wind gust. We'll see how it shakes out."

COMMENT ON SWITCHING CARS WITH YOUR TEAMMATE AT A RECENT TEST "We tested at Memphis, a nice three-quarter-mile racetrack that the Grand National Series runs on and it gives us a good baseline for tracks such as Richmond or even like a New Hampshire. When we did switch cars, we have composite seats in our cars of tomorrow, so all we have to do is switch the foam and the seatbelts and we're ready to go. So within a half hour we can drive each other's cars. It was great to drive his car and to see what he thinks was his setup. He was saying his car was a little tight in the middle. Then it would get tighter as the run would progress. That's exactly what I felt when I got in the car. I was the same speed he was in his own car. He jumped in mine and I left it a little loose just to see if his sprint car style would think that it was loose, and he agreed with it. He said it was loose as well. He was about the same speed I was in my racecar, except he thought mine had the potential of lasting a bit longer as far as not burning the tires up. The fast lap with my car was about 10 laps in. The fast lap with his car was about four laps in. So his car got tighter quicker. Mine didn't get as tight. It stayed on the loose side, so it was interesting. We both had the same comments. It was a great chance for me to feel the way he likes his car to handle. It was a great way for him to jump into my car and see how I like it to handle. That's something that had never been done before. I know that Ryan was a bit nervous jumping behind the wheel of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge."

WHAT KIND OF DRIVER WILLTHE COT FAVOR? "The testing I've seen with it it's going to be a matter of adapting to new change. There are so many questions with this car as how you need to set it up or what direction you need to take it in. It's a matter of being able to adapt. There are guys like Tony Stewart that can drive anything with four wheels. There are guys like Jeff Gordon that can do that and adapt to cars, but yet Gordon has been driving Cup cars for so long it'll be interesting to see how he jumps in. There's going to be no problem with Hendrick Motorsports or Joe Gibbs Racing or Penske Racing, any of the big teams. One interesting thing I see with it. It could lend itself to a new Toyota team and just striking up a nice setup and running up to the front. Being an independent team running strong, I think that's what that car is meant to do and I like everything about the car of tomorrow."

DID YOU EVER HAVE TO REMIND YOURSELF YOU WERE A NASCAR CHAMPION LAST YEAR? "For us, I thought sitting on six poles was quite an achievement. We overachieved in that area, and we won a race early in the season at Bristol. We ran competitive at a lot of the race tracks. I think the only place we really struggled was the mile and a half tracks. When we went to those tracks, we learned quite a bit and brought our setups up to date. I think we were a few years behind in the setups. Ryan Newman had a very successful 2003 when he won (11) poles and eight races. When you do that you stick with that pattern which any team would do, but 2004 came and 2005 and here we were in 2006 a bit behind. I want to give our team an A-plus for graduating from some of those setups into 2007 all in one season. I think we had our best, key moments was developing each and every time we came to the mile and a half tracks and gaining more speed. We sat on a bunch of poles and led some laps, but we weren't there at the end of those races. I wouldn't necessarily consider it a struggle, but it definitely was a transitional year."

CAN YOU BE OFF JUST A LITTLE AND BE WAY BEIHND BECAUSE OF THE STIFF COMPETITION? "The competition gets fierce every year. For me coming from a championship season like I did a couple of years ago to 2005, to '06, each year seems to present its own challenges. Whether your team is ready to go or you need a few other crew members to help make everything 100 percent or even with our case last year. The Dodge seemed to be off a little bit with the aero balance. It was much heavy on the front downforce, way too heavy in the front, and that's what helped me sit on all those poles. I never really thought of myself as much of a qualifier, but the competition is fierce and each and every week there's a new challenge ahead of you. You take away the positive if you don't win and you turn 'em into what you can the next week to get to victory lane."

DO YOU TRY A LOT OF NEW THINGS TO KEEP THE EDGE? "I just try to bridge what I've done in the past into the current present, which is to have the team working together with the other team. There are only two of us at Penske Racing, so if we can work together that much stronger, that will help us. With Ryan and his group they're into a new season as well with a first-time crew chief. My deal is a second-year crew chief who is much more confident. You can see it in his footsteps through the garage area. Just his ability to know and what is the word, I guess expect to know what's coming or look forward to knowing what happens at Daytona, California, Vegas and so on. His confidence is up higher this year and helps everybody on the team to know who to do their jobs easier. We're working on our guys on pit road to make sure when we come in leading we can go out leading or pick up positions on pit stops."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT FINISHING POSITIONS 30-43 GETTING THE SAME AMOUNT OF POINTS? "I've always thought that would be a great addition to our point system. When you do have a bad day or DNF, here I am, I'm either hero or zero. I'm usually either top five or bust. If you can knock away some of those DNFs, it would make for a closer points race. It would make for a more exciting challenge each and every week to go for those wins and not necessarily conduct consistency. Whether it's the car of tomorrow or whether it's something we've always done in the sport, if you do have a finish of 30th or worse it would be nice to give straight across the board those points. That's what makes NASCAR what it is when you throw 43 cars out there and send seven cars home. You can't give the same points for those 20 cars because some of them didn't make the race and some of them ran better than 30th through the day but it's really unique. The car of tomorrow, it's something we need to do our jobs as race teams, to do our jobs as officials and as media. We're all going to maybe have a bump or two with this car of tomorrow, but it's just going to be a regular race where they're handing out a trophy at the end with some points."

COMMENT ON THE CHEMISTRY BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR CREW CHIEF ROY McCAULEY "I would say we developed a rapport right away. I would say we started clicking strong the first of April at the first Texas race. Knowing we both admitted openly to each other that our setups were behind. What are we going to do to catch up? That's when I started implementing some of my past experiences with the setups. He started looking around throughout the engineering department at Penske for some help from some of those guys, and it developed throughout the year. We went on a stretch of 10 races through the summer where we finished in the top 10 in eight of 10 straight races. That was pretty strong. That was encouraging, but it left us a bit shy of making The Chase because we had three DNFs in three races right before The Chase -- Bristol, California and Michigan. Those three right there we had DNFs and it took us out of The Chase. If we had made The Chase there wouldn't have been a question of 'Did you get along with the crew chief?' or "Did you have a bad year?' Whatever it might have been. There were other teams that didn't even win that made The Chase. It's real interesting how we're ranking the way teams feel about their years based upon making or missing The Chase."

WHY DO YOU LIKE EVERYTHING ABOUT THE COT? "I guess everybody knows me. I've always been against the grain. I really enjoy new challenges. I'm a car guy. From my dad, he taught me how to build race cars and to see NASCAR's direction with this car of tomorrow. Safety is the No. 1 quality within this car the way they've crash tested it and the different foam they've inserted in this car, the different flame resistant materials. All around, safety is positive with this car. Second, it's a throwback to some of the older heritage of racing stock cars. With the front end geometry it's not as aggressive as what we have these days with the regular car. You're going to have to go back to some of the older control arms, to some of the older geometry angles, just because the car is not going to travel. We're not able to travel it because of that front end splitter. You look at the front end splitter and see you have to take care of it and the possibilities of adjustment are endless because there are so many questions around it. Then there's a rear wing on the back. I've got an open wheel crew chief. His background is open wheels and he has all these degree angles and all these ways of looking at a rear wing. Some of these stock car crew chiefs don't really know that, so it just opens it up for a broader spectrum of how to view it. The competition it will create, hopefully more side by side racing that's what we want to see and we want to see these new teams that come into our sport with a chance to win and be competitive and to make 43 cars that much stronger so when you do make the race it's a personal sense of satisfaction that you're in the show and you get to race against the best of the best."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Roger Penske
Teams Team Penske , Hendrick Motorsports , Joe Gibbs Racing