KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEKEND AT MICHIGAN? "Michigan, obviously the backyard of the (auto) manufacturers, and there's that pride that you feel that you want to win for your guys. For us,...
KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEKEND AT MICHIGAN? "Michigan, obviously the backyard of the (auto) manufacturers, and there's that pride that you feel that you want to win for your guys. For us, that's Dodge and of course Roger Penske has a big business based up here and the previous car owner that I had (Jack Roush), they had a big business. This race track has always been special to me in that fashion, so you're motivate to find small things that can help you get an advantage over the competition because there's that bragging right, especially with the troubling times in the Detroit area. If you're out here winning at the race track...Michigan International Speedway...they're definitely putting that feather in that cap back in Detroit.
"Our outlook for the weekend is to build on the finish from June when we qualified fifth, I think we finished eighth. So, we want to build on that and try small things that we've learned in the last month or so since we've been here last, to bump us up into a top-five or shot for the win because right now, sitting fourth in points with the gap that we have, we feel comfortable heading towards the Chase...we'd have to do something really stupid not to make the Chase. We're just going to take it up a notch and see what we can get."
AFTER LOOKING AT SAM'S HIT LAST WEEKEND AT WATKINS GLEN, IS THERE A GREATER SENSE OF SAFETY AMONGST THE DRIVERS WITH THESE COTs? "There's definitely an absolute sense that we are running safer cars and that we're all more comfortable running around on the race track knowing that if we get ourselves in a situation that we can't get out of it and we're going to wreck, yeah, in the back of your mind maybe you're feeling better about it. You always hate to wreck. You always hate to put your body through what's involved. You can find a weak link in something somewhere and get hurt, but we don't wish that upon anybody. To have Sam Hornish, my teammate, go through what he did last week and have him come walking into the Tuesday meeting like nothing had happened is amazing...to see the steps that we've made in NASCAR over the last 10 years or so is. The way that Sam Hornish spoke about it, he said that in and Indy car, he's had way harder hits in Indy cars; that was a light hit in an Indy car. It shows you that stock cars are much safer and that we're protecting our drivers as well as any series that's out there. To be in the garage next to Jeff Gordon today, talking with him, he said that his shoulders felt fine, his neck felt fine, he had a little bruise on his forearm which probably came from the steering wheel, but yet his back took the brunt of the load. Maybe there's something we need to work on in the lower section of our safety restraints to keep the weakest link protected because everybody's got such great equipment in the cars, everyone is feeling safe and we want to race each other harder, but you don't think about it when you're out on the race track."
DOES IT MAKE YOU BRAVER? "No, but it does make it nice to know that you have an ace in your sleeve, knowing that safety is on your side."
YOU WON THE FIRST CHASE IN 2004; HAS THE 10-RACE CHASE SHOOTOUT CREATED THE TYPE OF EXCITEMENT THAT NASCAR WAS HOPING FOR? "I still think it works. I still believe that you have a playoff atmosphere. You have the stretch that you have like in baseball, like December is for football. You have to make the playoffs, that's one thing. We have a few teams out here doing that right now, they're trying to get their way into the top 12, then once the playoffs start, teams get eliminated just like it happens in other professional sports, basketball, football or baseball. Not everyone is going to have a shot at winning it (NASCAR championship) at Homestead at the end of the year. Normally, you only have two guys in other sports. Whereas in 2004, there was five guys that had a mathematical shot at winning it, that's what NASCAR wants to see...four or five guys that have run consistent, that have won races, (NASCAR) wants to have them duke it out down in Homestead for the championship. Playoff atmosphere I think works. It makes it exciting."
AFTER WATCHING THE WRECK WITH SAM LAST WEEKEND, HOW DO YOU GET BACK INTO THE CAR THE NEXT WEEKEND? "It can work one or two ways. You can feel more confident in your equipment and your safety that you can go out there and see such a violent wreck, or be a part of one, and jump back in your car knowing, 'Hey, you're not going to have that many bad wrecks.' Then the other side of it can be more like the Hollywood scene where you're spooked. You feel vulnerable; something else can happen and you can get hurt much worse. We're a bunch of crazy guys. We're a bunch of hard-headed individuals and we're going to go out there and race to win and not be afraid of the fear. We're more afraid of being failures than we are the fear of crashing."
DALE JR. SAID THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTART WAS A GOOD WAY TO JAZZ UP RACING, BUT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE. CAN YOU THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE THAT CAN BE DONE TO SPICE UP THE SHOW? "In the town hall meeting (NASCAR meeting at Concord, N.C.) there was opinions that the drivers expressed, the owners expressed. Some were short-term fixes, some were more of a long-term project. I think there needs to be some more short-term things looked at. One great idea was from Greg Biffle who said 'let's put more left-side weight in these cars'. Anything that has left-side weight on an oval track is going to turn better. We used to run Late Models with 58 percent left side. These cars only have 52 (percent). We can't keep making these cars heavier. Goodyear struggles to find the right combination with the heavier car and higher center of gravity. So weight is an issue. I think that can be addressed short term. We need to get some (weight) out of the cars and we need to get it on the left side. What I'm seeing based on tests results from Atlanta, Bristol, Dover and Indy from a year ago to this year, is that Goodyear is doing a better job finding combinations and that's going to continue to pop up in the second half with better tire combinations. It's an ongoing battle. We all said this car is going to be a fight. NASCAR is very stubborn sometimes. Who knows where we would be with the old car right now racing wise and safety wise.
THE TOWN HALL MEETING WAS TWO MONTHS AGO. OTHER THAN THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTART, THERE HASN'T BEEN ANY CHANGE WITH THE CAR. HAVE YOU BEEN SURPRISED NOTHING MORE HAS HAPPENED? "I've said this before. Back in the '70s and '80s, Bill France Jr. would run around and get the opinions of drivers and teams. He would digest over a longer period of time. You would see things happen over a three-year time table. Media, the internet, TV, print, everything is that quick now, three months go by and we're bored. That's the biggest difference that's happening in the world today. So, two months have gone by and it's like what else can we do. We need a little bit more time to go by before we can tip over the apple cart again."
ATLANTA IS OUT AND CALIFORNIA IS IN THE CHASE. YOU DOMINATED ATLANTA EARLIER. WOULD YOU PREFER THAT ATLANTA WAS STILL IN? "I was bummed when I finally did realize that Atlanta was out of the Chase and they got the Labor Day race. For us, at Atlanta, to dominate like we did,
it would be good to have that as one of the races on the checklist in the Chase. But what it is, it's one of the races close to the Chase before hand and if we can get those 10 extra bonus points, those 10 will be as important as any other 10 throughout the Chase. With California getting that slot, it always favors Matt Kenseth for some reason, he's strong at California. The Hendrick cars do well. Tony Stewart does well at California. We're a top-five car. If you look at Atlanta, I think those same names would pop up on the list. It doesn't give an advantage to anyone and take away from anybody."
WHEN IT'S THIS TIME OF YEAR AND YOU'RE HOPELESSLY OUT OF THE CHASE, WHAT'S IT LIKE FOR THOSE GUYS? "It's August. It's the downside to the season. You've finally passed the peak and if you haven't reached your potentials and your goals, you're sitting there scratching your head and kicking the dirt a little bit, you're down on your luck. But at the same time, it's a great opportunity to pick your head up and look toward 2010 or the next year, whatever it may be. There are some teams that are in that boat. There are some teams that are still hanging on that are 15th and 16th in points thinking maybe we can get to 12th. These days, if you make the Chase, that's considered a successful season even if you haven't won. That's one of the tough spots about the Chase format. There's always opportunities, there's always light at the end of the tunnel. Working for a guy like Roger Penske, the glass is half full and we're going to continue on."
HOW WILL THE ATLANTA TRACK BE AT NIGHT AND HOW WILL DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS BE WITH THE TRACK BEING SO FAST? "The tire test was interesting because of the hot temperatures and the different tires that they gave us. We were slip sliding around quite a bit. You're going to hear that an awful lot on Saturday practice. I believe our practice is from 1-4 in the afternoon and then we race at 7:30 at night. At 7:30, the sun will be just getting behind the mound in Turn 1. I still think Turn 3 and 4 will still be in the sun. So Turns 3 and 4 are going to be real slick at the start of the race. When 8 o'clock rolls around, it (Turns 3 and 4) gets into the shade and it's a whole new track. It gets all of its grip back; it gets its fun factor back. It's going to be a battle to get your car dialed in on a slick, hot surface during the day and then, hopefully, be good for the nighttime speeds. It's like Charlotte, but Charlotte gives us nighttime practices for the nighttime race. The double-file restarts at Atlanta, that's going to be the most fun that any driver can have. Atlanta is very racy. Double-file restarts won't be a problem there. "
DO YOU PREFER THE INSIDE OR OUTSIDE LANE THERE? "I like the outside. A lot of these restarts are learn as you go. You see the trend and who is picking which lane. If I had the choice right now without even racing there, I would pick the outside. But it could change. We tested from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m., but most of focus was when the sun went down. We hope that we have found a better combination for the teams. I didn't think there was anything wrong with the tire myself, because the 2 car ran really well there, but they wanted to change the tire. They had it in their mind they were going to change the tire. So, it is a different tire going back, both the right side and the left side, I'm hearing, is something we didn't even test, but is going to be a combination of a tread and a construction that they've brewed up since we've been there."
LIFE AFTER PENSKE, ANY THOUGHTS OF BUSCH BROTHERS RACING? "No, I haven't thought of that, but my dad does run my little brother's Late Model program and they go around the nation and have some fun racing at Milwaukee, Memphis, Madison and they've been to Winchester. That's an ambition that Kyle has. For me, I love Roger Penske and his racing divisions. I want to be in his stock cars as long as I can. This is the most fun for me and the most comfortable. After seeing last week's type of wreck, the most safe. Who knows? It's a short-term game, but you always think long term when you're sitting there. Right now, we're focused on making the Chase."
-credit: dodge motorsports