KURT BUSCH (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T)
WHAT IS THE STRATEGY THIS WEEKEND FOR YOU AND THE NO. 22 SHELL/PENNZOIL DODGE TEAM? “We’re definitely pushing hard to try to win this weekend, to be a participant in the Sprint Summer Showdown. To have that opportunity to win a fan $1 million as well as to be eligible for the team as well as the foundation, that's quite a bit of an incentive for us to do well. Michigan is a great race track that provides for an excellent chance of racing the inside groove, the middle groove, the high groove. It’s really an exciting track to race on. I feel like, with the way that this track is in the auto manufacturer's backyard, there's a little bit of bragging rights here when you're trying to win for your respective manufacturer. So, we're pushing hard for Dodge, as well.
HOW DO YOU AND BRAD WORK TOGETHER? “We’re not different than any other team out there. With a veteran driver and young guy so to speak, the way that he’s matured this year as a driver, it’s been exciting to see (Brad) and Paul Wolfe really connect, and to have Paul Wolfe challenge Steve Addington with new things. It’s been great. The crew chiefs and the drivers working together as one on a level where, yes, he’s winning, putting great, consistent finishes and doing it week in and week out. That only makes our team stronger. It’s a great two-way street right now.”
HOW WOULD YOU REDESIGN WATKINS GLEN? “It's racing. We're going to wreck and you're going to have problems. You can't forecast everything and be able to have it work perfectly. It's a race track, just like all the others. It's a road course. There are dangerous spots on it. Years ago, we used to not have an inner loop system, drive 200 miles an hour down into the carrousel. Then you put in an inner loop. Are we supposed to put in inner loops before every corner? No, you can't. It's definitely a tough balance of understanding how you're supposed to make sure a car, when they have a brake failure, doesn't have a problem getting into Turn 1, but then that wall has to come back around and be at an angle to help cars funnel into Turn 2, where both Davids had their problems.
“Every time you turn around, when you're a track owner, promoter, you're trying to make sure your track is the safest it can be, but it's a tough balance. We blew out a left front tire. I knew I was going to smack the fence pretty hard. I'm fine standing here today because of all the safety that the tracks have done and NASCAR has done. I feel pretty safe out there, after watching some vicious wrecks that happened last Sunday.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BRISTOL? “The racing there has changed dramatically since they’ve made the improvements and changed it around where we can race side-by-side a lot easier. Is that good, is it bad. Every time you turn around, you're getting questioned on, ‘we want the old Bristol back’. It's not going to happen. We're out there racing two-, sometimes three-wide now. It gets three-wide pretty quick when you're in traffic and the two leaders don't want to yield and give up time around those lap cars. It's exciting to me. I think a lot of the drivers agree it's a place now where it's changed and you have to have a little bit of finesse mixed in if you want to have success.”
CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW FAST THINGS HAPPEN AT BRISTOL? “It’s a track where you’re making 16-second lap times. You know that you’re in Turn 1 and you’re already looking ahead to Turn 3. The spotter has to digest everything and how fast it happens there to help the driver. It just gets back to those good old short-track moments when you have those little itty-bitty tracks and you have closure rates that are quick on other cars. It’s hard to create an analogy to our race fans. Things happen so fast, it’s just like traveling down the interstate and you can’t see the other guy that’s off on the shoulder changing his tires with his car is jacked up. You’ve got to make sure that you look far enough down the road to be able to digest it all.”
HAS PENSKE BECOME THE BOUTIQUE TEAM THAT CAN JUMP INTO AND WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? “With Brad’s success in having the wins to get into the Chase as a wild card, that’s what the point system and movement was made to do, give guys an opportunity who don’t have the consistency, but still have the opportunity to race for the Chase. That element of that wild card has definitely made it exciting for everybody to watch. You have your consistent group, the Big Four. For us at Penske, we’re one of the big teams; we just don’t have four teams out there every week. I feel like we’re doing everything that those top teams are doing, except that we only have two cars out there each week instead of four.”
HAS THERE BEEN ANY DRAMATIC CHANGES FROM A TECHNOLOGICAL STANDPOINT WHERE YOU FEEL THE ORGANIZATION HAS PICKED UP AS A WHOLE? “We have made good strides since May, our Richmond race; the team communication and everybody being on the same page as well Brad feeling more confident in his Cup cars.”
WITH YOU POSITION IN POINTS, DOES THAT ALLOW YOU TO TEST AT ALL ON RACE WEEKENDS? IS THERE A DANGER IN GOING TO FAR? “We’ve got a two-race cushion the way we look at it. We’ve got 90 points on Denny Hamlin who is 11th. With the way that Steve Addington has put in new things to the car each week, just little things here and there, we’re not going to go way off in left field and try things. We’re still going to continue to polish up what we have because what we have has gotten us to this point at a fairly successful rate. Just a few weeks ago at Pocono, we were struggling all through practice. We threw our setup in the trashcan and bolted in Brad Keselowski’s setup. He won the race, we finished third. That’s the sign of a team that’s in position to do good things, when you can just throw a setup at it and still come away with a top-five finish.
“We’re not going to push anything different. We feel comfortable with our point’s position, but yet we’re at a unique opportunity to try to push to get into this Summer Showdown. Sprint has put up this big bonus to really magnify these races with the intensity factor. No, we’re not really going to steer away, but we feel comfortable in our point’s position to be able to steer away.”
(CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW BRAD HAS CHANGED IN HIS INFORMATION FEEDBACK? HAS IT HELPED IMPROVE YOUR CARS AND HELPED YOU? “It’s been a nice, steady progression. It’s been neat to watch him feel more comfortable in the Cup cars. I think a few weeks ago, when we put his setup in (our car) at Pocono, it gave him that feel of, ‘wow, I really got a lot of input now in that 22 car because he put my setup in.’ That’s what’s been available all along for him to do, that’s to put in a 22 car setup. But now it’s that two-way street. That’s when it gets exciting. That’s when both teams can really start to gain strength because there’s not anything that we’re going to doubt that Paul Wolfe is saying, ‘I’m going to move the track bar down just a little bit.’ In our minds, Steve Addington and I were like, ‘we’ve already done that. We’ve seen that.’ Now, we’re really focused in on, ‘Ok, that has made a good change for them. Let’s do that for us so that we can move on to something else.’”