KURT BUSCH (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T) “It was great for us to not have to worry about the points situation. It’s been a great regular season for us, nice and consistent. We’ve done really well with qualifying. We’ve done well with our consistency. It’s just time to turn up all the other areas of the team, whether it’s pit stops, whether it’s making the car better during the race, whether it’s just the ins and outs of practice and maximizing our time on track. It’s go time. That’s what this point of the season is all about. It’s a great way to reflect on the first portion but now this is the final 10 weeks and there the most important 10 weeks coming up.”
GIVEN THE MAJORITY OF TRACKS IN THE CHASE ARE INTERMEDIATE TRACKS, ARE YOU ENCOURAGED BY YOUR RUN AT ATLANTA? “Atlanta is a different style of track, just how it chews up tires but it is a mile-and-a-half and the majority of the Chase races fit into those mile-and-a-halfs. I think the way the Chase shapes up this year we should have a good seven out of 10 tracks. The three I’m worried about are Martinsville, Talladega and the new Phoenix International Raceway. That’s going to be a big wild card out there.”
WHERE ARE YOU GUYS AT AS A TEAM RIGHT NOW? HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU COMPARED TO YEARS PAST WITH PENSKE AT THIS POINT OF THE SEASON? “I feel like we have an A minus in most areas. We can polish up and be better. Right now there’s a couple of teams that are better than us but I would say that we’re one of the programs that have a legitimate shot at running good each and every week through these 10 weeks.”
THIS WEEKEND IS THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11. CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU WERE DOING THAT DAY AND YOUR MEMORIES AND THE THOUGHTS OF THE TRIBUTES THAT ARE GOING ON THIS WEEKEND? “Obviously a day that changed a lot in the history of our country. For me I was at a short track doing a test in South Carolina and we did a long run in the morning and we were going to change the brakes over. As the crew was changing the brakes on the car I went into the hauler to grab a bite to eat for breakfast and turned on the TV and what I thought I was watching was just a what if this could happen tomorrow or a possible documentary on what is this and how can it happen and it was actually real. And I told the guys ‘You guys got to come in here and check this out.’ And it was just a surreal moment of what was happening that morning to see us attacked in that fashion make you feel very vulnerable. Quite a few things have changed since that date and it’s great to see the support from all of these race teams, from all the Americans pulling together as one and then hoisting up the red,white and blue as the pride and joy. Since that moment, I think we’ve been a country that’s been more aligned and in showing more allegiance to our country since that date.”
WHAT KIND OF ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR TONY STEWART AND HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE AGGRAVATION OF THE MEDIA? “Really? That’s what you’re asking? [laughter]. I’m supposed to give Tony Stewart advice? Let’s go to the next question [smiles].”
HAS THERE BEEN A LOT OF TALK WITHIN THE PENSKE CAMP TO 'WIN ONE FOR ROGER' THIS YEAR? "Not really between me and Brad, but for the company. We all know that we're here to bring the Captain his first Sprint Cup championship. For Brad to have brought the championship home in the Nationwide Series (last year), that's showing that we're moving the needle in the right direction. We've got a great program with our two Dodges. We find ourselves in position to run through these next 10 weeks up front and we want to do that. The two of us pushing each other harder, we have to keep it into perspective, but I think that we can make each other stronger by pushing each other."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW LONG IT TOOK YOU MENTALLY TO RECOVER FROM WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "It's definitely going to come down to what we hope is a five or six car battle going into Homestead. That's what we had back in 2004. There were four or five guys that had a legitimate shot. So much of the weight with this points system is now put onto Homestead. You can have a horrible day at Homestead and drop from leading the points to fifth. Obviously, that's a huge blow because you've put yourself in position for nine weeks, you've got to come up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, which is going to be Homestead.
"When I finished my speech in New York, I almost felt my body shutting down. I was actually sick for four or five days afterwards, just with fatigue. The mental fatigue. Waking up every morning at 6 a.m. in New York, running all day long. Of course everyone wants to go to the parties and have a good time. Afterwards, writing a speech, just being in that position was an experience that I'll never forget. But it wears you down. That's part of it. Right now you look forward at these next 10 weeks and you hope that these 10 weeks go like the feel of 10 days. If these 10 weeks turn into a 10-months-of-a-feel, then the Chase hasn't gone your way."