BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH KYLE BUSCH, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S MONTE CARLO SS: THIS YEAR THE CHASE SEEMS TO BE MORE ABOUT HOLDING YOUR POSITION RATHER THAN BATTLING YOUR WAY IN. DO YOU AGREE? "No, there are 11 cars that have the opportunity to make it.
BEHIND THE HAULER CHAT WITH KYLE BUSCH, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S MONTE CARLO SS:
THIS YEAR THE CHASE SEEMS TO BE MORE ABOUT HOLDING YOUR POSITION RATHER THAN BATTLING YOUR WAY IN. DO YOU AGREE? "No, there are 11 cars that have the opportunity to make it. It's all about trying to stay in because there's only one guy who is falling out. If there were 16 guys that had the capability of trying to get in, it would be all about who's going to find their way in. This year is much different that what the past two have been. I'm not sure what the reasoning is with that. Some guys seem to get a little bit further ahead in the season that they have so late."
HOW WILL THAT AFFECT THE WAY PEOPLE RACE WITH PEOPLE TRYING TO HOLD THEIR POSITION IN THE CHASE? "It's changed it a ton, completely. It's like a whole different world out here now. Before you'd be racing all the way to the end of the year but here with about five races to go, if you have a spot in the Chase you're playing a little bit light just to make sure you can stay in it. For a guy that's out, you're doing everything you can to get in it, but you're not taking any extra chances in order to try to do something different. The biggest thing is all about keeping your car going around the race track until the end of the race."
DO YOU WANT UPDATES ON OTHER POTENTIAL CHASE DRIVERS DURING THE RACE? "No, I don't want to know where all the other guys are. I'm worried about myself and that's the 5 car."
FIVE OF THE 10 CHASE RACES ARE AT 1.5-MILE TRACKS. IS THAT TOO MANY? "Oh yeah, it is. We're going to Loudon and Dover though and those are two pretty cool places. Martinsville, that's good. That's three. Phoenix and Homestead, those are not so cookie cutter race tracks. Atlanta, Texas and Charlotte are and you've got Kansas in there. So you've got four out of the nine.
I think it's a pretty diverse schedule. It probably could be even more so, maybe throw in a road course or something like that like at Mid-Ohio or somewhere else."
ON GOING TO NEW HAMPSHIRE: "I like going to New Hampshire. It's fun for me. I tend to run well there. I'm not sure why. Every time we've taken the right car there we finished in the top five sort of like here. If we can keep that string going this weekend and next weekend I think we'll be pretty good."
HOW MUCH HAS RUNNING THE FULL BUSCH SCHEDULE HELPED YOU WITH YOUR CUP EFFORT THIS YEAR? "Not the full schedule but running at all the companion races have helped me. The biggest thing is being able to have the track time and being able to understand what the car does over the long run and things like that. The Cup car and Busch car are so different you can't really translate information back and forth, at least we can't. Some of the other teams might be able to. For me it's been about what the track conditions do and things like that and trying to keep ahead of the game so if you go run low in the beginning and then you move up towards the middle and wherever you are at the end, you know where to run at what time of the race and that helps me a lot for the Cup races."
ON FINISHING STRONG IN THE LAST RACES LAST YEAR. HOW MUCH DOES THAT SET THE STAGE FOR 2006? "Last year we put ourselves in as a fake Chase player. We put ourselves 10th like we barely made it in. We went out there and tried to race it as if we were in it. We didn't do too bad. We figured about seventh in points with our calculations. It definitely could have been a little bit better. We had a wreck at Talladega. I wrecked myself at Homestead. There were a couple of other things in there we had happen to us. We had a motor failure at Charlotte or something. I think we fared pretty well and we ran well enough with all those guys even with them being in the Chase so we feel confident about it."
IS THERE A NEED AT THIS POINT FOR NASCAR TO STEP IN AND START POLICING HOW MUCH BUMP THERE IS IN THE BUMP AND RUN? "No, definitely not. It's between all of us. If somebody takes it too far and wrecks somebody they're going to get it back. That's the neat stuff about this sport is if you get somebody else that's not out there with you and doesn't have the strain and the stress and all the pressure on them taking care of things, then that takes the fun out of it. It takes the effort that some guys put in to try and pass somebody out of it."
WHAT MAKES YOU A CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER THIS YEAR? "(It's) my team. I wouldn't say it has anything to do with me really. I think it's more so my team and what kind of people you surround yourself with. They're probably one of the strongest bunches out there. They do an awesome job. They work hard. I'm not saying anybody else is any different than what we are but I feel very close to all my guys. We have a great working relationship and a very open relationship with them all. I think that's what makes the most come out of how you spend your time at the race track with your guys."
ON HOW HE REPLICATED THE CHASE IN HIS OWN MIND LAST YEAR: "We were just trying to see what it would be like. The pressure definitely wasn't there because we weren't in it but we wanted to try to feel ourselves out and take everything into consideration on what we needed to do and how we needed to play it. Maybe this year we can put what we learned last year to use."
WAS THE WHOLE SHOP IN ON YOUR CHASE PLAN LAST YEAR? DID YOU POST POINTS OR TALK ABOUT IT ON MONDAY? "No, it was just kind of a work in progress deal. It wasn't a big commotion or anything like it. It was just all of us realizing if we put ourselves in as 10th, how are we going to end up? Are we going to be strong enough to be championship caliber because this is where we need to be next year and this is where we want to be next year."
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS FROM LAST YEAR HAVING ONE CAR IN THE CHASE AND THIS YEAR POSSIBLY HAVE THREE CARS IN THE CHASE? WHAT HAS CHANGED AT THE ORGANIZATION? "I think everybody getting closer together and all the teams working more in depth together and making sure that everybody shares information. We have our team meetings and stuff like that now with the crew chiefs and the drivers, so that's been a big help. The other thing has been communication between Jeff (Gordon) and Steve (Letarte). It's gotten a lot better from the beginning of the year. (I think) being able to work those 10 races they raced last year helped out. All the communication has gone a long ways. There hasn't been much development with any of the cars. We've got better bodies this year than we had last year but that's just the process of evolution. You keep coming up with better stuff as you go."
DID YOU HAVE THE DRIVER AND CREW CHIEF MEETINGS LAST YEAR? "No, it's something that Ganassi started last year I think. Casey Mears had told Jeff (Gordon) and Jimmie (Johnson) about it because they're pretty good friends. We thought about trying it so we did it for a couple of weeks as a test run and things worked out so we just kept going with it."
DO THOSE MEETINGS HAPPEN EVERY MONDAY? "No, it's right now as soon we're done with this."
HOW SIGNIFICANT IS THE PRESSURE OF GETTING INTO THE CHASE? IS IT TOUGH TO DEAL WITH? "Not really. We've had a very strong season so far. We've been proud of the way we've run this year. We've been proud of the way our cars have been this year so we feel like it's been a good season. We're confident enough in going into tomorrow that we know we can make it in. We had some great practice speeds. We were fifth in race trim and we were first in qualifying trim. I'm not saying we'll get the pole or anything tonight but I still think we have a great car. We always seem to run well here for whatever reason. It doesn't always handle great but it's always fast."
ON TONY STEWART CRASHING IN PRACTICE AND FIGHTING HIM FOR A SPOT IN THE CHASE: "I just heard that he crashed. I wanted to know how and what happened there exactly, if it was something there on the race track or if it was just him getting loose or if somebody hit him or what it was. All in all we don't necessarily worry about him crashing and whether or not if it hurts his chances (for the Chase). It doesn't. They're strong enough. They'll come back."
SO YOU THINK HE'LL MAKE THE CHASE? "He'll (Tony Stewart) be in. There's three (drivers) that are going to have the chance of coming out of it - ninth, 10th and 11th. Those are your three that are going to be out, one of those."
DO YOU EXPECT ANY EXTRA LEEWAY TOMORROW FROM THE GUYS NOT TRYING TO GET INTO THE CHASE? "I'm not expecting it, no. I hope they give it but I'm not expecting it. I'm sure they're going to be racing just as hard especially if it's a guy that hasn't won a race in a while or hasn't won a race at all this year. They'll be looking to win, of course, so if you're trying to pass for the lead they're not going to be too lenient on you. If you're solidly in you'll go for the win and try to win but if you still have to make sure that you finish the race then you'll probably take second.
"If you have a problem early, you know what you're racing for. For us, we're racing for 22nd. That will be first place for us."
ON THE CHASE CONTENDERS DOING WELL IN CALIFORNIA. YOU CAN'T REALLY LET UP CAN YOU? "You can and you can't. It all depends on who you are or who you want to be. For myself last week, man I was having a ball racing Kasey (Kahne) for the lead there. We were back and forth like five laps in a row. It was cool. I'm sure he thought the same thing but I'm sure he also thought 'What in the heck is this guy doing?'. That's what we're out here to do. We're out here to race and that's the fun part about it. Some guys like it and some guys don't like, whether they want to be easy or whether they want to race. That's just the way it is."
ON GETTING UPDATES FROM YOUR TEAM ON THE OTHER DRIVERS TOMORROW: "If we have a problem with about 150 (laps) to go, you want to know what you have to do or where you need to be. If you're running fine, top five, top 10, you don't really care if you're falling back into the 20s or something like that, you just want to know if you're on a hot seat or not, if you need to get on top of the wheel a little bit more. All in all it should be just fun. Hopefully after lap 200 we should hopefully solidly be in."
DO YOU PLAN TO GIVE ANY EXTRA ELBOW ROOM TO ENSURE YOU GET THROUGH THE RACE WITHOUT KNOCKING A FENDER IN? "Well yeah. I'm always driving my race car the way I need to be driving it, that's to give a little bit of leeway and make sure I don't hit or run into anybody. I don't need to knock any fenders in or anything like that. It's all up to other people whether or not they want to race you hard and let you go or what you want to do there. I remember the spring race here this year, (Tony) Stewart and I were still kind of mad at each other about earlier in the year. It took me 25 laps to pass. Here lately it's been really good so I haven't had any beefs with anybody. I'm actually looking pretty good coming in here."
WHAT IS IT LIKE KNOWING IF YOU HAVE A MECHANICAL FAILURE YOU MAY NOT MAKE IT IN THE CHASE? "The biggest thing is hopefully the oil pan is strong enough to hold all the rods in. If you've got a carburetor issue or a distributor problem or something like that, like what we had a couple of years ago here, hopefully we can fix it and still return and get a good enough finish or somebody else can have a problem that can keep us in. But we don't wish any bad luck on anybody else because we don't wish any on ourselves. That's part of the sport. That's what it is. You give and take and you take what you can get."
IS IT STRESSFUL? "That part of it is but for me to just go out there and race is what I'm out there to do. I know that if I have a parts failure, it wasn't my fault."
HOW DO YOU RACE THIS RACE? "You have to go out there and race it like you would any other race. You can't take any more chances than you regularly would. You definitely have to make sure that you're there at the end of the race and if somebody else has a problem behind or if there's any other Chase contender that blows up or wrecks, then it's game on because you know you're in. Besides that if everybody is fighting for the top 15 then you definitely have to know to watch your P's and Q's and what you do."
DO YOU HAVE TO BE SOMEWHAT OF A FATALIST AND SAY WHATEVER HAPPENS JUST HAPPENS? "That's what it is for me anyway. Whatever our destiny is set forth for us is what we're going to receive so we'll see what we can get."
HOW MUCH ARE YOU TRYING TO PUT THE CHASE OUT OF YOUR MIND? "None. I haven't thought it. I'm just here to race and do what I know how to do, that's hopefully to finish in the top five. We have three times in a row and if we can do it again that will just be icing on the cake. If we can win, shoot, that will be 100 candles on the cake."
WHAT TRACK DO YOU WORRY ABOUT IN THE CHASE? "Talladega is one. Atlanta and Texas are the other two we feel most concerned about."
WHY ATLANTA AND TEXAS? "We suck (laughs). We've got work to do. I don't know what it is. We run good at Charlotte. We had a car capable of winning at Charlotte earlier this year and got wrecked there but then Texas we were running around 15th, 20th all day and we ended up 15th. It's funny in the beginning or middle of the race we can be up front racing with the leaders and then somehow at the end of the race, we just didn't have the car capable enough to finishing up there. (It was the) same thing with Atlanta. The middle of the race I took the lead from Dale Earnhardt Jr. a couple of times last year and was battling Mark Martin and Jeff Burton up there. At the end of the race we were 12th. We finished 12th there every time."
DOES IT TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF THAT NOBODY EVER REALLY EXPECTED YOU TO BE HERE? "No that doesn't really make the pressure any different. The biggest thing is we wanted to be sure and that's why we set forth our fake Chase last year. We made it in this year and hopefully we can learn what we learned last year and put it into effect this year."
THERE'S THE POSSIBILITY THE DRIVER WITH THE MOST WINS THIS SEASON MAY NOT QUALIFY FOR THE CHASE WHILE TWO GUYS WITH ZERO WINS COULD BE IN. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THAT? "Consistency, that's what this sport has always been based on. It's been based on that even more so if we were running the other points format. You can come into the Chase and light the world on fire at the beginning of the year and fall off and be mediocre and miss the Chase. Kasey's done that. I'm not saying he'll miss it. The biggest thing for him is it's not that they weren't running good. They just had bad luck sometimes. That takes you out a lot. We had a couple of those earlier this year but we were able to keep our 10th, 11th and 12th places going more so than our 28th and 30th (finishes)."
ON CHANGING THE POINT SYSTEM AND GIVING RACE WINNERS MORE POINTS: "There's been talk about that over the past few seasons on whether the winner needs to receive more points. I think it would be fair. Winning a race at this level nowadays is so hard to do. If you were rewarded a few more points I don't think it'd be a bad thing."
-credit: gm racing