An Interview With: Kurt Busch And Steve Addington
THE MODERATOR: Now joining us in the press conference room is Kurt Busch. This is Kurt's 23rd victory in 380 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts. This is his first victory and ninth top-10 finish in 2011. Last win came in May of 2010 at Charlotte. This breaks a 38-race winless streak.
Kurt, talk about your domination out there today.
KURT BUSCH: Thank you. It was one of those unbelievable days where having a game plan going in, we weren't questioning it, it was just old school on how we were going to make it on two stops. With the pace dropping off like we saw it in practice, it was going to take one of those perfect efforts to make sure we maintained our lap time throughout the run to be able to make it on the stops and not worry about tires as well as the fuel strategy side of it.
Ultimately you have to protect the racecar and have that speed, then of course the right strategy.
It was great calculations by the guys. Saving fuel is one thing, but having Shell on the hood is another. When you have those good omens, it's great we were able to put the solid effort together in the pits, in the strategy department and out on the racetrack as well.
The car, it drove itself. I have all my guys to thank. Anybody that watched the race today, hopefully they're inspired by what they saw out of a Dodge Charger to go to the showroom floor and check out their SRT8 models.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions.
Q. You didn't pit for a long time at the start. 31 laps before you did. Did you have a number and goal on that or did it just play out during the early part of the race?
KURT BUSCH: No, we had a goal. Our fuel strategy from practice gave us the calculations we needed. It showed that we could make it on two stops. A lot of guys said that they couldn't make it on two stops. So we knew that there was going to be teams pitting around lap 10, lap 15 to get those fresher tires.
So my thought was inside the car, Well, I need to continue to push this car hard and run a lap time that won't allow those guys with fresh tires to chop off and be able to catch us.
It was just one of those feelings where the crew was helping me, I was helping them, and the race played out perfectly for us.
Q. When we were here on Friday I asked you what was going to be the reasons that you won if you won. Were those reasons the same two days later?
KURT BUSCH: Are you going to give me a hint on what I said? I'll try to answer it.
It's a combination of having the right strategy, of course, and having that forward drive coming off the corner. I think usually, though, my thought process is to protect the racecar, not get into those big fender rubs or into the side of other people's doors and have that damage.
Ultimately you have to protect the racecar and have that speed, then of course the right strategy. My crew gave me that today.
Q. After last year's finish here and Jeff Gordon not apologizing, is winning the best revenge?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, and to see him finish second was a definite boost at the end of the day, to see him come in second, and come out on top. To beat him, he's one of the best, he always will be. To get a good road course win, it's a big check mark on my list, something I've been working very hard at over the years, just like the restrictor plates, I've struggled to win and close out one of those.
So it's just really neat to bring home that W, and most of all have that insurance package now. We have that win heading towards the Chase. We bumped up to fourth in points. Again, it's a great day for our sponsors, for Shell, Pennzoil, Dodge, it was a great day. If you have a Shell saver card you now save 22 cents a gallon on Wednesday. So everybody needs to go fill up on Wednesday.
Q. You mentioned your crew, the fuel strategy. What was the best thing about the car that got you around the track to win by so much?
KURT BUSCH: I think the best thing about the car was that it would allow me to do everything at an A level. There's times when you can be A plus on forward drive off or on your gear ratios for saving mileage, then you would have to save on overall speed for your speed ratios. Then you have the turn left, turn right. My car gave me the ability to do all areas very well.
Knowing that Brad is definitely maturing, seeing him bust off a top 10 at a road course is great.
THE MODERATOR: We also welcome Steve Addington, crew chief. Talk a little bit about your strategy today coming into this road course.
STEVE ADDINGTON: We stuck to it. We had a game plan. Kurt said he was going to try to get a couple of positions there at the start, gain a couple positions. I was thinking, Okay, if we start 11th, we'll get to 7th or 8th. Drove by, took the lead. That made it easier on me and my guys to make a decision. We felt like we had the speed in our car to go to our lap. Didn't matter what everybody else was doing. We were paying attention to what was going on, but we didn't vary from what we had planned. That worked out the best for me in road course races, is to hit those laps we had planned.
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with questions for Steve or Kurt.
Q. Friday I asked you to give your team a grade. You said it was B plus to low A in most areas. Does today's domination change your assessment to where you are at?
KURT BUSCH: We've been on a great run these last few weeks. To bring it on home and get a W, yeah, there's that insurance with the win. We bumped up in points. It's a matter of just continuing each week to get better. This is a stretch of our season where we hit a road course, a superspeedway, a mile-and-a-half. We're all over the map. Then we go to a flat one-mile track up in Loudon, New Hampshire, which is part of the Chase. These next few weeks, you have to show your versatility if you want to be a frontrunner towards the Chase.
Q. Kurt, did you see any of the chaos going on around you? What did you think of Tony Stewart's incident with Vickers, how he ended up?
KURT BUSCH: That's funny, I only get to see out my rear windshield. That's the only view I get on a racer. You get to see some replays on the Sprint Vision. I didn't get to see what's been going on. I've been part of that chaos in the back over the years. I've been hit by guys going fourth or fifth. Gives you a flat tire, you come home 32nd.
To have a car like we did today, I had to protect it, bring it home for a good points day and wanted to get that revenge of a win over those guys. To beat a guy like Jeff Gordon today, it's that much sweeter.
Q. Your teammate said you took him around the track on Friday, helped him out. He came home with a top 10 today as well. Talk about the level of teamwork that you have now at Penske. You were close at Watkins Glen last year. When did it start to feel solid on road courses for you?
KURT BUSCH: It's a good feeling to know that the two teams are working as closely together as they ever have. Knowing that Brad is definitely maturing, seeing him bust off a top 10 at a road course is great.
He went around the racetrack. I pointed out some of the apex points, exit points, shifting points. He absorbed it like a sponge. That's what it takes as a veteran of the team to help the kid that's coming up through and to have his information help us. That's exactly what's helped both teams get stronger.
Steve can jump in and say how the crew chiefs are working together. The guys back at the shop are slapping me, giving me high-fives. Since we turned things around, it's been great.
STEVE ADDINGTON: Paul has great ideas. We sit down in each other's offices for long periods of time and talk about the direction we need to go in. We go to lunch every single day except maybe one of the week and we talk about what direction we need to work in, what we need to work on, to make it better. You have to push for stuff. You go in there with a list that's this long, you have to pick out the major hitters to what we need to go fast right now.
That's what we've done. It's great to have a guy over there that is a racer, just wants to make our racecars better along with me. That's been the big key, is we push for things that we need to go fast right now.
That was the key. When he got the lead from the 11 car, we set the pace that we were setting.
Q. Kurt, talk a little bit more about that retribution, how NASCAR has said to the drivers to settle it on the course. Have you had a scrum with somebody so far this season and how did you settle it?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I mean, it's great that you don't have to look over your shoulder and have NASCAR come down on you with a big fine or a penalty when you want to rough it up on the track.
This sport was based off of guys roughing each other up. That's that good old short-track racing that we see, the good old door slamming, bumper to bumper. It's the heritage of our sport. Times had gotten interesting in the '90s and 2000s on driver etiquette, what you had to do to race. I'm an old school kind of guy. I laugh and joke with my friends saying, I should have grew up in the '80s, I would have been a much better guy, because I'm not politically correct.
Q. You ran here a lot early in your career, southwest races. Did that history make today even more meaningful for you and was there a time back in those days when you could have pictured yourself winning a Sprint Cup race on this track?
KURT BUSCH: Thank you for asking me that question. I love the grass-roots racing, and the way that Infineon has supported that. Back in the days when I ran the Southwest Tour race, that is the Saturday support race. Teams and crew chiefs and driver/owners are watching to see what's going on out on the track, who is passing where. I raced here '98, placed third, won it in '99.
I always knew I could win on a road course. It took me a few years to get it together on the Cup side. Even in 2002 I might have had a top-five finish when I was with Roush Racing early on. I've always loved road racing. I've just struggled to put it together at the end of the race, whether it's run-ins with other drivers or running out of fuel. But I've even had the chance to stand on the podium at Daytona during the Grand American Rolex Series 24-Hour race. I love road racing. It's fun. I've done drag racing. I definitely want to stick with the NASCAR side of it as long as I can.
Q. You've said it was especially sweet to beat Jeff Gordon today. Getting back to that race last year, he apologized to several people for his actions during the race last year but not to you. He said today that he didn't feel he owed you an apology because you had run him off the track on a restart. Is that your recollection of that, too?
KURT BUSCH: Not at all.
Q. What was your recollection of that?
KURT BUSCH: My recollection was a flat right rear tire. I have an in-car camera from somebody else that proves he drove straight through us. That's last year. We got him back at Martinsville in October. It wasn't my normal style to pay somebody back like that. I just usually race somebody a lot harder when they step over the line. Him and I have always had a great relationship where we're genuine racers with each other. I respect him. He's third on our all-time list. He's a four-time champion. I'm not going to get sideways with a guy like that but I'm going to let him know he can't walk all over me.
Q. Can you describe what it's like to go across the finish line. We can only imagine what you're feeling.
KURT BUSCH: It's a great sense of satisfaction. All the hard work from the guys back at the race shop where it starts. The times that we've tested. The execution here at the racetrack this weekend. You see it all come together. You know when you have a shot at victory you have to block those moments out and get that car to the victory line. To get the checkered flag, do some doughnuts, to drive in reverse around this road course, I got choked up. It was a great feeling to know that I've won on a road course.
Q. Were you surprised that Jeff came to Victory Lane to congratulate you? When you have a car as good as your car was today, isn't that like the ultimate way to play offense because people can't really catch you to screw around with you like they can when you're having to come up through the field.
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, it was nice for Jeff to come up to Victory Lane. It's nice and convenient from pit road to walk by and say hi. It was just one of those moments where it's like, Hey, we do respect each other. To have a dominant car, he knew it would be tough for him to catch us today. And to have that good of a car, that's where you feed off the crew. Hey, I'm going to go out there early, I told Steve, and try to gain some positions. We were still unsure if we were going to make it on a two-stop strategy. But with the lap times that we could run, we could maintain pace above those guys doing the short pit. We've seen that a lot this year. Steve can jump in and say some things about it. Guys are short pitting and gaining a lot of track position.
STEVE ADDINGTON: That was the key. When he got the lead from the 11 car, we set the pace that we were setting, I was watching the car on TV, we weren't jumping curves and stuff like that. We're not absolutely pushing the car to the limit is what I was thinking to myself. I just felt, we'll do our thing. These guys are pitting.
It makes you nervous. You're stomach gets all knotted up. You feel like you're getting behind. Felt like the car was good enough if we did get caught behind, what he did at the beginning of the race, as smooth as he drove that car all day long, we could get back if we gave up anything.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations. See you next week in Daytona.