All-Star: Kurt Busch - Dodge Friday interview

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) NOTE: Fresh off back-to-back top five finishes at Richmond and Talladega, Busch ended up 12th at Darlington. He moved up two spots to seventh in the series standings. He's gained six spots in the last...

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)

NOTE: Fresh off back-to-back top five finishes at Richmond and Talladega, Busch ended up 12th at Darlington. He moved up two spots to seventh in the series standings. He's gained six spots in the last three races.

YOUR THOUGHTS ON COMPETING IN THE NASCAR NEXTEL ALL-STAR CHALLENGE "It's always great to have a weekend where you don't have to focus on points. I think that's the biggest excitement for the drivers around this weekend. What am I talking about? There's a million bucks up for grabs Saturday night. That's probably the most exciting thing. To be able to race for a million bucks on a Saturday night-type format, 20 laps at a time, it's really going to be exciting. We're really focused heavily on this race to obviously shoot for the big bucks and to get that trophy but of course to get the car ready for the 600. I've finished second in this race before, and that was definitely a bittersweet night to be that close and to be running up front gets you so animated. It gets you so amped and pumped up you can do that and stay at that intensity because the race is only 80 laps. It's real interesting. Just the whole format and going for broke and now having to worry about points. You've definitely got the flash bulbs going and the adrenaline is there. It definitely is one of the most exciting races of the year. We commemorate this exciting race by bringing back the gold car, the Miller Lite Beer Cup Gold Award Winner. We ran it at the Shootout earlier this year, a big resounding appreciation for the car and what it meant to the Miller Brewing Company. Of course the fans there in Daytona, but nationwide, the fans were excited about this gold car, so we're bringing it back for this all-star race. It will be exciting and hopefully we'll have a chance to drive it into victory lane and really let people know how good Miller Lite tastes."

DO THE FORMAT CHANGES ALTER THE WAY YOU DRIVE THE RACE? "The year I finished second we won the third segment and then got inverted to about eighth or 12th, so we were really buried in the back. Some guys liked to race the invert in the past. Now you've got to race for the lead on every given lap, and I think that's the philosophy you're supposed to take into the race. That's what I did the year we finished second. We had a fast racecar, so when things are going good they seem to get better for you, so it changes the philosophy a little bit with pit strategy. I think that's the key element that will be brought into this. Do you just put fuel only in on that last stop? Do you do a stop and go? Or do you bolt on two tires or four tires? There will be some question marks. When you have a new format like that you can't go to years past to see what you've done in the past. You've just got to go by the seat of your pants."

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR CHANCES FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR AND HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR TEAM'S IMPROVEMENT SINCE LAST YEAR? "At Penske Racing we just continue working on our Dodges, whether it's the Dodge Avenger or Dodge Charger and work at our own pace and test at our own times to keep up what we feel is the top 12. We're not necessarily worried about being one of the top three teams or top five teams, but yet each week we've made steady progress toward the front. We just want to make steady progress within our own team. Right now I've got an interim crew chief with Troy Raker. He's not sure if he wants to do it long term or not. We still have Roy McCauley, who's back at the race shop, not as often because he's taking care of his wife Amy, so it's a unique situation building race cars and keeping our structure moving forward as far as the timing on when you build this race car or when you repair this one, which one goes to the wind tunnel. Those are all interesting things that have jumped out of my plate along with racing the cars. We hope we've got a chance to go break up the Hendrick Brigade. We were close at Phoenix and Texas and Richmond was a really good race for us. We just seem to lack confidence on pit road on whether we need to do two tires or four tires. Sometimes the Dodge Avenger wants different things adjusted on it than the Dodge Charger. We've definitely got everything going for us and these next few months will help us polish those skills and get us ready for The Chase so we'll hit The Chase running strong."

WHAT DO YOU DO TO PREPARE FOR THE EXTRA 100 MILES NEXT WEEK IN THE 600? "One thing I know we do to the race car is we look at fuel mileage and running a different carburetor so we don't hurt the car by running it too lean on fuel, but yet we get fuel mileage we need. If we have a longer race and need to pit less often so to speak. The side effect of that is you can lean a car out too much and burn a piston real easy. It's a nice balance of finding the right power versus the right fuel mileage. You still race the car as competitive as you can, but you can't push it beyond a certain percentage level. You can't race a car 100 percent for 600 miles. There's just things teams can't prepare a car for and you can't push it that hard every single lap. It's more of a marathon than it is a sprint."

DO YOU TEND TO BE MORE AGGRESSIVE IN A NON-POINTS RACE? "You take chances out on a track every time you go into a race. It seems like you're going to be forgiven a bit more easily in the All-Star race by the other competitors or some people take it to heart a bit more harshly because of the end result whether somebody is wrecked or somebody got passed when they didn't think it was proper to pass so to speak. If there's an opening just wide enough for a car, that's where I'll drive the Miller Lite Dodge and just try to go to the front. That's' obviously the objective and with the new format you have to make sure you make the right calls on pit road. You can be aggressive on pit road and gain spots just as easy as you can out on the track as well."

COMMENT ON THE CHRYSLER GROUP BEING SOLD "We haven't been informed. I'm sure that's something Roger Penske would be happy to give more information about. For me I'm given a chance to work with Dodge Avengers and Dodge Chargers at the Penske Race Shops. Of course our connections go further than just our race shops, up to Detroit and where Roger runs his bigger operations and where he runs his dealerships. For us, I'm sure it has more to entail than I know, but I know we're continuously supported by the Dodge group and running two different cars for them. With the COT, it has a unique look to it that looks like the street car with the wing on the back. I think it should get back to win on Sunday, sell on Monday."

COMMENT ON THE BIG PICTURE "The way the new format to me is best defined is to look at it as a regular season of 26 races and then you have your playoffs, your sprint to the Nextel Cup. You have two different scenarios with consistency still paying the dividends but yet you have much more time during the 26 races to work on things, to be prepared for when you go into the next race. When you jump into The Chase, you've got to have your ducks in a row and hope everything goes smooth for you for 10 weeks straight."

IS THE HENDRICK DOMINATION BASED ON THE CAR OR SOME OF THE CALLS THEY'VE MADE LATE IN THE RACES? "When you have a team clicking on all eight cylinders, it's definitely a power that you feel, like you've got more horsepower than the other competitors and it's easier to make your pit calls and decisions on pit road. When you have three cars, and I'm sure you'll have the fourth car with Casey Mears catching up soon, it just seems to spread to all the teams. I'm sure Jimmie Johnson's information is going to Jeff Gordon and my little brother Kyle Busch is running well over there, so you have three teams that are in the top 10 in points running strong. They bounce all the information back and forth off each other and it just seems to make them even stronger. For us at Penske Racing, I think we're gaining each week some nice steps to make us confident on what we can do on pit road. We just need more races run in the top five so to speak to know what calls to make exactly and that in turn will make it easier for us in the long run."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Kurt Busch , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Roger Penske , Kyle Busch
Teams Team Penske