NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race May 22, 2010 An interview with: Kurt Busch Steve Addington KERRY THARP: We're pleased to be joined by the winning crew chief of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, that is Steve Addington. Steve, how does it feel to win...
NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race
May 22, 2010
An interview with:
KERRY THARP: We're pleased to be joined by the winning crew chief of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, that is Steve Addington. Steve, how does it feel to win the 2010 Sprint All-Star Race?
STEVE ADDINGTON: It feels great. It feels great for the team. It feels great for Penske Racing. This is a big, big win for us from where we are as a race team.
I think it builds confidence in us as a race team and what we have going on, going forward from here on trying some different things on the racecar.
KERRY THARP: Let's take some questions for Steve Addington.
Q: Steve, everybody seemed to have the general expectation that the last 10 laps were going to be wild. They certainly lived up to their promise. Was the key with this idea only green-flag laps counted? Did you have to get out front as quick as possible to stay away from everything that was going to erupt?
STEVE ADDINGTON: I think so. I think everything that happened, we were in the right position to make the move to get around it. It's like the sea parted for us there when the 18 and 11 got together, whatever happened there. I didn't see the whole incident. It opened up for us.
When we drove off in the corner, I couldn't see anything in one and two. The spotter was yelling, Two outside. I was trying to figure out if we had messed up getting in the corner and guys had caught us. When it came out from behind the buildings, he was past the 18 and underneath the 11 for the win.
Everything happened. It was key to get out there. We made big adjustments right there on that 10-minute break to make that happen for Kurt to be able to be that fast at the beginning of a run.
Q: You just mentioned the 10-minute break. Kurt gave us an overview of what you changed. You crew chiefs don't tell the driver everything you do. Can you give us what you changed during that period?
STEVE ADDINGTON: We changed a good bit. It was shock adjustments, some bump-stop adjustments. We got off when we got on the two-tire sequence. Our car wasn't very good on two tires. We tried to adjust for what we thought the car was going to do and it got really tight. When we came in, I put the window net down, started talking to him. He was frustrated losing handle on the racecar. I said, We'll make big adjustments. I went back to stuff we did in practice. We made some changes towards that direction with the car like we did in practice and it came alive.
Q: If a driver gets into the wall like that early, he's not in here. Is that driver error or was the car not set up?
STEVE ADDINGTON: I think the balance of the car was off at that point. He got a little frustrated. He has the right to do so. I think that he was just pushing it to see how far he could. We were running the high line. It was good for us tonight at the end of a run. He was up there next to the wall. You can't make any kind of mistake when you run that close at the top.
He made a little mistake, got into the fence. These cars are pretty tough. That foam on the right side takes a pretty good lick.
Q: You said when you first came in this really helps build team confidence. Where did you feel you were at as far as mentally coming into this weekend?
STEVE ADDINGTON: I just answered that question outside. I do not think, with the inconsistency that we have had up to this point, we've ran really good, but we've been pretty inconsistent. We either are feast or famine. It's been top five or we've been 18th to 20th. That's not what wins championships. It's being consistent. That's what we've got to get in our racecars. The big thing is bringing the same chassis style that we run good on every single week.
So we've just got to get those cars built and implemented in the system and bring it every week and we don't need to change anything until we get more consistent and how we run at the racetrack.
Q: Was the car hurt at all by the two brushes with the wall? Were you able to try some things with the car, use some setups you normally wouldn't have the nerve to do in a points race?
STEVE ADDINGTON: To answer your second question first, we came here with a different package than what we've been running because if you look back, we start the Dover race really fast. We were one of the fastest cars on the racetrack at Dover. It felt like we lost the handle of the car a little bit during the race. It's like when the racetrack rubbers up, we get behind.
We came totally different to this race to try to learn for the 600 because it's going to be a long race and the racetrack is going to get rubbered up, get slick, things like that. So we came with a totally different package we came with. We called it a little bit of a science project. It was pretty good in practice. He was happy with it.
But I think he was totally happy with the car most of the weekend other than when we got on two tires.
To answer you on the damage of how bad it was, it just scraped the side. The tow was the same as what we set it before the race. We didn't feel like it was hurt that bad. We got it pulled back out, clear tires, went on.
Q: We've heard you and others at Penske say you feel like Kurt Busch is underrated. A victory like this where he staves off the dominant car, driver, Jimmie Johnson...
STEVE ADDINGTON: I don't know. I don't think he's as flamboyant as some people as far as out grabbing media attention. I think that's one of the reasons that me and him get along so great and it's working really well. We're here to work on racecars. That's what we're here for, to try to win races week in, week out.
We do that. We get back behind the scenes. We're in the lounge two or three hours after practice talking. He has taught me a lot of how to respect a driver that is just truly focused on what the team and what cars he's driving, that he wants to just focus on that and work on that, make this program better. He's worried about the 2 car, the 2 car only. The talent that that guy's got is unbelievable. I hope we can win enough races to where he does get the respect that he deserves.
Q: So is it fair to say that none of the pretty big changes you made during the long break are related to him getting into the wall at all?
STEVE ADDINGTON: No. He was a little frustrated, like I said, when he came down for the break. We just made some adjustments. I got down beside the car and talked to him about what he was needing in the racecar, what had changed. The only thing that changed is doing the two-tire sequence. That killed our racecar, made it really tight.
We talked about what we were going to do. We were going to put four tires on. We made some pretty significant adjustments there as far as the handling packages. He thought it really brought the car to life.
I don't know kind of what you're asking there. But I think what we talked about, we just made changes like we would in practice, and had time to do it on that 10-minute break.
Q: Before the race you thought the car was really good. When the race started, it came out of balance you said.
STEVE ADDINGTON: Well, I think when the race started, I thought we had a really good car. I think the adjustments we made, he came back up there, was racing with Kyle to take the lead at the end of that one break, and I think we put the two tires on, and that's what threw the car off. He got a little frustrated with it of being a little bit off sequence on two tires.
When we talked in the 10-minute break, I told him we were going back to where the car was not that bad, made the adjustments from there.
Q: You're familiar with the guy we stood outside the hauler talking to his teammate, said he was ready to kill Denny Hamlin. You're familiar with that, that attitude. The guy you got now seems a little more calm and mature than that. Is that the difference between a championship team and not a championship team?
STEVE ADDINGTON: Well, you know, Kyle has his own personality. That's just Kyle. I don't know what would change him or anything like that. I love the kid to death. Had a lot of success with Kyle. He has his moments, you know. That's the way it is with him. I think that's just, you guys have got to get used to it. He's trying. I know he's trying and trying hard to get to where he stays a lot calmer.
I think on the racetrack he's done an excellent job this year of coming a long ways. I was in the position of hoping that I would be the one working for him when he got to that point, but it didn't work out. But I'm really happy where I'm at right now with the guy that drives the car that I work on now.
I think the biggest difference is, you know, being mature and being through the up-and-down seasons, having the success, haven't been so successful, had a couple years that weren't so great, then had a good 2009. That's what we're trying to better, is what Kurt Busch accomplished in 2009.
What Kyle and the other guys have over there at the 18 car, I am not in communication with them anymore. I'm not trying too be a smart ass or anything else, but that's my driver right there in that blue suit, and that's all I'm worried about.
KERRY THARP: Steve, congratulations. Enjoy this victory. Especially enjoy tomorrow.
STEVE ADDINGTON: Thanks, guys.
KERRY THARP: Now we have the winner of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, Kurt Busch. He drives the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing.
Kurt, how does it feel to win this NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race? I know you were up here yesterday. I said, How does it feel to be on the pole? You said, A little bit closer to a million bucks.
KURT BUSCH: It's an unbelievable experience. It's something that you sit there and you look at the greats that have won this race, the ones that have had so many years go by in between the wins, just to have an opportunity to go for it tonight, I felt like our Penske Dodge was right where it needed to be at the end.
But it also started there. I felt like starting on the pole, having track position early on gave us a good indication on what we should expect for the evening, on how we had to adjust on the car and keep it up front.
To win the first segment, that was pretty special, one small step as well. Getting into the second segment, we did four tires. That put us eighth on the restart. We weren't able to move up as fast as I thought we could. Got all the way up to third. We were a little loose on that run, faded back to fifth when the second segment closed out.
With our strategy to put on just two tires going into the third segment, our thought process was to leave the chassis alone. When we did that, man, the car was awful on that third segment. We were just way tight. Just a whole different attitude in the racecar. It wore on my pretty heavily. I was telling the guys, We're way tight, we're out of the mix. Faded all the way back to eighth or 10th place, bouncing off the wall. Just trying to get all I could out of the racecar, even though we didn't change a thing. We were very tight. I thought our night was done after that third segment.
When we got in for the break, took a deep breath, took those 10 minutes to sit there and try to figure out what we could do as a team to make the car better.
I wasn't very helpful. I'll have to admit that. I told Steve Addington, The car is way tight, just fix this bad boy, go for it, go for everything you think we need, I'll drive the wheels off it. If we spin off loose going for it, it means we made adjustments to make the car better. It helped us communicate in a certain fashion where the crew chief has to stand up and take the role of being the leader and make the changes.
That's sometimes the best-case scenario, where the crew chief makes his work done, puts the faith in the driver, and the driver understands that the crew chief gave it all that he's got, and the two of us went at it.
We were able to move up on our pit stop during that four-tire mandatory stop. We moved up to eighth place. I felt like the outside is where I found myself on most of the restarts tonight. We got bottled up on one of them. From the rest of the night, though, the outside prevailed for us.
I think we went all the way from fifth to first in one lap. The Miller Lite Dodge was money when it counted. We really had a fast racecar. It was a pleasure to drive it. The segment before that, though, I wouldn't have given a million bucks for it. Now it has a million dollar name to it. The right side, we have to replace it. We'll think about bringing this car back for next week. I know we have a better piece for next week ready to go for the 600.
I'm proud of our effort tonight as a team, as my crew chief and continue Ito develop our relationship.
KERRY THARP: Let's open it up for questions for Kurt Busch.
Q: After the race was over, I heard you say on the radio, We had a rough third segment, we didn't change anything on it, maybe we had a bum set of tires, this Dodge was money when it counted. You talked about how much you talked with Steve about changing the car around. Reconcile those two things for me. The story is filed, it's going to be in the paper the opposite of what I now realize is the truth. How do those two statements work together?
KURT BUSCH: If I could explain what bad sets of tires are, I would have myself further down the road and be smarter, as well.
I can't tell you sometimes when we get a bad set and if it was a bad set. But all I know is we had to overadjust on the racecar because if I would have went out there on the final segment in a tight condition, guys would have drove right by us.
Whether the tires loosened themselves back up or the adjustments we made, the two of them meshed really well together.
One thing we have to work on at Penske Racing is this razor blade edge we're on. Sometimes we're a little bit loose, sometimes we're a little bit tight, and we can only just bolt on a set of tires. We need a little bit bigger window to be more competitive. Whether you wrote in the story that the tires made it tighter or the setup changes made it better, both of those items helped us win this race tonight because we weren't going to win this race on the tires from the third segment.
Q: I'm sure you're aware that Roger Penske already had a pretty big day before he came here tonight. You guys are both based in the same shop. Is there any competition when you hear the IndyCar does something, and you're doing later, that you want to match or top them?
KURT BUSCH: When they don't win, we scratch our heads. So it's not necessarily a competition between the NASCAR and the IndyCar side. It's just all an effort that we're all pushing hard at Penske. My responsibility is on the NASCAR side.
I root for those IndyCar guys. I like to see them do well. I know quite a few of the guys over there from running some Grand American Rolex races in the Sports Car Series.
To see them on pole at the Indy 500, that's Helio's fourth pole, Rick Mears has four poles over his career. Roger is bar none the most successful individual I've ever seen step foot onto Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That was one of the main reasons why I thought that I could help bring a NASCAR championship to him on this side. We're going to keep trying. We're going to keep plugging away, plugging hard.
I don't really think there's a competition between IRL and NASCAR. It's just on the NASCAR side, we want to do better.
Q: What did you see when that last 10-lap segment began? What were you thinking you were going to try -- was there anywhere you were going to try to make a pass? Did you have a game plan going into that?
KURT BUSCH: My game plan was to make big, bold moves, make sure when I was able to plant the throttle to keep it down and wheel the car the best that I could. When you plant the throttle early, you get a big run off the corners. I had Jimmie Johnson in the middle of the racetrack. I was digging underneath him. I saw some paint and sparks fly off turn two when Kyle brushed the fence with Hamlin. I don't know what happened there, but it hurt both their momentum. I was able to get by Johnson. I think I cleared Logano.
Big bold moves is what I was going to go for, it paid off. Segment one, I was throwing down some big moves, the car stuck really well. I had confidence in the car to hammer down and let the rough edges drag.
Q: We all know from time to time you get a little disappointed in how your car performs, you tend to be rather colorful about explaining that to your crew chief. Then you go on to win the race tonight. Can you give us an idea of what it was like to have that emotional swing from the end of segment three where you thought you were junk to standing in Victory Lane?
KURT BUSCH: A lot of people make a big commotion about my radio or even my little brother's radio, how PC it isn't. But to me it paints a picture to my crew chief to let him know how bad the car is on a scale of 1 to 10. It was a 10 tight. Did we change a thing? No. So it was very confusing. When you're sitting there with a competitive car that won the first segment, that was in the middle of the mix for segment two, segment three turns to squash like it did, you're seeing millions of dollars go out the window. It's like, Man, what did we do wrong? We didn't change anything on the setup.
You don't lose focus. It makes me drive harder to find every 10th of a second that I can to make our car as fast as it can be on the racetrack. It's a motivational thing for me I think. It gets misconstrued by a lot of other people.
Q: Could you talk about your emotions when you took the checkered flag and the cool-down lap.
KURT BUSCH: A big moment with getting the checkered flag at an All-Star Race, to have a million bucks put up by Sprint. I have to thank them for that opportunity to win a million dollars. I think the biggest payday I've ever gotten. I finished second at the Daytona 500 before. It's a really neat check when it comes in the mail.
Getting the lead during the final 10-lap segment, that was the biggest moment for me in the race. I was like, Whoa, this is it, man. This is you. You got it all on the line. You got a four-time champion chasing you, one of the hottest racers on the circuit running down with the 11 car. To hold those guys off, put up a fight, get back to the feel of knocking down good lap times, having a car to do it with, brought back memories of my '04 season, especially when I got to Victory Lane and had ha huge champagne bottle. I almost dropped it when it won the championship years ago. Tonight we wore that thing out.
Q: Going into the final restart with two laps to go, what were your thoughts?
KURT BUSCH: One of the my thoughts was, Are we in green-white-checkered mode? Are we to the point where these are counting for the three green-white-checkereds? I put that out of my mind. I said, Hey, doesn't matter how many restarts there are, you're going to have to win them all. With different competitors on my inside, whether it was Johnson, Logano, I just tried to not slip a tire. I tried to put down the best traction I could and get through the gears as smooth as I could, no matter who the challenger was. It reminds me a little bit of the drag racing I've been doing, trying to get reaction tiles, trying not to slip tires, trying to get the hole shot.
I always like to just revert back to people that have coached me through my career, whether it's been my dad, my first car owner in the Southeast Tour, Jack Roush, Roger Penske, or Roy Hill, I went to his drag racing school. He's not even paying me to say all this. It's neat for me to put it all together to win these races.
One bummer thing I learned, in Victory Lane, Mike Helton told me, this was Groundhog Day, we weren't even in the green-white-checkered zone yet 'cause it was lap 98. We could have had another lap and then had more restarts. But the problem is once the leader takes the white flag under green conditions, the race is confirmed. There's no way we were going to get into that groundhog zone that Mike Helton was talking about, but I don't want to second guess Mike Helton.
Q: Martin Truex came out of nowhere to finish second. How aware were you of his progress, especially in light of his win in the Showdown? Did you see him come in there on the last lap?
KURT BUSCH: It's amazing watching the guys come out of the Showdown and getting up into the front leader pack towards the end of these All-Star Races. It happened with Kahne. Michael Waltrip was the first one to do it many years ago. I'm missing somebody that advanced through the Open. To win the bad boy, you have to watch out for those guys. They have an extra 40 laps, make shock adjustments. You can never count anybody out. You can't count anybody as being a soft competitor in this All-Star Race because everybody that's in it deserves to be in it.
Q: I've watched you this year in several different situations. With this victory, is this shaping up to be one of your best years in racing ever because of all the different types of racing that you're doing?
KURT BUSCH: It's been a great start for us. What I've struggled with a little bit is just the hot and coldness of it. The cold times I can't quite define just yet. But, you know, we'll run third at Darlington one week and then we'll back it up with blowing out right front tires at Dover the next week. Goodyear changes the tires quite often with the Car of Tomorrow. Some racetracks it comes into our favor, others it doesn't. Tracks we've expected to do well on this year, we've struggled. Racetracks we've struggled on in years past, perfect example, Charlotte tonight, we run well on. I can't quite figure that out.
But we're going to throw the best effort that we can at it to understand what a win tonight can bring us. Momentum is at an all time high here to win at Charlotte, with a completely different setup that we had in the racecar. That's the most refreshing thing about it. Big night for Miller Lite, Dodge, Penske. Right now we're ninth in points. We're a little bit further behind than where we want to be. We have to build some consistency back in it.
Q: Put aside for a moment the million dollars that you won. The fact that you performed so well at Charlotte tonight, does that give you a better picture going into the 600? It's been a place where you've struggled in the past.
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, again, it's interesting. On some of the tracks we expect to do well we struggled. Tonight to have a successful run, even early on, to win the first segment, to bring it home for the million bucks, pushing that all aside with this setup, we feel very comfortable going into the 600. We have to pace ourselves for the daytime and get into the nightfall, see how things play out for us.
It's a tough series right now. Last year we finished fourth overall. I knew that the RCR cars were going to be stronger. I knew that the Roush cars were going to be stronger. Right now we have five cars ahead of us that weren't that strong last year. That moves us from fourth to ninth. We're going to have to continue to fight harder and get ourselves up in the mix with the Gibbs and Hendrick guys week in and week out.
KERRY THARP: Kurt, thank you very much. Congratulations on winning the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
KURT BUSCH: Thank you so much.