Atlanta: Ford - Kurt Busch interview

This Week in Ford Racing March 4, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus, snapped a 10-race Ford losing streak at Atlanta Motor Speedway when he captured last fall's NAPA 500. As the series heads back for...

This Week in Ford Racing
March 4, 2003

NASCAR Winston Cup

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus, snapped a 10-race Ford losing streak at Atlanta Motor Speedway when he captured last fall's NAPA 500. As the series heads back for the first of its two visits in 2003, Busch spoke about that victory and what has helped make him one of the sport's hottest drivers.

KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus

YOU'VE HAD SOME HIGHS AND LOWS AT ATLANTA. WHAT DID THAT WIN DO FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM? "It was really a coming-out party, so to speak. We had a lot of different types of attention pointed in our direction because we missed the race last year and because we had just won another short-track race the week before. Atlanta is a fun race track. It's a driver's track just like Rockingham, where you can go three-wide in the corners and still keep your momentum and still file in down the straightaways. It's a track that challenges you as far as setup and aerodynamics and you have to be on top of your game with both."

WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED IN WINSTON CUP IT SEEMED LIKE YOU EXCELLED IMMEDIATELY ON TRACKS LIKE ATLANTA AND TEXAS. DO YOU AGREE? "Yeah, I enjoyed the smooth and wide race tracks, the tracks where you have room to roam and do different things as far as passing cars. I've also always been intrigued by the aerodynamic challenge because I came from the trucks, where we were aerodynamically-challenged all the time. So the wider tracks just lent themselves to my style better, where I could open up a little bit and move around. Whereas, with the short tracks you've got to run just one groove. You've got to be able to crank out 15.20 seconds every lap when you go to Bristol."

THIS HOT STREAK YOU ARE ON SEEMED TO KIND OF COME FROM NOWHERE BECAUSE THE SUMMER MONTHS WERE NOT KIND TO YOU. WAS THERE ONE THING THAT TURNED IT AROUND? "There wasn't just one race. We had great effort through those months. We finished sixth at Chicago and eighth at Loudon during July, but August was a month where we had three DNFs in a row and that killed us. When that happens, it just knocks you up against a wall because we knew we were a top-10 team and we deserved better. We dropped down to 12th in the points after Michigan and we needed to prove to ourselves and to Jack that he had made the right decision to swap the crews and to put me in the 97 program. We decided we weren't gonna let 12th place be our final finish. We wanted something better than that and we found ourselves headed to my sponsor's race at Bristol, a track I won at in the spring. That was a tough place to turn it around, but, boom, we had a sixth-place finish there and were seventh at Darlington. We had a motor issue at Kansas and Charlotte, but since that last part of August and first part of September we started rolling because we deserved better."

HOW MUCH OF THIS IS CONFIDENCE? "When you're young and you've only been in the series for one or two years, you have to find confidence here or there at certain tracks to help motivate your ideas around the setups and to help conquer other tracks that you have a more difficult time running at. I'm in my third year and I've got experience at most every race track. I've got a pretty good idea on where we need to go and what we need to do. Yeah, you can get caught in a rut, but right now we're on a hot streak and you just have to stay focussed on what you have to do to stay within that. We're going to Atlanta this week and then it's just boom, boom, boom, you just keep going."

HOW DO YOU APPROACH YOUR ROLE WITH THE TEAM? DO YOU MAKE A LOT OF SUGGESTIONS OR DO YOU LET THE GUYS IN EACH DEPARTMENT MAKE KEY DECISIONS? "They're all professionals in their own right. We have the shock guys from each Roush team get together. The body hangers all know what everyone else is doing. What I do is I try to sit down with Jimmy and go through the right avenues to challenge each one of those guys - to bring me ideas and to consolidate all the ideas from all the teams so I can see it in an easier format. I try to quiz each and every one of them to make them better. I want them to make me better and you have to go around and stay in communication with all of them. I enjoy doing that on Monday and Tuesday. I've got my own shop that I'm putting together, so I take my mind off the Winston Cup car for maybe six hours during the week, but then I'm right back in it."

JEFF BURTON WAS SAYING THE OTHER DAY THAT GUYS LIKE HIMSELF AND RUSTY WALLACE - GUYS WHO LIKE TO DO A LOT OF THE CAR SETUP - HAVE STRUGGLED BECAUSE THE SPORT HAS GOTTEN SO TECHNICAL. DO YOU LIKE RELYING ON YOUR EXPERTS? "It's odd the way that certain teams run their characteristic between the crew chief, the engineer and the driver. What we do on our team is sort of modeled the same way Rubbermaid does things. The CEO leads it; he's the one that comes up with ideas. Kurt Busch leads it; I'm the one that comes up with the ideas. There is outside help that I receive here or there, but you have to filter it and understand what's important and when we can apply it. I think Jimmy Fennig and I are the ones that run our engineering shop and they lend us their support."

YOU MENTIONED A NEW SHOP EARLIER. "Yeah, it's just stuff to park toys in and to have a secretary and manager there full time. We're just gonna start handling more and more PR-type things and keeping a schedule for all travel. It was just getting too much for me to do. I mean, I would be writing 30 checks on a Tuesday night and it was just getting to be too much. I was starting to get behind on keeping up with that kind of stuff and keeping everything straight, so this is something that's going to be a big help."

THAT'S A GOOD THING BECAUSE IT MEANS YOU'RE DOING WELL ON THE TRACK, RIGHT? "Yeah, it's a good problem. We're stepping up with more and more things to do and more and more PR things because of the exposure I've received from running well. I think this is going to help us keep up with all of that."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kurt Busch