Atlanta II: Ford winning team press conference

KURT BUSCH --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus "This was perfect execution all week long.  We unloaded fast and that makes my job easier when it comes to making changes on the car.  It's a great day for us.  Last year, I wasn't even at this race to ...

KURT BUSCH --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus

"This was perfect execution all week long.  We unloaded fast and that makes my job easier when it comes to making changes on the car.  It's a great day for us.  Last year, I wasn't even at this race to participate, so it feels that much better to get into Victory Lane.  Missing the show last year, coming fourth and running up front in the spring race and then to seal the deal here in the fall is a tribute to Jimmy Fennig and his experience.  The way this whole operation has come together this year to produce results, it's a lot of fun to race these kind of cars -- the ones that go fast -- and it's a lot of fun to work with Jimmy Fennig because he's got a lot of experience.  And to work with Jack, of course, with his engine depth and his cars -- with everybody that he has hired around the program -- we're able to do this.  We're able to finish and win back-to-back and it feels great."

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus

"I appreciate all the credit, but I can't take quite all of it.  This team really belongs to my mother, Georgetta Roush.  I'm the general manager and at different times in the last two years with Kurt, I haven't done what she thought I needed to do.  There's been one or two occasions when Kurt hasn't done what she thought he needed to do either and we've both been in trouble at different times, but, anyway, I appreciate all the things that she's done in order to make it possible for me to try and do this stuff.  It was great for Kurt to be able to win here.  Jimmy Fennig, Shawn Parker, all the guys -- the engineers, the engine builders -- they've been behind us and they've been doing a great job.  Kurt has been frustrated, I've been frustrated by the fact that he's run so well at so many of the fast tracks this year and we just really haven't been able to close the deal -- either because something happened or we broke a part -- we just couldn't close it.  But this business goes up and down and, here we are, at a place Kurt really didn't have much time with -- Atlanta -- and a place he thought he wasn't very good at -- Martinsville -- he doesn't like Martinsville and we've won two races in a row.  We may go out and have trouble the rest of the year or he may win the rest of 'em, we'll just have to see.  But he has been in Roush Racing's team, probably in a position to have won a race if we could have closed the deal for lack of a parts failure or something else happening, he's been in position to win more than any of the other drivers.  I celebrate his success here.  I'm relieved that he's been able to win a mile-and-a-half race."


DO YOU THINK YOU HAD JOE COVERED?  "We had a condition in the car that developed into a losing time situation and Jimmy came up with the great idea to short pit.  We knew if we pitted now, we'd pit one more time and we'd be good to the end.  So we came in, we made the adjustment on the car, and we were able to generate very quick lap times after we got those fresh tires.  And then the yellow came out for rain and we raced again for a few more laps.  We were able to stretch out a good sizeable lead -- about 20 car lengths or so.  The 25 car was held up by the 20 and then the final caution came out for rain.  Track position has a lot to do with success and, of course, pit strategy has a lot to do with success.  And, then again, it's all in the driver's hands to drive his car in a way where it will affect the guy behind him.  I knew Joe Nemechek was strong in the low groove.  I was gonna stick to the low groove.  I don't know a good analogy right now, but I wasn't coming off the white line because I knew he was fast down there.  Once the tires wore away a little bit, we were a bit quicker and I knew that we would wear him out eventually.  So whether he got by us 10 laps into the run, I think we could have gotten back by 40 laps into the run.   I noticed that with his car and I noticed that with the 24 as well.  Those two Hendrick cars were quick on the short run, but our focus is always on the long run."

DO YOU SEE THIS AS A FORESHADOWING TO NEXT YEAR?  "After going through such a dismal rookie year and not being able to compete for wins and having only a few opportunities.   We lost Martinsville back in 2001 and we lost Rockingham right at the end of the year and that was a great indication of how 2002 was gonna start.  We were gonna be competitive and we were gonna be able to piece races together and run up front.  But then Jack made a change in the off season, which was completely agreeable.  Everybody in the whole company was behind it.  Jeff Burton helped with the situation, Mark did as well.  It didn't affect Robbie Reiser's team at all, but what it did affect somehow was the 97 and 17 shop -- of having Jimmy Fennig and Robbie Reiser working together building cars.   You could say that towards the end of the season there are guys points racing.  I'm sure Tony Stewart would have loved to have gotten to Victory Lane and swept Atlanta this year, but he may have been a little hesitant or I think the two fastest cars were in front of him at the end of the race.  So you see guys at the end of the year that have been competing, that have been competitive and have been leading laps all year long -- surprising or competitively -- getting into Victory Lane.   So it's a great feeling to have two in a row and it's a great indication, of course, of where this team is going because of the 100 percent return we're gonna have on all our crew members." 

WAS THE ADJUSTMENT ON THE CAR WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO SHORT PIT?  "I wish Jimmy Fennig was here to answer that.  I believe he's the smartest crew chief on pit road right now.  The way that he absorbs my information and applies it to the car, and a little bit of experience.  When he said, 'We're coming in,' I knew it wasn't time to come in yet, but I knew we got burned earlier this year at Atlanta by the 20 short-pitting.  So this time we were the instigators of short-pitting and creating that lap time where we had fresh tires, so it's great to come out on the other end of it with experience." 

DOES THIS SUCCESS LESSEN THE REST OF THE SEASON?  "I'd have to say the most valuable lesson that I've learned, and I didn't probably understand it until today, was missing the show here at Atlanta last year.  That was a bitter disappointment and the lowest point in my career -- not being able to race when everybody else was racing.  That taught me a few things about what needs to happen as far as the race cars, as far as personnel, as far as growing within the company as far as Jack's advice.  So I think it does overshadow some of those bad points.  It feels great to have two wins in a row.   We thought we could do great things in the beginning of the year and we did.  We stumbled a little bit during the summer, but there was no concern.  Being in the top 10 was our main concern and we've now done that.  It somewhat overshadows it, but yet there's still so much more potential for next year.  We've had probably 12 bad finishes due to mistakes on my part and due to mechanical things.  So if we can take that number of 12 and down it to four for next year, we can be a legitimate championship contender." 

AT LAP 206 YOU TOOK THE LEAD.  WAS WEATHER ON YOUR MIND?  "The only concern I had for the rain was the safety of me and the other drivers out there.  A couple of the rain drops here or there didn't affect our car's handling and I didn't want to see the race end early.  I wanted to race the full distance.  Whichever way your cards are dealt.  It's how you have to hand back a couple and ask for three more, or, if you've got four-of-a-kind, you only need one.  That's just the way the cards were dealt today.  We were one of the two fastest cars and we ended up in front at the right time." 


HAS THE ENGINEERING SIDE OF THINGS TAKEN OVER THIS SPORT?  "My short answer to that is no.  I've got a longer answer.  The reason Jamie McMurray did well and the reason Kurt has been able to win these two races handily -- especially at Martinsville, where it looked like he wasn't gonna be competitive in practice -- it comes down to Kurt's conversation and to Jamie's conversation with their crew chiefs.  The crew chiefs look at the engineering like they look at many of the other things in their tool box.  They pick up the right tool to do the right thing with.  There are many engineering solutions for all the issues in the car and if you pick and choose to do the wrong things based on data and advice you get, then you won't get the result you want.  So you have to use your experience as a crew chief to choose the things they think will be most useful for the driver in his circumstance with his car at that race.  The thing at Martinsville, Jimmy knew that he was in trouble on Saturday.  He knew they hadn't practiced as well as they needed.  He looked at what Kurt's comments had been, what the situation was and he made the car adjustable -- extremely adjustable within the range that he knew would not be outside the box for springs, bars, cross-weight, nose-weight -- all those things that wind up playing heavily into the setup.  I'm sure the McMurray success also had to do with the crew chief making the judgements for the car for Jamie and where he was in his program.  As important as the driver is, it's still important that a knowledgeable crew chief be behind him to help him.  In Mark' case, Mark needs a crew chief to challenge him today.  In Kurt's case, Kurt needs a crew chief to bring him the experience that he lacks in areas where he gets stumped.  As time goes on, he'll get stumped less and less and the crew chief's role will change some, but, right now, Jimmy and Kurt are the perfect combination." 


WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE YEAR?  "We're down to three to go, I believe.  Looking ahead, you've got Rockingham -- a track where it's similar to Darlington in ways, where you've got to have the rear grip.  We've got some good ideas.  I'm already rolling through some setups in my head.  We'll sit down with Jimmy tomorrow and get the setup that we thing we need.  We were competitive there in the spring.   My teammate Matt Kenseth took the DEWALT Ford to Victory Lane, so those are some good notes.  Of course, we've got Phoenix -- a west coast race -- where it's wide open.  You've only got one race per year there and not many teams test.  It's very similar to Homestead, so we've prepared our car for Phoenix after a Homestead test.  We learned some ideas there.  And, of course, the season finale at Homestead, where we've seen Evernham cars very strong and we've seen Tony Stewart very strong there in the past.  We've got as great a shot as anybody at these next three."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Shawn Parker