Atlanta II: Kurt Busch - Saturday media visit


KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)

A DOMINANT PERFORMANCE HERE AT ATLANTA MOTOR SPEEDWAY LAST SPRING. YOU MUST BE EXCITED TO TRY AND GET YOUR SECOND WIN OF THE SEASON HERE TOMORROW NIGHT? "Sitting down in this chair reminds me of when we were celebrating and winning the Kobalt Tools 500 here in Atlanta. To be back, you get that pep in your step and hope that things go your way and that you're able to make the right decisions going through practices, heading into qualifying. Of course, this time around we have a different tire, so that's going to be a challenge. Mainly, for us, we felt that we were dialed in and everything was fine with the tire that we had here back in March. We were actually one of the participants in the tire test here last July or August. It was hot. It was slick. We felt like there wasn't much of a need to change the tire, but we did end up with a different tire. It's the right-side that everyone here at NASCAR ran on the right sides last fall. The left side is a new construction and a new compound mixed in together; it was something that we didn't actually have at the test, but the results pointed in the direction to try and create this tire. So we'll see how it shakes out. The tire seems to drop off a little quicker than I anticipated, but it gives my car a better feel when everyone has fresh tires the first four or five laps."

WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON THE CHASE THIS YEAR? WHY DO WE HAVE A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT TEAMS REPRESENTED VERSUS LAST YEAR WHEN WE JUST HAD A FEW TEAMS? "I think that it's just the fact that teams are getting more familiar with this race car. Some people call it a car; some people call it an issue. Last year, we just had Hendrick, Roush, Childress, those three teams figured it out better than anybody and they each put all their cars in the Chase. This year, we've had some teams advance their program, get caught up and build better cars, build better setups, better engines, better aerodynamics and it created a little bit better playing field this year. The first year, anytime anything is new, it's tough to adapt to. It takes the cream of the crop to get to the top and I think that's why last year you saw just those three teams make it no matter what manufacturer they were for, it was basically running the show."

WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO BRAD KESELOKSKI'S SIGNING WITH PENSKE RACING? DO YOU ANTICIPATE ROY MCCAULEY (CREW CHIEF, NO. 12 PENSKE RACING) STAYING IN HIS ROLE AT PENSKE RACING? "It's definitely and exciting time right now and it's a tough time when I think back on the short relationship that I had with David Stremme. I felt as if Roger (Penske) was a very patient guy with me and the program, yet expected to see David stick around for a little bit longer of a stint. Changes have been made and Brad is definitely the top guy that you look at in the Nationwide Series when you see his name on top of the practice sheets; when you see his name at the end of the race print outs. He's one of the top guys who isn't necessarily a Cup regular, and that his team, JR Motorsports, they're not their own independent program, but basically they are independent of a Roush car or Hendrick car that is out there or the Gibbs cars....those two Gibbs cars just drive away from everybody. So you see this JR Motorsports team somewhat as an independent, and there's Brad as an independent, and they're the top guys of all the independents that are out there...such as a Braun Motorsports or a Jason Leffler. So you see him as the top candidate and I'm glad that Roger talked his way with Dale Jr. and Rick Hendrick about the situation and I know that he'll be a good fit. It's always tough going through growing pains and he's going to have to learn these big, heavy our Dodge's work as compared to some of the cars he's driven and some of the little things that Penske does different than Hendrick. So, I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a great addition and the way that Roy and I have worked together in the past, Roy will work really well with (Brad) Keselowski. It will be a good addition to our team. David Stremme was a quick stint with our team. I hope that he lands on his feet somewhere and find a good ride. Roy should be a good fit with the Keselowski."

WITH THIS TRACK BEING SO WIDE AND THE FACT DRIVERS LIKE IT SO MUCH, IS THIS A SNAPSHOT OF WHO REALLY BELONGS IN THE CHASE AND WHO MIGHT DO WELL IN THE CHASE ON THESE 1.5-MILE TRACKS AS OPPOSED TO A BRISTOL OR RICHMOND WHERE YOU MIGHT GET CAUGHT UP IN WRECKS. MIGHT THIS PRESENT A CLEARER PICTURE OF THE WAY THE CHASE IS GOING TO UNFOLD? "I can see your thought process on how this is a mile-and-half and the Chase is comprised of five mile-and-a-half races. It's its own mile-and-half though...its own animal. It's so different than any other mile-and-a-half track. It might look the same as Texas or Charlotte, but the asphalt here is so old and the tires so hard, you're doing more slipping and sliding here than at any other track. To answer your question, I think the three tracks that you mentioned -- Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond -- yeah, they're all three different and all three have their own distinct personality, but you just throw an average into those three races. Those three tracks challenge you in many different ways. You have to be ready in all 10 Chase races to put together good average finishes as well as compete for a win. I like what you're thinking, but it's really just an average. I still think it gets down to consistency when you're getting into the Chase."

"Absolutely. Whoever said that is pretty smart and is probably in the Chase. He's probably one of the tough guys to beat. I think that's one of the first things that Pat Tryson

ONE DRIVER EARLIER TODAY MENTIONED THAT THEY'VE CHANGED THEIR THINKING, GOING TO MORE SHORT-RUN SETUPS WITH THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS BECAUSE IT'S ALL ABOUT GETTING AS MUCH AS YOU CAN IN THOSE FIRST FEW LAPS AND THEN IF YOUR CAR DOESN'T HOLD UP AS WELL, YOU JUST KIND OF HOLD PEOPLE OFF. ARE YOU GOING TO THAT MIND SET, FOCUSING MORE ON SHORT RUNS? (crew chief) and I noticed after the first Pocono race with double-file restarts and now more of an emphasis on short runs. I've always prided myself in trying to get the car to handle the best on long runs, but that lasts 10 laps of a long run. You would rather be good on the first five laps of a short run now. That's definitely changed the game.

"There are plenty of secrets that I don't want to give up, but if you have a 50-lap run in fuel, you used to worry about the car from (laps) 10 to 40. That's where you focused it. Now, you might be looking at the car 1 through 30 as far as how your tires come in right away and how your lap times maintain through that pace. After lap 30, now you're just out there like you said, riding around and holding people off. You can now, with double-file restarts, get on the gas and run against guys for position whereas when we were stuck on the outside lane as a lead-lap car, it would take five or 10 laps for the lap cars to get filed out. Then you would go and race. Then you hoped your setup was dialed in. Now, you've got to have it right away."

A LOT OF DRIVERS FAVOR THE ATLANTA TRACK. HOW WOULD YOU EXPLAIN THAT TO A FAN? DOES IT FAVOR ANY OF THE DRIVERS OUTSIDE THE CHASE? "It's a track that demands a driver's attention every lap because of how you're sliding through the corners; you're not guaranteed to have all four tires underneath you at the same time. When you have that, it allows the driver to do quite a few things with the steering wheel, the throttle and the brake. It just doesn't seem as if we're running slot cars around. I think drivers get excited about that. Tracks like Darlington that drivers say is their favorite. Tracks like Richmond fall into that category. Michigan falls in that category. I think you are going to see some guys that ran good at Michigan this summer run really good here this fall based on the tire change and some of the similarities of the track surfaces. It's just one of those fun places that the driver knows he has more control than what the engineer and crew chief do."

ERIC DARNELL IS GOING TO MAKE HIS SPRINT CUP DEBUT HERE SUNDAY. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A GUY WHO HAS NEVER RACED HERE BEFORE IN A CUP CAR? "I never really got advice when I first started from anybody. I had to go out there and find it. I think it's up to him to go out there and search for advice, to find out where to be on the race track, what to expect and how to look ahead at some of the things. It's just going to be coming at him pretty quick. My first race was at Dover many years ago it seems like. When they dropped the green flag, everybody was going so fast I didn't know what to do. I just backed out of the gas, went to 43rd and I started over. I ended up finishing 18th that day, but I couldn't believe the pace that everybody wanted to run every lap. That's some of the advice I'd give him. I feel on that side of the story, it's tougher to see Bobby Labonte out of that ride than it is with the change that they made. I don't know, I seen a few veterans see a short hand over there."

HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO COME BACK AND TURN IN THE KIND OF DOMINANT PERFORMANCE YOU HAD AT THE TRACK IN THE SPRING THIS RACE? "It could be tough, but I'm finding excuses right now why we won't do as good this time. We're trying to get in the Chase of course. With the Goodyear tire test, I feel this tire is definitely going to affect us more than most of the competition just due to the fact with our setup, I'm finding it hard to change, but I'm also seeing that we're slower on the lap tracker. We'll see how it all shakes out."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Jason Leffler , Kurt Busch , David Stremme
Teams JR Motorsports , CIP