KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) YOUR THOUGHTS ON YOUR PERFORMANCE THE FIRST THREE WEEKS AND THOUGHTS ON ATLANTA THIS WEEKEND? "We're real happy with the way the Miller Lite Dodge is running. A good, strong start at...
KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
YOUR THOUGHTS ON YOUR PERFORMANCE THE FIRST THREE WEEKS AND THOUGHTS ON ATLANTA THIS WEEKEND? "We're real happy with the way the Miller Lite Dodge is running. A good, strong start at Daytona Speedweeks with a few top 10s during the Shootout, qualifying race and then the race (Daytona 500) itself. But then the real part of the season starts at California and on to Vegas and we're calling this 'Round 3' here at Atlanta with the mile-and-a-half race tracks. So far, we feel that we've made great gains during the off-season. It's always tough to know where you stack up without pre-season testing, so we just have to learn and just go about our business at the race track. Practice time is very valuable. We're looking forward to that today and see how our setup feels once we hit the race track and tune on it from there. (We have) just great team chemistry right now with Pat Tryson (crew chief), myself and our new lead engineer, Dave Winston. Everybody is clicking on all eight cylinders. We even went to a little short-track test this past week at New Smyrna (Fla.) to get ready for the upcoming events at Bristol and Martinsville; just trying to polish up on some of our short-track items. We're real excited about this weekend and can't wait to hit the track and see where we stack up."
LOOKING AHEAD TO MARTINSVILLE, DO YOU FEEL THAT TECHNOLOGY HAS MADE THE TRACK EASIER THAN IT USE TO BE? "I feel like it's still good old short-track racing and it's always tough in the Cup Series when you stack 43 guys on a little half-mile track. Anything can happen. It's always busy when you're on the short-tracks. The new car is a bit more efficient, but it still takes the team technology to get the sufficient brake fan cooling, engine cooling as well as keeping track of rear gear. That rear gear is a weak point and you have to have people back at the race shop making good gears and good equipment to make sure that you last 500 laps. It's real easy to find trouble (at Martinsville). The one thing with this new car is that the front end is a bit more fragile when you bump into somebody; that radiator is more prone to get a hole punched in it as compared to years past. So you have to protect your car when you are at Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond...the short-tracks. It's still business as usual, but you always have to go out there and find an edge and hopefully, with some of our short-track testing, that will help us."
HAVE YOU GUYS FIGURED OUT WHAT YOUR ENGINE PROBLEM WAS LAST WEEKEND? "I feel like every team out there experienced the same things that we did and they were high rpms. Goodyear should be congratulated for the tire that they brought to last week's race. It provided for great grip. It provided for high-speed action and it provided stability in the cars for all of us to race hard and to gain those RPMs that we didn't expect to get to. Ninety-eight hundred (RPMs) is the range that I heard on a lot of engines. We hadn't seen much more than 96 (9600) at most of the races last year, and so that caught some team's off-guard because they had more catastrophic failures than ours. Our problem was just a valve spring and we were able to limp our car home by taking a spark plug out and not having that cylinder fire. We let that cylinder cool and luckily we didn't break the rocker arm or valve with that valve spring and we were able to still power pretty hard through the corners and finish 23rd, one lap down. That showed the strength of our car in the corners. It shows that we need to work on our valve train because the high rpm's may come up more often this year with Goodyear continuing to bring better tires to the race track. That's something that we have to keep track of...it's tough because you want the best tire possible, yet NASCAR mandates the type of gear that you have to run and you don't want to run into a problem."
WAS THE VALVE TRAIN ISSUE AN ISSUE RELATED TO THE NEW DODGE ENGINE OR COULD IT HAVE HAPPENED WITH THE OLD VERSION? "From what I've gathered, that could have been a problem that would have happened to the old engine as well. It was just the unforeseen higher RPMs. It happened right when you would have expected higher RPMs which was about four to five laps after getting fresh tires. I was actually racing hard...racing with the 24 and the 48 for second spot; I was just trying to clear those guys. I thought our car was fast enough at times to get ahead and to run a nice pace, but I had to push the car a little extra hard and we ran into that (engine) issue. Whether it was the new engine, old engine, I feel like that problem would have happened either way."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DRIVER'S RESPONSIBILITY ON TAKING CARE OF AN ENGINE DURING A RACE? "I feel like it's a job that you always have to do and that's take care of your equipment. When you're out there (on the track), whether it's a re-start, you don't try and rev (the engine) too high and rub up against the rev chip. You shift a little earlier and that's called short shifting. It's very tough to tell a driver to pedal back at the end of the straightaway and keep it (RPMs) at 9400 or 9500. If you put a rev chip in there that's 9500, we'll have no problem revving it up against that rev chip. But there's something with a driver's mind that says, 'Well, I'm on a straightaway I need to be full-throttle. I need to carry it all the way through into the corner.' There may have been some guys that were feathering back out of the throttle after their teams realized there were problems with valve trains. Usually, when you have higher RPMs, the valve train is the weakest point because those valve springs are going so fast at those RPMs. The one thing about Las Vegas is that the altitude out there is 2100-feet and when you have the corrected altitude (when you're starting to tune an engine); it goes up to about 3,000 feet. So the air quality for engines is poor and you're running against that higher RPM range for so long. It's not like you're hitting 9800 RPMs at the end of the straightaway and it drops down. With poor air quality, you're at 9800 for a long time and that's what's hurting the engines; we're at high RPMs from the start-finish line all the way to Turn 1. That's about a quarter-mile in length. At a track like Martinsville, we only see 9800 for 50 feet. That's the biggest difference. That's where I feel that some of the teams might have overlooked the tuning ability of Las Vegas because the altitude is so different than most tracks that we run on. Maybe it's just because I've raced there all my life and I know how to look at the engine and see that the spark plug is looking for something different because that track confuses you...it a higher altitude than most."
WHAT ABOUT ENGINE PROBLEMS AT ATLANTA? "Here at Atlanta, you have to be very careful because when you get fresh tires, your car is bad fast. It doesn't matter how bad it's handling, it's going to go fast. But the pace drops off fast at Atlanta. The old asphalt and the combination of tires make it fun for the drivers. You have to be careful at the beginning of the run not too run too hard, not to over-rev the engine, and that's going to be on everyone's mind this weekend. Hopefully, we'll be able to avoid any problems with our new engine...the R6. It has been dependable and given us everything we want with a lot of potential on the far end to develop more power. We just can't lose track of durability."
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE OFF-WEEKEND? "There are no plans right now and that's a good thing. Right now, we have plans for the other off-weekends this year...to go travel and meet up somewhere with some friends to enjoy time doing nothing. I think that's the way it is next weekend. But of course here I am looking at the schedule and I found out that the NHRA is racing down in Florida...it's the Gatornationals. I might call Don Prudhomme and see how those boys are doing. I'd love to see a night session for qualifying, so I might go down there for Saturday night. I'll see how it goes. I'll have to check in with the wife and see how it goes to see if we have plans to go somewhere. She loves racing. She loves our free time. We split the off-weekends. I get to plan two off-weekends a year, and she gets to plan the other two. I don't know whose this off-weekend is, but I'm really looking forward to an off-weekend to re-group with our team and to prepare for the short-track season that is coming up."
AS A DRVIER, DO YOU LOOK AHEAD TO SEE WHERE YOU FIT INTO THE HISTORY OF THE SPORT? "I think when I first came into the sports, I had all the ambitions of winning all the races that I could and didn't realize how difficult this sport is and the mentors that I had at the time...a guy like Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace....Rusty's got 50 wins, Mark's in his 30s (wins), those are very impressive stats. Those are legendary type drivers that will always be in the top 25 of all-time. Once you get to know these guys and be around them, you learn that it's tough to go out there and win and to continue that pace year-after-year-after-year. A guy like Mark Martin is incredible for the discipline that he has with his workout regemit as well as to be his age and be as competitive as he is. I think everybody looks up to a guy like Mark Martin. For me, it's just a matter of trying to make the team competitive and just put yourself in aposition to win and those wins gather over time. It's real easy to look at stats differently when you're winning eight races a year...that will make your head spin and you'll lose track of reality.
When you have a couple wins a year, and you put together a string of wins like Ricky Rudd did...to have one win a year over 17 years...it's phenomenal. To be able to win that many races in that many years, you're keeping up with changing times from bias ply to radials, from the down force to the new restrictor-plates, it's incredible to how much a driver has to adjust over the years. It's something that you don't really look at; you just go about your business and hope that your team is competitive year after year to put you up there (with the sports all-time greats). I think it's just a matter of keeping your head down buried in your books, wherever the stats end up in the end is where the story will be told."
-credit: dodge motorsports