NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 IRWIN/Sharpie Taurus, was well on his way to the Nextel Cup championship last season until an engine problem at Atlanta opened the door for his competitors to close the gap. Busch, ...
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 IRWIN/Sharpie Taurus, was well on his way to the Nextel Cup championship last season until an engine problem at Atlanta opened the door for his competitors to close the gap. Busch, who finished 42nd in that event, spoke about the emotions of that day as well as this weekend's Golden Corral 500.
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 IRWIN/Sharpie Taurus
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU THE LAST TIME AT AMS? "It was a bummer. That setup we had under the car was something very safe, which the other drivers we had in our squadron were very aggressive with their setups. Obviously, Mark was in a position to go run hard. Carl Edwards needed to race hard. Biffle, all those boys were fast and we didn't get any laps with our setup. This time around we're kind of boxed in to go with their setup because we've got to go and race hard. That's what this time of the year is for, but we don't have many laps around Atlanta recently and that's gonna hurt us a little bit."
YOU ACTUALLY GOT BACK HOME TO WATCH THE END OF THE ATLANTA RACE LAST FALL. WHAT WERE YOUR EMOTIONS WHEN YOU SAW WHAT HAPPENED? "I couldn't believe it. I turned the TV on and I was looking for the 24's number across the board. At the time, the 48 wasn't in the picture, and then the 8 goes and wrecks with about 12 laps to go and it was like, 'Maybe there's something shining on us after all.' It was one of those feelings where I felt I had to go into Phoenix hard-charging and not lifting up because we were gonna be 30 points behind. We still took that same philosophy into Phoenix, but we were about 50 ahead instead of 30 behind, so that was a big points sweep. That saved our year because when you blow up 40 laps in and other guys have trouble, too, you have to consider yourself lucky. There's no doubt about it, Atlanta was the turning point of the chase."
YOU'RE THE ONLY FORD WINNER AT AMS IN THE LAST 15 RACES, SO YOU KNOW HOW TO GET AROUND THE PLACE. "I enjoy the race track. It's a great, fast facility and then it drops off a ton as far as lap time because the tires get worn out. With the softer tires this time around that's gonna be more of a factor and we'll have to adjust for that. Those aggressive setups that our teammates ran before might not run this time and it might come into our favor. It's one of those places where when they drop the green, no matter what stage in the race it is, you've got to lay down lap times. It's just race all the time."
YOU LIKED ATLANTA RIGHT OFF THE BAT, DIDN'T YOU? "It seemed like the mile-and-a-halves, to me, when I first started, were perfect for Cup cars. Then I struggled on the short tracks and the miles and then the restrictor-plate races were their own animal. Now, we've gotten all the other tracks conquered as far as the speedways. The last few restrictor-plate races are fourth, sixth and second, so we're doing good over there. The short tracks, we've had success at Bristol and we won at Loudon, which is a short track in my mind. We were good at Richmond and now it's these mile-and-a-halves that I've somewhat neglected over these five years because I was comfortable with them early on. I've lost the setup techniques for those tracks, so we're working on that this year because that will help position us with the chase because there are five races in the chase that are on mile-and-a-halves."
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Scotts Taurus, had his best NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series finish last fall in the Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. As the series heads back to that facility this weekend, Edwards spoke about the confidence he gained from that event and his hopes for Sunday.
CARL EDWARDS - No. 99 Scotts Taurus - YOU TESTED AT ATLANTA AND ARE COMING OFF A 3RD-PLACE FINISH THERE LAST FALL. YOUR THOUGHTS GOING BACK. "Our test at Atlanta went really well. We're gonna have the Scotts car there in celebration of the first day of spring on Monday and I really like Atlanta. It's a fun race track that is fast and slippery. It changes throughout the day so it's a fun race track. I feel like we've got a really good chance of doing well there. I know it's hard. We finished third and everybody is like, 'Man, it's gonna be hard to improve on this,' but I think we're gonna be better than that."
KURT BUSCH ONCE SAID THAT TRACKS LIKE ATLANTA AND TEXAS ARE MORE FORGIVING FOR YOUNG DRIVERS. DO YOU FIND THAT TO BE THE CASE? "Yes, it is a little more forgiving. The track is real wide as far as the racing surface and there are a bunch of different grooves you can run, and yet it's pretty straightforward. You can try a lot of different things and you can make things work there that maybe you couldn't make work at a real technical place like Martinsville. It might be a little simpler, but it's still really fast and you've got to have your stuff together. The car has to be perfect. All of them are tough, but some of them are a little bit easier than others."
HOW MUCH OF A CONFIDENCE BUILDER WAS THAT ATLANTA RACE FOR YOU? DID IT KIND OF MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE YOU BELONG WITH THIS GROUP? "It was a big confidence builder to realize about halfway through that race that the worst we were gonna finish was sixth or seventh. I really felt like things were going pretty well and then we ran the same way at Darlington. I think we ended up running sixth or seventh, but that whole day that was about the worst I expected to finish. That's pretty neat. It's always hard to come into a new series, or at least it has been for me, and get that feeling of, 'Man, I belong here. I can race with these guys and I deserve to lead these races.' I don't feel like I'm quite to that point yet, but every time I have a good run I feel a little bit better, so those are definitely confidence builders."