Bristol: Ford - Kurt Busch pre-race interview, Part II

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus, was the Breakfast Club guest Saturday morning at Bristol Motor Speedway, site of his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory one year ago. Busch, who is in sixth place in the standings, qualified ninth...

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus, was the Breakfast Club guest Saturday morning at Bristol Motor Speedway, site of his first NASCAR Winston Cup victory one year ago. Busch, who is in sixth place in the standings, qualified ninth for Sunday's Food City 500.

Part 2 of 2

ON TAKING A CAR RIGHT TO THE EDGE. "He's asking about car control and my success contributed to it, and not necessarily going over the edge. Last week was a tough race for me with the power steering failing me. It's a perfect example. And I had to weigh a few different options at the end of that race. I had 15 laps to go, I had the orange car catching me, and I couldn't turn the wheel to the right to save the car if I did slip a wheel or have something not go my way. So I had to drive a push into the car to make sure that I constantly had the same amount of wheel input turned into the wheel. And by doing that, I chewed up the right front tire. And so I knew that was going to happen, I knew that I needed to stay off that tire, and I needed to make sure that I carried my momentum through the corner. One and two was much easier to do without power steering, but three and four were just a bear. And that's where I ended up losing most of my time. I couldn't maintain speed through the top side of turn four. Places like here at Bristol, you're always sliding coming off the corner. You've got to make sure that you keep the rear tires planted to the race track. There's been a lot of times where I might've stepped over the boundary, but I wouldn't have known that unless I didn't try it. So there's things that I think I need to do in this part of my career to understand the car more thoroughly, and then later on drive it within the realms of the car's capability and know when I've got to finish the race and know when we've got a chance to win it."

HOW MUCH HAVE YOU CHANGED FROM YOUR ROOKIE YEAR. "It's been a challenge obviously to come into Winston Cup with the lack of experience that I've had, just one year in the Craftsman Truck Series, and year before that I was racing Southwest Tour cars, two years before that I was racing Legend cars, like what you see on the quarter-mile at Charlotte Motor Speedway as the support division on a Tuesday night shootout or something. You know, this is my third year in Winston Cup; it's the most years I've ever spent in any racing series. One year in trucks, two years in Southwest Tour, and years before that it was just one here, one year there, just dabbling around, trying to know which way I needed to go. So this is a much more comfortable situation. The experiences that I have can now chart together, instead of, 'Well, I did this in trucks,' or 'Well, I did this in Southwest.' Well, 'I did this in Winston Cup.' And now it's easier to go through the past notes and understand what I have to do for the future. And so those are big steps that I've taken since my rookie year. Obviously, my rookie year, I struggled the most at Rockingham and Darlington. Now, they're my two most favorite race tracks. And so I think that's a big key from where I was my rookie year."

ON THE ETIQUETTE OF DRIVING AT BRISTOL. "Asking about how do you weight your options when you try to pass somebody here with the bump and run or as Jeff Gordon stated, if you're slow enough as the leader and you let somebody, yeah, it is your own fault. That's the primary reason why you end up with a bump and run is because the leader isn't quick enough to maintain his speed. I ran here last year in the fall with Johnny Benson. With about 100 laps to go, he was leading, I was in second. I said I was just going to ride around, we've got a 100 to go, and as soon as he slips I'm going to jump on him.

"He slipped going into three, I think, on the first lap after the re-start, and I went underneath him and he drove me down onto the apron of the race track, and beat up the right side a little bit, but I pulled away as the leader. That's the first option I think a driver chooses is to follow and to see if there's a mistake made by the leader. When you are the leader and you're a little bit slower, it's going to be easier for you to make a mistake because you're worried about, in your mind, about being self-conscious and slow and holding up that second-place guy, so you're going to be off your line and off your marks a little bit. And then as time progresses, if that leader's still leading and the second-place car is quicker, you still continue to wait for a mistake, and then you begin to add mistakes into the repertoire, whether you sweat 'em hard going into a corner, you can get somebody loose by staying right on top of 'em going into a corner here. You can get 'em loose being right in the middle of the corner right behind 'em, and then you can start to maneuver them around a little bit on the exit of the corner, if you will. But usually if you're the second-place car and you catch the leader, it's due to the fact that they're slower and you just study where they're slower on the race track - whether they're struggling with turn two or whether they're struggling getting into turn three, you try to take advantage of their mistake and their weak point and you get by them."

ON THE FANS AND BRISTOL. "He's asking, this place sells out all the time, and the reason for that is because of the excitement level, and do I feel like an entertainer when I'm here. This place, you show up and obviously it's different looking than any other race track we go to. You walk inside, it surrounds you, it circumferences you and it almost suffocates you until you learn to see that there is a race track there. And you feel like you're a Roman god racing your chariot around with your horse in front of you, and you got spikes sticking out the side, and you got to do whatever it takes to win this race, and make sure that everyone's on top of their head afterwards. This is the toughest place to try to win at consistently, and to make sure that things go your way. And there is somewhat of that entertainment value, but when we strap our helmets on and get inside the car, there's a stage in the race where we do one specific thing. There's a stage in the race where we're studying our chassis. There's a stage in the race where we're trying to position ourselves to move forward, and to make sure that we're in contention and in the right position at the end of the race. And so we don't necessarily feel that we're an entertainment business, but it comes out that way, the way that the media and the way that Bruton advertises this race track, and it puts on great shows. That's why fans dig it, because they can come in here in the night during the summertime and enjoy their time, they can come here in the daytime in the spring, the weather's great. And so it's a track that lends itself to entertainment and excitement because it's so different."

HOW WOULD SIZE UP YOUR FIRST TRUCK RACE AT DAYTONA? "It was over before I knew it. It was a race where I had no idea what the draft meant. I had no idea what a 250-mile race meant. I didn't know when it was time to step on the throttle or when it was time to lift. There was so many elements that I had to learn in just one specific race, and I think I wrecked three or four times, but I still "finished second. It's a matter of bringing the car home for a finish at the end of the day, and that's what I did. It was a little rough obviously with the way that I handled situations on the race track. And so it was a big lesson learned right away. Obviously it wasn't a late-model race, which I thought it was, where you just had to go to the front and win. And so there was much more etiquette involved and the rapport that I burned with the drivers that race, it took me all year just to rebuild. And I think by the end of the year when I dominated the Fontana race, it showed the amount of things I learned throughout the year, to create that final outcome, which was to win the final race, knowing that was my last race in the series."

YOU SAID THE SETUP IS DIFFERENT. HOW MUCH WILL THAT AFFECT TIRE WEAR? "We've seen in the past that you can go about 150 laps on tires here and still maintain a decent lap time and that's what it took for Elliott Sadler to win and that's how I won in the spring. The spring race is a bit more conservative on tires than it is here when we come back at night during the summertime. When we come back in the summertime it's much warmer, it's at night, it's much more difficult to make the car turn. So you have to do things with the setup that abuse the tires in a different way to make the car turn. Because obviously lap time is more important than tire wear here. So again we're going to go down that road of abusing the tires and making sure we can maintain our lap time quicker this time, instead of trying to maneuver 150 laps out of a set of tires. We saw at the fall race, we stayed out with 120 to go, where Jeff Gordon, Rusty Wallace and a few others came in with 80 to go, and they prevailed. So I think that's the way it's going to go this time. We've got a couple of more aggressive springs and shocks in the car, just to try and get a better balance with the tires, so that they wear out after about 120 laps instead of 150 laps."

ON TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, AND WHETHER THE ASPHALT IS AGING. "It's hard to say. I haven't been there to see. We know that there was two new race tracks last year, Chicago and Kansas, that were on the schedule, and if you ask me, the asphalt didn't change between those two race tracks, and they go through harsh winters. There's a lot of snow in the Chicago area, there's a lot of temperature change in the Kansas City area that upsets race tracks and how they mature. So Texas, it's more in the south, it sees a lot of rain, and that probably has taken a lot of the tar out of the asphalt and it'll make it a different feel. I don't know if it's going to be more abrasive on the tires, if that's what the slower pace means, or if the fact that is has less grip. We'll see when we get there. But it's a track where a lot of races race on it, truck series, Busch series, IRL, the Cup series, there's probably a couple other events that I don't know about, and that's what it takes to help groom in a race track and develop a second groove is more races on the race track. And so that's where Vegas was a benefit of that. They had three or four truck races, four or five Busch races, they had IRL cars out there. They had a lot of events before the Winston Cup series showed up. And so that's what's going to happen over time with some of these other tracks as they're able to mature."

ON HIS TEAMMATE MATT KENSETH LEADING THE POINTS. "He's asking about Matt Kenseth leading the points, and a lot of people thought we'd be leading the points at this point. Is it a surprise to me? No, it's not a surprise. It's actually a complete joy to see one of our Roush cars leading the points. Mark has struggled, obviously, with a couple of DNF's, and Burton had a couple so far this year. I mean, it's something where if you're consistent, you're going to be on top of the points. That's the way Winston Cup pays their points out, and that's what you have to do, and he's been running competitively. He got in a wreck at Darlington and he still finished eighth. And that's what kind of effort it takes to win a championship. So, they've been able to piece good runs together, they won out in Las Vegas, where I never thought a Ford would win ever on that day, and he was able to pull it through and get the victory for him. It's been a great thing to see, and there's still a long way to go, and it's good that he's up there, and hopefully I can catch up with him and it'll be the two of us battling for the championship instead of any other team."

Part I

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Rusty Wallace , Kurt Busch , Johnny Benson