Busch Makes it Three Straight at Bristol Part 1 of 2 * Kurt Busch became only the fourth driver to win at least three straight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races at Bristol Motor Speedway, joining Fred Lorenzen, Cale Yarborough and Darrell...
Busch Makes it Three Straight at Bristol
Part 1 of 2
* Kurt Busch became only the fourth driver to win at least three straight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races at Bristol Motor Speedway, joining Fred Lorenzen, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip.
* The win was Busch's ninth NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win and fourth at Bristol. In addition, the win was Ford's 30th at BMS, which is the most for the manufacturer at any speedway currently on the circuit.
* Ford has now won 547 all-time series races, which is the most among manufacturers. The win also marked the 77th triumph for Taurus in NASCAR's top division.
* The last nine races won by Ford in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series have been by Roush Racing drivers (Busch 5, Matt Kenseth 3, and Greg Biffle 1).
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus
"To Nextel this is our first victory with the new sponsorship and it's pretty sweet. The whole way they've been able to change things around as far as advertisement involvement and they're making the drivers very aware of them changing the face of our sport. I think it goes along with NASCAR's ability at Daytona to flex their muscle. It's for surely a great way to jump into the first half of our season. Today didn't come without a bunch of adversity. The team did a great job on pit road. One thing we did struggle with all day was the ability to run RPM in the car. I don't understand. The team will obviously go back and dissect all of our problems. Whether it was the clutch slipping or a brake dragging or just lost the power due to the timing in the engine, I don't know. Jack might be able to give some insight, but for that matter it gave us a very ill-handling car without that power. I went back probably three or four spots at the beginning of the race. You keep an open mind here. You keep a positive outlook because you never know when somebody is gonna pile it up in front of you or when your car is gonna have a long run like we did. We just kept adjusting on the car - freeing it up, freeing it up. With a little bit of the power missing, it just had a ton of forward bite. That obviously gave us good runs coming off the corner, so we had to generate corner speed. We adjusted throughout the day for that and it drove more like a Busch Series car would. I've got no idea what one of those drive like, but I was able to generate corner speed. I kept convincing myself it was like a Busch car, but it's my Busch car. We were able to stay positive and that long green flag run helped me understand how good our car was on the longer runs. People would be burning their rear tires off and then we went conservative on our right-front camber spring and shock adjustments because we were skeptical of the Goodyear tire and how long were we gonna be able to run. That made the car handle improperly for the first 100 laps, but man, lap 100 of a run? You never get those at Bristol. So the way the race shook out, we had the opportunity to stay out late and I misjudged it. I was reading lapped cars as cars that were staying out, so I made the call. Fennig said, 'What are you doing?' Now it's in my court and I didn't want to let my team down. Rusty was behind us on the same schedule of tires and then we had Harvick at the end who had fresher tires. So I knew we just had to keep hitting our marks and making sure that we generated corner speed and that would get us to victory lane and we were able to survive Bristol today."
JACK ROUSH , Car Owner - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus
ANY IDEA WITH THE POWER?
"I assume the responsibility for anything that goes wrong or breaks. I really can't say what happened. There was an instance where Kurt was reporting, and I'm sure it was the case, that his clutch slipped. We've got to try to understand that. That was early in the race and normally when a clutch slips it will burn out, but that wasn't the case because he was able to finish and restart OK. I suspect there's an ignition problem or there's a fuel supply problem that caused the engine not to run properly in the higher RPM ranges. It's being torn down for inspection right now and, subsequent to that, we'll reassemble the car as close as we can to the way it was on the race track and we'll take it to the chassis dyno and do the diagnostics of it. The pit stop, the strategy was perfect. I watched Sterling Marlin with amazement at how fast he was able to go and then when Kurt stayed out, I missed the fact that they were having a conversation on the radio because I listen to so many different channels. I missed that, so I said, 'Boy, Jimmy Fennig is the man.' That's a call I wouldn't have made and most of the people on pit road would not have made. As it turned out, I think none of the people would have made the call, but Kurt made the call and has the prerogative to do that. He was in a position to save his tires and he knew what he had and to use it judiciously and be able to make it last."
CAN YOU DISCUSS THE RED FLAG AT THE END?
"An unfortunate circumstance brought out the yellow and you know NASCAR is gonna make it exciting. I immediately radioed in and asked what lap we were on and there were six laps to go, which is one lap before they don't red flag the race, so you knew it was coming out. They did a great job to clean up the race track and make it raceable for us. The one thing they did, though, that I didn't agree with was the pace car speed, once we got back underway, was 20 miles an hour. With my car having problems already it wouldn't even run. I had to run on the apron of the race track and it didn't really give us a proper opportunity to scrub our tires. They did have to go out and retrieve a piece of debris. A crush panel was laying in turn three from one of the cars that wrecked and that threw the lap number down to two to go and that helped us. Rusty Wallace ran into us right at the perfect point, I think. Going down into turn one with my foot on the floor and my rear tires up in the air, the car was probably blowing out white smoke because it was on the rev chip. I thought I blew it up, but Rusty was underneath us so hard that it lifted the tires off the ground and that enabled me to land back on the race track and him check up. As soon as he checked up, I was back on the gas full throttle just due to the way the car was handling and we were able to stretch it out over those last two laps."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE ANOTHER TRACK LIKE BRISTOL BUILT?
"There's a lot of different venues that NASCAR is studying now and the way that they look at some of the race tracks as far as the heritage and the older part of our sport. It's great to see that they still want to stick to the roots, but yet we have to go after new fans in new markets and race different style of race tracks. As a driver, I can tell you that Atlanta, Charlotte and Texas all look the same, but they are just unbelievably different. We've had a great car in Atlanta the past two years. We've had a horrible car at Texas and we've had an average car at Charlotte, so that's why we tested out at Texas this year. It's a market where they've got so many corporate sponsors headquartered in Dallas and the western states. It would be great if they were to take our sport to the upper northwest, maybe Sacramento even, and build an oval such as this or such as Richmond. We need a couple more short tracks mixed into our schedule and that would add a bit more color to our series as well."
YESTERDAY YOU TALKED ABOUT TAKING CARE OF YOUR CAR AND STAYING OUT OF TROUBLE. THAT WORKED TODAY.
"Yeah, I thought that we would end up fading at the end of the race, but there were strategic yellows that came into our plan that you can't predict. You just have to make yourself available for those opportunities, so we were prepared. We had some of those opportunities come our way with yellows slowing up the field. I heard a great car owner say that equals luck, so I'd say we've been as lucky as good in our past few victories here. It's just a matter that the circumstances today probably made this one the sweetest and overcoming all that adversity. You never know when you're gonna get an opportunity to run strong, especially at this place because you're always just trying to make it to the end."
YOU PROBABLY HAD NASCAR'S HUNGRIEST DRIVER ON YOUR TAIL. DID YOU REALIZE THAT?
"Yes, sir. That's for surely a great friend of mine now. We were involved in a Visa agreement together, so we got to spend some time and I talked with Rusty about the streak he has going. You know he was one of the ambassadors for this softer tire. He was one of those pushing NASCAR to try this type of setup and when you come to his house, where he's won nine races in a row and he hasn't won in so many races, of course they're gonna throw a red flag and see if he can get by the 97 car. It was a great race, really. With the yellows coming out at the opportune times for me and not for him, that enabled us to get to victory lane. Last week we saw a car that wasn't the fastest win, and I'll go out on that stretch today to say we weren't the fastest car, but we were able to get to victory lane and continue our streak."
WERE YOU AWARE OF JIMMY'S ANGER ON NOT PITTING?
"Oh yeah, he was upset (laughing). 'What are you doing,' was his quote. As laps progressed under yellow, he kept coming up ideas that were against me staying out. I'm like, 'Alright, alright, alright. We've got to put a positive spin on things. You're trying to make it look like we don't have a shot at this,' but I was trying to convince him of different things that I saw from the race car and allow him to be more positive about the situation. So it took a few laps, but with 80 to go he was like, 'OK, dude. It's in your court. I'm all behind you now.' We couldn't come into the pits because of our tire situation because we would have lost way too many positions, so it was up to me to either fade gracefully or put the car on the line for the win."
DID YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW LONG THE TIRES WOULD LAST?
"I didn't take a gamble whatsoever. With that long green flag run, I watched our Sharpie Ford go to the front on 157 laps and I knew the way we ran our camber was less aggressive than other teams, and with the way we were struggling with a bit of the power, we didn't abuse the rear tires. So I've got three cool looking tires that were cooler in temperature that allowed me to run hard and that's what helped me make the decision to stay out. If we had a different circumstance, I would have thought 80 laps would have been the window for tires, especially at the end of the race. But given we had track position on the field and there were a couple of other cars that stayed out on tires - I thought they were lead-lap cars, but they were lapped cars - so that decision ended up in my favor. It was a lucky call, but yet as far as the driver was concerned that the tires would make it to the end and have competitive lap times."
DO YOU VETO YOUR CREW CHIEF AND NOT HAVE IT WORK OUT SOMETIMES?
"Oh, for sure. I can't remember the last time I decided I was gonna stay out and I know we didn't win, so this was a great way for the team to work together and for them to give me their full support behind me. They had done their job with the pit stops. Fennig was now researching what cars were on the same tire strategy as us and the team pulled together. Once the call was made, you've got to stick with it. I think we've been in the past on the other side of the coin and today it just came out positive."
HOW DID YOU TRY TO PUT THE POSITIVE SPIN ON IT WITH JIMMY?
"That's when I relayed to him that our car was not aggressive at all on the right-front tire and he didn't know much about the power issue. I mean, we're running in the top five but he's kind of like, 'Oh, the driver is just crying about something.' But it allowed me to save those rear tires, so I was the one that knew everything about the cars handling characteristics. One thing that I struggle with inside the car is understanding where all the other competitors are and what the general theme is on pit road and that's Jimmy's. When I was out on the track, I just told him we were out here for 150-some laps before and we were the best car on the race track late in the run. Now we've got track position. We've got an ability to see the track cleanly on restarts and with the lapped cars still being an issue with the inside lane we were able to pull ahead."