KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) WE'RE APPROACHING THE HALFWAY POINT IN THE CHASE. YOU'RE 121 POINTS OUT OF THE LEAD. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON TRYING TO CATCH THE LEADERS? "Well, coming back home and racing in Charlotte under the...
KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
WE'RE APPROACHING THE HALFWAY POINT IN THE CHASE. YOU'RE 121 POINTS OUT OF THE LEAD. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON TRYING TO CATCH THE LEADERS? "Well, coming back home and racing in Charlotte under the lights, it reminds you of how all this began and that's here in the Carolinas with stock car racing. This feels like home for me now even though Las Vegas is where I'm from.
"This track, the people, our race team, everyone gets pumped up about racing here at Lowe's Motor Speedway. This has been a good track for me in the past. We've qualified well a few times. We've raced well a few times. So we're hoping to build on some of that past success. I feel like this is a great opportunity for us to continue our stretch where we've finished, on average the last few races, in 7.5. That's a good average finish, but we're getting beat by better numbers. In years past when Dale Sr. was winning championships...Jeff Gordon...the magic number back then was seven as far as your average finish. With this new Chase format, seven will only get you sixth in points and 121 off the lead. It's not a number that we can't overcome. We still have six races to go. A nice steady approach for these next two weeks is what we need out of our effort."
THE 48 TEAM HAS BEEN SO DOMINANT. WHAT CAN THE REST OF THE CHASE FIELD DO TO KEEP THIS FROM BEING NASCAR'S VERSION OF 'GROUNDHOG'S DAY'? "It's all about us to knock Jimmie Johnson off the top. Those guys have the perfect combination; it seems like, for all the race tracks. They've done it the last three years. It's amazing. Just the combination of Hendrick Motorsports, Chad Knaus, Jimmie Johnson, and Chevrolet...you name it. The depth that they have is deep. It's like having a basketball team with four or five guys on the bench that could be starters for other teams. It seems like they just have all the weapons. For the rest of us, it's going to take some luck. It's going to take some hard work. There might be something that we can do to out-smart a Chad Knaus or to out-drive a Jimmie Johnson. But there's no way that we can rally 11 versus one. That would be the ideal situation. We'd want 11 versus one. We're hoping at Penske Racing that we find something good out of this weekend, which is a mile-and-a-half track, which will help us benefit at a Texas and Homestead which are a couple of mile-and-a-half tracks. That's the focus this weekend; get the best out of our car this weekend and see what we need to do at the other mile-and-a-halves for the Chase."
THE LEADERS OF THE CHASE ARE AVERAGING AROUND 3.5 OR BETTER. WHERE DO YOU SEE THE LEADERS FINAL RACE AVERAGE ENDING UP? CAN THEY SUSTAIN THIS PACE? "It seems as if they're not going to back down. It seems like they can go out there and run top three every race because it's like they're just in that different of a league. I mentioned the 'David vs. Goliath' scenario, it sometimes feels like that. Then there's moments where we're hanging right with them and then at the end of the day, we finish eighth and they finish 1-2-3. It's like, 'Whoa, what happened'. I think they can sustain it, but it's tough. There are always loose wheels, flat tires, blown motors and of course there's always Talladega. We'll have to see how their results stack up after Talladega. But a 3.5 (average finish) might end up taking this thing home."
IS IT A GOOD PHILOSOPHY FOR A TEAM TO 'BLACK SHEEP' A TEAMMATE DURING THE SEASON WHEN THEY KNOW THAT A TEAM MEMBER ISN'T COMING BACK THE NEXT SEASON?
"It's always tough when you're not committed to a program's for its future. When you're in a situation like Pat (Tryson) is or like Ryan (Newman) was at Penske or even myself back in 2005 (at Roush), you feel like you're an outcast only because you've positioned yourself to be an outcast. And that is you made the announcement to your own program that you're leaving at the end. Things will go on with or without you. And in this case, they're going on without Pat in certain areas of the team, and then he's here on race weekends which are Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So he's still involved at a level which has enabled us to finish well on race weekends and he's involved enough to continue to help us these next six weeks. It's tough that he's not looking at 2010 numbers, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to Monday after Homestead on what direction we think we need to go. We hope it's that late in the year and what I mean by that is if we find ourselves out of championship contention, that's when we'll make a big change and maybe get the new guy (crew chief) in there and get a couple races under our belt before we show up back in Daytona. It's a tough situation, but it's one of those where you get that quota of we're moving on without you."
CAN YOU COMPARE THE STRENGTH OF HENDRICK THIS SEASON VERSUS YOUR ROUSH TEAM BACK IN 2005? "It's definitely Hendrick's time in the sunshine right now. Those guys obviously have won the last three championships and so far in this year's Chase, if you're not a Hendrick car or affiliated with Hendrick, you haven't won yet. Each and every week, they have more bullets in the gun it seems like than any other team. It's more dominant now with what Hendrick is doing versus what we did in 2005 at Roush Racing. We were strong at Roush Racing. I was fifth going into the Chase. It was a big feather in the cap. I remember being part of a group like that. Half the cars in the Chase were our cars at Roush. It was something special. I didn't get to finish off that season like I wanted to; sometimes business gets involved in racing and it hurts the effort. Right now, I don't see any weak spots at Hendrick Motorsports. It's amazing. There's the three of them running out front. And then last week I was racing with Dale Jr. for sixth and seventh place. If you take four Hendrick cars out of the equation, it looks like anyone can get a top five. But you can't get those top five's because those guys have them all plugged up."
IN LOOKING AHEAD TO NEXT YEAR, HOW MUCH INVOLVEMENT WILL YOU HAVE IN SELECTING THE NEW CREW CHIEF AND WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN ONE? "We're looking for the best possible candidate. Whether it's a guy with a ton of experience or little experience...whether he's got the largest amount of blue sky above him which could be a young guy, we don't know. Ultimately it will probably be my decision, but we have great people at Penske Racing...Tim Cindric, Mike Nelson, Walter Czarnecki and Roger Penske. So if you throw all of us in the room together, I don't know how the process will work exactly, but I'm sure there will be votes taken on who are the key candidates and who do we want in that position. I mentioned this before, a relationship between crew chief and driver is really important. It has an important factor in the success of that program. You can have the best cars, best engineering team, but if you get to the race track on Friday or Saturday and you're going through practice and the driver and crew chief can't make a marriage work, then you're going to struggle. So it's a very important decision. Right now, we definitely feel like we're in a great position in 2009 in this Chase to still have a shot at this championship and that's where our focus is."
CAN YOU GIVES US YOUR THOUGHTS ON TALLADEGA COMING UP? WILL DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS PLAY A FACTOR? "Talladega is definitely the big wild card that all the drivers seem to be very worried about and they have every right to be. You can have a perfect car, perfect pit stops all day, be leading on the last lap and still have things happen. That's the excitement level of it and the factor that Talladega brings to the Chase. I think (Talladega) has to be in (the Chase)... it needs to be there. There's just so much fun that can be had in Talladega...none of the drivers can wait.
The restarts there on a scale of 1-10 will be one, the lowest. You really don't get a choice to which lane you're going to be in and on a restart, you're waiting for your cars power to get built back up because of the restrictor plate, so you're kind of just riding around for a lap and a half or so. If you're the leader and you want to choose the outside versus the inside, you're going to look at who's third and fourth, on who you want to be your 'pusher'. So if I'm running up first and my little brother is third, I know third has to line up on the inside, so I'm going to line-up in the inside lane. If I had a teammate that's out there running fourth, then maybe I'll choose the outside and make sure I put my teammate behind me. But overall, Talladega is the biggest wildcard in the Chase and restarts will be on the low end. Where restarts will be on the insane end of impossible will be next weekend at Martinsville. You do not want to be hung up on the outside at Martinsville, so we'll see how that goes."
HOW HAS THE RELATIONSHIP CHANGED WITH PAT, IF ANY, INSIDE THE CAR DURING THE RACE SINCE HE MADE HIS ANNOUNCEMENT THAT HE WAS LEAVING PENSKE AT THE END OF THE SEASON?
"The thing that I've noticed that has changed in my mind is when I'm in the race car. Since Pat made the decision to leave our program, I've been a bit more sarcastic with him and a bit shorter with him just to kind of rub it in that he is leaving and this was a good thing that we had going on. Sometimes sarcasm over the radio can be spun 180 degrees...that it's negative...and that it's not the proper thing to be saying. But other than that, we're business as usual. We're jousting with each other, joking around here and there. It's a fun situation right now because we feel like this is our best opportunity to win this championship and we better take advantage of this now because in six weeks we won't be working together."
-credit: dodge motorsports