Qualifying for Sunday's Mountain Dew Southern 500 was cancelled due to rain so the field will be set by owner's points. As a result, Kurt Busch will lead the field to the green flag. KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus HOW DID THE TRACK...
Qualifying for Sunday's Mountain Dew Southern 500 was cancelled due to rain so the field will be set by owner's points. As a result, Kurt Busch will lead the field to the green flag.
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus
HOW DID THE TRACK FEEL?
"It was a unique day for us just coming to the race track. It had been so long since we had been here last, it felt like, since April and setups have changed dramatically. We were just changing our setup around and going to what we've normally run the last few weeks, which it takes a while to get adjusted to at Darlington, so we gradually got up to speed. We ended up 15th overall and it was a very generous lap that I had done to get 15th, so there was still room for more improvement, which everybody picks up in qualifying because that's obviously the real time to lay down a lap, so it was a heck of a lap for us today. We ended up on the pole."
WILL YOU BE MORE CAUTIOUS ON SUNDAY BECAUSE OF THIS TRACK?
"This is a tough track and you can't get too caught up on what the other competitors are doing. You do have to respect the race track first and foremost, so, for us, 500 miles is a daunting task. It's definitely different than a regular 400-mile race, so there is plenty of time for things to go wrong and we hope that we now have one of those perfect days that you always want to put together at Darlington come about on Sunday."
DID THIS RAINOUT PROVE TO BE A BLESSING?
"It's definitely very helpful. We've always qualified somewhat decent here. I had a pole back in 2001. Are they giving away that Pole Cat trophy? They usually do for the Southern 500. It's a track you have to qualify well on - to run up front and to stay away from trouble, even though the race winner usually is the best car on the long runs. But if you start towards the front, you have a much better time in deciding what decisions to make as far as changes on the race car and just your overall feeling about the day is gonna start off on a better foot when you start towards the front. So this is definitely a great opportunity to lead a lap early on and, if we've got the chance, to collect most laps led. This is definitely a benefit for us to start up this close to the front."
HAVE YOU DEVIATED FROM YOUR PLAN SINCE THE CHASE STARTED?
"Everything has gone according to plan. It's been very easy for us to make the decisions based on race day because of the car and the history that we have with that car at a specific race track. We saved that car that we won with in July at New Hampshire. We put a car cover over it and took it back in September to start off the Nextel Chase for the Cup with the best possible foot forward. Dover, that was the same car we ran there in the spring. We tested there in the spring with that race car and just right on down the line. Talladega is probably the only track where we swapped a car out from our normal lineup and that's because this car turned out so well at the wind tunnel. The wind tunnel is where you gain your speed for a Talladega-style race track. For us to do all the tests that we did in October, it was a matter of keeping up with all the right data and not getting lost in what was important. It just familiarized me with the race tracks, with the current setups and just put us in the best possible situation. As of late, Atlanta, we didn't test there so the track felt a bit odd to us at first, but we gained speed and then we had our motor problem. Phoenix was definitely different this time around. It didn't quite turn out as positive as we thought it could have for our team, but at Darlington, this is the car we ran here in the spring. It's the infamous car that lost by two-thousandths-of-a second, so it's a great car for Darlington. And then next week at Miami Homestead we tested two brand new cars for that race track in hopes of our season finale going the proper way for us."
WILL THAT FIRST LAP BE HOTLY CONTESTED FOR THOSE BONUS POINTS?
"That's a great question and a great hypothesis to try to predict, knowing the 8 car is gonna be strong, the 24, the 48 - everybody is gonna want to lead a lap quickly because they're so close to the front. We don't need to get wrapped up in that. We're focused on 500 miles. We could just as easily get passed by Jeff going into turn one, but it's gonna be a gentleman's agreement. That phrase has been lost as of late, but we'll all file in single-file, get the race underway and then see whose setup for happy hour dictates what direction you're gonna go."
DID MATT'S TEST HERE HELP YOU AT ALL?
"Yes, we do. And one thing that I've noticed with the group around Roush Racing is that if Darlington came earlier in this final 10 races, we probably wouldn't have gotten as much help as we did this past week from them. With their position in points, I think they're mathematically eliminated, I'm not sure, but for them to save their tests up and to be in the position that they are in, they helped us tremendously with the notes that they gathered from their Darlington test, knowing that the 97 has the best possible chance in Roush Racing to achieve the success that we all want."
DOES YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT HAVING A 41-POINT LEAD OR IS THAT JUST TOO SMALL?
"It's been, I don't know if it's been fun to look at all the different point scenarios that have come up with this Nextel Chase for the Cup. If we would have had a better day in Atlanta, we definitely could have a solid advantage. If the 8 car had a better day in Atlanta, that advantage would have gone down to a smaller amount. It's really about racing your car the best that you can every week and not worrying about your competition. That's why I'm so excited about Darlington and the race on Sunday is that you have to race the race track. Where the other competitors are is their problem and what they're working on, whether they're saving their tires for the later part of the run, whether you're gonna see them at the end of the day, who knows? This is a cool race track to have in the final 10 races. I'm excited for Sunday just because we get to race our own program and not worry about the points. At the end of the day we'll look at them because we can derive different scenarios now because we're going into our final race after Sunday. Where does Busch need to finish? Where does the 8 car? Where does the 48? Where is the 24? Are the 12 and the 20 in it now? Who knows? So it's great to go race this race track on Sunday and just try to tame the Lady in Black."