Darlington: Kurt Busch - Dodge Friday interview

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Avenger) COMMENT ON RACING AT DARLINGTON "I think every driver gets excited about Darlington just because of the challenges that lie ahead with a slick racetrack. It gets back to the old-school style of ...

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Avenger)

COMMENT ON RACING AT DARLINGTON "I think every driver gets excited about Darlington just because of the challenges that lie ahead with a slick racetrack. It gets back to the old-school style of racing where you have to race the racetrack. With the new Dodge Avenger that we have for this weekend it's going to make it really interesting with an old-school car field, with an old-school track. How are things going to play out? A lot of questions are still to be answered, and I can't wait to hit the racetrack later this afternoon."

COULD YOU SEE DALE JR. FITTING IN AT PENSKE RACING? "He's going to fit in wherever he goes. He brings large attention around him with the sport, but he said he's very committed to Chevrolet. I think that's his commitment and that would be different with us running Dodges, but the Dodges do run well and I' m proud to be driving for Penske Racing and try to get in victory lane a bit more often for them. That's what our objective is. Dale Jr. wants to win a championship and he feels like that's why he needs to make a big change. I've been through that before where you've got a contract and negotiations with the team and looking forward to the future at the same time and balancing racing the car week in and week out. He's got quite a few things on his plate. If he comes over for advice I'll be sure to help him out, but it's a tough time when you're going through contract negotiations and switching teams, but for him, he's definitely got a lot on his side that he can bring to a race team no matter where he lands."

IS IT AS DIFFICULT TO RETRIEVE MOMENTUM AS IT IS TO ACHIEVE IT? "It definitely is. This sport can knock you off your horse real quick, or if you get in a groove that you can in with race setups you run that as long as you can and you can get a nice swing of things. It helps week in and week out to run smooth, and it seems like decisions are easier to make. The car runs a little quicker and it puts you in a position to win a championship like I've done in the past. Then there's those rebuilding times when you get behind on setups or the fact that I did switch teams and we're rebuilding and getting to where we need to be with it. This sport you can be in the highs and you can be in the lows. You just have to try to keep it on a level playing field. When you do have your good days and you do have your bad days, you try to polish off the tops and bottoms to make it even."

YOU'VE GOT TWO STRAIGHT TOP-FIVE FINISHES. DO YOU CALL THAT MOMENTUM? "That's a good turnaround for our team. It's fun to be able to go to the racetrack and think we're on the cutting edge of where we need to be with our setups and with our Dodge Avenger. That's produced some great results for us the last few weeks. Today obviously is a big day for that car and how it's going to react to Darlington. We look forward to that challenge, and we've got a great Charlotte test behind us now that's going to lead into a couple of weeks of all-star racing and of course the 600-mile race. Then it's back to another race for the COT up in Dover. That will be interesting. The next few weeks are somewhat of a stage so to speak of jumping into the summer months and that momentum will definitely help us the next few weeks."

DO YOU AGREE THAT THIS IS THE BIGGEST TEST SO FAR FOR THE COT AND HOW HAS YOUR ATTITUDE CHANGED ABOUT THE CAR? "This will be one of the biggest tests for this racecar. When you develop a plan, which NASCAR has done with this car, to take it to tracks a mile and less which are primarily our short tracks - Martinsville and Bristol and Richmond and Phoenix, which in my mind is a mile and considered a superspeedway, but it's really a short track. Loudon is going to be a short track. Dover will be interesting. That will be another strong test, but hey, here we are at a track that's a mile and a third and there's quite a bit of speed that's attained here. This will be as fast as the car has run, competitively at speed. So you have the speed element as well as the old surface here and the way this track is very abrasive. The car has a little less grip to begin with, then you add in the Darlington surface which has less grip and then you add in the way the car sits on bump stops with the rougher surface, it's going to be interesting to see how the car reacts to the racetrack. My opinion is still strong about this racecar. I think it's great the safety implements have added to the driver safety in the car. Richmond I thought was great racing, side by side, nose to tail, cars on top of each other all day. My analogy to the car, it's like a kid that's 16 years old and your dad brings you home a car. You know you're going to go drive it at the end of the day. The problem is the car your dad brought home needs about a year's worth of work before you can get it out on the street and drive it around. That's about where we stand with the COT. It's going to need to go through its paces and be tested at every racetrack. Darlington is going to be a nice, but test. Dover, a high-banked, fast one-mile racetrack. That'll be another big test. It seems like it passed the short track test with Richmond, Bristol and Martinsville, so it's a work in progress."

WILL IT BE DIFFICULT TO GET THE CAR TO TURN HERE? "It's very difficult to get a car to turn here, a regular car and I'm sure this car will be the same way. The philosophy here at Darlington will not change, which is you've got to race the racetrack, so you won't see a lot of cars here side by side. Everybody is here running their own race. It doesn't matter where you are on the track. If you're running 30th or third, you're in your own race and you're worried about racing the racetrack. I think that will come into play again."

COMPARE WHAT YOU WENT THROUGH CHANGING TEAMS TO WHAT YOU THINK DALE JR. WILL ENCOUNTER? "I believe it will be much easier for him in his case. His team is not going to drop him on his rear end and kick him out the door. They're going to put a plan together to make the best effort they can in the last races they're together. On the flip side, on Dale Jr.'s side, he's still got to stay focused and go out there and try to win races and know his team is giving him good equipment to go and do that with. The big picture with Dale is he'll be taken care with which team he jumps in with and of course Teresa is a little bit of family, and I'm sure they discussed some of the issues they had and they just couldn't come to an agreement. So it's going to be much more civilized with his departure over there than what I went through."

COMMENT ON ANNOUNCEMENT COMING SO EARLY IN THE SEASON "It's interesting how early in the season it is for a driver to announce that he is leaving at the end of the year. Is it based upon decisions outside the racetrack? It might be. I can only speculate. Things outside the racing world with positioning yourself with souvenirs or royalties and things usually have to come into play earlier in the year, so that probably had a large influence on his decision. Yet, I know Dale Jr. real well and I know the guy wants to go win races and win championships and he wants to do that with a different team because he feels like Teresa's program isn't where he wants to be. He's made a decision to go race cars. That's why I decided I needed to leave the team I did. I wanted to go race a better race car for a better team, and I think that's what he's doing. It's tough this early in the year, but he's got a lot of things that go around just Dale Jr."

WHAT ISSUES DO TEAMS FACE KNOWING THEIR DRIVERS ARE GOING TO LEAVE AT THE END OF THE SEASON? "One thing that's difficult is the relationship I developed with some of my crew members and he's developed with all his crew members. The crew begins questioning why he is leaving. Are we not doing our jobs right? Are we not giving him good equipment? Was it something I said? That's not at all the reason why Dale Jr. is leaving, but that's the tough part. The crew members feel they're left out to dry, so he's got to keep those relationships open with those guys and let them know there might be other opportunities, not only at DEI but at other race teams and keep them motivated. I think that's very key, and it was great for me to be able to win after I announced that I was leaving with that race team. Those guys were still giving it 100 percent, and I felt in 2005 that I had a stronger car going into The Chase than I did in 2004 when I won the championship. It's all about the people. If you've got good people around you, you've got to keep that nucleus close and strong and that's one thing I'd recommend for him to work on. Heck, it's only the beginning of May. He's got a long way to go just to make The Chase and to be competitive when he does make The Chase."

WHY DOES YOUR DODGE SEEM TO BE THE BEST ONE ON THE TRACK? "The Dodge that we're getting to spend more time with is definitely helping our team run stronger. Having the 2 and 12 work together, Ryan Newman has been great sharing information and knowing we need to get these cars running 1-2 instead of 10th-12th or whatever it might be. The new nose has helped us quite a bit with the Dodge Charger and so has all the testing we've done. It's starting to unfold and I hope we can continue this into the summer months leading up to The Chase. A lot of homework has been done and it's now just starting to show. I'd love for all the Dodge teams to work a little bit better together, but Evernham has his program and Ganassi has theirs and meetings happen between engineers from all the teams. That's minimal information. The best information you can get is from your own teammate. Ryan and I are doing a pretty good job right now."

DO YOU THINK SOME DRIVERS HAVE RESISTED THE COT JUST BECAUSE THEY DON'T LIKE CHANGE? "I think you have a big portion of people that want to believe this car is wrong just because it does look different or because it is new. If it wasn't broke before why change it so to speak with the racecar itself. NASCAR fans are very loyal. They're very opinionated on who their favorite driver is or who this new guy that's come on to the block and now we've got a new racecar that's coming in and how they view it is definitely important. NASCAR needs to realize how important the opinions of the fans are. To me like the fact that the car has created debate. It reminds me of the BCS and how teams are in and how teams are out. Who's got a better record and who's in the best division? The SEC vs. ACC vs. PAC-10? You get that promotion. You get that turmoil that's always created by just starting with something different, with something new. Just over time this car will be absorbed and people will absorb it."

COMMENT ON THE NEW DODGE AVENGER "I like the way the Dodge Avenger looks. I'm not bias, but I think the Dodge Avenger looks good as a street car and people can go buy the car that's got a splitter on the front and a wing on the back that looks like what races out on the racetrack. As a marketing campaign, Dodge has really hit a home run with it in understanding that we can go back to this old MO of win on Sunday, sell on Monday with a car that actually looks like what's out on the racetrack."

WHY DO YOU THINK CHEVROLET IS DOING SO WELL? "I said last year, and I'll say it again. I felt like if one team hit it right with this COT they would take off and run really well and it would be hard to catch them. That has held true, but yet I look at a few of these COT races and there was side-by-side finishes at Bristol and Martinsville. At Richmond I wish we could have had better pit strategy to hold off Jimmie Johnson and my little brother Kyle at the end. Denny Hamlin was very strong at Phoenix and had a pit road speeding penalty. You see a few teams that were there running strong at each of the races. Jeff Burton finished second at Bristol, but yet it ended up being a Hendrick car in victory lane at all these races thus far because some of the other teams ended up having trouble and didn't have the perfect day that Hendrick had going. When you have three teams running as strong as they are, it gives you that many more chances to win. We're working as hard as we can making sure we can get our Dodge Avenger in victory lane as soon as we can because that will help everybody view this car as hey 'other teams are winning with it.' "

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin
Teams Team Penske