NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Daytona 500 - Feb. 20, 2005 Daytona International Speedway Daytona Beach, Fla. An interview with: KURT BUSCH THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Sharpie Ford, second place finish in the ...
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Daytona 500 - Feb. 20, 2005
Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Fla.
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Sharpie Ford, second place finish in the Daytona 500. Another top five run for you. Take us through the restart, the final laps, how you were slicing and dicing, trying to win this race.
KURT BUSCH: We were in great position to be able to win the race. We were able to run up front most of the day. Our Sharpie Ford was off a little bit. We had to keep adjusting on it with big cross weight changes and air pressure changes. That enabled us to move to the front each time. We had very timely pit stops with the other groups. We were able to stay in the lead draft, except for when Jimmie Johnson and I decided to go speeding down pit road. So we worked together to get back up. With a green white checker restart at Daytona, you always look for where anybody isn't out on the racetrack. They left the yellow line open. I got a rearview mirror full of the 10 car, and Scott Riggs pushed me. He was going to go by me if I didn't block him. I blocked him. He pushed me by the 48 and the 8. He caught me again coming off of turn two. Gave me another bump. But that momentum, when I broke away from the 10, wasn't going to pass the 24. I wouldn't have cleared him coming off of turn four. It would have probably been three wide, four wide. There probably would have been a six car pileup at the start/finish line and I wouldn't have ended up in the position that we were in. I just didn't have the 10 car behind me to help me clear the 24, and then the 8 car got in there under the low side. I knew I had to get on the binders and hold the bottom groove so that we could finish second.
A great day for our team. We built a great car during the off season. I'm very pleased with what our effort was this year at the Daytona 500.
Q: We always talk about this is what it's all about, battling with Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is that the case?
KURT BUSCH: Going through those final 10 races last year, I felt it every single lap, every race. Being able to perform at our best capability, without making a mistake. I had a run on the 24. I had that butterfly in the stomach feeling of "I've got a shot at winning the Daytona 500." I wouldn't have cleared 'em if I would have went to his high side. I know I wouldn't have. I'm going to stick with that in my mind, I'm going to be happy with that decision. I'm not going to kick myself. I finished second today. Our Ford was in a group amongst a bunch of other Chevys. We didn't have quite the commitment from the guy behind to clear the 24. That was the moment, though. That's what you live for. That's what keeps me coming back every race, is to be able to have an opportunity to go for the win on the last lap and steal it away.
But we ran competitive all day. To finish second was a good effort.
Q: Did the late cautions hurt you?
KURT BUSCH: I had to use the restroom beyond belief. Yes, it did (laughter). We were out there for five hours in the car. I think we sat out there for 45 minutes after driver intro with nothing to do except watch everybody walk by and enjoy the atmosphere.
But the cautions actually helped us a little bit. Our handle on the Sharpie Ford would go away about lap 25, lap 28, of a 33 lap run. We were kind of stretching it the last six laps of a run, just trying to keep the car on the bottom of the racetrack. We went for all out speed.
Q: Talk about being able to get back in the car after the off season of the championship.
KURT BUSCH: It was a great feeling, to be able to jump back in the comfort zone of my Sharpie Ford, behind the wheel of the biggest race of the year, coming off one of the greatest moments in my life, just to start off with something fresh and new, but yet it's still the same, the Daytona 500. We had to focus on what we had to do to win the race today.
It was great to get back in the car and use my brain for something else other than talking with sponsors or talking with the car owner during the off season about changes with the crew, and then of course all the media things that we've done as a champion. NASCAR spoiled me to death. It was a good feeling to have during the off season. We were busy, but it was good to get back in the car.
Q: Last year you were running up front, but you were a lap down. This year obviously that wasn't the case. Can you comment on the difference there, if you learned anything?
KURT BUSCH: Last year we had an unscheduled pit stop. I ran into the 8 car coming through the tri oval, and that put our fender on top of the tire. We had to come in, unscheduled pit stop and fix that. There wasn't any other cautions for the rest of the race. I think there was over 300 miles last year of caution free action. That wasn't the case today.
The year before that, I think we finished fourth. 2002, was it, when we had the rain shortened race, I finished second behind Michael Waltrip. This feels great to get our car back in the top five.
This was the first sniff of victory we've had with our Sharpie Ford legitimately. We finished second, third, fourth before. But this was our first opportunity to go for the win, and we came up a bit short.
Q: Can you talk about the performance of the Fords? Obviously a Ford won the pole. At the end there, you're sort of a guy on an island.
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I didn't see too many of them up there throughout the race. But if Mark Martin was there today, I would have jumped behind him and pushed him as far and as fast and as hard as I could have, being that this was his last race. From what he's built at Roush Racing, the Ford legacy, Dale Jarrett was on the pole, but we just didn't see many Fords up front. I was hoping Mark Martin would have a better opportunity at the end. He was caught out once, he caught back up, I think he gained a top six position today. But it seemed like there was all kinds of Chevys surrounding me. I was just kind of finding the hole when they left it open.
Q: Can you tell us about your conversation with Jeff Gordon this morning.
KURT BUSCH: Jeff and I, we've developed a little bit of a relationship with me coming to him as far as advice on what to do with a championship frame of mind and how to balance things out. I was very anxious in our 150 to go to the front. I gave him a little bump. He didn't like it. We both ended up finishing sixth and seventh in our 150. At the starting grid today, I told him, I'll work with you today as long as you don't run into my front bumper like that anymore (laughter).
I told him today that I had an opportunity to pass him at the end. I told him that we would have ended up probably two wide, three wide, four wide coming off of turn four, that I decided to stick in behind him because I knew my chances of winning weren't all that great of clearing the 24, so I protected him at the end. I just wanted him to feel relieved that I helped him out, and that he owes us one a little bit, I guess.
Q: Do you feel wronged by getting busted for speeding on pit road?
KURT BUSCH: No, I didn't. I saw the 48 inching ahead of us on pit road. So I just kept the speed with him. You're always trying to make sure that you stay within the lead draft. I was going to be the last car off of pit road in that group, which I was. I was going to have a hard time keeping up with that group. I just thought that I was still within reason on pit road. They have a new device, as well as their backup device, on checking pit road speed. It was a great save for us to come in with the 48 because the two of us helped each other out. We both knew we were speeding. We got back up towards the front later in the day.
Q: Were you impressed about how Mark Martin rallied with that car to get the finish he did today?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah. I felt sorry for him after his 150. With all the people around him, the interview that he gave, he just flat out said, My chances are done. I can't win it without this car. And the team believed in him. The team put together an effort where I think there was a right front fender missing. They completely sawed it off. They went above and beyond the call of duty to repair that car and pulled all the guys that normally do the fabrication from North Carolina, brought them down to Florida. That's a team effort. That's something to give to Mark Martin on his last Daytona 500, if this is his last one. They gave 110% effort. I would have done the same if we would have had the opportunity to draft with Mark Martin. He's a great guy, a great legend already in my mind. He finished sixth day. It's fitting, 6, that's his number.
Q: Not having enough Fords around you at the end of the race, what is missing from the Ford program here?
KURT BUSCH: I think if we look at just the straight up lineup of NEXTEL Cup racing, the quantity of Fords is lacking compared to the Chevrolets. I believe that we've got the smallest group of cars. It's Roush Racing, it's Yates Racing, and you've got the Wood Brothers. I would guess that that's eight, nine competitive cars, whereas the Chevrolets, it seems like there's 18, 19 competitive Chevrolets with Hendrick, with Gibbs, with RCR. I'm going to miss somebody. Then you've got about a dozen Dodges. I just think that we're outnumbered. It would be nice if we could get a competitive two car team to swap over to Ford and just add a number to us. Because we've got great motors. Jack Roush gives me great cars. It just seems like we're outnumbered all the time.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us. Congratulations on a nice run.