Daytona 500: Kurt Busch - Saturday Dodge interview

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) WHAT KIND OF RACE DO YOU EXPECT TOMORROW? ""We've got our work cut out for us starting 43rd. If they started 60 cars, we'd be 60th. It's been an interesting week for us, having the electrical...

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)

WHAT KIND OF RACE DO YOU EXPECT TOMORROW? ""We've got our work cut out for us starting 43rd. If they started 60 cars, we'd be 60th. It's been an interesting week for us, having the electrical problem during the 150. That put is in the position to use our champion's provisional. It feels good to fall back on it; it's also exciting as far as the challenge that's ahead of us to work our way toward the font. One lap at a time. One pit stop sequence at a time. The race is 500 miles. It's a long race. We're parked way in the back. I didn't know if any of you guys could find our hauler, so I thought I would come in and see you guys this morning and talk about our week. It's been a long two weeks so far and our three days of testing, so we've changed our setup probably six different times trying to search for the right setup for our Miller Lite Dodge. This new car challenges you in ways that the old car didn't. With eight years of experience, you have to use that to your advantage, but yet, at the same time, you have to think like a rookie with this car and try different things and try new things and sometimes go against the grain because the tire sheet will show you something different or the car will react different than the changes you've made. So, it's been a challenge. As far as our testing has gone, California and Vegas has been the exact opposite. The car has been very tight at California and Vegas, whereas, it's been very loose here at Daytona. So, it's interesting but yet it's four rubber tires, it's a racecar and they're handing out 190 points at the end of tomorrow and that's what we are after."

TELL US HOW DRIVERS HAVE TO DEAL WITH INTIMIDATION? "Life has been different since 2001 when the Intimidator (Dale Earnhardt) was out there racing with us. I got a first-hand lesson. My welcome to the big leagues was the No. 1 salute from Dale Sr. when I first got here to Daytona. I thought I was minding my own business in the middle lane, but I think I was in his way. He's been the only one that I've every looked up to and felt the intimidation from. There's great champions in our sport like Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Gordon is a four-time champion, Tony Stewart is a two-time champion and all those guys have their personalities and their ways about them on the racetrack that makes each one individually unique. Intimidation to me is something where all of us are out here racing and we've got a job to do which is to put our car in victory lane."

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES ON HANDLING THAT YOU FACE HERE? "It's frustrating in a way because this car has the ability to go, I think, 45-46 laps on fuel and we're not getting anywhere near that because the tires aren't lasting a full fuel run. So, at the same time, you're starting to take some of that fuel mileage and turning it into power. When you add more fuel to the car, you can run it a little cooler which gives you the ability to run more tape on the front of the car which can help your handling. Handling is key. If you're a little bit on the tight side, you're gong to blister a right front. If you're a little bit on the loose side, you're going to blister a right rear tire. Happy cars don't blister tires. It's very difficult to get your car happy. That's the challenge all these teams are facing. You don't want to be the guy that hangs it out there 35, 38 laps when everybody else pitted, and then you risk the chance of popping a hole in one of your tires. It's a tough race to really get into because you're sitting there waiting for when you are going to have a tire problem. Hopefully, the tire problem will go away somewhat with the truck race last night, the Nationwide race today and another practice session for the teams to get their cars better. I know at the end once you get your final set of tires and the sun goes down, it's going to be just like every other year, it's going to be every man for himself, it's going to be three wide and it's going to be intense. So, it's just a matter of getting into that position."

ROGER (PENSKE) HAS DOMINATED THE BIGGEST RACE (INDY 500) ON THE OTHER SIDE; HE JUST HASN'T HAND ANY LUCK AT THIS EVENT? "I'm not sure what it stems from and how it has all been drawn up over the years as far as bad luck with Rusty (Wallace) or with (Ryan) Newman or with Bobby Allison driving the car a few times and he's won this big race. You always hope you built the best car; you always hope that you have the best team behind you. The way that restrictor plate racing is sometimes, a little bit of luck can go a long way. It takes quite a few things to align. I think the quote that Richard Childress had years ago is the best: 'When opportunity meets preparation, that defines luck.' So, I hope that we're prepared the best that we can because we feel we have a great opportunity to win one of these restrictor-plate races shortly. We've been in the top five many times. We just have to break through. We have to have a little bit maybe on the power side, maybe a little on the aero side; we just have to keep polishing on it and eventually, we might crack it.

THERE HAS BEEN A HEALTHY RESPECT FOR THE TOYOTAS SHOWN THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS; WHO COULD HURT THE TOYOTAS? "I think they are very good with restrictor-plate engines. With (Joe) Gibbs jumping aboard, they're become even stronger. It's just the way the engine package is set up with this gear and Daytona, they're going to look very strong and they have been very strong for Speedweeks. Can they show the strength once we go to tracks like California, Vegas and Atlanta? That's when you get back into the regular engine package. We hope that levels out the playing field. Right now, we think Toyota has a distinct advantage. But at the same time, the 88 car is going for the hat track. He has won the Shootout; he's won his qualifying race. The Dale Jr. and Tony Eury combination over at Hendrick is very powerful right now. They can't be overlooked either.

YOU DID RECEIVE THE PENALTY; WAS IT A FAIR PENALTY? "It was an on-track deal that happened during practice, it seems like the penalty could have been more severe or it could have been less. NASCAR has allowed us to get together and talk about things. It's different in the way they are handling it. I like it. You know, six races, we're in our own little race being 50th in points. We need to gain points each race. We have the mentality to race like we need every single point for the first five or six races, so this won't affect us all that much. To be able to work our way into the top 35 in points and solidify ourselves once we get toward Martinsville and Texas, that's what our goal is, so this might even help us do that."

HOW DO YOU KEEP FOCUSED THIS IS JUST ONE OF 36 RACES? "It's been real easy with us having our electrical problem in the qualifying race and starting 43rd. It's just a different mentality when you have to come from behind to catch the rest of the pack. We've got 500 miles to do it. If we can cross the start- finish line running 10th or better, we'll take that as a victory. I hope to be in the top 10 in that last lead draft with our last set of tires on and go for the win. It's a tough race. You can't get ahead of yourself; I've done that a few times here. There have been a few times where on the last five or six laps, I wish I had done something different. Being in position is the key and this race will be more about survival this time around than it will be about raw speed.

WITH YOUR PROBLEMS, HAVE YOU MANAGED ENOUGH PRACTICE TIME ON THE TRACK? "We ran 45 laps yesterday in practice which was two tires runs for us. We used a set of tires from the 150s; we only had eight laps on them because of the electrical problem and ran 20 laps straight. That was 28 laps on that set of tires. Then we went out ran 25 laps straight through. That was two full tire runs. That was the length of the 150s, so that helped us feel like we got caught back up as far as laps on the track. Today, we've got the same thing. We've got two sets of tires set aside. We're going to make two longs runs and see how our car handles in traffic; see how it maneuvers leading and following. We feel like we have adequate time on our car."

HOW MANY LAPS DO YOU THING WILL BE A TIRE RUN TOMORROW? WILL IT BE A TACTICAL RACE? "The way this race is shaping up, there seems to be more questions going into it than there has been in years past and it's just due to the new car. The way the tires have been wearing out, you just have to pace yourself and to not have a problem. If you're going to blister a tire, you want to blister the outside edge of the right front. It will vibrate, but won't lose air. That what we've seen with our car. Will we see guys go 40 laps? They need a gold star if they do. I don't think we'll see 40 laps; we might by the last two-thirds of the race with the track as rubbered in as it's going to be. More power to them if they go 40 laps; I just don't see it right now. The focus gets back onto tire wear. What can you do to make your car last longer than the next guy, not have a tire problem and still have the handling? You're still going to have to handle and that's what will separate the men from the boys once you get down to it."

YOU'VE BEEN CLOSE SEVERAL TIMES; HAS THIS BEEN A PLACE OF FRUSTRATION FOR YOU? "This track will chew you up and spit you out real quick. If you think the track owes you something, you're mistaken. This is Daytona. It is one of the toughest, most challenging events we have, whether it's here in July or February. When I finished second on '03 or '05, I looked at it just like I do today. I'm young. I've had great opportunities. There are still many years ahead of me for a chance to win this great race. I just have to do my job to help position myself to do it whether it's with the team, whether it's survival in the race for the first 450 miles or it's a matter of building more friendships out on the track to have drafting partners. It takes a lot. You can't just come in and win right away. To watch Dale Sr. almost win this thing in 1990 and have a flat tire in turn three and then have eight years pass of just pure agony, I'm not to that point. I don't think I'll ever be near that point. This is a tough race to win and I've got some more years ahead of me."

NO CURSE ON THE 2 CAR? "I hope not. It's had its share of good days and bad days. I know there are more of those good and bad days ahead. Working for the Captain, Roger Penske, it would be a dream come true to drive into victory lane and share that experience with him. He's won Indy 14 times. One time over here would definitely tip the scale in the NASCAR direction for him."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Bobby Allison , Roger Penske