Fontana II: Kurt Busch - Dodge Friday interview

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Avenger) ON THE DECISION TO GO WITH THE WINNING CAR FROM POCONO OVER MICHIGAN ? "It's great to be back at California Speedway. It's a track that I really enjoy racing with my west coast background. It has a...

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Avenger)

ON THE DECISION TO GO WITH THE WINNING CAR FROM POCONO OVER MICHIGAN ? "It's great to be back at California Speedway. It's a track that I really enjoy racing with my west coast background. It has a little less banking than most tracks. I guess drivers would consider this a flat track. It prompted us to use our Pocono race winning car that has more of a flat-track style set up with the way that the downforce is balanced on the car. At Michigan we had a great car there and won the race, but that car is geared up more for tracks with banking where the rear end is pushed into the racetrack different with the banking, so you need different downforce balances. Even though Michigan and California have more similarities in looks, as far as the new wave of setting cars up and how you build them with downforce, the flat tracks seem to want a different package than the banked race tracks. So that was our decision. It's tough when you have two race winning cars to decide which one to bring. Pat Tryson has done just an incredible job in a short amount of time, and so it was primarily his decision to bring this car here, which I completely agree with. We'll see what we can get. We are looking for a nice consistent weekend again. We're still not locked in or out of the woods, so we just need a solid top-10 run and to stay out of trouble. That is the biggest thing. I know that Penske/Jasper engines are going to be as solid as they can be as far as giving us the horsepower we need as well as the durability. It's another exciting weekend. We're looking forward to it. The hot temperatures will remind me of what it used to be like racing in the dry heat, instead of in the heat that we experience out east in the humidity."

ON REVIEWING THE POINTS STANDINGS LEADING UP TO THE CHASE? "From what I understand there are 160 points that are available to a driver that wins a race, or 190 - I'm sorry, and then you get 30 to start the race. The bottom line is that if we are 165 ahead of 13th place after Sunday night then I think we are guaranteed a spot if you ask me. All we have to do is start the car at Richmond and that'll be great for us, especially with the pressure that has been on us the last few weeks, but then we are only nine points out of 10th place. There are two guys ahead of us within 10 points. It really all has to do with your finish among the other cars that are around you. Yet, if you just go out there and worry about your own program and shoot for a top-10 finish, that means that there is only one race left for things to go bad or go right. We've just been checking them off as we have been going here with a nice steady pace. We've had great cars that have allowed us to win and have allowed us to gain maximum points. All along, we just have the mentality of maintaining a solid finish."

ON YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH BROTHER KYLE BUSCH SINCE THE CHARLOTTE INCIDENT: "The bonus that I got from winning the NEXTEL Cup Championship, I mean I guess I can loan him a million bucks that he might be angry about. He did have a fast race car at the All-Star race. We were in position just like he was at the All-Star race, but the thing of it is as two brothers commonly think on the same page, we thought on the same page again that evening. I've watched that happen with different sets of brothers all the time in NASCAR racing. The thing of it is, if he was in trouble today out on the track or off the track, I'd be the first one there to support him, and I still feel that way. Brothers are just prone to run into one another and yet we can help each other 90 percent of the time. More than that, we can help each other 100 percent of the time. I think I helped push him to almost a win at the Pepsi race in Daytona. The 400, he finished second just behind Jamie McMurray and I was pushing him as hard as I could. I'm beyond it. I think he'll realize that shortly. He's just young, aggressive. He's fast, he knows he's fast. I've been in those same shoes, but you need to look at the bigger pictures some days. He'll be okay.

CAN YOU AFFORD TO BE A LITTLE MORE CONSERVATIVE WITH YOUR ENGINE THIS WEEKEND? "I believe our engine department is very smart, and they know that there is a big difference between Michigan and California, even though they are both two-mile tracks and they look similar, there is 500 miles of racing here at California and there's only 400 at Michigan. This race is notorious for having a fast pace at the beginning of a tire run and then a very slow pace as the tires wear out, where at Michigan you can keep your pace pretty much throughout. For our approach, it is to be conservative. It is to make sure that we last the full 500 miles, and if you give up a horsepower or two I don't think it'll matter in the big picture, because all you have to do is work on your chassis. The chassis usually win races and the engines usually compliment the chassis."

SHOULD IT CONCERN NASCAR OR THE FANS THAT THE LEADER IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO PASS ANYMORE? "I guess that you could take the humoristic approach and say that the car that's leading is the fastest car and it's going to be tough for anybody to pass the fastest car. What the COT is projected to do, once it gets to bigger race tracks, is create a bigger hole in the air, and at the same time has less downforce, and so cars are going to be sliding around in front of each other. That lead car, once it gets to the front, is going to be punching a bigger hole for the other cars to catch up behind it. It's similar to what we see in the IROC Series. Those cars punch a big hole in the air, the second-place car can catch the leader very easy and there is usually 12 cars on top of each other when it comes down for the race win. I don't think that it's anything that we should be concerned about with the way that the racing is -- the fastest cars up front. You know the way that the Michigan race played out, there was about a three-second lead when the yellow popped out with 30 to go, but we were handling very loose at that time. We were actually the slowest that we were and Truex kept chipping away. Then the 48 car would get racing side-by-side in the restarts and allow us to pull away a little bit. If the race would have been green to the end, it would have been a full-fledged, top-ranked fight between Truex and myself for the lead. Our tires were wearing out and his car seemed to be handling better, but the timing and yellows and everything works out. I saw four cars on top of each other at Bristol with about 100 to go with the No. 99, the No. 9, the No. 8 and the No. 2 all fighting for the race win with 100 laps to go at Bristol. In my mind, that's the jockeying time. That's when you go if you've got a fast car with 100 laps to go, because you've positioned yourself to be there, and now it's time for you to put yourself in a position to win."

DO YOU APPRECIATE POTENTIALLY GETTING INTO THE CHASE A LITTLE BIT MORE THESE DAYS? "Oh sure. The Chase is a very prestigious mark for a race team and for a driver to make it and then to have a good run. A successful run through it means that you've got a chance to win a championship. Whether it's your first, second or one guy will be shooting for his fifth. Tony is going for his third and a bunch of guys are going for their second. I've had two opportunities in it. One that went well, I don't think there was a hitch in it except for a motor failure at Atlanta. And then the second time I got into it, it was ruined three laps in. I hope that this time it's somewhere in between those two. You have consistent runs that help you build toward a championship and if we don't quite get it this year, it won't be a disappointment. People that are in the Chase are very well respected and it's a very prestigious honor to be in the Chase."

IS THERE A CERTAIN COURSE THAT TIFFS BETWEEN DRIVERS TAKE TO WORK THEMSELVES OUT? "Usually, drivers understand what happened in the event when drivers run into one another out on the track. Sometimes there is a third driver that gets involved that gets away clean such as the Truex bumping into Montoya. Now it's a Harvick-Montoya battle. It's really interesting how things always pan out, because we have to race with each other week-in and week-out. It's not like it's a weekend series between the Cubs and the Cardinals and then you go off and play another team for three months and you don't see those players again. Where in NASCAR, you race against the same guys every week and we all have to see each other and get along. People move on. Some people do it quicker than others. Sometimes there is that 50 percent both ways where you are like hey, it was your fault or hey, it was my fault first and then it takes more time. If it's a 51/49 percent, then it takes less time. If it's a driver that's a rookie and he works with the veteran driver and lets him know that what he did is a mistake, then boom, it's clear, it's done and it's over. It's really unique. Different kinds of drivers take different amounts of time and different circumstances take a different amount of time."

HOW MUCH HEAT DO YOU ACTUALLY FEEL IN THE CAR "It's really odd. When the race starts, your body is dry and your drivers' suit is dry and it feels like you are running around in a dryer with forced hot air hitting your body. When it's wet, the air hit your body and somewhat cools it a little bit. Whereas, in a humidity based environment, you're just wet and soaked the whole time. You're just wiping the sweat away and you stay wet. In a dry heat during the yellows, you can actually cool down to where you don't have the liquid on your body and it starts to crust on your face. You end up with salt everywhere. It's a different environment, but it's just part of what we do as NASCAR drivers. That's to stay in shape and do it every weekend. It helps you get out of the car easy. Sometime you just gotta bear down. In the spring, we race Bristol, Atlanta, even when we race here at California Speedway in the spring, it's just cool out and your body doesn't sweat as much, so your hydration is all off as far as did you drink too many fluids and have to use the restroom. It's interesting. You just go through it."

ON HEADING BACK TO RICHMOND: "I enjoy the short tracks and flat tracks in general. We had a great car at Richmond earlier this year with our COT. Our Dodge Avenger was good enough to win the race; we just didn't pick the right time to pit. With more experience sitting on top of the pit box with Pat Tryson, if we're locked in, it's just going to feel great to have no pressure that weekend and to let it rip and go for it so to speak."

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO WITH THE HEAT TO MENTALLY PREPARE FOR THE WEEKEND?"You just try to stay in cool environments and you try to work as smooth as you can. You try to get your car handling well. Good handling cars can take away heat -- it's amazing how it works, and then you just stay hydrated. You stay ahead of the game. You eat the best you can as far as nutritional foods that won't slow you down too much, high on protein, high on carbs, because you want to have that energy. You muscle through it. You look forward for when we get to Miami, because that's the last race of the year and you might be able to knock down the regiment of eating properly and all of that afterwards. It's just part of the deal. You've got 12 weeks to go and you just try to stay in the game."

ON SAM HORNISH DRIVING CUP RACES DOWN THE STRETCH? "From what I've been told, I don't know that he is driving in Cup races here, so I don't have the best answer for you here. I do know that Roger (Penske) has got a crown jewel up at Belle Isle this weekend and there is a lot of focus with the IRL in Detroit. It's supposed to be 74 degrees at their race instead of 174. With Sam, he has an opportunity to do NASCAR racing or he can stick it out in IRL. The great thing about him is that I think he's younger than I am. I think he's 28 years old, but I'm not sure. In American motorsports, that means that you still have plenty of time. You still have 10, 15 year, or 20 years. If he was looking to go to Formula 1, then he might be past his curve of what driver age is prime. NASCAR could be an option. We're looking at Montoya, and guys like Villeneuve that are contemplating, and we've got A.J. Allmendinger who is already here now. Sam has an opportunity with Penske Racing that I don't know is in stone yet, but he's got a small taste of Busch action, so why not give him a shot at the Cup stuff and we'll see how it goes."

CAN YOU PUT YOUR FINGER ON WHY YOU'VE IMPROVED SINCE PAT TRYSON ARRIVED?"It's hard to pinpoint exactly. With the immediate success, I'd have to say that the pit road decisions and the pit call that he's made adjusting on the car. We've had good car before when we've started the races, but we've just never finished well. We'd fail to adjust on it during the race, whether we didn't have the fuel mileage or we'd take two tires instead of four and it didn't pan out. It just seems that Pat is one step ahead. I've helped give the information that I'm looking for and he's been able to give me more tools it seems like, even though we've had everything there right in front of us. It just seems like it's easier for me to make the decision on which spring that we should run and he'll ask me why do I want to run that spring. He explains that this is an option and this is an option instead of it all coming from me or it all coming from the previous crew chief. It's just a nice combination of the two being on the same page and helping each other do."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kurt Busch , Jamie McMurray , A.J. Allmendinger
Teams Team Penske