Fontana: Kurt Busch post-race interview

KURT BUSCH HOW BIG WAS THE DECISION NOT TO PIT? "This was definitely an interesting race and to have it come down to three competitors that had driven all day in different frames of mind - and what I mean by that is we all had to qualify our...

KURT BUSCH

HOW BIG WAS THE DECISION NOT TO PIT? "This was definitely an interesting race and to have it come down to three competitors that had driven all day in different frames of mind - and what I mean by that is we all had to qualify our race setups and it came down to three guys that you could throw a blanket over. It put on a great finish. I'm happy for our team and what Greg Biffle did. I'm not happy for what Jimmie did, he beat me, but it's a great start for us. We finished second last week and I thought we could get a win today. I was looking at two second-place finishes to start the year, but if what I have as far as total finishes add up to five, and you divide that by two, we're doing OK. It's just weird with an off-week coming up, but I'm looking forward to going home to Las Vegas and driving the Sharpie Ford there."

HOW MUCH DID NOT BEING ABLE TO WORK ON THE CAR CHANGE THINGS? "We just went into race mode as soon as we unloaded. When we were here testing we played around with a qualifying setup and then tried to untape it and that didn't work, so we knew right away we had to run the race setup and then just deal with qualifying it. We were focused right off the bat on making those changes and it put us in a box. We would have liked to have run a rubber here, but yet you can't take it for race - you had to run that. So it just dictated what choices we made early on Friday and they all played out throughout the weekend. It's an interesting format. I'm not sure if it's saving any money yet for the teams, but during the long haul I'm sure that it will. We're just trying to make sure that we make the right adjustments on our Sharpie Ford each and every week. When we go to Vegas now, it's a regular program. But if you look at our race notes, it would be much easier to qualify and race the setup at Vegas than it would here at California. So it's interesting. Some of the tracks that are impounding are ISC tracks, some of them are Bruton tracks, there's no real formula. I wish they would have tried it a bit more in the Busch Series before they gave it to Cup, but here we go. We've got two races under our belt and the next time we come back to California it will be right there right before the chase begins."

ANY TROUBLE WITH THE NEW FORMAT? "I didn't find too much trouble with our new system. With the spoiler and the tires, it gives the car a bit more movement. The front end wanders, the rear end wanders. Our car wasn't quite as dialed in as the 16 or the 48. We continued to work on it and it's what I've been missing for about a half-a-year now with being able to crack Victory Lane. I mean, we were competitive. We were a top-five car, but we just need to work on finding a new balance for the rear end of these cars so that we can definitely put the power down coming out. I was struggling with that and I still think that was from what our setups are like, instead of the tires and the spoiler."

DID YOU THINK YOU HAD A SHOT AT GREG AT THE END? "I knew our best chance was to break out and to build a lead as quick as we could and run the car at 99 percent and see where the lap times were gonna fall down. I knew two tires weren't really gonna work and I was hoping those guys would hold up the guys with four tires. So Biffle and I squirted out there. I was just on the loose side and not able to put the power down right when I needed to. That's when Biffle finally got to me - about lap 10 of that run, which was lap 20 of our tires - and then at the end I was starting to catch Biffle again. He was running at a stronger pace, but wearing his stuff out. He actually rubbed the fence off of two and you could smell it. I was like, 'That's Biffle.' I was gonna run him down and then Jimmie was there, so I just ran out of tire and ran out of time. It was a great race. That's what it's supposed to be when guys are on different programs and it all comes together out at the end."

IS IT TOO EARLY TO JUDGE THE RULES PACKAGE? "It'll be interesting to see how Atlanta works. Vegas will be a normal race with qualifying on Friday and happy hour Saturday and then we race on Sunday. Atlanta, it's a very fast race track and what I noticed, I didn't run very much in the fall because I blew a motor, but it looked like tires was the way to go. What that's gonna do to us in practice is you're not gonna get a good read on your car because you're halfway in qualifying and halfway in race and tires wear out in four laps there. Ask Jimmie. That's how he won the race. Mark Martin stayed out on four-lap old tires and he got passed. I'm gonna lobby for an extra set of tires at Atlanta and Darlington just because this new program is a bit tight on how to get your car dialed in."

ANY COMMENT ON THE EMPTY SEATS? "I didn't notice. We're busy in the race car, but they've got the grandstands painted red and yellow when they're empty, so they look like they're full. I didn't notice. The one thing I do notice about our west coast fans is that it's new to them. They're not as diehard as the fans in the southeast, where those guys will pack their coolers to specifications, hopefully it's Rubbermaid, and sit in the grandstands and don't move. Where fans on the west coast, they come out for the feeling of NASCAR. What they get from that is the start of the race. They might go down to the midway to get a soda during a long green run or when there's a yellow. Some of them come back to their seats. The infield was packed, so there is different strategies I think with fans on the west coast versus the east coast. It's new to them and I think eventually over time people will be so captivated by it that they'll learn that Jimmie is on four tires, I'm out there on old tires, some guys took two, some guys are stretching fuel, and they'll catch the racing that's going on within the race."

HOW IS IT TO RACE WITH JIMMIE? "Going back to last year with the chase, I sat on the couch and watched the end of the Atlanta race yelling at Mark Martin, 'Take tires. Take tires. The 48 is gonna win.' And then the 24 had problems, the 8 had problems. I hadn't really focused on any one individual during the chase because there are 10 guys and you can't get wrapped up in it, but Jimmie made up 162 points in one day on us - with us finishing 42nd and him winning. It was like, 'Wow, the 48 is here now.' He had so many problems in the beginning. You can't write anybody off, but you just hope your list of 10 goes down to nine, to eight, to seven, and then it went up a race because Jimmie got back in the chase. It's fun to go and race each and every week. To challenge each other at a superspeedway like this and to do the drafting at Daytona together, and even at a short track such as Bristol. He won at Martinsville in the fall after us leading the most laps. You want the competition. That's what we all come out for on Sundays is to beat the guy that's good and usually, as of late, it's been one of us or Gordon, Biffle has been hot, and Joe Nemechek has really been surprising as well. So it's a lot of fun. You can't just pinpoint one guy. You just have to go and work on your own program and then when it gets down to the last tire run, you see who is there and you race."

DO YOU HAVE A STEP UP ON THE OTHER CONTENDERS? "You just hope you're in good position by race 20 so that, like he did, kind of take a break. For us, we still had to race pretty hard each of those final 20-26 races, but it's way too early. It's a great start for our team. He's the big favorite. We're the defending champion and the pressure is on us, so we're gonna have some fun with it."

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Mark Martin