KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus - Finished 1st. "Wow, what a day, what a year, what a transition from that rookie year. These guys made that swap over the off-season and Jimmy Fennig's control of people, the way that he approaches races...
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus - Finished 1st.
"Wow, what a day, what a year, what a transition from that rookie year. These guys made that swap over the off-season and Jimmy Fennig's control of people, the way that he approaches races and race tracks gave me the key to victory everytime that I jumped in that race car this year and today was no different. To be able to bring the Little Tikes Ford home to Victory Lane at the Ford 400, to cap off the run that we've put together in the final quarter of the season, it's just an awesome day. I'm just so happy I'm too excited to put together the right words, except for the fact I'd like to congratulate my whole Roush Racing teammates - from Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton. It's just an awesome year. It's a great sponsor we have in Newell Rubbermaid and coming up with so many ways to expose their companies to the national scene. To get the TV exposure we've gotten with TNT, NBC and FOX this year, it's just been unbelievable. And to bring home the trophy in the Ford 400, that's the biggest one today.
IF YOU TAKE AWAY AUGUST, DO YOU FEEL YOU COULD HAVE WON THE TITLE?
"It was a great lesson learned. To finish last three times in a row, anybody could have got down on themselves - any crew member could have started looking for another job, everybody could have started having a little chatter box. I think we all pulled together stronger as a team. The sponsor didn't let us down. They actually whooped my upside the head a couple times and said, 'Listen, let's focus on what's important.' So there was so many lessons learned from that. There was no one big turnaround from that month of August, it was just a gradual swing - somebody swinging that big pick ax and here we are in Miami with all that momentum rolling into next year."
HOW DID YOUR RACE TACTICS DEVELOP FROM LAP:
200-230? "It was an interesting race of course with all the different point contenders, not necessarily gambling, I think everybody was scrambling. That was the word - everybody taking two tires, four tires, fuel only. Cars that were a lap down were doing things to get back on the lead lap. It was an awesome race. We just stuck with four tires, we stuck with our plan and then when the opportunity arose - we actually did two tires yesterday in happy hour and that gave us an indication of what they might offer for us, so we put 'em on when the time came and we got the job done. I wore Ryan Newman out. We were able to get by him and the other guys failed at the end to catch us."
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus
DO YOU HAVE MIXED EMOTIONS TODAY WITH KURT WINNING AND MARK SECOND IN POINTS?
"First of all about Mark. I keyed the mic to he and Ben Leslie and the rest of the crew and said, 'This is our 15th year and 14 times before we've packed up our stuff after the last race and we've gone to our shop and we've made a plan for next year trying to understand what our weaknesses were and what our strengths were and to minimize our negatives and accentuate the positives,' so I re-committed us to go and do that again as we have so many times before. This is what we do. NASCAR is a life. When you think about going to the races 36 times for the points schedule and the extra weeks for The Winston and the Daytona program, it's a life. There's not much room around the racing for any of us to do anything else of consequence, other than to spend some time with our families. So we've got to go back and get ourselves organized to move forward. I have - Jack Roush - has much less interest in a Winston Cup championship than I ever have before based on the way I've been consistently treated, but that doesn't mean that my pain to pleasure ratio is such that I won't come back and do it again. We like what we do. We enjoy the challenge. We wish we had a better justice system to adjudicate the issues as they relate to penalties and to punishments that NASCAR deals out, but that's the way it is. So we're in and we'll put that aside and say that if we win a championship sometime in the future with Mark, that'll be great. I can't imagine for the next five years what they could do to stop a number of these guys - Kurt and Matt and Jeff and Mark - from having a number of championships as they go. It would be a travesty if they're not able to with the way they're running.
WHAT ABOUT KURT'S DEVELOPMENT?
"Kurt came to us as a result of the Gong Show that Max Jones put on in 1999 and we took one look at what Kurt's potential was and his work ethic and communicative instinct - how well he understood the car and communicated that - and I made the decision that we'd recommend to a sponsor that we move Kurt around the Busch program and go directly to the Winston Cup program. That was good and that was bad. There are a number of things that you come to grips with in this NASCAR racing over a period of time by doing it for a while and some of the things that happened to Kurt were the worst things that ever happened to him and we had to get through those and we have. He's grown through it and I've grown through it and now he's in a position to finish these races with Jimmy Fennig and to win as long as I can keep my hardware so that it won't break. Of course, that's the challenge for all the programs is to be able to run close to the edge and to continually work on product improvement and quality and, at the same time, not have failures. We got caught up in some of that this year, along with the other things that were going on, and we broke a few parts. But we did set a goal out at the beginning of the year to improve our engines 50 horsepower and, by actual count, I'm not sure of where we stand but we're within five of that one way or the other. To do that, we had to take a lot of things to the race track that we wish we had more time to test in test sessions, but there wasn't time. We had to go."
IS A TITLE IN YOUR GRASP NEXT YEAR?
"The way we approach each and every race is to gather as many points as we can. That's the common answer for everybody, but with the group that I have and the sponsors and the advancement of the 97 program, a bitter disappointment wouldn't mean finishing second. I think that when we get the start of the season underway, we'll evaluate how we're beginning the start of the season and stay away from those DNFs and just continue forward with the way we've been going. We've been on a torrid pace here at the end, somewhat of a mind-boggling pace to gather up points, and it's great to be able to be in position at the final race of the year to be able to finish third in points. So as things progress and things develop, the third year is ahead of us and to say that if we don't win a championship, it won't be a disappointment. We'll continue striving forward. I've got many years in front of me. I think I've got time on my side, so to speak. We're for surely gonna go after it next year, don't get me wrong. We're gonna be able to put forth a lot of technology that we've learned this year - a new term that I learned in the car today and we're just gonna continue forward.
HOW DO VIEW TONY STEWART? IS HE DIFFERENT WITH YOU GUYS THAN IN PUBLIC
"Yeah, he's been pulled and pushed and twisted and turned in so many different directions. When you're contending for a championship like Mark and Tony were, there are gonna be some points of difficulty for him. But as a driver, I see Tony on a different level. We're able to talk and hold a casual conversation, to joke about the past and to talk about the future. He's a very warm individual. He won't spite you. He'll make fun of you in dry humor ways of what you have done and I can joke back with him, so I see Tony Stewart in a different perspective and so do the 42 others of us. It's difficult to see what the media sees in him because I'm on the other side of the fence, but I see a class act. I see a true champion. He's a racer's racer. He'll race you to the bone every lap and that's what he did this year to come away with the championship."
DO YOU ACHE FOR MARK IN THAT HE MAY NOT WIN A TITLE?
"Did you see the race today? Did you see him go three-wide down there in turn two in the closing laps? That's vintage Mark. There's a lot of time left for him. It's a matter of him deciding when he wants to start focussing on Matt and other things in his family life that would get in the way of his racing. I don't think we're to that point yet. I hope that we've got five years left to pursue a championship with Mark. He's the equal of the younger guys, in my opinion, in the program. I mean, you've got old age and experience against youth and enthusiasm. We've got quotients of that up to 100 points in all the quarters as far as I'm concerned."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR BROTHER, KYLE?
"He's my little brother. He's seven years younger than I am, but he can do everything twice as good as I can. I think that's the way he thinks about life anyway, so it'll be interesting to see how he progresses. It's been such a long year for him to go run that ASA Series, but he did learn a lot within it - racing with a different group of drivers and a different group of people to control his car, and the way he progressed and competed, I know he can't wait for the Charlotte race. That's when the Truck Series runs there and that's when he's finally 18 years of age and he can put this setback behind him. It's difficult because it wasn't a setback any of us were looking forward to because I know that kid can race and he should have been grandfathered in. I know he can make wiser judgements than others that are out there on the race track in those respective divisions. Whether it was Featherlite Southwest Tour he couldn't even race. Winston West he couldn't even race or even the Craftsman Truck Series. So it'll be race to finally race against him once again and with him in our organization, the two of us can sit and depict what a test sheet means and we can communicate together in a way where a lot of brothers were too separated. So it's gonna be interesting for two brothers to work within the same organization."
ON KYLE BUSCH.
"I'd like to comment on the Busch's generally. Looking at Tom and Gail, Kurt and Kyle's parents, Tom had raced in the Las Vegas west coast area for a number of years in race cars that he operated out of his small business and was very competitive. At a point in time when Kurt got old enough to join him, then Tom became the crew chief and Kurt was able to step right into dad's car, which Kurt had been helping with and working in support of for many years. When Kurt started racing and raced a more complete schedule than Tom had, Gail took a full-time job and became the tire sponsor and kept the thing going by making it a fully integrated family enterprise. Of course now, Kyle, is in a position to have stepped into the cars that Tom started and Kurt competed in for a while, so he has the chance to inherit all that knowledge and has been launched in that regard. When I first heard about Kyle, they said, 'Well, you know, if you think Kurt is something, you need to take a look at Kyle because he's better than Kurt.' I'm sure that's not true. I'm sure they're all equals, but Kyle has certainly benefited by the two driver family members that have gone before him and he's gotten twice as much advice as Kurt had going because he's had two of them working on him. I'm anxious to get started and be in a position to help Kyle as I'm sure Tom will continue to help. He's thinking about moving back east to participate in the team in some way and I think mom probably won't be too far behind."
DID YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAD A WINNING CAR ALL DAY?
"I knew at the end of happy hour yesterday that we were one of the top three cars that would compete for the win. The 8, the 88 and us seemed to have a bit more of an edge than the other competitors. As the green flag dropped, I knew we could lead some laps and the 8 car would get by us, and then we developed this loose condition that I wasn't really expecting. We made two changes after happy hour to make sure that the car was gonna be tight enough because I knew a lot of cars would go down to the apron to pass cars and when you go down there, you need a tighter car so that you can use the apron to turn the car - then you get the bite up off the corner. So there was a struggle throughout the day on getting the car right. There's a fine line between mechanical grip and aero grip here and with the speeds that we have and the flat corners, it's a very challenging race track. I think it's one of the top five challenging type race tracks because when you see cars hook up, they go and they go fast. We put a lot of guys a lap down early on, but we just kept working at it. We made the right changes. Jimmy Fennig's calls in the pits are second to none and the way he gets cars into Victory Lane, we're able to expose our sponsors and that's what we need to be able to do."
WHAT DID YOU MEAN BY YOUR EARLIER STATEMENT ABOUT RESOLVING DISAGREEMENTS?
"What I meant was in a circumstance where there is a belief by somebody that they've been treated unfairly by a penalty, we have no choice today but to go into a NASCAR court that has, over a period of time, been very much a rubber stamp of whatever the initial decision was. I made the suggestion when I was in the proceeding the other day. They asked me, 'Do you feel good about what's happening here?' And I said, 'Well, I'd feel much better if it was more like the Roman English form of justice that we as Americans have come to expect. I'd like to see some of my peers around, some more car owners and some drivers or other people that were experts in the industry that were not associated with NASCAR in particular, and that's not what we have here.'"
WERE YOU TRYING TO FORCE RYAN TO WEAR OUT HIS TIRES?
"Yeah, I love race strategy. I love being able to manipulate other cars with my car without moving them or doing anything to them expect make them think. I knew I had time on my side with him being on old tires and me having two, but I saw Joe Nemechek in the mirror, which didn't mean much because he could have gotten by us. I was focussed today on getting third place in points and bringing Rubbermaid up to the stage third in New York. When I finally did block that out, that was with 27 to go, and that's when I worked on Newman to get by him. There was plenty of time. We got by him. We got by him cleanly and I'm glad that we came out on top this time instead of second like we did at Loudon, New Hampshire."
MARK IS TESTING TUESDAY, DOES HE DESERVE MORE THAN ONE DAY OFF AND HOW DO YOU FEEL ON THE POINT DIFFERENTIAL?
"Mark is obviously full grown. He has set for himself a work schedule and a workout schedule and a testing schedule that he thinks will put him in the best situation to be at his best next year and I guess he doesn't want to waste a day. I'll support that with cars and support it with tires and support it with rented race track opportunities that are available to me to the extent that I can. As far as Tony Stewart is concerned, he's not only the Winston Cup champion, he's Roush Racing's champion in Winston Cup going into next year. We celebrate that. I very much did not want the dispute to pour over into the normal courts - state or national - in our justice system. I very much did not want that and would not have pursued that in a circumstance when he'd won by more than 25 points, which was the case, so I'm happy and I'm relieved.
SO IF HE WON BY LESS THAN 25 POINTS, WOULD YOU HAVE GONE TO COURT?
"I would have accepted the advice of my counsel in that regard. Since I'm so emotionally involved, I couldn't make a good decision on my own."
HOW TOUGH DID JEFF GREEN MAKE IT BEING A LAP DOWN?
"Biffle made it difficult for Newman and the 30 car was pressuring us a little bit. I told my spotter to tell him that I just needed one more shot at Newman and then I'll let him go and he can get his lap back. But you're 25 laps from the end and there's not much you're gonna do when you do get that lap back. I knew he knew that. He's a smart racer, so he didn't pressure us too terribly bad. We were able to negotiate by the 12 car and then, of course as the old saying goes, your motor runs really stout before it breaks and then the 30 car broke going down the back straightaway so that relieved some more pressure."
WHAT WAS THE ADVICE OF COUNSEL HAD MARK LOST BY LESS THAN 25 POINTS?
"I haven't sought and I don't have that advice. That's something I would have looked into on Monday putting this behind me.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WINNING THE POLE AND THE RACE?
"The cars are configured around the preference for the crew chiefs and the drivers, around the inventory of cars and the library of technical information that we have from testing that's available. Mark brought a car here that was exactly what he wanted, that was to a slightly different state of aero tune than the car that Kurt and Jimmy brought. I'm sure that Mark brought a car that was ideal for him, it certainly was at the end of the race. He was very, very happy with it. It took him a while to get it tight enough for him and Jimmy and Kurt made changes on their car that made it the best at the end. Based on where Mark qualified and where he started, he had a much harder job to do to get to the front than Kurt did from starting in the front. If the cars had been reversed and Mark started from the back with Kurt's car and Kurt started in the front with Mark's car, I have a suspicion that neither one of them would have been in the top 10."
HOW DO YOU PERCEIVE TONY AS A CHAMPION?
"That's the stuff of editorials. I'm sure you guys will do a nice job with that over a period of time. There will be a the yea's and the nay's and the pundits and you're gonna have a lot of fun with that given the kind of personality that Tony has. He is a racer's racer. I have a good rapport with Tony and a good rapport with Joe Gibbs. I will celebrate with them their championship and if they receive any negative press from any of the things that Tony might have had in his recent history that's controversial, then I'll be saddened by that. We'll all be diminished by the effects of it as the broader public would look in on us and the way we conduct our affairs."