KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus (Championship leader) HOW DID YOU NOT HIT ANYTHING WHEN YOU SPUN? "That's just it. I closed my eyes and turned the wheel and don't know how I didn't hit anything, but I'm disgusted with myself for ...
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus (Championship leader)
HOW DID YOU NOT HIT ANYTHING WHEN YOU SPUN?
"That's just it. I closed my eyes and turned the wheel and don't know how I didn't hit anything, but I'm disgusted with myself for making the same mistake that I've made in the past. I did the same thing today as I did at Michigan and California earlier this year. With a car right behind me, it takes the air off your spoiler and around you go, especially on fresh tires. I just got too aggressive early in that run to gain positions or to move my way forward, so I was just disgusted with myself. But our team rebounded the proper way. My crew chief said, 'Come in here, kid. I'm gonna fix your car and then you can go drive it' because I was trying to drive the thing loose to maintain track position later into a run, but he tightened it up and gave me the good handling car that would take us to the end."
GREG BIFFLE - No. 16 National Guard/Subway Taurus (Finished 3rd)
DID THE CAUTIONS HURT YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING?
"Yeah, a little bit. One, it bunched the field back up, so it kind of closed that gap back down. When the 21 got sideways down on the apron, Joe got a huge lead on everybody, but I was just back there with all the traffic. My car was a little bit too tight and I hadn't run in traffic all day, except for about three-quarters of the way through a tire run when my car was balanced pretty good and everybody was real tight and then I'd get into lap traffic. When I ended up starting 15th on the grid, I should have freed my car up a little bit so I could cut down toward the bottom. I used up a lot of tires trying to get by the lapped cars and trying to get by like the first six, eight guys until I got up to Kurt. Then once I got by Kurt and got in some clean air I could run down those guys, but the car, I just used up a lot of the front tires. I was a little bit tight to catch them, but I think given maybe six more laps they probably would have been in trouble."
COMMENT ON AVOIDING POSSIBLE DISASTER TODAY.
"We avoided a big pitfall today just trying to get our car to handle better. We tested here for two days and thought we had a great car, it was just very nervous around other cars with fresh tires and that's just something we have to continue to work on. To be able to come away out of that spin and not hit anything, I knew at Kansas they have grass in the infield underneath the race track and as soon as you hit that, it's just like hitting ice and you end up in the inside fence, so I was very lucky to keep it on the race track. The damage was minimal as well as to the other competitors, so we got our fresh tires and Jimmy Fennig made that adjustment because I was still just trying to drive too loose of a car and away we went, but it is key to dodge an event like that today."
DO YOU BELIEVE YOU HAD THE BEST CAR AND IS THIS THE WIN THAT GOT AWAY?
"Yeah, I mean, I don't want to act like a baby, but I am disappointed bad. I'm pouting about it, but that's the way it is. It's not very often, and Kurt will tell you about this - look at his run at Loudon - it's not very often that you get a race like that where you're just gone all day long. I mean, it just runs like that all day long and then for something to happen and not win, it just burns. It's acid in your stomach. It's unfortunate, but those are just the cards we were dealt today. We just couldn't make it and that's the way it goes sometime."
IS THIS MORE A CHASE OR BATTLE FOR SURVIVAL?
"I believe it combines a few elements that we're not used to with the way that we've all watched NASCAR racing. There's a regular season of 26 races to position yourself and that's done by cool consistency. That's done by reaching out and trying to work on different setups and if they achieve success, then you polish on those. If you're struggling, you try to reach out and maybe experiment with things in those 26 races to prepare yourself for these 10. Now it's a matter of executing every race perfectly and being able to bounce back quickly from mistakes and not drag your feet on making decisions. With the consistency that we've had, along with our win - to win one out of four races - that's pretty good on average. Of course, today's race was the first race not won by a chase contender. It really has so many elements in it that you can't call it a chase or a playoff. It's a matter of what it takes to get 10 races put together consistently and running competitively. You can't just go out there and finish eighth. You have to lead laps. We've led laps in every event so far and you have to gain as many points as you possibly can. This is almost like a cut-throat deal and if you do have a bad race, you have to hope that the other guys have a couple mediocre type races to get back in it, or that they have a problem. I would say it's a frontrunner's type race. If you get out in the lead and you're running and you continue that pace that you can set and look at the finish line and know that it's not out of reach, then you can get there first."
COMMENT ON THE ARMY, AIR FORCE AND NATIONAL GUARD FINISHING 1-2-3.
"That's kind of unusual, isn't it? That's neat. I just wish I could have gotten up there and mixed it up a little bit. I wish they would have extended it 10 more laps and we could have had a race. I saw a flashback from yesterday coming - getting a chance to get up there and race with Joe for the win. I felt that I could beat him today. I felt I could beat Joe today. I didn't think I could beat him yesterday, but I felt like I had the car I could beat him today with. We're excited to have the National Guard and Subway and all the sponsors on the race car. It's kind of neat to see the support from all of our armed forces to the NASCAR community."
WHAT ABOUT NON-CHASE DRIVERS NOT GETTING RECOGNITION. IS THAT ACCURATE?
"The coverage is of the chase for the Nextel Cup. That's what everybody is talking about. I finished third and got out of my car cooling off there and there wasn't anybody standing around - not one guy. So I made my way back to my truck, changed my clothes and I'm ready to go. Then they tell me I've got to go to the media center, so I came over to talk to you guys. That's what it's about. That's what NASCAR wants is they want the coverage to be of the 10 drivers, so that's what the coverage is of."
IS THERE MOTIVATION?
"We want the best finish no matter what. It's a motivator I guess as well, but we want to finish the best we can. We want to win the next six races and that's what we try and do every week."
THOUGHTS ON LEADING AFTER 4 EVENTS AND ON A NON-CHASER WINNING TODAY?
"Each race is a new outlook on what you need to do for the day. I looked at the first three races as being the start for our competition for the Nextel chase for the cup. Now we're in the meat of it with races four, five and six, and then we've got the final three - seven, eight, nine - and then you hope you're up by 150 going into Miami so you don't have to stress it too bad. But it's gonna be out of control. Each race that gets closer and closer to the end we might see one guy eliminated. We might see two guys eliminated, but there are still gonna be those non guys that aren't in the chase for the cup that are running competitively that you're gonna have to beat. They're gonna be out there just like the other guys are. There's a competitive field of over 40 cars that can win and it's no different if the guys are locked in or if they're not in - you've got to compete against them and hope that each race goes the way that you had planned. Whether you tested there or whether you didn't, there are gonna be guys that have their strong points at each of these events that we have coming up."
YOU'RE SATISFIED WHERE YOU ARE?
"Definitely. To mark off the 30 points that we were behind going in and to be thirtysomething ahead today - wherever we are - this is a great start to what we need to do. This race was a huge hurdle that we had to overcome. I tripped over a few on the back straightaway and then we were able to clear those hurdles and make sure that we got back up towards the front at the end of the race for a nice, solid finish. We rebounded well and we're ahead, so we've got six more to go."
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FINAL CARS IN TERMS OF WHERE THEY'RE POSITIONED NOW?
"Each race there are gonna be guys that bump up and there are gonna be guys that slide back. If we continue the pace that we're on, we're gonna be OK to set a nice pace for people to shoot for. With guys that are eighth, ninth and 10th, if they have a good day, they've got a great opportunity to do good the next week. There are so many cars involved in this that you worry about your own program."
BUT FOR THEM TO GAIN, THE GUYS IN FRONT OF THEM HAVE TO FALTER.
"For those guys to make a gain, that's why we give you guys the answers of we're just gonna go out and race our car because that's all we can do. We can't control what the 9 car does. We can't control what the 48 does. We can't look at the way that other guys race. We just have to go and race our car and where they finish is where they finish, whether it's due to fuel strategy to bump guys up at the end of race to the front such as today. Greg Biffle had the fastest car, but he didn't win the race. We were fortunate enough to have enough fuel and make it to the end and we finished sixth."
YOU WOULD HAVE THE LEAD ANYWAY REGARDLESS OF THE EARNHARDT PENALTY. DOES IT FEEL BETTER KNOWING YOU'VE DONE THIS ON THE TRACK?
"It feels very good to be able to be ahead by what I'm looking at is four points, but those four are just one position out on the race track next week. We've got our work to do. Charlotte is a great track for us to attack and try to run good on. With the way the 48 runs there, that's the guys that we're gonna be looking at next week. He's very competitive and very fast. It's a feather in the crew's hat to know that we're a championship contender. We are leading by a legitimate four points - 29 as it stands - so it's something to where we want to beat him on the race track and not have that circumstance that came up last week affect anything in the future."
ARE YOU THINKING IN A WORSE CASE SCENARIO THE APPEAL WOULD HOLD UP AND THAT'S WHY YOU SAY 4 POINTS?
"I'm looking to have over 150-plus going into Miami so there's no problem whatsoever with our points and the way they are now. Just viewing it, I don't think it will be overturned. It is unfortunate that something outside of the race track and the car equated into a subtraction of points. I know how Victory Lane ceremonies are. I've actually mentioned the wrong sponsor in Victory Lane by accident. You're so pumped up with adrenaline and you're so excited with what the program is that you've got to do in Victory Lane that he just lost track. That was a standard that NASCAR has set - their precedent of what needs to be discussed in Victory Lane - and in the world we live in today it wasn't acceptable, so we move on to next week. He was penalized and I know he doesn't like what he did."
IS IT HARD TO KEEP TRACK WHERE YOU ARE WITH THE STRATEGY?
"Yeah, it was a different race. The 19 and I were on pit road when the caution came out and we were well in front of the leader. We had a big lead. People had just pitted when the caution came out. It was a little bit of a confusing race, but it wasn't for us because it seemed we were always in the lead and pretty much in control most of the time. We only lost track position one time when there was three tail end of the lap cars in front of us and then a couple of other guys. But for the most part, we were in the front all day and that's a nice place to be, I can tell you that, but it just wasn't there at the end."
KURT BUSCH :
WHEN YOU'RE ON THE RADIO ABOUT HOW YOUR CAR ISN'T HANDLING, DO YOU WISH SOMETIMES YOU WEREN'T SO HARSH?
"I don't know what you're referring to, but just communication amongst the team has to be positive all the time. To be able to communicate to the crew chief in a fashion of excitement or as far as just kind of being humble about the car, the crew chief has to depict what the crew chief is feeling. When you give him a little bit of emotion like, 'You need to help me fix my car,' then he's gonna work on it in a fashion that's a bit more aggressive. You scale things out. You can tell him that the car is tight on a scale of one to three and you say, 'three,' and he knows he's got to get on it. But Jimmy Fennig and I have a nice relationship to where I can get on the radio and say, 'It's really, really tight. You've got to fix it now,' and he'll get on it pretty quick."
DO YOU START THINKING ABOUT WHAT IT MIGHT ME TO BE CHAMPION?
"I believe it's too early to look at championship aspirations and to work on the program that you have at hand, and that's to go to Charlotte this week. We're qualifying on Thursday and racing on Saturday and we've got this task at hand right in front of us. So many things can happen so quickly. Elliott Sadler was eighth in points today and bumped up to fourth with a good run. We could be leading going into next week and coming out of it or we could be back as far as fifth. With this Nextel Chase for the Cup, we've been given a second opportunity, but we know we can lose it just that quickly."