Kurt Busch Preseason Thunder - Dodge interview

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) COMMENT ON PROPOSED CHANGES AT LVMS "I thought the state bird was a construction crane. They keep continuing on with new developments. You see buildings fall all the time. What Bruton's vision is here...

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)

COMMENT ON PROPOSED CHANGES AT LVMS "I thought the state bird was a construction crane. They keep continuing on with new developments. You see buildings fall all the time. What Bruton's vision is here is something very exciting, and I agree with it 100 percent. (He wants) to create more of a side-by-side racing atmosphere with racing the banking, to have pit road that much closer to the fans, to have more interaction. Then to see the new media center and new garages... Racetracks have somewhat gone away from building charisma and building an identity. They all seem to look the same. I'm an historian. I like to go to Wrigley Field and watch games there and enjoy it. Fans are going to get a new perspective when they come to Las Vegas Motor Speedway that's so much different from all the other tracks. That's what it's all about, putting a new face on it for the fans.

"As a driver, the No. 1 concern is to narrow up the racetrack a little bit and that creates a safer environment when the car spins and you have more distance between the racing groove and the wall it creates an opportunity for the car to hit driver's side first and that's something drivers are concerned about, so narrowing up the track is a key element for safety as well as when you put in that much banking you've got to narrow the track up because you're just going to flat out going to build the track too tall, so that's why you have to narrow it up as well. It creates a side-by-side racing environment. There's no tri-oval in our series that has this feel to it. With a curved pit road we will have a new element which no driver has ever seen before.

"I believe every year we come back a new qualifying record is set with the time the teams have been able to spend on the track developing the setups. I'd say we're going to hit 193 (mph) easy. It'll bump it up toward the type of speeds we see at Texas and Atlanta. Charlotte is going to have new pavement this year. That's going to be a very fast racetrack. We'll be 190 plus."

WILL THE NEW VEGAS TRACK BE MORE OF A CHALLENGE FOR MAN OR MACHINE? "That's a great question. I believe early on the driver is going to have a challenge to find the right groove. We've got a truck series race coming up, and who knows, I might slide into one of those. The race will definitely now incorporate more into the speed side of it than it will the setup side. Going to 190 mph plus, we'll have cars similar to the ones we build for Atlanta and Charlotte to bring here and start with that baseline. With the multiple grooves it will have, that's where the driver has to come in and find if the low groove is the best place or the high groove is the best place."

WHAT MAKES RACING APPEALING? "People like the speed. I think that's what fans come out to see and to feel. With putting pit road even closer to the action, that's another new element. All the changes are going to bridge together to create a new atmosphere at Las Vegas Motor Speedway."

SINCE LVMS IS YOUR HOME TRACK ARE ALL THE CHANGES EVEN MORE EXCITING FOR YOU? "I've got a picture of my old hobby stock car, and I've got a picture of it with the background of the crane putting up the grandstands. To see more construction again around the racetrack, it's fun to be part of that and it's fun to help them from a racer's perspective what small changes we could throw in that would go a long way for the fans as well as for the drivers. It'll still be the Vegas track. We're not going to the banking that those guys (Charlotte and Atlanta) have, but what they're doing is creating a safety aspect. This track is very wide. Kentucky Speedway is even wider, and the cars have too much time to turn around while they're spinning and hit driver's side first. That's when people get hurt."

WILL IT TAKE AWAY THE NEED TO TEST AT LAS VEGAS? "Not at all. You can't take tests away from us and any driver or team or crew be happy about it. The demand will still be to come out and test Vegas. What better place to come out early in the season, January, and have 65-degree weather."

YOUR TEAM BEGINS IT TWO-DAY LVMS TEST TOMORROW. COMMENT ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS TEST TO YOUR TEAM. "For the racing aspect of the test, it's very vital. There's no more important test than the Vegas. Because now testing at racetracks we race on, the next test the teams have will be in May, and that's very far down the line. We've got a ton of races between that time, which will be at Richmond in May. We've got quite a bit of guessing to get through the next part of the season, and that's why this test is very important.

"This place is similar to many racetracks, but it's not like one. There's no real comparable track. You just take small things and plant it in the racecar that you learned here and take it to Atlanta and Texas and even on down the line I guess you take it to Chicago and Kansas. They're similar to Vegas, but Vegas has its own identity. To have the new element and the fan atmosphere, the interactive fan zone is what they're calling it, you have a double layer garage area, you've got the windows that you can see the cars being worked on, there's going to be that feel that you have when you go to Daytona and Indy. You have that infield atmosphere with the track being wrapped around you. You're going to be inside interacting more with the teams and seeing more things going on."

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ACHIEVE AT THE TEST HERE THIS WEEK? "Just getting up to speed again with our Dodge. We brought a Dodge Charger and a Dodge Intrepid. It's my first time testing the Intrepid. That'll be a big portion of our test, deciding which car we need to bring back for race week. Just again, working with the team, everybody smiling and having a great time, getting our Miller Lite Dodge up to speed."

HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE TO RUN THE INTREPID? "I think we've been granted a good amount of time. In that, you just can't commit completely to the Intrepid because the Charger will be the full frontal face of Dodge in years to come. We've been testing and going crazy the past couple of weeks just with the quantity of things. Now it's just a matter of doing quality, precision changes. Vegas will be a fun track. I enjoy this track, and I'm very comfortable here."

WILL THERE BE DATA EXTRACTION TO SEE WHERE THE NOSE NEEDS TO GO NEXT? "I'm new to the program, so they've really come to me wanting to know the feedback. I used to drive a Ford. My balance there versus the Charger has been one step. Now, it's my opinion between the Charger and the Intrepid. They're coming to me with quite a bit of weight on my shoulders. That's why I've got to help them understand what's going on from the cockpit. I look to Roy McCauley (crew chief). He's new, but he's on the engineering side helping develop the car. Roger (Penske) has his hands in on it. Evernham and Ganassi and the Pettys, everybody's got input."

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE NEW TEAM? "You have to almost smack me to knock the smile off my face. I'm having a great time."

COMMENT ON YOUR BROTHER KYLE AND HIS SUCCESS AT LVMS "He finished second when we were here last year. He can definitely win this race and have a shot at the championship. If he makes The Chase, he's going to be the darkhorse in The Chase this year."

WHAT IS THE RACING LIKE HERE NOW COMPARED TO THE WAY YOU THINK IT WILL BE WITH ALL THE PROPOSED CHANGES? "The race here right now feels more like an independent race where you race your car. If you have a good setup, you hit on it. I think you see quite a few teams hit on their setups here and just pull away from the pack. I think it will bridge that gap. It's going to help some of the teams that don't hit the setup exactly right be right in the hunt of the race. Now you've got drivers around you all the time. Do I go high? Do I go low? You're going to have to know more of your pit sequences instead of just waiting for the gas to run out. You've got to have that tire option, too. We could race Vegas twice a year and nobody would have a problem with that."

WOULD IT BE SPECIAL TO WIN AT VEGAS? "It's definitely a fun place to race. I believe count Vegas as a top-five marquee event. You have Daytona, Indy, the Bristol night race, the Coca-Cola 600 and I think Vegas fits right in that category. I'm here pumping it. It's my hometown and I love racing here just like everybody else does. You see it with Ricky Craven up in Loudon, N.H. You see that with Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson in California, even Dale Jr. and Dale Jarrett, the guys that are from Carolina. You feel that there. Everybody wants to win here, and we'll see what happens when we come back to race."

DOES IT FEEL GOOD TO TALK ABOUT RACING AGAIN? "To get back in the car has been cool. Our first test was at Lakeland, Fla., on Jan. 2 and we've been testing twice a week since then. That's the best medicine. I'm ready to go. It's important to get off to a good start and get those points and have the foundation built. That's what we're focusing on one step at a time. We'll see what happens when we try to position ourselves to win."

CAN YOU REALLY HAVE A HOMETOWN ADVANTAGE AT A RACETRACK? "It's easy for me to get around. I know the streets and know a comfortable way to get in and out. Maybe if you had a one-mile track and grew up racing it in modifieds or Busch North, Loudon can be a hometown advantage if you get on it enough. A mile and a half, it's hard to get late models on the track. You have to spend a lot of time to develop that hometown advantage, but you see different drivers race better on different tracks. Dale Jr. is going to run fast at Daytona and Talladega because he knows those tracks. Rusty Wallace and myself might be good at Bristol. It's just a matter of which driver fits in with which type of track. I enjoy all the racetracks now. It used to be I couldn't stand Martinsville, but now I enjoy it. I like short tracks. It's just a matter of developing time at the tracks."

HAVE YOU HAD ANY FUN IN VEGAS SO FAR? "It's been great. I'm with new people around me, a new team. We're going out to dinner tonight, 18 of us."

DO YOU HAVE ANY LUCKY CASINOS? "I lose money most of the time. I've learned what I knew all along. They don't build all these fabulous places in Las Vegas with their own money."

-dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Rusty Wallace , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Ricky Craven