Kurt Busch Preseason Thunder - Dodge interview

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) COMMENT ON LVMS "It was a true honor Las Vegas Motor Speedway gave me to be able to drive the first few laps and to get a taste of the action of what is the future of Las Vegas Motor Speedway....

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)

COMMENT ON LVMS "It was a true honor Las Vegas Motor Speedway gave me to be able to drive the first few laps and to get a taste of the action of what is the future of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Obviously with all the construction going on and all the newness around it, it fits the motif of Vegas in general. It's just a constant state of construction. It's looking good. The track is definitely different. It's fast. All the drivers have commented how fast it is. Goodyear has brought a tire that's able to withstand the speeds. It's very similar in many ways to Charlotte (Lowe's) Motor Speedway. It's the hub of stock car country and Las Vegas has always prided itself as being the racing capital of the west. It's fitting. Everything is going good for us with our Miller Lite Dodge, both cars. One was completely on the tight side and one was completely on the loose side. I think that's good. That's good for us to understand what parameters to build cars within, and we've got two unique setups in the racecars to help us maintain speed with both cars. We've gone though most of our checklist of how I guess to calculate where we need to be for this new style of racetrack. This afternoon is when we'll really start going for some speed, and we'll do some long runs as well. We should start bumping up the speed charts this afternoon."

YOU'RE A CUBS FAN. HOW BIG OF A CHICAGO BEARS FAN ARE YOU? "Just as big. I couldn't find my hat this morning, so I guess I'm not that big. I've got a unique trip set up. I've got Miller Lite appearances here Saturday night. It's a big weekend for Miller obviously around the Super Bowl here in Las Vegas. It's their No. 1 distribution point during the week of the Super Bowl, so we're here Saturday night. I'm going to have my own red-eye to the game on Sunday. Do the game Sunday and then fly back Sunday night after they finally release all the air traffic and test the Busch car Monday morning, so I don't plan on seeing any of you Monday morning. It's going to be a little rough."

WHEN THE BEARS WIN, WILL YOU PUT OFF THE CELEBRATION TO COME BACK TO VEGAS TO TEST? "I'll definitely have a couple of beers at the game, but we've got work to do and speed to gain with our Cup cars and our Busch Grand National. I did put some money down on the game. I didn't buy the points, though. I bought it heads up because if my Bears lose I'm going to lose with them. I actually triple my money if the Bears do win, and hopefully they do. I'm excited about it. I think they've got a great shot."

COMMENT ON TOYOA AND COT "Our sport just continues to grow and goes through many changes. The way Toyota will be embraced in our sport is yet to be known, but they've done their homework with finding good teams and good drivers. That's where you have to start. Then you have to go through the growing pains and teething process, whether it's on the racetrack or with the fans, just the acceptance of it. The car of tomorrow, it's going through the same thing being accepted by everybody. It's going to have to go through its races and its trials and tribulations to see where it shakes out. It's positive for the sport as well. No matter what direction Brian France takes us or Mike Helton, France Sr., all those guys have built this sport into what it is today. We continue to grow every year. I've been around for seven years now and the change is incredible just the time I've been around."

HOW IS PENSKE RACING PROGRESSING? "We've come a long way in one year just with setups in general, the way the team's philosophy to set a racecar up. That was somewhat outdated with Rusty's setups. With Ryan's success back in 2003, it made it interesting when I first showed up. I couldn't tell 'em we needed to change everything. We needed to work on it bit by bit. We've come a long way in just one season to be up to speed, to have a new nose now, to have the future of the car of tomorrow lingering above everybody. That's been a big focal point for us. The communication has gone well with Ryan Newman and myself and his progress. He admitted halfway through last year that he was behind in where he needed to be with setups. It was great for us to be in the position we were last year to use those last 10 races to work toward a more positive 2007."

COMMENT ON JUAN PABLO MONTOYA "I'm impressed with Juan. I met him at the Detroit Auto Show when Dodge had us up there together unveiling some new cars. He's very grounded, approachable and humoristic as well. To see all the walks of life he's been through and to be here in NASCAR... Whether it's a step forward for him or a step backwards is yet to be determined. I'm sure he knows it's a step forward and these cars will be very challenging. It's unique on how much talent he has and how much experience and wisdom he has with open wheel cars, yet the inexperience he has with a stock car. How do you match that and how do you create success around it? That's a challenge for the Ganassi organization, for himself. For everybody involved it's going to be unique to watch his maturation process and how he moves forward. I wish him the best of luck. It'll be great to race with such a legendary driver. The guy came over here and won the 24-hour race right off the bat. He showed he can drive and he's in a distorted world so to speak right now, but when you throw him in a racecar he's like everybody else. He wants to win and he wants to be the best."

HOW MUCH DID NOT MAKING THE CHASE EAT AT YOU DURING THE OFFSEASON? "It was a chance to get out team up to speed. Starting fresh last year, a new team, new crew chief, we had a unique position. Are we going to come out of the box like five starting freshmen and win some races, win some games? We did. We won Bristol. We ran strong at Daytona. That adrenaline carried us for awhile. Then reality began to set in. We went through stages of updating our setups and getting the crew chief more experience. It was disappointing, yes, but more of a challenge to look at the long term effects of what I can realize and what Penske can realize can happen at Penske Racing driving the Miller Lite Dodge. So, nice rebuilding year and now it's back to work again. We have been all the off season. We've come a long way in the two months we've been off the racetrack. That's why we need to come back and do more testing so we can update our ideas."

WHAT WERE THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR OFFSEASON? "It's been interesting the last few off seasons with winning the championship a couple of years ago, switching teams last year, this year getting married and settling in. I did the romantic thing after we got back from the honeymoon and said let's get a new house. That's probably the stupidest idea I've come up with. We finally moved in two days before we came out here to Vegas for testing. Getting settled in there and actually working on building a new shop because a guy always has to have more garage space than he does house square footage. I'm working on that. The shop should be done by the time we go to Daytona in a couple of weeks. We'll get moved in before we go to California. Everything will be settled in right around Daytona and the start of the season. That's been a great chapter in my life as well. I love Eva to death, and it's been more about us this off season than anything."

HOW MUCH YOU TALK SHOP WITH BROTHER KYLE BUSCH? "It was interesting. He called me yesterday after we jumped on top of the speed charts for a little bit. "Hey, what'd you do? What'd you change?' Yet, we share a unique bond together. Being seven years apart, I know I look like I'm 12 and he's 11 and a half, we really don't spend much time together, but we care for each other and we love each other to death. We want to beat each other in the ground at the racetrack and see who's going to come out on top. We share information on different philosophies and different types of things we saw at the racetracks and things we did and how we passed guys or how this guy raced him or how this guy raced me. We never really share setup numbers, and I think that's what keeps our relationship strong. There's always that fibbing that can go on if we start sharing numbers, so we've never done that with one another. We keep a straight forward angle on what we can do out of the racecar to make each other better."

COMMENT ON BUSCH SERIES "The Busch Series has taken on the role of research and development for Cup programs. That's the bottom line. That's what's happened. It's good for NASCAR in one aspect because they have more cars out on the racetrack in the Busch Series events. Every race this year is going to be on ESPN2 or ESPN, a TV company such as that purchasing into the Busch Series is incredible. You don't have that for a lot of primary series around this country. It works in both ways. It works in other ways. For us at Penske Racing we like to develop crew members out of this program. We like to develop setups that will make our Cup cars better. I think we reached good success this year with our Busch program winning two races. The setups that we did win translated over to the Cup car. We almost had a road course sweep at Watkins Glen with both poles and both wins. That's what we look forward to in the Grand National Series. I'm only running five races (in 2007) to make way, I think the announcement has been made, but we'll keep it quiet. Ryan is going to run some races and another guy is going to run some races for us at Penske. It opens up the opportunity for crew chiefs to develop, car chiefs to develop, shock guys, any time we have a change in our Cup program we like to promote from within."

IS LVMS TOO FAST? "We're all racecar drivers and it's like the limbo bar out there in the infield somewhere. Somebody keeps lowering it and lowering it and lowering it and who's going to go lowest? That's what happening with the speeds. The speeds keep getting quicker and quicker and the lap times keep getting lower and lower. Where is going to be the point break with the tires? With the engines? Aerodynamically the cars are ready to go. The way the chassis feel on the racetrack these days, they're bouncing real rough on the racetrack. There's really a unique aspect of racing cars, going fast and trying to be safe at the same time. We challenge ourselves most of the time at a new track like Charlotte last year or Texas when it was first built. Atlanta still holds the ultimate record for speed at 197 on a downforce type car. We're always going fast and we're going to continue to go fast. There's always going to be that question of if we are going too fast."

COMMENT ON HAVING ALL PENSKE TEAMS IN ONE BUILDING "It's been great to have everybody in one building, all the extra people at our Christmas party to intermingle and talk and see the programs and how successful they were last year with the IRL program, the Porsche program won and to see those guys and how they operate. I can't wait for the opportunity when the programs can cross pollinate and everyone can help each other work together better. Right now it's just a matter of getting settled in for those guys. Some of those guys have actually helped with extra hands around the racetrack, whether it's a semi-truck driver driving to one of our test, whether it's Tom Germain, who is the actual guy that makes the calls for Sam Hornish on the pit box. Tim Cindric is the general manager and president of Penske Racing. He now has his hands on the Busch program and the Cup program. He's the guy who makes the calls for Helio Castroneves on the pit box. We're starting to see all that intertwine and how it can produce results. Each day is something new with our program. It's exciting as well."

ANY THOUGHTS OF RACING AN OPEN WHEEL CAR? "All of our guys love to drive and that's why Roger chose Sam and Helio, Ryan and myself. I'd love the chance to have Sam repay the turn on teaching me an IRL car as much time as we spent in that Busch car getting him up to speed and teaching him some things. Just some nice test sessions here and there. I look forward to the future and possible running some road racing events after I retire, but that's 20 years down the road. I've got a good home with the NASCAR program and working with Miller and Dodge to make our No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge go faster."

-credit: dodge motorsport

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Helio Castroneves , Mike Helton , Sam Hornis
Teams Team Penske