KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) NOTE: Busch was third fastest in the morning session Wednesday at LVMS with a lap of 169.353 mph. OPENING COMMENTS "I think everything is going real well (with new team) with getting up to speed.
KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Busch was third fastest in the morning session Wednesday at LVMS with a lap of 169.353 mph.
OPENING COMMENTS "I think everything is going real well (with new team) with getting up to speed. We've been on a pretty good tear with tests. We've been to Lakeland (Fla.) so far, Atlanta with a Goodyear tire test and Daytona for three days. Then Nashville the week before this and now we're going to hit Kentucky, not really on our way back, but logistically it looks like it's on our way back to North Carolina, to get ready for Daytona. We've got quite a few cars that we've run through. One's a Charger. One's an Intrepid. I think it's been a great start. The team is gelling well together, making good adjustments and bringing up differences in the way the 2 car used to drive versus where it looks now and comparing things to the 12 car and what they've got going on. It's been a good day. It's been a much better day than what we were doing yesterday. Yesterday just trying to decide the real differences between a Charger and an Intrepid, an '04 and an '05 car."
DOES IT STILL FEEL STRANGE GETTING IN THAT 2 CAR? "It still feels strange with many different reasons. I feel a little like Rusty Wallace. Everybody says, 'he's just not big like Rusty was', so I'm working on that. Rusty is a great guy to look up to and to fill his shoes. I look at it more like carrying on his legacy, the good times he's had, his championship and all the race wins, and of course, he's a short tracker and that's where I'm beginning to shine in the Nextel Cup Series, on the short tracks. I'm looking forward to the challenges at Bristol and Richmond and Martinsville, those good short tracks. Of course, we've got all kinds of good races coming up."
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO DRIVE FOR ROGER PENSKE? "What made me want to go was the sheer determination to go to victory lane that you could see from Ryan Newman but mainly from Roger Penske. The relationship that we've developed over the last few years has turned into a great relationship. I'm looking forward to this weekend. I get to go to the Super Bowl with him, and having that relationship with a car owner that's really what drove me to make that decision. When it gets down to the bottom line, I've got to look at where Kurt Busch can go and win races. I believe with Penske and Dodge I can do that far more into the future."
WAS THERE A TIME AFTER PHOENIX YOU WERE CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH PENSKE? "Roger was very supportive, 100 percent behind me and never gave me any indication that things would change. The way he came to stand up to bat for me gave me a great impression of his leadership and the values he has as a team owner. Not at all, he knew the truth and we were moving forward. We've been in the car and testing and going to the Super Bowl this weekend. Roger has been a great guy, no doubt what so ever that things were going to change since then."
COMMENT ON GOING TO SUPER BOWL "I love to go to different events, live sporting games and events are things of my passion whether it's the Super Bowl or as small as my buddy's little league baseball team. I really enjoy going out and sitting in the bleachers and absorbing the atmosphere. This time around going with Roger I probably won't have time to sit down and absorb the atmosphere with all the on-the-go things we're going to be doing. Roger has invited me to the Super Bowl. I got a chance to go a couple of years ago when the Carolina Panthers were there. This time around I'm for the underdog. We'll see if Seattle can pull it through. They remind me a little of the 1985 Chicago Bears with the quarterback having that flair to him and having an MVP running back."
HOW IS IT RACING AGAINST YOUR BROTHER? "Last year he finished second in the race (at Las Vegas) and I finished third. I went up him and put my arm around him and said, 'well, I'm cutting you off from information. You beat me. You're out my windshield instead of my rear view mirror.' He's done a great job to develop through the Busch Series and come into Cup and win two races in his rookie year. He's a quick study and a challenge to race him out on the race track because he's a hard racer. Any time I get to finish in front of him, I jab him and let him know. He's called me up on Sunday night, even before we get home 'hey, where were you today? I was up front.' It was great to have him win a couple of times last year and have him develop so quickly. We never raced against each other all that much on the local level. We did, but now it's for some serious competition. We're going to have those bones thrown back at each other this year."
COMMENT ON HOW YOU THINK DODGE STACKS UP "Spending yesterday on a two-day test with a full day committed to challenging the '05 car against the '04 car and with the results we found, they have to go sit down and look at the things we recorded, but a full day committed to that type of test is quite a bit of time to distinguish between the two cars. With my experience from the Fords and running well and having chances to win races, they're looking at me at a broader perspective and not necessarily in detail as far as which car is better. I'm just relaying the information I felt and my past experience versus what I'm experiencing now. Bottom line, I think there's way more educated people at Dodge right now than me making these calls. With Ray Evernham and his team ownership, with Penske and his team ownership, the Pettys and of course Chip Ganassi fits in there as well, their engineers and their people are much further ahead in the research between the '05 car and the '04 car. My input will help impact them on making their decision. I'm not just sitting there holding the gauntlet. Ryan Newman has got more of an impression of the differences between these two cars. I've got only a one-day test so far."
WHICH ONE DO YOU PREFER? "I think I explained that it's not my responsibility to pick which car we are going to run, but I think it's a great opportunity Dodge has to look at the two different cars. I've seen qualities from the Charger and qualities from the Intrepid. It's the '04 car versus the '05 car. That's what we're calling it. You guys help me out with that. I keep saying the wrong words. The look each one has, the '05 car seems to run faster by itself but then fall off sooner and when you do that you don't have chances to win races. The '04 car doesn't run as fast in the beginning, but it seems to maintain its speed better. When you look at it, does Dodge have a problem because they're always on top of the speed charts? Well, they just never end up on the top of the speed charts when it counts and that's at the end of the race. That's why there's a movement to look at the '04 car."
IS THERE A FEELING OF WANTING TO PROVE YOURSELF WITH A NEW TEAM? "I'm just happy to be here, to get a fresh start and move forward with what Penske Racing can offer me. The chance to drive the Miller Lite Dodge is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I'm challenging myself to model myself after Rusty Wallace, a legendary champion, a great spokesman for his sponsors, a guy that can go out and get into the market place and reach the fans. That's my No. 1 objective this year, to be able to show the fans I have that drive to go out there and do those creative things to create opportunities for fans to meet me. I want to go and meet the fans."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT CREW CHIEF ROY McCAULEY? "It's tough for me to go down this path and say he's done this and this and this so much more differently. Jimmy Fennig was probably the best crew chief I've ever worked with and Roy McCauley is going to be that guy again. He's just got a different approach. Fennig is an old school veteran. He knows how it's done. Don't worry, don't ask him a question, he'll get it done. Roy McCauley is a guy that has this engineering background of open wheel cars blending it into stock cars. It's just a different approach. I can relate Roy into a very energetic, enthusiastic crew chief that has all his bases covered. He's lacking experience, but he's covering lack of experience by the depth of knowledge he has about race cars and conducting people in a manner to run a race team. To have a two-day test in Vegas, one day committed to the '05-'04 challenge and then today we're moving forward on our '04 car. We chose our best car. That might help Lee Spencer (with answer to previous question) with that one. We're moving forward in that direction this morning. This afternoon he's got programs set for us on how we can obtain speed in qualifying. We'll go to Kentucky next week and finish up with a few details, and we should be ready to rip for the downforce season when we go to California after the Daytona 500. Great crew chief, nicknamed Cannonball because when he runs around he makes some damage happen. He might look like a Cannonball, too."