No. 97 Sharpie/IRWAN Taurus Winning Team Press Conference Kurt Busch Jack Roush KURT BUSCH "This is a car Jimmy Fennig built prior to this year and its first race was Richmond a few months ago and it didn't qualify well at all. All four tires...
No. 97 Sharpie/IRWAN Taurus Winning Team Press Conference
"This is a car Jimmy Fennig built prior to this year and its first race was Richmond a few months ago and it didn't qualify well at all. All four tires were just sliding around and that's the same circumstance we had on Friday as well with not being able to push the tires into the race track. We thought we made the right adjustment and we went the wrong way, so it was more of a burden than we thought. There's no real reason why this car won't qualify well, but it does a great job of taking care of the tires. When you don't punish tires, your car will come to the front during a long run. I think that's why we qualified poorly with this car and we raced real well for it. Like I said, there's no explanation for it."
DESCRIBE THE PASS ON RYAN.
"He had a great starting position and was able to lead laps early on. Our car would just get better and better on the run with the same setup under the car without adjustments. It would come to the front with better and better lap times throughout the run. We'd make small adjustments on the car not to upset the balance and it continued to get better as the day progressed. We just left the car alone on the last stop. There was really nothing you could do to our car that would run those types of lap times once it got out in front. We did have to deal with Newman. We've been here in the past trying to pass him for the lead. It was back in 2002 and it was a rain-shortened race that happened to be Newman's first win. We raced each other probably hard for 40 laps straight through not knowing when it was finally gonna rain hard enough to throw the yellow and that would be the completion of the event. This time around I knew I had laps in my favor. Just to lead one lap would have been nice to get those bonus points, but to be able to come away with the victory with such a great car, I'm ecstatic. The crew did such a tremendous job being in an abbreviated position. We had one guy at home with his wife having a baby this week. I don't know if they had it yet. I hope they don't name it Loudon. It's not really that good of a name for a boy or a girl, and then we had a crew guy leave us this week. So we had a couple guys in abbreviated positions and the other guys picked up the slack and were that much more determined to see what type of effort we could put forth. This is a great track for us. It's a mile and it doesn't have much to do with aero or with the new balance of these tires. It's just a matter of getting the car around the race track."
"What I've seen in my 16, 17 years is that a driver straps the car up going for one lap and he goes out and punishes one tire or three tires. On a good day he can some grip on all four tires and goes and gets what he can, and then you come back and make a decent, livable race car that will go a full fuel stop for the race itself. We just don't have the package figured out on how to qualify this car. This car is a Jimmy Fennig formula for a flat track, which is different than the cars we would run at Dover or at Michigan or at Fontana or at many of the other places. But it will go back to Martinsville and certainly it'll go back to Richmond. Hopefully, it'll be in good shape so it can go to Martinsville as well. Jimmy's got something special here that doesn't apply everywhere. I think the good news is I asked Jimmy, Pocono is a little bit of a flat track, too, and as we're basking in the glory of the race and what's happened here and everybody is feeling good about our day, and any amount of work in the future doesn't look like it would be too much to undertake and I said, 'Do we have a better car for Pocono?' And Jimmy assures me that we do - for Pocono - that he and Kurt have a strategy for a car that's gonna be what we need for that, which is a little different than what we face here. But we're in good shape for this car to bring it back to start the Chase for the Championship, which we now have some breathing room with Kurt on. I'm real proud and happy about the cars they've prepared. One of the things that NASCAR doesn't regulate is the chemistry and the chemistry between Jimmy and the car chief and Kurt today was just awesome and that bodes very well for the rest of the season. I'm real happy with what we've got in front of us."
YOU HAD A PROBLEM AT CHICAGO THAT WASN'T OF YOUR DOING. HOW MUCH BETTER DOES THIS MAKE YOU FEEL AS FAR AS YOUR POSITION IN POINTS?
"I guess it's that cushion. Two weeks ago after the race, the team looked at one another going, 'We now have to come up to an at-bat and get the calls from the third base coach and lay down a bunt when we have to. We've got to steal a base when we have to. We've got to play aggressively.' I believe that our Chase for the Champoinship started today. It started with the first Loudon instead of the second Loudon just because of our points position. We've got our tests saved up for the latter part of the year with Kansas, Martinsville, Charlotte, Miami and there's one more test in there that I'm missing. So we're prepared for the final 10, but now we've got to make sure we can get into it. This is a great cushion to have. We didn't know we'd run this well, but this car just has that chemistry with flat tracks and I can't wait to get back to another one."
DO YOU WANT THIS CAR AGAIN IN SEPTEMBER AND HOW MIGHT THAT RACE BE DIFFERENT THAN TODAY?
"Well, it will be the first race of the final 10. Obviously, the pressure on those guys in the top 10 will be tremendous and it will be the race following Richmond, so we've got to make sure that we get this car through Richmond. We might be on the teeter-totter again at Richmond. We still have to attack each race as if we have to gain as many points as we can and not slip. When we come back here in the fall, I'd like to see some changes to our car that we had today to make it better because you always have to continue to make things better. So we'll look at the gear and we'll look at the transmission for restarts in case there is an opportunity for a green-white-checker at the end. We'll just continue to improve our game everywhere we can look."
ANY INFORMATION FROM THE BUSCH RACE?
"Jimmy Fennig and I didn't derive much from the Busch race, but Matt Kenseth may have with his car. The setup between us two are confidential and on both ends of the page. I'm not saying that we were similar in ways or different in ways, just two different approaches. We've had that for some race tracks, whereas we've been identical for others. Kenseth is a great teammate to be able to go to for information. We used his front shocks today, where he probably used something of ours. That's what teammates have to do. Our cars are built under the same roof, so we're able to communicate easily between the guys that work in the fab shop and then of course with Jimmy Fennig and Robbie Reiser as well."
"There's a real time link between the six teams, including the Wood Brothers, where the engineers know when a shock is being changed or a spring is being changed in practice. They have drivers and the crew chiefs and the engineers have a meeting after happy hour to see what they found that goes right and wrong. Typically, they'll look at one another's setup and I say, 'Yes, that's what he's running,' and I should be that much different than him. Or, in some cases if they think their driving style and their cars are identical for some of the parameters that are key to setup, they'll come back and say, 'Alright, I'm a little screwed up. If Kurt can drive it, I'm gonna drive it.' But Matt and Kurt typically have got a little bit different setup and they pace themselves so far away from one another in terms of springs and things. But some things like shocks and tire pressure and other things are pretty much constants. As soon as they figure out that somebody has got a better package there, well then that's what they adopt."
DOES THIS CAR GIVE YOU MORE CONFIDENCE?
"On the cars, the flat track car - there is a flat track car formula that is understood based on where the center of gravity is and some of the components in the car. That information is generally known and followed throughout. The final nuance of the control arms and the spindles and some of the other things, the crew chiefs have got their own preference for giving the drivers what they want to feel, so they are a little different. Depending on those decisions, then the last 50 pounds of spring, sometimes 100 pounds of spring, an eighth-inch of a bar will vary."
DO YOU HAVE AN ASSEMBLY LINE PROCESS?
"We do have an assembly line process to build the cars and to build the bodies. As soon as the crew chiefs decide or I decide or the drivers collectively decide that we all want this car, then the car can be duplicated. I'm sure that Mark will be looking at what Kurt and Matt had before we go to another track that is similar - a Richmond - that he'll have a car more like that. But I suspect that when Matt thinks about what his day was, that he probably missed it on bar or missed it on spring or on weight or something that will cause him not to want to give up on his car, but to tweak it and bring it on back."
CAN YOU COMPARE TRACKS LIKE THIS?
"We've thoroughly enjoyed the success with this car. Will it continue? We don't know that. The information is available to our other teams. I'll leave that to Jimmy Fennig. He'll be able to relay the information to the other teams, where you don't want to give away your secrets because those will be your competition. I hope that we can race other Roush cars for the victory and if this car continues to run well, it's just a testament to Jimmy Fennig's ability and to the team's ability to build a specific car for a specific application and then to run well with it. Things fell into place today. They might not fall into place at Richmond or Loudon or Phoenix - wherever they might be - but it's a car that can win and, hopefully, can be duplicated."
CAN YOU DISCUSS ALL THOSE RESTARTS AND HAVING TO DRIVE THROUGH THE FIELD?
"This place is notorious for bad qualifying if you go out early. You have to deal with it. It's just the way that the race track absorbs heat from the sun, the way the asphalt is able to maintain temperature. When you go out early, it's a hurdle you have to overcome. Gordon sat on four previous poles leading up to this event and the track challenged him to lay down a lap and he wasn't able to. We went out fourth and we weren't able to. The more the track gains heat, the faster the cars go. It's similar in race trim as well when you're out racing around. The tires start off cold. You slide around quite heavily and then you gain more momentum as you run because the temperature of the track and the tire match each other."
WHAT ABOUT THE RESTARTS?
"Our car was a car that wouldn't abuse tires whatsoever. It was tough on the restarts to hold the 24 off. He's been in his prime the past two months with being able to win at big tracks, short tracks. If any other competitor was there, you'd still have to beat him, but Gordon is the toughest right now. With the restarts at the end of the race and his car being better on cold tires, we had our hands full. I knew there was an opportunity for a green-white-checker, so any restart I knew couldn't be the last one."
DID YOU MAKE A MISTAKE ON THE NEXT-TO-LAST RESTART?
"Yes. There was probably an opportunity for him to get underneath us. It seemed like his gear ratios were a bit better from the start-finish line to turn one, so those are things that we'll change when we come back and try to alleviate that problem to where we can stretch it out no matter what. But when you've got lapped cars taken away from you on the inside and now it's single-file with the leaders, it's that much more difficult to stretch out a lead."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE LAST PASS OF RYAN?
"The worst thing about that pass was that the door was open for the 24 to follow. I had no idea his car was that strong. The opportunity to pass here is limited. You have to do certain things with your car that give you corner speed or they give you exit speed. Those two are different and with Ryan Newman slipping up, we were able to gain the momentum underneath him through one and two. You hope you don't leave the door open for others to come along through because you want them to have to deal with the same issues that you had to go through with opening a door and then closing it behind you. But he was able to squeak through. Newman is a tough competitor and he just slipped up a little bit where our car was just that much better in that specific time."
Continued in part 2.