KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus "It was a great race for us. To be able to execute in the fashion that we did with bringing in the car from underneath the car cover - that's all we did with it since we raced here last July - and to ...
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus
"It was a great race for us. To be able to execute in the fashion that we did with bringing in the car from underneath the car cover - that's all we did with it since we raced here last July - and to bring it out and to be able to make just a couple of quick changes really played into our favor. What I mean by that is the weather. With limited track time, we were able to make the right adjustments based upon our past experience here and knowing that we had a good race car, so it left for not many variables on what to choose for a setup. As far as the way that we ran the race, Jimmy Fennig is brilliant with what he did early on with the cautions - with the lap 17 caution and then we had a guaranteed caution on lap 35. That was to allow the field to make some adjustments and we just continued to make some small air-pressure changes and we made one small cross-weight change at the end of the race to make for a perfect day. The car led fantastically. It was able to maneuver in traffic and we were just able to bring home a one-two finish for Roush Racing with Kenseth finishing second. For us, I was a bit sarcastic at the beginning of the day - maybe yesterday - saying we could come away with the points lead and here we are. It's only week one and we've got a lot of work ahead of us, but just a great way to be able to execute what we did with this race car and I'm looking forward to the other tracks that are similar to this as well as our testing. We've got four tests prepared in the next few months. It feels like I haven't tested all summer because we haven't. We wanted to save them for this latter part of the year to make sure that we could make a run at this title chase."
ANY SPECIAL STRATEGY HERE?
"I was able to obtain success here in the Truck Series with Jack's equipment and being able to run up front is different than just hanging out in the back. You lead laps here and the track has a different persona. You look at it in a different perspective and you're able to save your tires in certain fashions and then you're able to run aggressively on cold tires. There are so many things you can do at this race track and today it reminded me a bit of the success that we've had at Bristol - being able to run up front and lead some laps. It's just a great one mile race track. They did the reconfiguration a couple years ago with creating a better groove on the lower side of the race track, which allowed us to race side-by-side. That's what I saw back in September of 2002. I believe we finished second that race and it's just helped us with our success here at New Hampshire. Bob Bahre had done a fantastic job with the way he's created such a great race track to run on. I look forward for him to create different style of race tracks and he came out to Las Vegas and put us on the map - to give us our first Cup date back in 1998. So Bob's done a great job. This is a good race track and we had a good setup today. I don't know if we'll be as fortunate in the upcoming weeks, but we're definitely gonna give it a good try."
HOW CONCERNED WITH YOU WHEN YOU GOT TOGETHER WITH THE 49?
"Yeah, just looking for the same piece of real estate on the race track on the same lap. It had been a lap-and-a-half, maybe two, that I was behind him and it looked like he was gonna give me the top groove. So I went into the top groove in one and two and he slid up high in front of me. I tried the low groove through three and four and got a decent run and just got the right-front into his left-rear. At that point, he's the most vulnerable one. I hoped not to cut his left-rear with our right-front fender, but it did have a different feel afterwards. We were a bit tight after that contact, but we were able to make the adjustments on the pit stop after that. It's just one of those things - two guys in the same place at the same time. I looked at it as 50 different things could have gone wrong, but you just have to focus on what the car is actually telling you and that was the car had beat the right-front fender in and we had to fix it and move on."
WOULD IT BE TOO SIMPLE TO SAY YOU DID WHAT YOU DID HERE THE FIRST TIME?
"That's the car cover thing. We pulled the car out from underneath the car cover and ran the same race car. One thing we did change was our gear because of the cooler temperatures and, of course, what we ran here in the July race was a bit more conservative. This time around you've got to lay out all of your different secrets to go fast. We didn't have many to throw at this car because it was such a good car in July. We did change a couple of springs and away we went, but, definitely limited track time helped the 97 Irwin Industrial Tools car today."
DOES HAVING A TEAMMATE HELP IN THIS CHASE?
"I believe it definitely will. Having Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth, as well as the 97 team in this, we have three cars in the final chase for the cup. We've got the most to start with to try to put into the chase, but I think we've done an excellent job as a team balancing the different characters and the different way of creating a setup versus building a race car. Robbie Reiser has done a magnificent job with leading his people. Jimmy Fennig makes great calls on pit road and how to build cars. And, of course, Pat Tryson and Mark Martin have been clicking and I think they're the darkhorse in this deal. They're gonna be fast at every race track we go to, so I think definitely teammates will help. We're gonna work together six days out of the week and we're gonna race on the seventh."
WHAT TRACKS DO YOU HAVE TO STEP UP TO FROM HERE ON OUT?
"I look at the schedule with nine races left and we've got four tests. Those tracks that we're not gonna test are Talladega, which is a great race track for some other teams. We've been able to run successfully and had a top five at Daytona as our last restrictor plate race, but that's a race track where there are so many variables that it's difficult to get a good answer out of testing. Tracks that we are gonna test, that's where I think we're gonna struggle a little bit and that's why we saved a test for them. Our first one is gonna be conducted at Kansas in a couple of weeks and then we're gonna touch on Charlotte just for one day. It's a track that's been good for us in the past, but just haven't had any good finishes. Then we're gonna roll to Martinsville, a track where they're putting in a new surface. It'll be a two-day test - full blown. Then, of course, we've got to run down in Miami. It's a track I've only got four laps on in race conditions because we had a misfortune at the beginning of the race last year, so we've got tests primarily at mile-and-a-halves, but, yet, we've run well on the mile-and-a-halves this year with a couple of top fives. Texas was one of them and we just seem to run good at them, but we just can't seal the deal and that's what we're gonna go work on."
WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR MIND WITH MATT BEHIND YOU?
"I look at Matt Kenseth as one of the toughest short-track racers in America. We had that set forth to us and it was obvious last week at Richmond in the IROC cars. He got out in front and was just gone. There was nothing that Johnson, Newman and myself could do. He grew up on the short tracks and that's what he did from day one, and he's the guy that you're gonna see at a track like this or Martinsville or Phoenix. He's won at Phoenix before and he's gonna come to the forefront with his short track roots. He's a great teammate and a great challenger. I get up on the wheel harder when I see him around because I we're doing well together. It's a great day for Roush to finish one-two and a great way to challenge one another by finishing this way as well."
YOU PULLED UP TO CRAVEN AT ONE POINT.
"When you come to New Hampshire International Speedway, you know that Ricky Craven is by far the favorite. Him and I had a great finish at Darlington and the way that the fans have embraced me here is by far different than any other race track and it brings a smile to your face because of the way the fans react to you with their local boy. Craven and I shared a great moment. Today was his last ride in the Tide ride. I know everybody knew that. I wish he would have had a better day and put together a better effort, but Craven has been a great character to run against - a great friend of mine since that situation and today it was just a lead lap car passing a lapped car."
THOUGHTS WHEN JUNIOR PASSED YOU ON A RESTART?
"You never know how your cards are gonna look until you lay 'em down on the table and look at what other people have. For us, we knew we weren't good in the beginning. The way you could look at it is like Texas Hold 'Em, some of those cards that came out early just didn't look good and we had to wait until our card came up and then we'd put our bet down and roll. A car that would just slide horribly on the right side tires early on in a run and then once those generated a temperature to 'em, they would stick in the center of the corner and we could develop a lap time. The way he passed us, I thought he was the guy to beat at that time and then our car developed its feel again and the car just kept getting better every lap we'd run." YOU HADN'T RACED THIS CAR SINCE THE FIRST NHIS RACE?
"We put this car aside with this chase for the cup. We could have had the option to run it at Richmond, which is the same style of track the way crew chiefs build cars and the way drivers approach a race track. If we thought we could get ourselves a guaranteed spot just by starting the race at Richmond, obviously, all of this had to come forth after California and we would park the car and save it. We didn't need to damage it at Richmond because we know how important this race was. To be able to come from seventh to first on the 27th race of the season, that's never happened before. So that was the emphasis we put around this race car and Jimmy Fennig is just the guy that I go to for all the experienced calls that you need. We'll race this car and talk about whether we're gonna take it to Martinsville or if we're gonna take it to Phoenix later on in the year. But it is a car that almost has the same body on it as last year, just changed the nose and the tail around to meet the requirements of the new template. Ford has done a great job with balancing our short-track program and we've seen Fords run fast on the speedways and now that's our next objective next week."
NOW THAT YOU'RE LEADING DOES IT CHANGE YOUR APPROACH?
"If it rains in Dover on Friday, I think it would be great (laughing). That will give us a great starting position and it'll hold the value of what this week did with qualifying being rained out. Definitely not. We're gonna keep the same approach. We've got week one down. It's a nice breath of fresh air to come out on top and to know that we're the points leader and we executed our job to no end today - with calls on pit road, with adjustments on the car - and just being able to play the race out in our minds all day Friday and all day Saturday just sitting around. We still have to approach Dover the same way. After Dover I've got a Kansas test as well as Charlotte and then we move onto Talladega from there. It's just bing-bang-boom - on to the next race with the same focus. We go and challenge ourselves to win each race and the points will lay out where they do."
HOW WORRIED ARE YOU ABOUT THINGS LIKE WHAT HAPPENED TO THE 19 AND 20?
"We hope that we're able to continue a nice pace, whether it's an eighth-place finish next week or a win. Those DNF's, those troublesome days, really will impact your chase for the cup. We know it can happen to anybody at any given time. It can happen to us or a teammate of ours. It's just a matter of blocking those circumstances out and avoiding that certain situation. One quote that I live by early in my career was given to me after I wrecked four times in a row, 'If you put yourself in position to wreck, you're gonna wreck.' He said, 'Don't put yourself in that position.' I kicked and screamed and asked him, 'How do you do that?' And it just comes over time. Anything can come up at any given point. I don't know what happened to the 20. The 19 looked like it had a flat left-rear. Whether it was from contact or not, it was just one of those breaks that could happen to us. We knock on wood so it doesn't happen and move on."