Martinsville: Ford - Busch, Sadler interview

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus, has nine NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series wins with five of those coming on short tracks (Bristol 4 and Martinsville 1). He spoke about his short track success while Elliott Sadler, driver of the No.

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus, has nine NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series wins with five of those coming on short tracks (Bristol 4 and Martinsville 1). He spoke about his short track success while Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, talked about the momentum his team has gained since winning at Texas.

KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus

WHAT'S BEEN THE TRICK TO BECOMING SO GOOD AT THESE PLACES? "I think it's really just Bristol (laughing). My history at Richmond is horrible and then we do have our win here at Martinsville, but that was just due to being in a good place and a key position at the end of the race. Being able to make a car turn and still have forward bite is something that drivers struggle with all the time and when you're at a short track, if your car isn't quite handling right, you just have to drive it. There's not much that you can change setup-wise, and when you just hunker down on the wheel and try to get the job done, that's where I try to do the best job that I can. At Bristol, it's turned out positive for us more times than not."

BUT EVEN HERE AT MARTINSVILLE YOU SEEM MORE COMFORTABLE WITH A WIN AND A GOOD QUALIFYING EFFORT YESTERDAY. "I enjoy coming here. It's something that I didn't like early on in my career just because of how different this place was and how easy it is to miss your marks and to be in the back of the pack. If you slip in qualifying, you can lose 15 positions just that quick, so it's a matter of adapting to the track and understanding where the bumps are and where the turns are. Bristol just seemed to come to me quicker than Richmond has and Martinsville."

BUT YOU WON'T TURN AWAY THE IDEA OF BEING ONE OF THE TOP SHORT-TRACK DRIVERS OUT HERE, RIGHT? THAT'S A NICE TITLE TO HAVE. "It is and it's something that you have to work for. It doesn't just happen. I know that Jeff Gordon noticed early in his career that he ran well on the mile-and-a-half and two-milers, and I think it was '95 when he said he had to work on his short-track program. Since then he has been dominant. At Martinsville, he's been on the pole and winning races, so I think it's something a team can put more emphasis on to win races, but it's a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the amount of competition we have now. You can't just out-muscle one guy to get to the lead, you have to have pit strategy, you have to have the right tire conservation and you have to have things go your way at the end of the day."

IS JEFF THE GUY YOU LOOK AT AS THE STANDARD? "The last four poles and the last three wins, it's easy to pick out the 24 and the way that they run their operation here. Whether he's learned how to do this on his own or whether he got some help from Ray Evernham or Robbie Loomis, they've got their package figured out for Martinsville and they're a very strong competitor at every short-track or every small venue we go to. I was just trying to see if we could do what we needed to do as the 97 program and we did what we wanted on our first lap (in qualifying), which was to put down a nice smooth lap and then on the second lap pick up the pace and see if you can lay down a strong number. We ended up slipping in both ends, so we came up with a little bit slower time. But we're starting seventh and that's a great starting spot. That will get us in a position to lead some laps, gain some bonus points and see what we can do at the end of the race."

AT DARLINGTON YOU MENTIONED JIMMY FENNIG PUT A CERTAIN SETUP UNDER THE CAR AND YOU HAD TO ADJUST TO THAT. HAS THAT BEEN A KEY? "We agreed upon what we needed to do. The way that our tires were coming off the car on pit stops, he was able to see what was going on. Once we got back to the shop after Atlanta we understood that we have to approach things in a different way. We just weren't having the finishes that was liked, so we sat down with the engineer and we all agreed that we weren't running the right way. It was real easy to communicate because all of us were on the same page. We knew we weren't producing the results and knew we weren't adjusting the car the right way during pit stops. This tire has asked us to do things different and we're still learning."

KURT BUSCH CONTINUED -- HOW DOES THIS RACE DIFFER FROM BRISTOL? "It's almost night and day. I'd like for them to put up lights here and allow us to race at night because what an exciting show it would be. Then we would have that personality change in the track as well. Bristol does the same thing. In the spring it's different than the fall. This place changes a little bit from spring to fall, but it's just so different because it's flat and it's got such long straightaways and tight corners, whereas at Bristol you keep your momentum built up."

DO YOU THINK YOU'LL DO WELL SUNDAY? "I hope we can. We've done our homework. Matt Kenseth tested here, a teammate of mine, so we've got his good notes from the test and we'll just see what we can do as a teammate to help him and help the whole effort and just keep digging forward."

TEMPS COULD BE IN THE LOW 80'S ON SUNDAY. HOW WILL THAT AFFECT THE NEW TIRE? "We know the tire is gonna wear out quicker. With the temperatures, it'll be easier to slide a tire by locking up a front tire or getting sideways with the rear tires because of too much throttle. It's gonna be a tire conservation type of race and you'll have to come in earlier for tires. I'm not saying what number of laps, but you're gonna wear out your tires quicker and every driver knows that."

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO? "You have to be conscientious of a softer setup so that it won't burn the tires off, but you can't get too soft because you'll get run over on fresh tires."

ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus

HOW MUCH ENERGY WAS INJECTED INTO YOUR TEAM AFTER WINNING AT TEXAS? "You can't put in words what it does for the whole team. My guys have been walking on cloud nine since Texas. They've got a new feeling and a new vibe going around the shop. We feel like we belong after winning and being in the top five in points. We feel like we've got just as good a chance as anybody to be in the top 10 after 26 races and then going all out for the championship. That's the feeling we've got. We feel like we've got ourselves in a good position and we're just gonna go from there."

HOW MUCH OF A CONFIDENCE BOOSTER WAS THAT WIN FOR YOU? "It helps a lot because 108 races is a long time. This is a tough sport. People have no absolute idea what goes through the driver's minds every week if you're not winning or if you're going through a tough stretch. It's a tough sport. It's a cut throat business. If you're not doing good, they'll replace you with somebody that is so to finally get a win and share it with your team is a great reward. It's not like stick-and-ball sports where you have one winner and one loser. We have 42 losers every single weekend going home and that's a lot of disappointed people making the trip back to Charlotte, so whenever you get a win you cherish it for as long as you can and, hopefully, it'll be coming around again real soon."

YOU WERE FIFTH IN THIS RACE A YEAR AGO. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS PLACE AND YOUR HOPES COME SUNDAY? "It's just like a home track for us. I love coming to Virginia because the Virginia fans are great and really support their drivers. This place isn't the best record I have in racing, but to come off a win from Texas and come here, I have some great confidence and great momentum and so does the team. We want to try to take advantage of that as much as we can this weekend."

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GET OUT FRONT ON A SHORT TRACK LIKE THIS? "Track position is everything in this sport, not only here but everywhere. You want to race the race track here for about 300-350 laps and then have something for the guys at the end. I hope we can keep track position. I know my guys on pit road can do it. If I can do it on the track and keep the car from spinning out and keep it in a straight line on the race track, we'll be fine."


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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Kurt Busch , Ray Evernham , Elliott Sadler , Robbie Loomis