Martinsville II: Winners press conference

KURT BUSCH --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus (Finished 1st) WHAT DID YOU THINK WITH 90 TO GO? "At Martinsville, we know that anybody can win at anytime. It's a tribute to the crew. We came in ninth and went out third. That's what put us in position...

KURT BUSCH --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus (Finished 1st)

WHAT DID YOU THINK WITH 90 TO GO? "At Martinsville, we know that anybody can win at anytime. It's a tribute to the crew. We came in ninth and went out third. That's what put us in position and that's what took the Rubbermaid Ford to victory. Most of the time, when we get the lead, we don't want to give it up. It was a great ride for us. We never knew we'd be competitive. We thought we had to come back here and test after our qualifying lap. It's just so difficult here to put a lap together and push those four tires down, but during the race it takes me about 20 laps to figure out each set of tires and once we get going, we get rolling good with the Rubbermaid Ford."

DO YOU THINK JOHNNY WAS HUNGRIER THAN YOU? "Nobody can be hungrier than I am. This is sweet. This is Winston Cup. This is racing with the best of the best. Racing with Johnny Benson at the end is no different than racing with a Dale Jarrett or a Jeff Gordon or a Dale Earnhardt that used to pressure you hard. It was a great race, a great ride for us and it's just great that Martinsville puts on good shows like this all the time. With the grooming of the race track, it didn't turn out as well as everybody thought it would, but it provided a second groove. If you could run on the bottom, you could run on the top. It made for an interesting race on a short half-mile like this."

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus

"He's plenty hungry, I can swear to that. This is really a testament to Jimmy Fennig and Shawn Parker and the whole Rubbermaid crew for putting together a car that was adjustable so that when Kurt got in to the race he was able to tell what the car was doing and let Jimmy make the changes. The reason Kurt is sitting here, beyond Rubbermaid's support and the rest of it, is because he's so incredibly talented and he's so quick to adapt to situations that are different. On Saturday, we truly felt that before we came back here again we just had to test. We were so embarrassed that the practice wasn't better, but they made the car adjustable, Kurt told Jimmy what it was doing and they worked on it all day and here we are."


YOU'VE WON FROM 36TH. "It's always good to set a milestone and we'll probably pick up the most places with the Waste Management Picking Up Places, it's great to have that contingency award. It's something where we just struggled in qualifying. I always have here and, hopefully, I won't always will. Hopefully, we can get it down and we can run competitively in qualifying, which will give us a better pit box and a better weekend outlook."

WHAT DID YOU THINK AFTER SPINNING? "Everybody was racing tight. We had just caught that pack in front of me and I asked Jimmy, I said, 'How much are they asking to pay to park in this parking lot?' because there were cars everywhere. We started to maneuver and I guess I may have pinched whoever it was that ran into us, I guess it was Jeff Gordon. I thought Bill Elliott was right behind me, but I made my move too late to go into turn three. I kind of cut down and maybe Jeff was there and maybe he got in too hot. I wasn't really worried about it because at Martinsville you can spin around, make a lot of smoke -- smokescreen everybody -- and stay on the lead lap and only lose a few positions. That was about lap 250. We had no real worries. We came from 36th to 15th and I said, 'Well, we've only got 15 more to go in the same amount of time.'"

WERE YOU AFRAID YOU WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO HOLD ON DURING THE LAST 10 LAPS? "Jimmy Fennig radioed and said, 'Ten to go,' and things were great. Things were running smooth and we were passing lapped cars. Todd Bodine held us up a little bit and then I looked up in the mirror and Johnny B. was there. Of course, it ran through my mind just to hold my line and make sure he couldn't get underneath us or around us. We did make it a little wide, but that's what you have to do at a short track when it comes down to who is gonna win and who is gonna finish second."

WHAT KIND OF ADJUSTMENTS DID YOU MAKE? "I don't know what's right and what's wrong at Martinsville. I just kind of felt what I had on the seat of my pants. The rear end was stuck into the track too good, and it wouldn't allow me to rotate through the corner. So we did some air-pressure adjustments, we did some track bar adjustments and we did wedge adjustments -- typical adjustments you do at a short track. I think we may have run too big of a swaybar and that hurt us in the corner a little bit, but it gave us that forward bite that we needed. There are probably 10 things I'd change off what I felt right now that we'd come back with in the spring."

HOW SATISFYING TO WIN AT TWO TRACKS WHERE YOU CAN'T BACK OFF? "I'm just as surprised again as we were at Bristol. It's a great feeling to go out there and to compete and be able to maneuver through the field -- to rub a little bit here. You never want to rub anybody because then they'll end up rubbing you back, but it was just a good short-track race again. With them grinding the inside groove, the second groove was the preferred groove and there were multiple racing lines. You never have that at Martinsville and you just have to prepare your cars to be adjustable and you have to come in open-minded. I didn't necessarily agree with Bristol and we won there. I didn't necessarily agree with Martinsville, heck, we won here. It's been tough. I thought we'd have a bunch more shots to win. We had a great car last week at Charlotte -- Kansas -- I thought our wins would come at the mile and a halfs, so this is great to pick it up on short tracks. Hopefully, we won't get that short-track reputation, but, hey, anything works I guess."

YOU LOOK TIRED. "That's good champagne in victory lane (laughing). No, this short track really tests you mentally and physically. When you think you've got your mind set and when everything has cooled down during the yellow and you get back to driving on the brakes hard and turning the wheel hard, this place wears you out more than any other race track. We struggled a little bit with our cool box. It's a device inside the car that blows cool air and when I turned it on at the beginning of the race it was just like a heater inside. Everybody has seen that commercial -- As Bad As You've Got It -- it was just like the guy running the heater on full. So I never had any cool air blowing in my helmet, I just had some air coming in."

DID YOU HAVE WHEEL SPIN ON THE BOTTOM AND TOP? "For some reason the more we worked on our car and the more we freed it up, it turned and hooked up better. So, if that makes any sense. I'm sure some of the veterans can explain that to me. I'll have to talk it over with Mark Martin and Jeff Burton. Matt Kenseth probably even knows. There are things you do to a race car to make it turn and then there are things that you do just because it's the day that it is. It confuses you at the end of the day, but it makes you a better person at the end. With wheel spin, you're always gonna have that. At Martinsville, Richmond, Bristol and you can't ever overcome it. You just have to get a fine balance of rotating through the middle of the corner and getting that forward bite up off the corner. It's just that fine balance and we had that at Bristol and here and it feels great."


HOW DO YOU PICK SUCH GOOD DRIVERS? "Well Max Jones had a gong show of sorts where a bunch of young drivers came together and drove our trucks a few years ago and Kurt won that contest his year. Greg Biffle came to us by way of Benny Parsons and Matt Kenseth came by way of Mark Martin's recommendation, so they come from all different directions. But Kurt is real special and we're hoping to bring his brother Kyle along with his mother's and father's help."


WILL YOU BE ABLE TO ENJOY THIS MORE THAN BRISTOL BECAUSE AFTER THAT RACE THERE WAS SOME GRIPING? "It'll be that much more easier because who finished second was a very professional race car driver this weekend. And, really, he finished second at Bristol so I didn't see any need for any kind of discrepancy whatsoever. I mean, we can get into depth and we can write a book about it, it's just great to be back in victory lane. To race again him today, he held us up being a lapped car and that's just the professional that he is."

DID BRISTOL MAKE YOU HUNGRIER OR FEARLESS? "You go into each week preparing as best you can, performing tests, talking with Jack and gaining his experience, and working with Jimmy Fennig and the whole group -- and understanding the sponsorship situation with Rubbermaid and the whole conglomerate of Roush Racing together. They've helped me understand that I can drive these cars. I haven't necessarily changed since Bristol and I haven't necessarily changed since The Winston. The Winston was a great race for us. The Brickyard 400 was a big turning point. We struggled that month of August and I knew that anytime during any season there are gonna be drivers that go through a stretch of bad races -- even the champion does -- so I just kept my head about water and kept trying to breathe and to get back into victory lane feels that much better. We're now in a better points position. We surely deserve to finish in the top 10, but it's not a given. We've got to go out there and compete each week and we're gonna continue to do the same thing. We've got four races left and I'm looking for four more top 10's."

HOW MUCH OF A ROLLERCOASTER HAVE YOU BEEN ON? "I mean, the Bristol night race is obviously the Sharpie 500 and we want to do well there. We finished well. And whether we go up and down each week, Jimmy Fennig and I, the crew and Jack, we all know the small victories inside each week. Like last week, we led a lot of laps, we just had a small motor deal and we knew we could have won the race. I can't tell you what's in the past. I know what the future holds, but we usually have small victories every week where we don't get down on ourselves. We keep digging. We've got great teammates to work with. We've got so much information that we can transfer back and forth. We even went to a test with Mark Martin at Kentucky to try to help him win the championship. It's been a lot of fun this year and I hope to continue that next year. We're probably gonna have 100 percent of our guys return next year and, hopefully, we can put a good run forth every week because that's what it takes to be a Winston Cup champion."

WERE YOU SURPRISED THE GUYS BEHIND YOU WEREN'T MORE AGGRESSIVE? "At the end of the race we're running so much on the ragged edge. Our brain is tired, our body is tired, the car is tired. I knew if I just hunkered down and thought about it, and not slipped a wheel that there really wasn't much he could do with me. I mean, these are 3600-pound cars, they're pretty heavy, and it takes a lot to move 'em. When you're parked here in these corners, putting a quarter in the parking meter every corner, it's pretty heavy to move it. So you have to think about physics and you have to think about where the driver's at in his career and what we're doing. We were just racing as best we can, trying to stay as smooth as we could at the end of the race and I knew we'd have the better outcome."

HOW MUCH WILL YOU ENJOY THIS PLACE NOW COMPARED TO TRUCKS? "I'll wake up tomorrow with a better feel for it. It's still one of those places where you never feel like you can conquer it. Bristol will keep biting you. Martinsville will always bite you. Richmond is another place. I've struggled everytime I qualify and everytime we race, we have postive outcomes. We finished 10th here in the spring surviving. We were a 20th-place car and ended up 10th. Today we were a top-five car and we ended up with the win. I'm not sure who was quickest at the end. We may have been the quickest with lap times, but we had track position and that's a tribute to my crew. They got me out in front and that's what it takes, it's a total team effort."


DOES THIS MEAN MORE TO YOU AFTER WHAT YOU'VE BEEN THROUGH? "I've had my own drama this year, but based on my opportunity to get out of the water in Troy, Alabama when I had my accident, these are all extra days for me. I may have taken myself a little too serious for a while and I'm much more relaxed than I was early in the year and I'm just going with it and having a good time."

DID YOU THINK AFTER THAT INCIDENT THAT YOU MIGHT MISS A RACE? "No, when I came to after the accident I asked for a piece of paper because they had something in my mouth and I couldn't talk. I wanted to know if I screwed up. That was my first note, 'Did I screw up?'"


WAS THE END COMPLICATED? "Very complicated. Sometimes I don't know what I think or what I do. You don't necessarily sometimes feel what you're thinking, you just go off of instinct and somewhat fall into a zone where everything is quiet. You never even hear the car, you just make sure that you don't slip a tire and if you slip a tire, it's the most annoying sound in the world at any race track. So you're focussed on that. Your mind is trying to look in the mirror and see how close the other drivers are, yet, you have to look that much further forward to see where the lapped cars are running so you can maneuver around them as quickly as you can. So there are so many things going through your mind, but the main focus is not to slip a tire and to gain as much momentum off the corner as you can."

WHAT DID IT MEAN TO GO GREEN THE REST OF THE WAY? "It seems like a few times we've come out on the bad side of when to pit and when not to pit. When we took our last set of tires and came out in the lead, I told Jimmy Fennig, 'Make a gameplan. Give me a number on when we're gonna pit or when we're gonna stay out.' I came back immediately and thought that it takes 40 laps for these tires to start dropping off, so I could get some work done in 40 laps. If the caution came out between 40 and 50 to go, we were gonna have a debate. Luckily, we got through it. When you're the leader, you try not to pressure the lapped cars into doing stupid things. Obviously, they want to stay on the lead lap, they want to have the best finish they can, but if you're the leader and you're coming quick, they'll do stupid things to rattle another guy in front of them and then there's an easy yellow. So there are things you do here that you try to control the other guy's cars from behind."

DID THE LAPPED CARS HELP OR HURT YOU? "There were some that helped us and some that hurt us, that's just part of short track racing -- maneuvering through the lapped cars getting down to the end. Everybody is racing for position, whether they're a lap down or cars right behind me. So it was a good show. There's nobody you can fault. Todd Bodine held us up a little bit, but he was just trying to race as hard as he could to the guy in front of him, so I don't blame him at all. I'm the leader, I'm responsible for passing every lapped car and if one of them were to bump into us and spin us, it's my fault."


HOW DO YOU FEEL?  "I've never felt better in my life.  I sleep good and I
eat good.  Everything works.  I'm happy."

WHAT ABOUT KURT'S BEHAVIOR? "Kurt has matured with every race that he's had -- last year and this. The team has pulled together and any issues that Kurt's had over his frustration he's working on and I'm real happy with it."


WHAT ABOUT THE END? "With about 20 to go, I knew it was gonna get down to the nitty-gritty and I had my spotter go and talk to whoever was in front of us and say, 'We'd prefer the outside groove.' Whether they give it to us or not, it's helpful, and when we get there, if they don't move out of the way when I'm a certain distance from them, that's when we'll make the move and go low and try to get by them as quick as I can. Whether I was going down too quick, not many people moved out to the low line like we requested, so you change your line a little bit accordingly because you want to make sure you get by as quick and as clean as you can. If you end up racing somebody side by side, you're killing momentum and the second place car now has an easier time passing these lapped cars because now they've gone a lap down, so they somewhat yield to the second-place car when they don't yield to the leader as well. Everything worked out smooth. We had to get by them as quick as we could and I didn't want to have them control my destiny, so I just passed them as quick as I could."

-ford racing-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Todd Bodine , Greg Biffle , Johnny Benson , Shawn Parker , Benny Parsons , Max Jones , Mark Martin