Michigan: Ford winning team press conference

Kurt Busch capped off the Ford Centennial Celebration in grand style by posting his third win of 2003 in today's Sirius 400. With Ford in the midst of a four-day festival to mark its 100th anniversary, Busch won for the seventh time in his ...

Kurt Busch capped off the Ford Centennial Celebration in grand style by posting his third win of 2003 in today's Sirius 400. With Ford in the midst of a four-day festival to mark its 100th anniversary, Busch won for the seventh time in his career.

The win also marked Ford's 26th all-time victory at Michigan International Speedway and 10th in the last 15 races at the facility.

Busch leads all NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers in wins this season and now has three of Ford's five triumphs this season. Dale Jarrett (Rockingham) and Matt Kenseth (Las Vegas) each have one win apiece. The win also marked Ford's 542nd all-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series win, most among manufacturers.

KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus

IS THERE ANYTHING ON THE CAR YOU DIDN'T ADJUST?

"There are some days where race tracks come to you and then there are other days when you have to go chase the race track. By no means is Michigan an easy place to get around. It's very difficult and you have to continue to change the car to adapt to the race track. It just seemed like the more we made adjustments, the further off the car got, so we went back a little bit. We took a step back and then we had that last caution that put us out in third place with a couple of adjustments to the race car. It just seemed like the car came too right at the end, just like it did at California Speedway. There are adjustments that Jimmy Fennig has found that is key for shorter runs, so with 40 laps to go he made that adjustment and I think that paid dividends in the California win as well as today at Michigan."

ANY CONCERN WITH THE FINAL RESTART?

"You always try to keep and open mind and try to plan ahead - try to strategize as far as what other guys have in their mind on what they want to do. You've got to know the objective and that's obviously to get to Victory Lane, but, for us, it's just a matter of making sure that once we get out front we stay out in front because that clean air really helps the Ford run down the straightaway and that's what we needed to get to Victory Lane today. We saw a lot of guys racing side-by-side early on in the race and it looked like an IROC race for awhile with the way people couldn't break away. I thought the balance NASCAR brought today was a superb effort in balancing the different types of race tracks that we go to and for a two-mile racetrack, it put on a great show today."

YOU RAN FOURTH JUST ABOUT ALL DAY AND THEN GOT THE LEAD LATE?

"It's a lot about being in the right place at the right time. Obviously with the way this competitive series evolves throughout each race, you've got to be in position to take advantage of a person's slip or when their car is fading throughout the race. I saw my teammate, Matt Kenseth, come up in the battle about halfway through the race and I thought he would be a car to contend with, but it just seemed like the race had a change in the beginning with the cautions and then it had long green flag runs, and then the race came back to us with all those short runs at the end of the day. So whether we were in fourth place at any given moment, it really wasn't of our doing it was just a coincidence. I think the fact we were up front all day and didn't get too far behind on that long green flag run is what paid dividends for us."

HOW COME YOU COULD PASS GORDON AND LABONTE COULDN'T PASS YOU IN SIMILAR SITUATIONS?

"One thing that I focus on at the race tracks we go to is making the car adjustable. And what I mean by that is not just putting spring rubbers in the springs so you can keep the car dialed into the race track. What I'm talking about is keeping it so it can run in the high line, the low line, the middle, it can draft with people, it can lead. The car has to be adjustable. I saw an opportunity to get by Gordon because his weak spot was turn four and that's where we finally got our car hooked up. You've got to make sure you have a balance in your race car that's capable of running good lap times, but, yet it's got to be capable of running in the pack and not get too tight on you."

IS THIS TEAM AS GOOD AS AT THE END OF LAST YEAR? "It seems like we're coming into stride once again, but it's just a matter of being competitive each week. We had a lot of good luck at the end of last year to help propel a lot of victories our way and this year we had three flat tires in three races previous to this. So it's just a matter of taking your lumps and moving forward. You know there's gonna be a Bobby Labonte or a Dale, Jr. or a Matt Kenseth nipping at your heels each week, so it's just a matter of having the team balance of everybody working together and getting along - understanding when the motors show up at the shop, that they've got to put it in. Understanding how to build the bodies. This is the same car as California, so you've got to be able to produce results and be able to repeat those as well at the shop, so I think we're doing that just like we did last year."

ARE YOU ABLE TO HANDLE FRUSTRATION BETTER THIS YEAR LIKE FLAT TIRES AND SUCH?

"There are things in your control and things out of your control. Maybe today being a little under the weather helped me moderate some of that, but it's a matter of being your best everyday and knowing what's in your control and what you have to deal with and putting up with Jack sometimes (smiling)."

IS THERE A SECRET TO RESTARTING ON COLD TIRES?

"I think our car was probably a little bit stiffer than the rest of the competition today as far as springs, so when we did get out in front it really helped the car accelerate. But when we did get caught up in fourth place for most the day, that's when it kind of just rode around. It was something where we tried to balance our California setup because it worked so well for short runs and long runs. Today, it really favored the shorter runs. If we would have had a long green flag run at the end, we might not have been able to come out on top like we did, but we're in Victory Lane today. We know what we can change for next time when we come here, if we think the race will need a longer strategy."

JACK ROUSH , Car Owner - No. 97 Rubbermaid Taurus

A GOOD DAY TODAY.

"It's been a great day. I did a little math in my head. This is Ford Motor Company's 100th birthday. They're celebrating it this weekend and we've been racing Ford's for 36 years. When I think about the amount of time we've been associated with Ford Motor Company and all the support they've given us and a livelihood for me to start with, because I was a Ford employee when I started racing their cars, it's really awesome to have this kind of result --realizing how long I've been involved with Ford and what we've tried to do and looking at Kurt in his third year with Ford and his third year in these stock cars as defined by NASCAR and to think about what his future is gonna be. It really gives me pause. I'm quite sober about the whole thing and more than just exciting. I'm really just thinking that this is awesome."

BUSCH

IS IT FRUSTRATING YOU DIDN'T GAIN MORE POINTS TODAY?

"Not at all. We're right where we need to be in points. We're elated that we've got three victories, which is one or two more than most everybody else. It's a matter of capitalizing on your bad days. I remember two years ago I'd show up at Charlotte, which was very similar to the Coca-Cola 600 this year, and I'd get a flat tire or we'd brush the wall a little bit and we'd finish 32nd or 36th or something. This year we had two flat tires in the Coca-Cola 600 and came back to finish 15th. I think that's just the depth of the team and my experience in being able to adjust and learn from those circumstances. This year it's gonna be a point tally similar to 1998. Mark Martin won 13 races that year (actually seven races) and any other year in Winston Cup history he'd have won the championship, but Jeff Gordon was able to beat him out at the end of the year. This is gonna be one of those years when a top five is an average kind of day."

WHAT'S THE SIGNIFICANCE WINNING THIS RACE ON FORD'S 100th ANNIVERSARY?

"One in a million. That's the significance of this race. Henry Ford based his motor company off what he did 100 years ago, which was to race his Model T and come away with a victory. He retired 1-for-1, so to have this opportunity today to bring Ford its 100th anniversary win is a one in a million shot. I feel real proud to represent Ford and to move on into the future. I sat at a big dinner on Friday night with all the legends - Dan Gurney and Dorsey Schroeder and Parnelli Jones. I couldn't quite feel if the room got bigger or smaller when they introduced everybody's name, but for surely it put I guess what you would say a picture in somebody's mind of how great Ford Motor Company is."

WHAT ABOUT THE TRACK BEING WARMER TODAY?

"You have to adjust to changing track circumstances and be able to be adjustable. Whether it was cool and overcast, we probably could have run the cars a little bit quicker. Today was a sunnier day. My fastest lap was probably 174 when I passed Gordon. We ran like a 39.60, so you have to chase the race track continuously throughout the day and with the sun peaking in and out of the clouds, you have to adjust for it. All in all, it wasn't all that bad with the sun out today versus shady conditions."

DO YOU REMEMBER WHERE YOU FINISHED IN YOUR FIRST TWO RACES HERE? DO YOU LIKE THIS PLACE BETTER NOW?

"Dead last and dead last, huh. Yeah, I came out of two and it was like lap 16 and I ended up in a wad and then we came back in the fall and I wanted to do a little better. I don't know exactly where I was running on the race track, but the motor failed us that day. You just keep coming back, that's what you have to do. That's why this sport challenges you and that's why I feed off the adrenaline that you get from jumping in the race car every Sunday. There are some race tracks that I still have yet to get a top 10. I think Charlotte is one of them and my hometown track, Vegas, so you just have to do the best you can each and every day. The results might be at the opposite ends of the spectrum here at Michigan with DNFs and victories, but we're having a good time with it."

DID YOU SAY YOU WERE FEELING UNDER THE WEATHER?

"A little bit. I have no idea. I woke up this morning with a deep sore throat, so it was very difficult to swallow and get liquids in throughout the race, but as far as my bodies physical strength, it was there, but it was difficult to breathe and have water intake during the race. All in all it wasn't that bad."

HOW MUCH OF WHAT HAPPENED TODAY WAS YOU DEVELOPING A FEEL FOR HOW FAR YOU CAN PUSH A CAR?

"Each time you come back to a race track you have an image of what it was before and how you can attack different corners and apply throttle or turn the wheel. With having two DNFs to begin my Michigan career, it's difficult to gather up track information for my memory bank, so you just have to make more and more laps. The more you feel comfortable with your race car, this is the car we won California Speedway with, so I felt very comfortable when we unloaded it on Friday to go qualify. So when you have that comfort within the car and you know it's gonna stick underneath you when you change a certain spring or a swaybar, that's when the weekend continues to multiply into a better effort because every change you make you're following it - it's in detail - and you don't get behind. Today we learned a little bit about the race track halfway through and that made us loose on the shorter runs. I didn't like the way the car felt and we lost a lot of time for the first 15 laps of a run, so Fennig changed some things back and that allowed me to put the pedal down when we needed to on the short runs."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS LATEST STRETCH OF RUNS?

"When we won three out of the last five last year it's like, 'What's gonna happen.' We kept running well. You keep looking around like, 'What's gonna happen,' but you can't control flat tires. I ran over a brake rotor at Charlotte. You would have thought I could see that big orange glow down the front straightaway, but I didn't - it's just bad racing luck here or there. You have to adjust to it. You have to roll with the punches. You don't wish bad luck on anybody else, but you know, eventually, within 36 races everybody is gonna have their little share."

HOW CONFIDENT WERE YOU TODAY?

"At Michigan, at any race track really, you come with an open mind and you have to learn to put the past behind you. I think that's the most difficult part. Ernie Irvan was probably the classic example here at Michigan with the way he got hurt and then came back to post a victory on his recovery tour. My story isn't half of that or even a quarter of what that amount of success is. You just try to race each race that you can and learn from every lap that you make around the race track. This is a gorgeous race track. I love coming to these two-mile race tracks - these mile-and-a-half tracks that are three lanes wide and where you can race the car aerodynamically and chassis-wise."

ROUSH

WHERE WOULD YOU RANK THIS WIN WITH EVERYTHING GOING ON AT FORD THIS WEEKEND?

"It's probably three. The first was when we won in the fall of '89 with Mark. I wasn't sure we'd ever win a race. Mark wasn't sure he would ever win a Winston Cup race, so that was our first. The second big event was winning here the first time and to win in front of our home crowd and win in front of the big three - to win in our home as far as the parent Roush Industries company. That was big and then, of course, today to be here and win when Ford is celebrating their 100th anniversary. To win on a day with from the way we qualified and the way we ran early, it looked like we weren't gonna get that result in spite of the fact that Ford deserved it from all the support they've given us through the years. I'm really relieved that Kurt and Jimmy were able to make the decisions and the race track came to us in terms of the temperature and the things that happened on the race track with cautions that worked in Kurt's favor."

BUSCH

HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL KNOWING THIS IS ONE OF JACK'S TOP THREE WINS?

"It's mind-boggling to know that Jack has been through so much in his career with Ford Motor Company and as many races as he's won - whether it's road racing, drag racing, obviously the Winston Cup program, Busch championship - I don't know what it does to me just yet but obviously there's a feather in the cap to bring Jack a win every week. This for surely has a surmountable amount of difference than any other week, so it's quite treat to work for this organization and to be able to apply all the knowledge that Jack has given me back into these race cars. To have him say that is truly an honor."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Ernie Irvan , Matt Kenseth , Kurt Busch , Dan Gurney , Henry Ford , Dorsey Schroeder , Mark Martin