KURT BUSCH (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T)
TALK ABOUT COMING TO BRISTOL. “It’s always an exciting weekend with it being the Bristol night race. So many years as a kid watching the race, this one was the one you always looked forward to as far as the action, the excitement, and the sparks that would be flying, just the genuine battles that we've always anticipated during the night race. This is that exciting stage. So it's a cool weekend for us to try to get back on track with a nice, solid finish.
“Looking forward to the Chase, we've got three races to go. We have a good point’s cushion, yet we want to try to move forward with a race win and put ourselves in position with this Sprint Summer Showdown, to be eligible for it next week in Atlanta.
“I actually had the question brought up to me this week about running Nationwide again. You know, I turned it down. I thought the best opportunity for us to get our Cup program right where it needed to be was to just focus a hundred percent on it. It made me think, though, what the Nationwide Series is about. It's a development program, a development series for people to work their way on up to Cup. So to encourage the decision makers at Penske to put Parker Kligerman in there, I think that's perfect. It's an opportunity for a young driver to try to make a name for himself and to have a good run this weekend.
“The attention will be on him because that is a championship car, and it has had a lot of big names in it this year. You know, I look back on a lot of people's careers, having the opportunity to fill in for somebody hurt can make your career happen in a quick way. So good luck to Parker this weekend in the Nationwide race.”
WITH FIVE WINS HERE, IS THERE A BALANCE WHEN YOU GET THAT SATISFACTION OF A VICTORY, IS IT AS MUCH AS GETTING THE WIN OR JUST SURVIVING AT BRISTOL? “The focus for me has always been to survive the first 400 laps and be in position to try to win with 100 to go. So you're working at it all day to get close to where you need to be to win, but you're surviving. 'Surviving' is the key to winning at Bristol.
“To answer your question, it's both within the same. You have to survive, but then you have to find yourself close to the front to be in position to win. To be able to do it a few different ways in the past, there's that experience level that we bring in. Steve Addington has won here quite a bit as well. We're definitely looking to get back on track this weekend."
THE ODDS ARE OVER THE YEARS THAT THE CHAMPION IS GOING TO COME FROM THE TOP CHASE GROUP. HOW REALISTIC IS IT THAT GUYS WHO ARE STARTING THE CHASE IN THE BACK HAVE A GOOD SHOT AT WINNING? “Well, the back half is the same as the front half with this new points system. Two weeks ago, I was third, 14 points out of the lead. Now we're eighth, 60 out of the lead. The new points system is going to change that all around. Brad Keselowski is the hottest driver around right now. He's going to be the last one brought into the Chase if the Chase was going to start today. You can rattle off three top fives in a row and be leading this thing three races into the Chase.”
GOING INTO THE LAST 10 RACES, ONLY A HANDFUL OF GUYS HAVE FIGURED OUT HOW TO WIN THE CHASE. IS THERE A FORMULA TO PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME? LOOKING AT THE 18 RIGHT NOW, GIVEN HIS WIN LAST WEEK, THE NEXT THREE RACES COMING UP, IS HE PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME? “Yeah, I believe so. They’re showing their strength. The teams that don't quite have it figured out are scratching their head a little bit going, ‘Wow, we aren't in the same position they are’. Those were words, like Tony Stewart last week saying, ‘we're not running competitive enough. We'll hopefully make the Chase, but we don't have a shot at the championship. Am I wasting a position in the Chase’?
“No, he's not. He's just a little frustrated that they're not able to rifle off that top five each and every week, that Kyle is winning, that there are a few guys stronger than them. There's different ways to think about it all the way through. I know that the Chase starts in Chicago this year, and that's when every point matters. That's when you race like it's the last lap at Pocono to gain every point.”
LOOKING AT THE STATS, IT LOOKS LIKE ALL YOUR WINS CAME BEFORE THE TRACK WAS RECONFIGURED BACK IN 2007. ARE YOU SURPRISED YOU HAVEN’T TAKEN IT TO VICTORY LANE YET? “The car of tomorrow and the new configuration definitely squashed any advantage I had with sorting out the chassis and figuring out this new race track. Kyle has got all of his wins, I think, in the new configuration and with the COT. It's amazing how when you catch a good setup, it will give you a good run for three, four years, and you put yourself in position to win. This is finally, I think, our time to try to turn that around and be competitive for a win. The closest we've been was a third in the spring race, I think, last year. It's frustrating to know that you've won at a track so many times, but yet with a new configuration and a new car, it's a whole different game.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FANS DON’T UNDERSTAND ABOUT RACING AT BRISTOL OR THAT PEOPLE WHO WATCH ON TV MIGHT NOT SEE THAT YOU SEE BEHIND THE WHEEL? “It’s a place where things happen so fast. You have to actually drive through the guy's windshield in front of you to see what he sees and to try to stay out of trouble. Things just happen so fast and you have to be able to react and anticipate. When you see, on a restart, somebody that's pushing real bad and they're sliding up, you've got to be able to get underneath them and not waste time because things happen so fast. Lap times, 15 seconds a lap, you're cranking off laps. Before you know it, you've got a full fuel run under your belt. It's just how fast things change here. You just have to roll and understand you got to react really quick to be successful here.”
(WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING TO GET OUT OF YOUR TEAM THESE NEXT THREE RACES BEFORE THE CHASE? SECONDLY, WITH KYLE’S WIN LAST WIN, HE TIES YOU IN CUP WINS. YOU HAVE THE ADVANTAGE ON CHAMPIONSHIPS. IS THAT A LITTLE FRIENDLY COMPETITION THERE? “Yeah, for us, the next three weeks are to polish up on a couple areas where we're not as strong as we need to be, and that is making adjustments during the race and having just that keen sense to know what to do next with air pressure, track bar, wedge adjustments, as well as our guys jumping over the wall to polish up on some of the new things they've been working on as crew members to get the fastest pit stops. Those two areas we're looking to fine tune these next three weeks.
“With Kyle and I, you know, now tied with the same amount of wins, it's great. Especially here at Bristol, we've both got five (wins) as well. This is a great head-to-head battle this weekend. We both have five wins here. We both have 23 in the Cup Series overall. It's great. I mean, he had a breakout year in, what, 2008 with the Car of Tomorrow. I almost went winless that year. So when you have eight wins to almost just one, that can change the game real quick. He's added up the wins with the Car of Tomorrow a lot quicker than I have.”
WE HEAR FROM A LOT OF FANS WHEN THEY RECONFIGURED THIS TRACK, THEY ACTUALLY SCREWED IT UP. A HANDFUL OF FANS LIKE THE NEW CONFIGURATION. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO FANS THAT SAY THEY’VE SCREWED UP THE RACING AND DO YOU THINK IT’S BETTER NOW? “Well, this is Bristol. It's what we have. You know, there's been quite a few drivers that have helped with the configuration on what we have today, most notably Rusty Wallace, who has helped create his legendary status here at Bristol. Moving the banking around a little bit here, a little bit around there, making it wider, creating the atmosphere for two-wide, sometimes three-wide racing at a half-mile track, there's not any other half-mile track across the country that can provide the racing atmosphere that Bristol can.
"We're just not seeing as many wrecks as we used to in the past. But this track is mean. It is rough. It is tough. It will chew you up and spit you out just like the old one would. You always are going to have the people that are thinking positive and then you're going to have the people that are thinking negative about it. The problem is, this is what we have and this is the best Bristol I've seen.”
YOU TALKED ABOUT HOW FAST THINGS HAPPEN HERE. DO YOU EVER GET AT A POINT IN A LONG GREEN-FLAG RUN WHERE YOU’RE NOT EVEN CONCIOUS OF WHICH TURN YOU’RE IN? “If you forgot which corner you're heading into, you'd end up wrecking or spinning out. What's unique at Bristol, Turns One and Two are so much tighter and narrower than Turns Three and Four. The two ends race very differently, which really provides a unique challenge for the crew and driver to balance out the setup for both ends of the racetrack. You do get into long runs here and you are rifling off laps. The thing you lose track of is lap count. Before you know it, you've got 90 laps on your tires on a long run, and you thought you were only out there for 15 or 20 laps."