WHAT ABOUT THIS SUCCESS? JACK ROUSH , Car Owner - No. 97 IRWIN/Sharpie Taurus "This is our 18th year, our 35th and 36th outing at the Poconos. I've always loved coming up here on the mountains. The air is dry and clean and crisp. I think ...
WHAT ABOUT THIS SUCCESS?
, Car Owner - No. 97 IRWIN/Sharpie Taurus
"This is our 18th year, our 35th and 36th outing at the Poconos. I've always loved coming up here on the mountains. The air is dry and clean and crisp. I think there's more oxygen from all these trees, but we didn't manage to get it right on the race track. Mark ran second, I think, four times. We had a number of good outings, but we just couldn't quite close the deal. Our engines are great. Doug and Robert and all the guys are doing just a super job on the engines with all the hundred-and-some people we've got on staff down there. We haven't had - knock on wood - mechanical failures this year that we've had sometimes and, hopefully, those aren't in front of us waiting for the last 10 races. But engines have been great. We're not struggling to find competitive horsepower. The horsepower seems to be adequate and they're just incredible. They're never late for the crew chiefs to set their cars up. The engines are just out of the equation in terms of being a problem. They're just perfect for us right now. The big thing is that we're in our second year with this new Taurus. Last year was the first year. We were very lucky for Kurt to be able to win the championship and Jimmy to be able to win that championship last year in the Irwin Industrial Tools Ford, but we didn't really have the measure of it. We had cars all over the map and over the winter we sat down and looked at the things going right and the things that didn't work. We consolidated our car construction activity and we built a lot of cars that are very similar. That's one of the things that made it possible for Carl to get in there and do a good job was the fact that we understood what a good Taurus was and were able to put it under him. We're gonna have a change in the car for next year and that will be a little bit of an upset, but it looks like the numbers off the car - from its initial testing - are about where this car is - more similar to this car than I'm going to call it the '97 model that we changed in 2004. It's more similar to the 2004 car than the 2004 car was to the '97 car. Beyond that, there's a lot of science in the suspension and the springs and the shocks, and we were also probably a little behind the curve on that last year. I know Kurt and Jimmy - Jimmy was not slow to accept it - but Kurt was slow to accept the notion of what had previously been the rate of the rear springs in the front and the rate of the front springs in the rear. So you've got rear springs that are twice or three times as heavy as the front springs and we used to do it the other way around. I think I said that right. The rear springs now are considerably heavier than the front springs, even though the car is biased in its weight up front, and all the contemporary wisdom had been to put the light springs in the back and to keep the car off the springs so it didn't bottom out when it went in the corner. Well, right now we're controlling the ride height of the cars and keeping the balance down on the ground for the air effect by bottoming the springs out. I know when we went to Chicago, Jimmy and Kurt had finally had enough of getting beat with it and they said, 'Alright, this is our science project. We don't like the way it feels, but we're gonna do it,' and they got through it with a new understanding of the chassis that all of the guys had pretty much been on and the rest of the garage was pretty much on.
"So the springs and the shocks and the bars have come together on the Taurus. Great engines from the Roush-Yates organization. Everybody in the organization is doing a great job. The pit stops are all great. Andy is doing a great job with the training and the practice and everything, and it's all come together. I'd like to think that we're getting ready to peak for these last 10 races, but Kurt and Jimmy were in no panic to win races or to lead a bunch of laps as long as they were comfortably in the 10. But the closer we get to it, the more urgency there is to really show what we've got and, among all the inventory of cars that are available, to pick the ones that they're gonna want to take at the races that really count at the end."
WHAT ARE YOU THINKING WITH THREE CARS UP THERE BATTLING FOR THE WIN?
ROUSH: "What was going through my mind is it looked like it was Kurt's race to lose. He had been the dominant car in the field and the dominant Roush car all day, so if he didn't run over something or a part didn't break and fall off the car, he was gonna be the car that had the greatest chance. Carl had taken a chance and took two tires, along with Greg and a number of other people. Although he was doing a great job on two tires, he probably wasn't as fast and didn't look like he was as fast as Mark Martin. There was some anxiety that he would race Mark the way Mark would have raced him if he would have had the better tires. So we were watching all that to see how that developed. I was hoping that we didn't have big pileup and take out three of our four cars. Predictably, Kurt was gonna be out front, down and gone, but I was real nervous how the rest of it was gonna work out."
, Driver - No. 97 IRWIN/Sharpie Taurus
"It was really a superb day. This is Pocono perfection for Jack this year and for us to dominate today and put laps together on short runs, long runs, it's just a tribute to what the crew is doing for me and that's building great cars, super pit stops. It's just a matter of having everything fall our way, which we only depended on pit strategy and it did at the end. It was a super car. It's a big win for us. To get back into victory lane at a big, fast race track, we haven't done that since the summer of 2003, so this is a big momentum run for us. We couldn't be more excited. A few more small races before we get into the chase and then it's time to go, so this definitely helps us."
WILL YOU LOOK AT THE BRAKE SITUATION?
ROUSH: "The short answer to that is yes. We'll go back, probably not tomorrow, but probably by Tuesday there will be a tear down layout of all the brakes off all the cars and we'll evaluate them. Kurt also had a problem, if I understood what I was hearing correctly, where he lost his brake once, too. So there was an issue, I think, where there was some knock back - where you're going through a harmonic and knocking the pads back, and then you had to pump them unpredictably. I think that's probably what happened to Kurt. It was something more sinister that happened to Mark, and I think Matt also had a problem. So there was something going on that we've got to look at the hydraulic side of it and the pads and the rotors and see if something is glaring. We came from Loudon and I looked at Greg's brake pads after the race was over - his rotors - he finished second and he had horrible brake rotors and Kurt's were perfect. They looked like they'd run another race, so we set up a show-and-tell last week and Greg appreciated the difference in the wear that was associated with the pads that he hadn't previously wanted to use. He got cured and he didn't have the pad problem I'm sure. This is a constant process of evaluating the components and dealing with the various race tracks. Here to for we ran more gear here, and you slowed down, you had engine braking that would slow you down, so the duty cycle brakes is much more severe this year than it's ever been based on the gear rule."
DID YOU THINK THE RACE WAS EVER GOING TO END?
BUSCH: "It seemed like lap 1 to 100 went by pretty quick with us out front putting on a torrid pace. Then looking forward to the end, you always have to look out for the unforeseen circumstance, whether it's the extra yellows. You have more competitive cars at the end of a race once people dial in their chassis, and then to be able to race veterans like Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin, who are in their final years. It was exciting for me. It was a challenge and it was great to be able to come out on top. You always have to race every lap for what it's worth and until the checkered flag drops your job isn't done. That's the motto that I keep. If it's not won and over yet, we keep digging. I had a great race car that would restart well. It would run fast lap times at the beginning of a run and at the end, so it was just a matter of getting to lap 200 and then there's always a chance for a green-white-checker and we put the hammer down and we went. It's just a great tribute to what my team gave me for a car. I'm real proud to drive Jimmy Fennig's equipment."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE THIS MOMENTUM TO INDY AND ARE YOU GLAD YOU HAVE A WEEK OFF?
BUSCH: "I'm glad there's a weekend off. It's such a strenuous run for our guys. The A team, the B team that shows up every Sunday, they need a weekend off. It's at a time in the season where it could be a better timing event, but if you can get everybody focused and their batteries recharged and ready to rip for Indy, the Indianapolis race is gaining popularity and gaining prestige every year, and it feels like the Daytona 500 when we go in there but it's only for a short three days. It'll be nice to have this weekend off. I'm heading overseas to Eastern Europe to watch the Formula One race and to hang out with Bernie Ecclestone, so that will be fun."
ROUSH: "The rest of the good news there is that in addition to getting a week off, it also gives them time to turn the car around, so there is a very good possibility that that car will be under a different paint scheme, but it will be at Indianapolis. Kurt and Jimmy will meet on that, but Jimmy and I are in discussion and he's leaning pretty heavy that way."
DO YOU FEEL YOU RUINED THE RUSTY-MARK RETIREMENT PARTY?
BUSCH: "In one aspect. Those two competitors, between the two of them, probably have 50 top 10s here, and it's really neat to race against guys like that - to challenge their knowledge and to be able to come out on top, I'm just beside myself. Especially with Rusty there and Mark. I mean, what two better competitors. There are still guys like four-time champion Gordon out there and then there's Bill Elliott that runs occasionally, to be able to run against those veterans and to have the notoriety from our championship last season, it doesn't put me in that column, but yet it's great to race with those guys because you feel as if you're more familiar with their territory and there's a trust factor as well."
HOW DIFFERENT WAS THE CAR IN TRAFFIC AND ANY DOUBT ABOUT GETTING BACK TO THE FRONT?
BUSCH: "It was a challenge once we got pushed back. I think the top eight had two tires and then we got beat out of the pits by Newman, so we were like ninth or 10th with four fresh tires. I knew we could pick off a few right away, and then it's tough because we hadn't been back in those restarts all day, so you're three-wide, you're with lapped cars. You're trying to pass this one guy and now you're three-wide and somebody else is going by you. It's tough. When the car is running up front, it seems like there is no evil, and then you get back behind a few guys and all kinds of evil comes out in it. It doesn't turn in. It doesn't stick as good in the center of the corner, so the car was a bit tighter. We made adjustments for that and then once we did get back up to the lead the car was loose. That's why I couldn't quite get back by Mark Martin, I think with like 40 to go. So we made some good adjustments in the pits and we outraced him at the end. That's what it takes is just the patience when you're behind and a go-to car when you're up front."
WERE YOU WATCHING THE BATTLE FOR SECOND?
BUSCH: "It's always good to see competitors race against each other when they're behind you. That enables the leader to stretch out his lead a little bit, and knowing who it was back there and how hungry they are to win, it was exciting just to see those guys. I was hoping we could just check out and do our own deal, but to see the 2 and the 6 back there, it's reminiscent of old times and it'll be a long time again before there are some old drivers in those seats."
THOUGHTS ON WATCHING MARK AND RUSTY RACE?
ROUSH: "Watching Mark and Rusty race together is really a treat. You know I came on the scene with both of them in 1988, but they had 10 years of really hard racing between them. The last time I was down at Mark's museum, where he's got all his trophies and old race cars and his artifacts, I saw pictures of he and Rusty that looked like they weren't 15 years old when they started. I remember how mortified I was because Buddy Parrott tried to drag me off the top of a pit box at Dover one day, that's before he worked for me, when Mark had wrecked Rusty at Dover. He slid under him down in turn three and lost it and just plowed him. Rusty went careening into the wall and Mark went on and finished pretty good that day. He used him for a buffer. Anyway, I was sure there was gonna be fistfight over that deal. That was bad, but the embraced one another and commiserated about times gone past but I didn't know anything about. So as interesting and as emotional as it is for me to watch those two guys duking it out for what I believe is the last year in these cars, I'm sure that it really is tugging at their hearts as well."
WITH 37 TO GO YOU TOOK FOUR TIRES AND RUSTY TWO. DID THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
BUSCH: "That's a decision for the crew chiefs to make and it's great to see the overall outcome favored our path with four tires. That's the challenge is to evaluate how many laps are left. Track position is obviously in the favor of two tires, but then competitive lap times are in the favor of four tires, so can the four tires overcome the two? There has to be a certain amount of laps and there can't be a large quantity of cars that take two tires. So when we came back out on the track and we looked at who was in front of us, with the amount of tires that they had, it looked as if we were poised for a good run because we had the advantage with four fresh tires. So that's the thing, you just have to evaluate it and look at it with the amount of laps left versus the amount of guys you believe are gonna stretch it for two tires. It ended up in our favor and that's the trust that I have in Jimmy Fennig. He gives me great stuff."
IT LOOKS LIKE LAST YEAR. DO YOU FEEL ANY PRESSURE BEING THE DEFENDING CHAMP?
BUSCH: "This was a big win for us. To win at a big race track and to dominate such as we did is a great feeling. You need that blend of good finishes as well as camaraderie with the team and to know that we're up for the challenge again. We've got a great group of guys that jump over the wall to give me great pit stops, to come in leading and continue to come out leading, and at this point in the season everybody feels a little bit of pressure to lay the hammer down a little bit harder and to be a bit more conservative when they're making passes out on the track because I'm racing against Rusty in points. He's fourth and I'm fifth and he finishes second today, so we didn't gain much in points but, yet, what it does is it eliminates a race for bad things to happen leading up to New Hampshire when we race for the final 10. So we've got a small group of tracks that we need consistent finishes on and when you show strength going into the chase, it can only help you with the intimidating factor and the other teams are now having to gun for whose got the distinct advantage. Right now the 20 is hot. Biffle has been hot all year. If we can blend into that, we're just one of the top five guys that are gonna have a competitive edge going into the chase."
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE PIT STOP THAT PUT YOU BACK?
BUSCH: "I believe eight out of the 10 cars that were in front of us took two tires, and then we were beat off of pit road by a couple of guys that took four with us. I guess the jack wasn't up high enough to get the left-rear tire on. So the jackman made a stumble, or I heard the lugnuts came off and they came off because the jack wasn't high enough for the tire to slide on easily. So the left-rear tire got bound up a little bit going in onto the studs and it may have knocked a couple of lugnuts off. There was no big fault. We were well within the parameters of our pit box, we just didn't quite get the jack up high enough. That made us falter a little bit, but you always have to bounce back. You can't get hard on your team. If you do that, then they're not gonna be as focused and determined to give you that solid pit stop the next time around. I kept quiet and kept conservative and you know that things will come out better in the end when you go about just focusing on your job, and I know the crew guys are doing the same thing as well."
HOW WERE YOU ABLE TO PULL AWAY SO EASILY FROM RUSTY?
BUSCH: "I've always liked watching Ron Hornaday and the way that he restarts, whether he's in Cup or Busch or Truck, even thke Southwest Series when I watched him growing up. Hornaday was the man, and if you can stretch out to a three or four-car length lead over the final two laps, you've got a pretty good chance of winning. For us, it's a matter of keeping an eye on the mirror as well as the restart line and timing it out right. It looked like Rusty was just trying to get a solid advantage to out-motor us down into turn one, so you just time it right, and you look for flaws that can beat the other guy and we were able to do it three times in a row, which is very tough to do over a veteran such as Rusty Wallace."