KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie Taurus (Qualified 2nd) PRESS CONFERENCE HOW IS YOUR CAR? "So far it's been a good car for us. It's shown potential in race trim and in qualifying trim and I was real happy with it in practice yesterday. I didn't ...
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie Taurus (Qualified 2nd)
HOW IS YOUR CAR? "So far it's been a good car for us. It's shown potential in race trim and in qualifying trim and I was real happy with it in practice yesterday. I didn't think that many people made qualifying runs, so we didn't know where we were gonna shake out. But we were able to post a really strong lap. It was a career lap for Michael and I was surprised, but yet I expected it from Michael. He drove away from us in practice, so I think he's got a strong car for this weekend. Our Sharpie Ford, we need to start up front. Track position is key here and with the way the tires have reacted to the track lately, we just need to make sure that we set up our race car so that we can be competitive at the end of the race."
DID IT FEEL FUNNY NOT SHIFTING? "Yeah, it doesn't feel like we're stretching the car to its full limit. When you're shifting twice a lap, four times a lap, it feels like you're on the ragged edge - downshifting, upshifting, sliding tires. Now with it in fourth gear the whole time, it seems like you're running at a slower pace and you're tighter, so you have to loosen up the race car. I had those hand glitches. I just kept jumping over there wanting to grab the shifter so I could come off the corner stronger, but that's the new rule package. Whatever we're given as far as the competition value -- the race within - you just have to find the right combination to go fast. I think last year the qualifying speed was like a 52.4, but right now we're nine-tenths or eight-tenths slower than that. That's exactly what it's done to the setups. You just have to change and go with the change of time."
DID YOU NOTICE ANY DIFFICULTIES IN PASSING OR SIDE BY SIDE RACING IN PRACTICE? "Our car was primarily by itself. We didn't get into any groups of cars. One thing that I do think will happen with no shifting is that if you get a couple of cars side by side and they hold each other up quite a bit that the third car behind will get a tremendous run. It'll be three-wide and then if he doesn't clear there's gonna be more congestion going into the next corner. What will happen is if you're in front of that congestion point, you're gonna be able to stretch out. But if you're behind it, you're gonna catch it quick and then you're gonna be in it. So you're gonna see guys racing side by side. Cars are gonna be sliding in and then up the race track, and then the guy that waits for him to slide in too hard will cut underneath him. So it'll provide some great side by side action after restarts and when there is a congested bunch of cars, but I think if you're in front of it you'll be able to stretch out and stretch your lead."
WHAT ABOUT CLEAN AIR HERE? "Clean air is always important, especially at Pocono. The straightaways are long and some guys gear up for straightaway speed and some guys gear up for corner speed. This place always challenges both of those qualities. I don't think it's gonna hurt passing. I think it's just gonna take a different approach. Turn three used to be the big focus to get that good run off of three and down the front straightaway. Now I think all three corners have a strong potential for passing somebody. If they goof up that corner, you really can't downshift and save yourself now. You really have to carry your momentum."
HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR PROGRAM NOW? "Each of the races we've shown potential to finish well and lead laps, and then we've had some run-ins with blown-up tires. We were in good position at Martinsville to finish well and got tapped from behind. At Charlotte, I really don't know what happened there. Obviously, I'll have to go and test with the new surface there for the fall race, but to be eighth in points I think we're a little bit behind where we thought we could be. There are guys with the same statistics as us with a win and a top five and a top 10 and they're in the top three or four in points, so with us being eighth it doesn't leave much margin for error. We still have to continue to run hard and make sure that we're solidly in the chase. We still have plenty of races to go for people to have bad luck. I think we've gotten ours out of the way and we'll be underway with what we call the stretch leading to the chase. You can't really use up your tests, but you still want to run hard to make your way in. We're definitely a little bit off pace, but we've shown some great strength already this year with a win and the top 10 finishes that we have."
DO YOU REMEMBER MICHAEL'S LAST POLE IN 1991? "This year I've qualified second twice now. The other time was to Gordon in Phoenix and I think that was his 74th career pole. I went up to him and I said, 'This shows how long you've been around.' So I'm gonna say the same thing to Michael when we go have driver introductions on Sunday."
WHAT DO YOU THINK TRACK CONDITIONS WILL BE LIKE WITH THIS BEING AN IMPOUND RACE? "The Hoosier rubber from the ARCA cars will plague us a little bit with the way the track is filled in and greasier and then it changes over to the Goodyear rubber once a quantity of cars go out there. So the beginning of the race will definitely be interesting. I know Michael is gonna charge hard to lead that first lap, and if we can get in a nice groove and have long green-flag runs, I think that'll be better for everybody because I want to go see the Cubs play the Red Sox tomorrow night."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT THE ROUSH ORGANIZATION THAT MAKES IT SO STRONG THAN OTHER TEAMS? "It's a combination of both - you have to have the men to build the right cars and then you have to have the right drivers to drive those great race cars. To start off the year, I think the Roush team did a better job than most teams of balancing out the new spoiler. Some teams were hurt by the downforce that they lost, but I think we were able to maintain a great deal of downforce from that change. And then Greg Biffle, I caught kind of a hot streak like this at the end of 2002 leading into 2003 and if you can ride that wave you ride that wave. You get on those hot streaks, and my little brother is doing real well in all of his races - Busch, Cup and Truck. You just ride that wave and you for as long as you can and hope that it lasts for a long time."
ANY CONCERNS ABOUT THE DURABILITY OF THE ENGINES? "We had a competitive combination of transmission gears, both rear end gears and rpm from last year, but to hear some of the numbers that his camp ran last year - the Hendrick cars - about 10,000 rpm, what it's done is it's brought everybody back into a closer box. It doesn't necessarily take away Jimmie Johnson's advantage that he had last year, but he's definitely more within reach this time around. I know we were near 9500 last year and he was about 600-700 rpm above us. This year we've been able to close that gap, so it's definitely gonna be an interesting race on Sunday."
ARE YOU GOING TO SING AT THE CUBS GAME? "I'll sing, but I'll be in the grandstands in the bleachers with the regular crowd. But I do have the opportunity the first of August to go up there. They called our PR department to have the 2004 champion come up and sing, so I'll have my chance. Maybe I'll take Gordon along with me for a few pointers (laughing)."