No. 97 Crown Royal Taurus - Press Conference KURT BUSCH: "This was our tenth attempt at Richmond and the first couple of times as a rookie you just write this place off, and then after that this place is fast becoming one of my favorite ...
No. 97 Crown Royal Taurus - Press Conference
"This was our tenth attempt at Richmond and the first couple of times as a rookie you just write this place off, and then after that this place is fast becoming one of my favorite race tracks, but also the toughest. This was a short track - the last one on my list to win on for short tracks - and just to be able to have a car that would compete each time for a win. The time previous to this we ran out of gas while leading with eight laps to go. The time before that we had lugnuts get stuck in the brake caliper while leading. The time before that while leading we had fan belts come off the car while leading. So the story kept digging and getting worse and worse and worse for us. Our stats look horrible here with one top 10 finish in 10 starts, so this was a great win. I've come to respect this race track and what you need to do to win. Just to have the open mind of coming in being locked into the chase - to try something a little different, but it wasn't completely out of the box. Just to be able to win at Richmond - check this one off my list - so now I've got all the short tracks. It's too much fun, and to be able to work with a great group of guys and still give 100 percent effort - right now we've hit our stride and now we've got 10 to go. Ten top-10s will definitely do it for us in the next 10 weeks, I hope."
"The only blemish that we had on our night was the 6 car. Mark ran over something and cut a hole in a tire after one of the restarts and had to come in after a few laps. He lost two laps and worked his way to just outside the top 10, I think. But he worked his way back from two laps down - one lap on the race track and one lucky dog award - so that was good. The problem that Jamie McMurray had; the problem that Jeff Gordon had; the problem that the 48 car had, those were all out there for us tonight, but we missed them. Two of our programs that were most vulnerable were obviously the 17 and the 99. The 17 was right behind Kurt. He was the man of the hour. Robbie and those guys did a great job. I'm really missing Jimmy Fennig here. Jimmy's become a media magnet. I'm surprised that we snuck off and he didn't follow us in here, but Jimmy has done such a great job with this team keeping it together and helping Kurt and providing leadership within the group of crew chiefs to advance the technologies that have been complimentary to the tire and the spoiler we've had this year. Personally, I expected to come out tonight with three cars in the top 10. That's what I expected. I was hoping for four, and the fact that Matt didn't have the flat tire and that Matt's engine didn't break. We had the lugnut, the fan belt, I think there may have been one more out there. The litany of things that can happen, that will get on top of you, all of those things stayed away from us tonight. When I look at my programs, I look at Kurt and he's on the top side. This business cycles. You go up and you go down and good things happen and things not so good happen for awhile. You can be doing all the things with the same people and it just goes through cycles. Kurt is obviously headed on the upside of the cycle. Greg is on his way back. Matt is going straight up. Mark is certainly not in a hole. He's running good at most places. Tonight, from 30th position, a third of the time he was back there he had the fastest lap and, of course, was able to pass Kevin Harvick and stay in front until he had a chance to race to get a lap back - to not be awarded it because he was the first car one lap down. So I feel really good.
"Carl learned something tonight. If you don't wreck, you can finish 20th and it's OK in a given situation. Carl has got a learning curve that's straight up, so I'm really excited about the prospect of taking this group of five to the final 10 races here. I couldn't be prouder of them for what they've done. I'm sure that we've got bad luck coming. I wouldn't be surprised before these 10 races are over if we don't have to give back some of the good luck that we've had and get some of the other people's bad luck that's kept them out of the top 10."
CAN YOU CLARIFY THE RELIEF EFFORT?
"Definitely. To have a chance to have a special paint scheme to commemorate something that's very special to our hearts. To have the Crown Royal Relief decal on the hood in a very prominent position out on the TV panel of the back of the car, people got a good look. Some were confused on what it meant. It looks like a hangover relief kind of thing at first, but once you look past it and get into detail, it's an effort to put together money. It's a charity fundraising effort. We've actually got a chopper from Chip Collins that we're gonna auction off on ebay in the upcoming weeks and we're not gonna go any less than what my winnings were tonight. That will be the starting bid. I'll throw that money down. I want to put in a percentage of our souvenir sales through the end of the year. I want to add as much money as I can to that fund and really kick it off. When you have a sponsor that's as strong as a distilled liquor company like Crown Royal, they can make things happen in a unique way. That's the power of advertising and the power of connection to people. So tonight we had a great decal on the car and away we go."
WHAT WAS THE KEY TO WINNING? AND WITH CARS LIKE THIS DO YOU HAVE SECOND THOUGHTS OF LEAVING?
"The key to victory was not to have fan belts come off and not to have lugnuts get stuck in the rotor and to be open-minded enough to change with the race track. This place was resurfaced a couple years ago and the bottom groove was the way to go. Everytime we come back the groove gets higher and higher and you have to adjust for that. So knowing that, you look for a setup that can work in multiple grooves - somewhat similar to New Hampshire and Martinsville - a couple of short tracks that are on the schedule. Just to be able to go out and run competitive lap times in Jack Roush's equipment. To have Jimmy Fennig lead this group it doesn't make me second-guess it, it just makes me feel good in my heart that I know that I'm getting a great effort from the crew guys and everybody behind me to go and capitalize on what's in front of us this year."
DO YOU HAVE A CHASE ADVANTAGE?
"I'm in better shape with five than I would be with one. I think I'm in better with five than I would be with four, unless somebody runs into somebody for reasons that aren't good enough. I'll have to think about that (laughing). No, I'm feeling that we've got five capable and able drivers driving equipment that's organized through great engineering activity, that pools their efforts and works real hard and administered by five crew chiefs that hopefully know what they're doing. On any given day, they've all demonstrated they can win. They've all won this year."
DO YOU CONSIDER THIS A STATEMENT RACE?
"Most definitely. To be able to get a jump and jump into fifth place in points. We were looking at different math going into this race. We were 35 points behind Mark Martin. If we could gain on those 35, then that would give us five more towards the chase. Just to be able to put an exclamation point on Richmond was the biggest goal, but in hindsight, knowing that when you have a chance to win the last regular-season race, it just propels you right into the chase. Knowing that we have our A car waiting for us back at the shop ready to go at New Hampshire, things are shaping up to look just the same as last year. With a little bit of racing luck and a little bit of staying on top of our game and not let the big picture get away, we could do the same thing we did last year."
WILL THERE BE INTERNAL TENSION RACING WITH TEAMMATES?
"I don't think so. I believe early on it will definitely help us understand with the extra testing, with the cars on the race track giving one another extra room and to be able to know that that guy is in the chase, it's definitely a great feeling. As we get closer to the end, let's just say six races, one or two might not be able to have a shot at the championship, but their tests are still just as valid. They're equation of team and race car are gonna help us out. So, if we're out, we're gonna help the other guys. If Edwards falls out or Kenseth, it's still gonna work even better into our hands when we have five guys in the chase."
HOW HARD IS IT TO GET FIVE TEAMS IN THIS THING? "That was the reason that I said I started the night here believing that I only deserved to have three. We had more than our share of good fortune and there was bad luck waiting for us tonight. We had been snake bit so many times by so many different things here. Looking back, this is probably the cleanest we've ever run at Richmond forever with two cars or three cars even let alone four or five. We're just living the dream here with this thing. I know we're gonna have to give it back. Everything averages out for the luck that you can't affect through preparation and strategy. Some of it you just can't do anything about. Carl missed by just a heartbeat, he missed a bad wreck between the 88 and I forget who he wrecked with back there, but he was all over the top of that and caved the fender in a little bit. A little bit more and he would have wound up tangled up like Jamie McMurray did."
DO YOU THINK MATT BENEFITS THE MOST WITH RESETTING THE POINTS?
"Based from the middle of the year on, everybody but Matt probably felt like they had a real good shot at it. In the early part of the year, Matt didn't run very well and we had some things break against us. We stopped for two tires when four tires was better. It wasn't clear, but that's the way it worked out. Stop for four tires and two were better. We may have run the thing out of gas once. I'm trying to remember about that for sure, but we just had a number of things that broke that were bad and it certainly looked like that he wasn't gonna be in, but I guarantee that they'll be anticipating Christmas like a seven-year-old between now and Thanksgiving time - or the week before that - when we go to Homestead. The 17 has had a Cinderella finish to the 26 races here and they're on their game. They're a championship level team. In our world, nobody has better pit stops. Nobody is more sure-handed. They have a lineup of cars that are good cars and that they're comfortable with, that is ready to go forward, and the things they've tried lately have all worked. They've had more improvement throughout the second half of the year than any of our other teams and I'm sure they're real excited about that. They believe they can win and that means a lot."
Continued in part 2