Richmond: Kurt Busch - Dodge Friday interview

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Avenger) "It feels good to get back to the short tracks. That's where I've seemed to have some of my success. After Talladega we went down to the old Rockingham Speedway and did some testing. That was ...

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Avenger)

"It feels good to get back to the short tracks. That's where I've seemed to have some of my success. After Talladega we went down to the old Rockingham Speedway and did some testing. That was interesting for us. We went there to try to get better prepared for the Darlington race coming up next weekend. We're testing as much as we can, getting things put together in the right fashion. It's been interesting the past few weeks to have some bad breaks on the track yet have a good, solid finish at Talladega to bump us up in points. We feel like we're starting to put it together, but yet there's a long way to go."

HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR SEASON SO FAR? "I'd say at some tracks we've had an A-plus, like at restrictor-plate tracks, a few tracks like Bristol or the first race of the COT we really struggled, so that was below average. I'd have to give us a B with being back in the top 10. We've led laps I believe at half of the races this year. It's just gone unnoticed. I think that's where the comment was and maybe a little bit of frustration of most of the time in my career when things are going good it doesn't get the publicity it wants. The bad stuff gets the publicity around my name. We're definitely getting all that behind us and working at getting this Miller Lite Dodge Charger and Avenger faster every week."

IS DARLINGTON GOING TO BE TOTALLY DIFFERENT FOR THE COT? "I think you hit the nail on the head. That's a great question and a big concern for a lot of the race teams to not know what to expect from the COT at Darlington. It'll be the first real challenge of what the future holds for that race car and how it drives there and how it races. You won't see that side-by-side, nose-to-tail action, just because you don't see that at Darlington. Just the way the asphalt is so old and it's so rough and there's virtually no grip in that asphalt, it's really going to be a one off race. It'll be a big, big test. There's going to be a lot of right-side damage I can tell you that. There's going to be Darlington stripes on everybody. Not one car will come out of there clean with the right-side intact. It'll be intact but it'll have the Darlington stripes."

DID THE ROCKINGHAM TEST HELP? "Yeah, the Rockingham surface is old and just as abrasive as the Darlington surface, so we went there to see how our car would react with stiff springs, soft springs, there's just so many unknowns with the COT. We had to at least go there with our checklist and cut it in half. If we had 10 questions we probably still have five of them left, but it was good to go there and test. Does it want a big swaybar? Does it want a little swaybar? You never know. The COT still continues to be able to accept any setup, but we're trying to narrow it down so it can give us the best overall speed. At the same time, working with an interim crew chief (Troy Raker) it's been a unique challenge. He has fresh ideas and he has an ambitious work ethic just like Roy (McCauley) did, but he's got a lot of knowledge with shocks and that's been a whole new ballgame for me, working with shocks instead of springs and cross weight and weight balance. Shocks are usually something you use as a fine tuning tool, but with the COT it's tough to do fine tuning when the box is so big right now."

COMMENT ON FANS THROWING BEER CANS AT TALLADEGA "I hope we can take all those cans and recycle them and put them to good use. I'm disappointed fans threw them over the fence and they didn't enjoy the beverage product that they were trying to enjoy. It's disrespectful to themselves, NASCAR and I think Jeff Gordon as well. Not every day does somebody beat the record Dale Earnhardt Sr. has in the record books. It needs to be recognized. I think it's very important. To see the way fans have reacted at Talladega in the past is very tough. I'm disappointed with it. I made a joke they should have been able to enjoy their Miller Lites instead of throw them over the fence."

ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT COPY CATS? "It's happened at Talladega plenty of times, but it just doesn't seem to happen at other racetracks. I think we can hope everything is good this weekend. There's no concern in the garage area that I know of. I'm concerned every time I go out for driver intros that things are going to be thrown at me. I just go every day as a new day and if I survive then I'm going to come back around for another day."

COMMENT ON YOUR BROTHER'S HANS DEVICE "I haven't got an update. I hope they got a third party opinion about the HANS device, not from just NASCAR and not from just Hendrick. It did protect Kyle in the accident. It was just a small crack and when it starts getting written about it turns out to be broken in half. You never know what the story is going to turn out to be. With him, he's safe. He jumped out of the car. I was very concerned obviously being my little brother that he was going to be all right. If it was a small crack and it's something we need to research and develop even further. I think that's something we need to take under consideration. This could be a step in a forward direction instead of a backwards direction."

HOW HAS KYLE BEEN DEALING WITH ALL THE HARD HITS? "It's a scenario I've seen many drivers go through, including myself, where you have very fast racecars each and every week. You have good opportunities to win races and you're not sealing the deal. I've talked to him about it and the experience I've had with it and I think he's got that intensity that one week he didn't win so he's going to go push harder the next week. Then he goes and pushes harder again and it gets to the point where he's out of his element and he needs to get focused and get back to the basics instead of trying to push hard and make up for lost ground. It's the Busch Series stuff. He needs to make sure he doesn't lose focus on his Cup ride and the things that are going on with his regular car, the COT. He just needs to look at the bigger picture. I know he's frustrated with it, but overall he has to be happy because he's got fast race cars and he can go out there and try to win races with it. A lot of young drivers go through it. It makes you stronger in the end, but it's tough when you go try to pass a car for the lead at Talladega and the only thing that happens is you get wrecked and you're on TV for a broken HANS device. The guy that spun you is Tony Stewart and that seems to be overshadowed. It's interesting when you're racing certain guys things happen, but it's been different people all along where he's had big issues. He needs to cinch the belts down a little tighter and focus on the basics at hand and he'll be fine."

WHO HELPED YOU WITH SIMILAR PROBLEMS? "I really didn't have the support I ever expected, so it was mainly just family, talking with my dad and bouncing ideas off of him. That's who Kyle has always looked to for advice. It was back 2002 in the back of the season when we won a bunch of races and 2003 started off strong and started to struggle and finished 11th in points that year. We were just pushing too hard, so you have to get back to the basics and it takes time. It's not just one week. It seems like certain situations have to come together and it gets you back in your groove and 2004 ended up being a prosperous year. It's all been a good learning curve for Kyle. He just needs to accept it that way."

HAVE YOU AND KYLE EVER THOUGHT ABOUT PLAYING 'BLACK HAT' ROLES? "To be yourself is the best anecdote to control any situation. To be young and win races and be from the west coast is a unique element in this mix. Sometimes we speak our minds amongst drivers and it gets turned and sometimes we speak our mind and it gets portrayed exactly that way. It's just a matter of being yourself and in the end I'm sure it will even out. Fans are out

there in numbers, Kyle Busch fans and Kurt Busch fans that support our products. It's unique that the NASCAR world is able to root for their driver and then throw beer cans at a guy that wins... We just keep working at it and going out there and doing the job we feel like we need to do for our team owner and sponsors."

WHY ARE WE SEEING A DIFFERENT KURT BUSCH? "For me it's being comfortable in the situation I'm in, working with Roger Penske and being able to build up this program. It's great to walk in the front door of Penske Racing and seeing the cleanliness and organization and structure. The place demands performance. I didn't have that before. I've got a great group of people around me and they always support me and they give you the comfort that everything is going to be great. It's fun to work that way. It's translated on the track to be open minded, to being out there looking for fresh ideas. Right now we're knocking on the door, but we still have a few races to go to be able to do it continuously."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Roger Penske , Kyle Busch