KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) YOUR THOUGHTS ON BEING BACK ON THE TOP OF THE DRIVER POINTS? "It's great to be able to survive Talladega like we did. The 24 car has some problems as well as the 48 and that's enabled us to gain the...
KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
YOUR THOUGHTS ON BEING BACK ON THE TOP OF THE DRIVER POINTS? "It's great to be able to survive Talladega like we did. The 24 car has some problems as well as the 48 and that's enabled us to gain the points lead, but really it's just a matter of continuing to work as hard as we can to make our Miller Lite Dodge handle the right way and make sure that we keep up the consistency that we've put together so far. It's good to be back at a short-track and to have that feel that, 'hey, the big one is behind us for now. It's of in the radar up ahead sometime in October when we have to go race back to Talladega.' For this track, we want to use our Phoenix setup. We finished up third in Phoenix a few weeks back, but we do know that it's a short track and we've struggled a little bit on short tracks this year with 11th at Bristol and 18th at Martinsville. I'm looking for a good run tonight (during qualifying). I'm really enjoying this type of practice schedule where we have to get all our race setup and our qualifying trim done in one afternoon. So you have tire management, you can't use all your tires up too soon. Then you have to bolt them on for qualifying towards the end - we produced fifth quickest after we ran some qualifying runs. I'm looking forward to a good run. This place, 400 laps is a long race. Pit strategy always comes into play when you pit for fuel for the final time. Do you do four tires or two tires with it? That's the call that we have to make as we go. Overall, our race trim setup, I think that we made some gains on it throughout the day. We're just a little loose on the long run. Maybe with cooler temperatures tomorrow night, we'll be dialed in like we need to be."
WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK AT TALLADEGA AND WHAT SHOULD NASCAR DO ABOUT IT? "They (NASCAR) like suggestions, but they ultimately go with their own when it comes down to it. We've always felt like there's some tweaking that we can adjust at Talladega, whether that's restrictor plate size or whether it's more drag that we build into the car or less drag. What you might be referring to is the last lap pass with Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski. Just rewind to a year previous when Regan Smith went below the double-yellow (line) to not wreck Tony Stewart and then was black-flagged and finish the last car on the lead lap. So all that you'd have to do is not go below the double yellow (line), let the guy come across your nose, wreck him, and you win. That's what happened. That's the rules that we race under and nobody is going to fault Brad for doing what he did. Nobody's going to fault Carl (Edwards) for doing what he had done, and so we hate to see what happened last week. You hate to see a car go up into the catch-fence. Race fans were injured. If I was a Talladega race fan, I've got some cuts or bruised up from shrapnel from a car, I'd be like, 'Yeah, this is Talladega 2009 right here!' I'd be all gung-ho for it. I don't know if I'd be sitting in the front 10 rows, but it's Talladega. We're always going to have this debate. It's always going to be a tough balance of putting on a great show and what speeds we should be running as well as the safety with everybody in mind, whether it's the drivers or the race fans. It's a tough call. Everybody did what they needed to do. Maybe there was too much bump-drafting. I feel like a few years ago the grill that we had on our old cars, if you bump-drafted too hard you would close up your front grill and begin to over-heat. There needs to be side effects to too much bump-drafting and that could come into play."
IS YOUR TEAM CONFIDENT THAT THE NEWS THAT CAME OUT OF DETROIT YESTERDAY ABOUT CHRYSLER ISN'T GOING TO AFFECT YOUR TEAM AT ALL? "We haven't heard much of the insides and full-scoop of what's going on. For us at Penske Racing here in NASCAR, we feel comfortable with the relationship that we have with everyone in Detroit. Seeing Chrysler in the position that they've put themselves in and Fiat's coming in, all that I can do is read the news and listen to Roger Penske on what he has to say. But, I feel confident what's transpired will allow is to race. It will allow us to bring in the support that we have from Dodge because they're one of the main sponsors at Penske Racing and we should be able to go business as usual for the short-term. We'll have to see how things adjust as we get into the future and that could be beyond when our contract expires which is many years from now."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE UPCOMING SPRINT ALL-STAR RACE? "We always have a test session leading up to the All-Star and the (Coca-Cola) 600. We don't have that this year, so we have limited track time to get our cars dialed in, ultimately for the 600. But then you shift gears and jump into the All-Star and it's just a whole different atmosphere and attitude. This year, I want to bring the best race car that I possibly can bring to that race because this is one of the few times that I felt we're going to be strong in the All-Star race. I told my engine department, 'Bring the biggest horsepower you can.' If we go up in a ball of flames, we go up in a ball of flames. I want to do it while we're leading with all the horsepower that we can get. We're definitely going to go all out for the All-Star race, but run our conservative and smart approach for the 600."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT RACING SHORT-TRACKS? WHY ARE YOU GOOD AT IT? YOUR PHILOSOPHY AT IT? "I don't think that I'm that good at it. There are plenty (of drivers) who are better at it than I. Just the atmosphere at a short-track is definitely one that reminds you of how you grew up racing with not being able to spread yourself out from the competition, always looking for uniqueness in the guy in front of you or the guys that you're chasing. You just have to get into more depth at a short-track because it's only three-quarters (of a mile) long. Whereas, the big mile-and-a-halves, there's more room, you don't necessarily have to get into as much detail with each of the tracks. You look for a little bump here. You look for a touch in the apron there. There are always little things at a short-track that you try and use to make your car handle better. You're definitely in the mix of the competition throughout the day; you can never break away it seems like."
WITH THE NEWS OF CHRYSLER'S RE-STRUCTURING -- DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE OR RESPONSIBILTY TO SHOW WITH YOUR PERFORMANCE THAT DODGE IS A VIABLE BRAND? "I do feel a small bit of responsibility carrying the Dodge banner in NASCAR. All of us Dodge drivers feel that way. When a guy like (Chrysler CEO) Bob Nardelli is in charge and Mike Accavitti (Director of Brand Marketing and Strategy, Chrysler LLC) just under him (who handles the racing program) are all in support of what we're doing. It's great when I get their feedback. To have won Atlanta earlier this year, everyone up in the Chrysler camp was ecstatic. Everyone from the top guy to the bottom guy, it seems like it's more of a family now with the tougher times that everyone is facing. I think that I've done my part; we're in the points lead, we've won a race. Yeah, we want to get Dodge in the news as much as we can that they're competitive in NASCAR and race fans should feel confident in buying that product. And I feel that I've done my part, buying three Dodge vehicles this year. One a Dodge Durango, one a Jeep Wrangler and another one, a Dodge Challenger that we're going to raffle away. So three vehicle, I'm doing what I can to help move some Dodge product and keep people on the assembly line."
WHAT'S IT BEEN LIKE NOT BEING ABLE TO BE COMPETITIVE? DO YOU FEEL LIKE PEOPLE HAVE FORGOTTEN HOW GOOD YOU ARE WHEN YOU HAVE A GOOD CAR? "No, not at all. I think that you have to have the full package in this sport if you want to be on top or near it. When I switched to Penske, I didn't understand how much re-building that we were going to be going through when they let over 120 people go during the season between '05 and '06. So when we started off, we won at Bristol right away, but after that, we definitely were on the quiet side of things getting things restructured, building better cars. Then we switched to the COT which I felt that we really shot ourselves in the foot. Roger (Penske) was gung-ho for the car and thought that it would help our program. I looked at it as it would only make us go backwards for a while until we figure it out. It's tough taking a step back, but sometimes you have to do that to make another step forward."
WHAT WAS YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS WHEN THE COT FIRST CAME OUT? "It was probably because I was a bit more naive than most. I thought that we could take a car that we run at Martinsville and slap it on the track the next week and go to Talladega with it. I didn't realize that these cars would start taking their identities back and now we have specific cars built for specific race tracks just like we did with the old car. I was really hopeful that it would cost the teams less money to operate. I was hopeful and I think that we have all seen how safe this car is now, that was one of the biggest things that I was excited about. Thirdly, working for Roger Penske, he is going to say that the glass is half-full and this is the direction that NASCAR wants to go. We should applaud them and follow them and help build the sport bigger and stronger. I thought that's what the COT could do. Little did I know that it was going to be a long struggle and I feel like we've made a good turn this season in getting our cars to handle better. Anytime that something is new, and NASCAR's saying that this is what it's going to be, it just makes it easier for your own self to agree with them and just move on."
HOW MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF CARS DO YOU HAVE NOW? "It's gotten back to, where I believe, our old car count was. You have restrictor-plate cars. You almost have one (car) that's Talladega and one that Daytona. You have intermediate race tracks such as a California, but then Vegas might be a little different. You take that car to Atlanta and then you have something different for a Michigan. Then you have your short-track cars. You have your road course cars. Then you have your one-offs here and there that you have as a hair-brain idea that you want to take to the race track and try it out. And then you have to have two of everything because you have to show up to the race track with a back-up car. It's upwards to twelve cars again, fifteen maybe that we have in our fleet."
-credit: dodge motorsports