KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) "Balancing a little bit of Rusty and a lot of Ron McCauley, my crew chief, was an interesting task. At first I said 'no, we've got to go back.' We worked on the setup and it turned out to be pretty...
KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
"Balancing a little bit of Rusty and a lot of Ron McCauley, my crew chief, was an interesting task. At first I said 'no, we've got to go back.' We worked on the setup and it turned out to be pretty good for us. The lap was a lap I tried not to overdrive it. I tried to stay on course, and I think that paid dividends in the end. I can't kick myself for overdriving any corner, but maybe I can breathe easier now that I didn't get beat by anybody driving it a little bit harder. A lot of anxious moments waiting for some of the guys at the end to finish their laps, but overall it's great feather in the cap for this team to sit on a road course pole and enjoy what Sonoma can give us hopefully on Sunday."
WHAT'S THE HARDEST PART ABOUT DRIVING THIS TRACK? "That's an interesting question because over the 11 turns you have some left-hand corners, mainly right. The corner is always looking for more forward grip, spinning the tires coming off the corners. I believe the element at this racetrack is pit strategy along with managing your tires. There seems to be a category of cars that can run quick, but after the last pit stop that's when we see who's in position because of their pit strategy as well as who's going to be able to run the most consistent lap times from that point all the way to the end of the race."
ARE YOU SURPRISED HOW THINGS HAVE STARTED TO COME TOGETHER? "We're a bit surprised, yet it's taken some time to get to this point. Winning right out of the gate (fifth race of the season at Bristol) and winning the pole in the second race of the year (in California), that was a lot of adrenalin that added to that success. Now to go to some of the setups that we think we need to be running versus the past with what Rusty had, versus my past with what I would run, it's been a transition and I think we've turned the corner the past couple of weeks. There's still plenty of time, and I think we're in great position to be one of the underdogs to work our way into The Chase."
DID JEFF GORDON'S MISFORTUNE CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY? "With him opening the door it gave us the opportunity for us to go run our lap the way we needed to with a pace that I was comfortable with. The Miller Lite Dodge turned in corners and stuck iin corners better than it had all day. During the extreme temperatures you have to question yourself about how hard you want to drive the car. Maybe Gordon overdrove it a little bit coming out of turn eight. He went off and came back on in nine, which was amazing. He did a phenomenal job to save that car, but it took his quick run away from him."
ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH THE NEW FACES UP FRONT? "It was an interesting day with the way the setups have evolved the last six months as well as the hot temperatures. You can put different names in a hat and pick some of the regular guys who are going to run good and see what happens. It's interesting every time I turn around there's a change in our setups and you just have to be a driver that adapts to them. Mark Martin is a true veteran. I look up to him everyday because of how competitive he is in his last few days of racing. I guess you could say years because you never know when that guy is going to retire. To see him struggle a little bit in turn two, he spun out twice, and that's just because setups are changing. It's not Mark Martin. That's what's going on."
IS THERE A LITTLE EXTRA ADDED PRESSURE ON YOU TO GET IN THE CHASE? "No, not really. For us, we know what the team needs to do better, and we're starting to turn the corner and run more consistent. There's a lot of time to go and a lot of things can happen either way. We don't feel any pressure to do anything different. We just need to stay at our own pace."
WERE YOU SURPRISED BY THE GQ ARTICLE? "Yeah, I was pretty surprised by it. I had a great conversation with some guys this past week in downtown San Francisco where we chit chatted about how I don't even compare to Barry Bonds or Terrell Owens, but my old team did a good job putting me pretty far up in the rankings, and that's how I viewed it. There's some good press and bad press in every story really. It's been great for me to work, I guess you could say from scratch, building a new image with fans and representing Miller Lite and all our great Penske sponsors with numerous appearances and numerous charity events as well as kicking off the Kurt Busch Foundation. These are things that I would do anyway before that article, but it's just the catalyst to help move things forward."
RON McCAULEY (Crew Chief No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
KURT SAID WINNING THE POLE WAS A LITTLE BIT OF RUSTY AND A WHOLE LOT OF YOU. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? "I wouldn't say it's a whole lot of me. I'd say it's a lot of the team, and the team is what it's all about. Everybody gave 100 percent effort, but they put in their 10-15 percent value to make 100 percent value come out like it did. It's just a matter of a whole team effort. It all works in unison and when one little piece of that chain breaks down it ends up being a not perfect day. It may not be any one person. It may be a combination of missing some things here and there on the setup of the car or something like that. It was a total team effort."
ARE YOU DOING SOMETHING NEW? "No, there's nothing new about what we're doing. We had a real good test at VIR and Kurt has done a fantastic job of driving. I told him at VIR that he could drive one of my road course cars anytime. The whole team is really getting it done. The last three or four weeks have been good. The whole team has really pulled together. We're going to put our best foot forward and see what happens. We're going to take it race by race and this just happens to be the next place we're at. I think we've got a very reasonable car with a superb driver."
DO YOU THINK KURT IS A LEGITIMATE CONTENDER TO WIN HERE? "I think he's a legitimate contender every week. I don't think Kurt Busch has a weak point."
MOST PEOPLE THINK GORDON, GORDON, STEWART AS ROAD COURSE FAVORITES "Those guys will be legitimate contenders as well. Robby, Jeff, Tony, Jamie McMurray has a good car. I think we have a reasonable car. It's going to boil down to how it shakes out, but I don't think you can count any of those guys out. That's why they still call it a race because you've got to see what happens on Sunday."
COULD IT BOIL DOWN TO FUEL MILEAGE? "Oh yeah, every race. There's no question that road courses can be won or lost on pit strategy. It depends on how the cautions shake out."
COMMENT ON MAKING THE CHASE "I'm not thinking about it right now. It's one race at a time, and we've got 11 races to go. We'll see what happens when we go to the next 11 races, trying to win every race or finish in the top 10. We'll see what happens out of that. That's all we can do. I look at week to week. I do not look at the points. If you look at the points you get caught up in the emotion of it and you get caught up in what's going to happen in three or four weeks. Honestly speaking, you've got to race the week right in front of you. We take it one week at a time and do the best we can. If we hit our marks, I think good things will happen."
WHEN WILL YOU LOOK AT THE POINTS? "Probably the night before race 26. You think I'm kidding. I'm not. If you win races or run top five or top 10 every week the points take care of themselves. We don't defensively race. We race. If you come to a racetrack not trying to win you don't belong coming to a racetrack. If you come to a racetrack playing defensive games and not trying to win a race you don't belong coming to a racetrack. I'm dead serious. We don't race defensively. That's just not our game."
COMMENT ON TEAM CHEMISTRY "Everything is going well. Obviously time improves things more and more. Kurt is doing a great job driving the car and we're getting better and better giving him what he wants, I think. There's a little time in there you've got to get settled in. We've been a lot better at some places than we have at other places. The places we haven't been as good as we needed to be, I think that's coming along. I wouldn't want another driver in the car. Kurt is the man. I've got a great team surrounding me. I call it my team, but obviously it's Penske Racing, but I call it my team because these guys all have great attitudes and we work well together. To me it's all about the team. When you have a good team, your job gets a lot easier."