KURT BUSCH --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus (Qualified 2nd) "What a difference a year makes. It's been very enjoyable to jump in the car every week and go out there to compete with the best of the best and that's what we're doing in Winston Cup.
KURT BUSCH --97-- Rubbermaid Taurus (Qualified 2nd)
"What a difference a year makes. It's been very enjoyable to jump in the car every week and go out there to compete with the best of the best and that's what we're doing in Winston Cup. Qualifying is very important and road course racing is very important -- just as it is every week. We're just plugging away at the finishes and plugging away at the qualifying efforts and making sure that the Rubbermaid Ford gets its time up front."
HOW IMPORTANT WAS YOUR TEST HERE? "It was vital. Last year when we came here, I told my crew chief that I had enough experience at Sears Point. Well, I was blown away when I came here with a Winston Cup car, trying to figure it out in a two-hour session that's normally shortened by caution periods. So when you come here to test, you get as much time as you want to work on race trim, qualifying trim, your racing line, the gear boxes. You name it, you can work on it. Here, in two hours, there's no time at all to do anything except run around and make sure that you're shifting at the right point and pray that you get a good qualifying lap. With the new asphalt down in turns nine and 10, and down the front straightaway into turn one, it's a completely different race track. So that really helped us prepare for this race like we needed to."
IT SEEMED THE GUYS THAT TESTED DID WELL. "You look at the schedule as a sophomore and you look at the race tracks you did well at versus the race tracks you struggled at, and then if there are any inaugural events. There aren't any of those this year, but Sears Point is reconfigured. If there is a reconfiguration, which usually doesn't happen at an oval -- maybe Loudon is going to be a test that we should have done -- but you look at the schedule and you see where you can benefit from a test, where you need to go and work on the race track, or, if you're just real fast at that race track -- let's say my race track is Las Vegas -- we can go and test there and get better for it. You want to go to a Las Vegas test because its the beginning of the season and it helps you tailor your setups for the rest of the year. But you ask a road course, they're reconfiguring it, I struggled here as a rookie and I've won here in a Southwest Tour car, so I know the race track, I just don't know the Winston Cup car at a road course. Jimmy Fennig's experience is what got us this second-place start for this weekend."
YOU DIDN'T HAVE MUCH TIME TO ENJOY BEING ON THE POLE? "It was a lap where I knew I did fairly well, but it wasn't good enough to be pole material. At a road course, you've got 11 turns to screw up in. I probably hit 70 percent of them right and those last three you just know you didn't have that pole speed. When a car goes out and beats you, that's what Winston Cup is. If you know you didn't hit your marks 100 percent perfect -- and sometimes it feels real slow in your mind and sometimes it feels real fast in your mind on what your lap just was -- but when you're at a road course doing your qualifying lap, you've got to hang it out in the high-speed corners like turn nine, turn 10 and turn one."
HOW MUCH HAS THE TRACK CHANGED SINCE WINNING IN '99 IN THE SOUTHWEST TOUR? "It's gotten a facelift that's been dramatic and it's been much more enjoyable for the fans to enjoy. Racing, it's about the same. I raced here when they had the original chute, which was turn four with almost a straight straightaway down into seven, which was unbelievably fast -- very enjoyable. The race track changed turns four and seven recently, which weren't the best thing. I really don't think it opened up a passing zone, and it made it very slow through that section. Then, of course, they moved the front straightaway to its own independent straightaway, that I agreed with. The drag race rubber was very tough to cross as the race progressed. It would finally come to about lap 100 of the 100-lap race, so by bringing an independent front straightaway, it brought more character to Sears Point Raceway. Building these skyrocket grandstands that you normally don't see at a road course, it's very, very unique and I like what they're doing with that. It was just tough to take out the carousel like they did in 1997, I think was the last time they ran the carousel. That gave this place a unique distinction amongst all road courses."
WILL THE YOUNG AGGRESSIVE DRIVERS BE MORE CONSERVATIVE ON SUNDAY? "I always come to a road course conservatively -- not to put a wheel off into the dirt, to stay competitive every lap -- which means not abusing your brakes or your tires. Like today, when we went out to qualify, I knew I had a fast race car. I watched Jeff Burton, my teammate, who had a 10th to 15th-place car put it up on the pole for awhile. That meant he just went out there to do a lap. When you let your mind take over and you don't remember a couple of the corners, that's when you're in the zone, so to speak, and you let it take over. If you don't think about it too closely and you just hit your marks and do the right steps, things will come. It's a race where I'm not gonna try to make any aggressive passes. Starting up front, we've got a great benefit. We're on the front row. We'll talk with Tony and see how the front row is gonna work out as far as if he wants the right or the left, and we'll fall in line wherever we fall in. If we fall into the line in the lead coming out of two, then we'll lead for a while. If we fall in line in third, then we'll stay in third for a while and see how the pit stops go. I know these races are won at the end and I know how we won that race here back in 1999 with my Southwest Tour team, so it's just a matter of making it to the end and making sure that your tires give you that forward bite off of turn 11."