This Week in Ford Racing - Special Edition October 5, 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series NOTE: Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus, holds a 12-point lead in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings after NASCAR penalized Dale ...
This Week in Ford Racing - Special Edition
October 5, 2004
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
NOTE: Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus, holds a 12-point lead in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings after NASCAR penalized Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 25 points for a post-race comment. Busch, who was testing Tuesday at Martinsville Speedway, gave his reaction to the situation during the track's lunch break.
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus
YOUR REACTION TO THE PENALTY. "It's unfortunate. The emotions in victory lane overcame him. He was the dominant car all day and deserved to win. The way he's been there in the past, we expected him to do that well, but, for us, we want to beat him on the race track. This is just a quick point difference that was 13 in his favor and now it's 12 in our favor, but we've got seven races to go. Hopefully, these 25 points won't come into the final factor because we want to beat him on the race track."
WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO THESE LAST 10 RACES? "You've got to make sure that you last the whole duration of your tire run and the guy that has the fastest car at the end of his run is gonna be the guy that wins. We were that car at Loudon. Ryan Newman was that car at Dover. Talladega is a crapshoot and the 8 car is always the fast car there, so when we go to Kansas and Charlotte - these next mile and a halves - that's gonna set the tone, I believe, for this chase for the Nextel Cup."
DO YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE FACT THAT NASCAR WAS CONSISTENT ABOUT THIS PENALTY WITH EARNHARDT, JR.? "Yeah, we can get into the specifics of it if we want, but I want to say that we want to beat the 8 car out on the race track and not with the penalty. What he said is true emotion in victory lane and it wasn't quite appropriate, so it was good to see that they handled it consistently. NASCAR's always in that box of, 'Are they consistent with their decisions? Do they hold somebody to different standards?' Like they're call at the end of the race - not to throw the yellow. When they were there in the spring, they threw the yellow on the final lap and that froze the field and that was a problem. This time around they didn't throw the yellow and it was a problem, so I feel bad for NASCAR some days because they always seem like they're in between a rock and a hard place. But as far as their decision with Junior, it was a decision they had to make and now we go on."
SO YOU'RE SAYING YOU WANT TO BEAT HIM BY 26 POINTS OR BETTER SO PEOPLE DON'T BRING THIS UP AT THE END? "I want to go into the last race with 155-point edge and that way we won't have to worry about that last race."
KANSAS IS THIS WEEK. HAS THAT TRACK STARTED TO COME AROUND? "It's a very fast race track. They built it almost too fast - similar to Chicago. It was a sister track supposedly to Vegas, but Vegas is flat enough to where you can run any multiple groove you want. We'll see when we go this time around. I tested there last week. It seems like we're on our own little testing 500, 1500, 2000, whatever we're testing we're making so many laps that we're trying to keep up with all of our notes. Kansas should be a good race for us."
HOW DO YOU SEE THESE NEXT RACES SETTING THE TONE? "Just the mile and a halves. That's where most of the final 10 races are slated for and next year we're gonna have five mile and a halves in the final 10 races, so that's just what I see as an outlook on things. We've got Kansas, Charlotte and Atlanta and, of course, Miami. They reconfigured that place to a fast mile and a half and that's the most similar group of tracks you see in the final 10, so that's where you have to be the most competitive."
ARE YOU SURPRISED ONLY FOUR GUYS ARE WITHIN SHOUTING DISTANCE OF FIRST AFTER ONLY THREE RACES IN THE CHASE? "You usually have five to 10 races at the beginning of the year where you see the same thing. There will be a group of guys that stretch themselves out just because they haven't had trouble. We've been fortunate to finish top five in each of those races so far, and then there's the turnaround where those guys finish consistently and the others have their trouble. We were leading after the seventh race this season - after Texas - and then we slid down from there. It's just a matter of putting 10 races together and we're poised to do that with the tests that we've saved up and the luck that we've had recently, and just being able to be competitive is the biggest key is to be able to run eighth-place at all of these races. If you've got a chance to win, do it. If you slide out of the top 10, you've got to finish as close to that top 10 as you can."
DOES YOUR CONFIDENCE GROW AS YOU GET BY EACH OF THESE RACES? DO YOU START TO THINK YOU CAN RUN THE 10 TROUBLE-FREE? "You hope that you can. Each of these races you have an open and positive outlook and then if you do have trouble, you have to bounce back harder. If you don't have trouble, then you can just still continue on the pace that you have because it hasn't faulted you just yet."
HAS THIS BEEN YOUR MOST CONSISTENT SEASON? "It's been one of consistent finishes of maybe 12th to first. We've had a bunch of finishes just outside the top 10, so our stats aren't quite there. But the pace we've been on most of the year has given us usually 140 points at the end of each race and that's a good outlook to have. In this chase for the cup, you're gonna have to have over 150 each race."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE LEADING THE POINTS RIGHT NOW? "It really is a feather in the crew's hat and the team can feel the different intensity of being the points leader, but it can go away just that quick. It's something that you don't focus on, but yet you do have it in the back of your mind that you've done the best job in these three races so far. Everybody positioned themselves to get into the Nextel chase for the cup, but now it's time to go and we've done the best so far in these first three. We've got seven to go."
NOTE: Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's Taurus, was also at Martinsville Speedway testing on Tuesday and he gave his reaction to Dale Earnhardt, Jr's. penalty, in addition to NASCAR not throwing the caution flag on the final lap of Sunday's EA Sports 500 at Talladega.
ELLIOTT SADLER - No. 38 M&M's Taurus
WHAT'S YOUR REACTION TO EARNHARDT, JR'S. PENALTY? "I'm a little surprised by it. We've got a lot of emotions going on right now between us 10 drivers because we've got a lot on the line. I know he was excited about winning the race and you're pretty much living by a thread it seems like everyday to get to the next and everything is so valuable, so I can understand how everybody's emotions being high. But I understand NASCAR's point of view, too. They got Hornaday and they got Sauter and it would have been a bad example if they didn't get Earnhardt, Jr. for saying what he said, but it's a double-edged sword. You can look at it either way. What I'm scared of is that before long no drivers are gonna want to do any interviews because we're scared we might say the wrong thing, especially if we're caught off guard. We've got way too much to lose. The points are way too valuable this time of the season. I just don't want to see our sport get to that point where no driver is gonna want to do any interviews with any print, TV or radio reporter just to try to be safe. That's not a good way to head, I don't think."
IS IT FAIR TO TAKE AWAY POINTS FOR SOMETHING THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN ON THE TRACK? "That's tough, but I know the FCC has been hard on everybody since the Super Bowl mess and we should have clean language. Mike Helton tells us to act like there are people from eight to eighty that are watching us, but it's tough. Like I said, I hate to see it get to that point. I can understand if we do something stupid on the race track to get penalized for it because it might be putting somebody's life in danger for doing something stupid, but as far as cussing or saying a bad word, maybe they should be a little lenient on that, but it's tough. I'm glad I don't have to make that decision, but, like I said before, I'm really scared that we're gonna get to the point one day that no drivers are gonna want to be interviewed period before or after a race, and maybe all the media will be done on Mondays and Tuesdays after the drivers have time to cool down and learn what they want to say. That's not good for the sport and that's not good for the fans because you want to see raw emotion. They want you to show raw emotion because that's what the sport gives us and that's what the sport is all about, but we don't want to penalized for it too. It's a tough situation to be in."
YOU'VE HAD A COUPLE OF DAYS TO REGROUP SINCE SUNDAY. YOUR THOUGHTS? "It was just a terrible day for us. We had battery problems, alternator problems, we overheated all during the whole race. To finish 22nd with what we had been through, I feel very fortunate. We very easily could have blown a motor up. My guys did a great job. For my motor to last all day long for as hot as it was, my hat's off to them. To finish 22nd was a blessing in disguise for all the problems we had. You can't put yourself in those situations like we did, being at the rear of the field that many times and be able to miss the wrecks and dodge some bullets like we did and to finish 22nd. I hate that we lost eight or nine positions the last lap because of something that happened on the race track, but we've got to look at it as that with all the problems that we had, 22nd was a good finish for us."
WERE YOU SURPRISED THE YELLOW DIDN'T COME OUT WHEN THE 16 WRECKED? "I'm really upset that the yellow didn't come out the more I think about it. They tell us in the driver's meeting - David Hoots says it every week - 'When a wreck happens and the caution is coming out, please slow down so we can expedite the safety equipment to the drivers as soon as possible,' and I just think that we need to pick a way to do this when a wreck happens. Throw the caution so we can see our fellow drivers getting help as soon as they can or, if it's the last lap and they're not gonna throw the caution, we need to know that. We need to pick a scenario so the drivers will not be confused on what to do on the last lap. As hard as Greg Biffle hit he could have been hurt. The safety equipment is not gonna roll until they tell them to and it should not be a judgment call, it should be a safety call first."
DO YOU THINK WITH THE LAST TALLADEGA RACE ENDING UNDER CAUTION AND NOT BEING POPULAR WITH THE FANS HAD ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE CAUTION NOT COMING OUT ON SUNDAY? "I think that probably played a bit of a role in it. You heard how upset all the NASCAR fans were that we ended under caution. It was a great race going on between the 24 and the 8 - the two biggest icons in this sport - so I'm sure that had a lot to do with it with NASCAR. They wanted to make sure the leader at least got to the checkered flag before they threw the caution, but it shouldn't be that way. It should be safety first. That's what NASCAR preaches to us every driver's meeting and that's what should be first on all of our minds is safety first and then worry about the results of the race second. I'm sure there are gonna be a lot of questions asked in the driver's meeting when we get to Kansas City about what are we gonna do now as far as rolling safety equipment to the drivers that are hurt. I know when I was flipping - if that was not the last lap - I would want NASCAR to throw a caution so the safety guys could get to me as soon as they could."