Dodge Motorsports Notes & Quotes - Kurt Busch NASCAR Teleconference Transcript
October 18, 2011 , CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011
Kurt Busch NASCAR Teleconference Transcript
Dodge Motorsports PR
KURT BUSCH (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ultra Dodge Charger R/T)
YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT SUNDAY’S UPCOMING RACE AT TALLADEGA.
“Well, thanks for having me on. It’s a pleasure to talk to you and to everybody and to get everybody excited about the final five races. We’re halfway through the Chase. We find ourselves in a decent position, yet we know we have to work harder to get back up there in the points lead where we want to be. Talladega is a great weekend for us to hopefully find our way to the top and not get caught up in the big wreck that can happen.”
YOU REACTION TO WHAT JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID YESTERDAY ABOUT HOW HE DIDN’T THINK INDYCAR CARS SHOULD RACE ON OVALS ANYMORE AND WHEN YOU COME TO TALLADEGA, HOW FAST IS TOO FAST?
“It’s tough to say IndyCar cars shouldn’t race on ovals. The cars are so lightweight, they have so much downforce, that they reach speeds much greater than what stock cars can. The problem is they just don’t have the roll cage, they don’t have the safety design that a stock car has. There are changes that are going to come about and I look to the leaders of IndyCar to be proactive in this and understand what they can do to make their sport safer. Right now, NASCAR is a place that has learned what to do for safely over the last 10 years and I feel very safe driving in the cars that we have.”
SOME DRIVERS HAVE SAID THAT THEY WON’T TAKE TOO MANY LAPS IN PRACTICE ON FRIDAY AND OTHERS SEEM TO THINK YOU’LL NEED TO DO A LOT OF LAPS TO GET A FEEL FOR THE NEW RULES. ANY IDEA HOW MUCH YOU’LL END UP PRACTICING ON FRIDAY?
“I know we’ll team up with our teammate Brad Keselowski and possibly my buddy Regan Smith. He and I have done really well teamed up in this two-car draft. We need to understand the restrictor plate change and the cooling system change and yeah, I think most guys will limit their practice and save things for Sunday. But Friday is a very important day this week.”
IN LIGHT OF THE WHELDON CRASH, SPEEDS TOO FAST AND PACK RACING, YOU GO TO TALLADEGA WHERE THERE’S ALWAYS TALK ABOUT PACK RACING AND THE HIGH SPEEDS. HOW DO YOU FEEL IN GENERAL ABOUT RACING AT TALLADEGA? DO YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE AND SAFE DOING IT?
“Well, I feel very safe, especially in a stock car with the roll cage and the speeds that we run aren’t as great as the IndyCar cars. But you know Talladega is Talladega. Everybody knows it going in. There’s much more comfort when you’ve done it year after year after year and you trust the 43 guys that are out there. It was tough what happened out in Las Vegas. A lot of new guys were racing in a pack that they weren’t necessarily familiar with and when you throw so many new variables in that’s the risk that happens.”
DO YOU THINK THAT YOU AND YOUR TEAM ARE SOMETIMES UNDERVALUED WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR ABILITY TO WIN THE CHASE AND THAT YOU GUYS ARE MORE POSITIONED THAN YOU GET CREDIT FOR?
“We always have that battle of being just two Dodges in the field and have to answer those questions, but it’s like family with those guys and we’re pushing hard to be comparable to
the big teams that are out there. I don’t think we’re undervalued. I think we are legitimate championship contenders. Whether people give it to us or not, it doesn’t matter. We know where we stand as a team. We won a couple weeks ago. We’ve had a very successful season, but there’s still five races to go and anything can happen. You never know, we could be the ones on top at the stage in Vegas.”
WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET HEADING INTO THE RACE THIS WEEKEND AS IT APPLIES TO THE CHASE?
“Well, we’re halfway through the Chase and we have an average finish of 11th. That’s not getting it done. We have to bump that up. Talladega is a place where you can have a good day and it can turn sour pretty quick. We just hope to make the right moves, strategy-wise, make the right moves out on the track, as far as drafting. If we can get a nice top five, and if others find trouble, then we’re right back in this Chase.”
YOU GO IN WITH A PLAN AND GUYS YOU PREFER TO DRAFT WITH , BUT HOW CHOOSY CAN YOU BE HOOKING UP WITH OTHER DRIVERS IN TRAFFIC AT TALLADEGA?
“You find a new best friend every restart. You have your game plan going in and that’s to draft with a teammate of course. I’ve always got my little brother to count on and there’s a couple of other guys that I’ve always buddied up with on the restrictor plate tracks. When it comes down to the end, you’re fighting to find a partner because of the restart scramble. Your new best friend is a guy that wants to push you.”
HOW MUCH DOES IT COME DOWN TO JUST TRUSTING OTHER DRIVERS?
“Everybody trusts each other to great lengths. We all want to be safe while we’re doing it as well as feel comfort in the guy that you’re drafting with. Most importantly though, you want that genuine buddy at the end that’s going to stick with you.”
AT CHARLOTTE THERE WAS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT HORSEPOWER BETWEEN MANUFACTURERS. DO YOU SEE THAT ON THE RACE TRACK? DO YOU THINK THERE IS ANY NOTICABLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE HORSEPOWER THESE CARS HAVE?
“I would say there is a small difference. Some programs have a little bit more torque or some programs have a little bit more top end speed. The big thing as of late has been how much tape can you put on the grill and not overheat, so a lot of it has to do with cooling. And then there is the actual weight of the motor and I’d say right now the Fords have an advantage in most areas, but that’s the work they’ve done behind the scenes. That’s the work that Yates has put together and it’s just how it works. This is a cycle and I know our guys at Penske are pushing hard to make our Dodge engines stronger, faster, lighter and everything else.”
AT THE TWO PLATE TRACKS EARLIER THIS YEAR, WE HAD A COUPLE ROUSH-YATES FORDS WIN AND THEN WE HAD JIMMIE JOHNSON WIN LAST TIME AT TALLADEGA. HAVE YOU SEEN OVER THE THREE PLATE RACES THIS YEAR M
AYBE ONE OF THEM HAVING A LITTLE MORE POWER THAN THE OTHER? “Yeah, exactly, it’s a cycle. The Fords, they have their advantage, the RCR cars are strong at certain tracks and you never know. At Talladega thought, it comes down to that raw speed and you still have to have that good drafting partner. It’s not all about horsepower.”
A LOT OF PEOPLE SAY WITH THE NEW RULES, YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO CHANGE POSITON MORE OFTEN IN THIS TWO-CAR PUSH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE BALLET DANCE OF EXCHANGING POSITIONS AS OTHER GUYS ARE STREAMING ALONG AS YOU BREAK UP YOUR TWO-CAR PACK, YOU’RE SUDDENLY GOING SLOWER AND TRYING TO GET REAPPLIED IN A QUICK MANNER?
“With the two-car draft, it’s so important because you’re four seconds faster a lap when you’re teamed up. When you’re taking the time to exchange and put the back car in the lead, you can lose that four seconds of course because you’re not paired up, as well as additional time if you don’t do it smoothly. So when a car comes from behind, he’s usually going to the outside and the lead car goes to the inside. The back car comes up and when they swap, the lead car actually has to get on the brakes and has to ride smoothly backward and the guy behind actually has his foot on the brake pedal trying to time it just perfectly when you match up on his bumper to be off the brake pedal and full throttle and that’s how an exchange works. The faster and smoother that you do it, the time is saved with the lap time that you see.”
HOW CHALLENGING IS IT WHEN YOU’RE PUSHING? WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES THAT YOU FACE NOT BEING ABLE TO SEE AND JUST TRYING TO STAY STUCK ON THE BACK BUMPER? FROM THE OUTSIDE, IT LOOKS LIKE AN EASY THING.
“No, there’s a great deal of responsibility for the back guy as far as managing the car that you’re pushing, not being too erratic as well as not overheating. You have to keep an eye on your gauges as well as drive off the guy’s rear spoiler in front of you. You have to listen to the radio, have his spotter take care of you. So it’s a foreign voice you hear sometimes. So there’s a lot going on. With this new rule, we’ll see how the cars are paired up. I know once the white flag drops, you’re going to see the two-car draft. No matter what it takes to win, you’re going to be doing that. We’ll see how the other 499 miles go.”
HOW MANY GUYS DO YOU THINK YOU’LL BE LISTENING TO IN YOUR CAR ON SUNDAY?
“I’ve got about a half a dozen that will be on our list.”
IT APPEARS NASCAR IS TRYING TO GET AWAY FROM TANDEM RACING. DO YOU THINK WE’LL SEE ANY OTHER KIND OF RACING OTHER THAN TANDEM RACING ON SUNDAY?
“Friday is going to be a big day to understand what the new rules changes have done to the cars and how it will affect the draft. I think if you want to be aggressive and want to work all day about doing a two-car draft, you still can, but at the same time, I think you’re going to see a group of guys doing the normal big-pack draft and try to get some laps led in to get those bonus points. At the end of the day, when it’s the last lap, you’re going to see those two cars pair up because they’re just so much faster when it’s two cars together.”
HOW DO YOU AND YOUR TEAM DEVELOP A STRATEGY FOR THE UNCERTAINITY AT TALLADEGA WITH THE NEW RULES AND THE THREAT OF THE BIG ONE?
“Well, a lot of our work will be done behind the scenes. You have to try to keep these cars as cool as you can with the new radiator package and we know we’re going to be gaining speed by the restrictor plate size, so handling might come back into play. You’ll have to adjust to that once we get to the track and see exactly what track conditions are and adjust from there. But a lot of it, it’s going to be done on the fly and this really challenges the teams on who can adapt the best in the heat of the moment.”
SOME TEAMS WERE ADDING A LUBRICANT TO THE FRONT BUMPERS AND NOW YOU CAN’T DO THAT. THE TWO-CAR DRAFT MIGHT BE A LOT MORE DIFFICULT THAN IT WAS.
“Yes, it’s definitely going to make that more difficult. Yet, I still think with the success and the speed that two cars have together, you’re going to see that come up at the end. I think drivers might be more patient throughout the 500 miles. You won’t see the two-car draft all the time, but at the end of the day that’s what it’s going to take to win.”
DURING THE CHASE THERE HAS BEEN RUMORS SWIRLING AROUND YOUR TEAM AND YOUR CREW CHIEF. HOW DO YOU STAY FOCUSED ON THE PRIZE AWAY FROM ALL THOSE RUMORS?
IT HAS TO BE HARD FOR YOU AS A DRIVER? “I’ve been through it before with a crew chief that was leaving back in 2009 and actually finished fourth overall in the standings, even had a shot to win it until the wreck at Talladega. So that’s where we’re headed this weekend. We’ll stay focused on what we have to do. It doesn’t matter what the outside world says. We have five very important weeks ahead of us and each week is the most important week. Practice on Friday, qualify on Saturday, race on Sunday and that’s the best part, going out there and racing.”
COMMENT ON THE BUMPING AND GRINDING GOING ON FROM THOSE DRIVERS NOT IN THE CHASE.
“Absolutely. I’ve been in the Chase five out of the seven years and those two years I wasn’t in it, you’re mindful of the Chase guys but you are still in the mix. You can still get a win and you can still have a successful season if you don’t make the Chase. So those guys that didn’t, they’re pushing hard, guys like Greg Biffle, Paul Menard. AJ Allmendinger is trying to cut in and get that first win. Those are the guys right in the mix that are hungry just because they missed out on the Chase.”