Kurt Busch Open Interview — Martinsville

Friday, April 1, 2011

Martinsville Speedway

Dodge Motorsports PR Goody’s Fast Relief 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Serie

American Muscle

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KURT BUSCH (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T) YOUR THIRD IN POINTS, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT MARTINSVILLE? “It’s been a nice solid start to our season. We had a little bit of a fumble last week, just missing the setup at California and struggling to a 17th-place finish. Overall, we’re happy with the way that the season has started. Now that we’re parked by the season standings order, it’s nice to be up front where the competitors are as far as the top-five guys who are going to be the top candidates as the season progresses. It will be exciting to be in the mix. This track here at Martinsville always challenges everybody. It seems like a few guys like Denny Hamlin or Jimmie Johnson have definitely had a handle on it better than most groups. So we’ll have to challenge ourselves to get into that elite category this weekend and see what we can do. It’s an interesting strategy as far as practice goes today with all of our practice being on Friday and coming in tomorrow for just two laps of qualifying. We’ll have to adapt to that the best way that we can.”

HOW EASY IS IT TO BUZZ THE TIRES COMING OFF THE CORNERS HERE AT MARTINSVILLE? “It’s pretty easy to abuse the car in any which way, whether it’s overdriving it coming into the corner and locking up a right-front tire or even missing the apex and sliding the right-front tires through center of the corners. The biggest thing here is that the car will handle well on corner exit for about 20 laps and then it starts to creep in lap after lap after lap. The forward bite, the grip on the rear tires just goes away and that’s what you have to manage if you want to be successful here. It’s 20 laps of good and then you’re out there wrestling the car for a good 60 to 70 laps or until a yellow (flag) or when it’s time to pit. You don’t’ see green flag stops often here. It’s all about rear tire management if you want to be successful here.”

YOU WERE QUITE VOCAL ON THE RADIO ABOUT YOUR CAR LAST WEEKEND IN CALIFORNIA; WHAT WERE YOU GUYS MISSING? “We just need to do a better job finishing off the races. When we’re running top five we’ve been credited for eighth, ninth and seventh our last three races. So that wears on you because those few points that you lose each week will continue to add up and the next thing that you know, you’re right at the cusp of eighth, ninth and 10th in points. We just need to find better adjusting tools during the race. Whether it’s done with our engineering staff or something Steve Addington finds, it’s just a matter of being the best that we can be and make adjustments on the car as the race progresses.”

HOW TOUGH IS MARTINSVILLE ON A ROOKIE DRIVER? “I would say that this is the toughest track for a rookie to come to. There’s no track in the country that will compare to Martinsville. Then you stack 43 guys out there and there’s no room for error. My first time here I think that I ran into somebody right away. I knocked a hole in the radiator, went back out after they put another radiator in it and knocked that radiator out of it too. I think a realistic good finish is just pulling the car back into the garage and making the maximum amount of laps.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL THE TWO-CAR TEAM HAS GONE SO FAR AT PENSKE? “It seems to be working well with the additions that we’ve added to not only my team, but Brad’s team as well as far as at-track staff. I think that’s positive. Where we still struggle is to get the front ends to turn properly as compared to the competition. With the information that we have through modeling, video data that we record, we just struggle through the middle of the corner with speed. No matter if we’re at a track like Bristol, a place like California, even Phoenix and Las Vegas, those are the common themes. It’s not due to any of the restructuring; it’s just finding that edge that other teams have. We watched Carl Edwards go winless all the way until the last couple of races in 2010 and now he’s on fire. They just didn’t wake up on the other side of the bed, they found something. That’s what it takes in this garage. I’ve been in it 11 years now. You have seen cycles happen positively. You see cycles negatively. We just have to find some key ingredients and it will be done through the key people that we have in our group. Not that we had three teams before and it was dragging us down, it’s just that we have the two teams now and we have the same issues.”

HOW HAS YOUR PATIENCE LEVEL CHANGED OVER THE YEARS HERE AT MARTINSVILLE? “My patience level has grown over the years. Most veteran drivers find a comfort zone when things are getting exciting. It’s funny. I won here early in my career and haven’t done anything since. Patience hasn’t necessarily helped me at Martinsville, but you have to have it at all the short tracks because things happen so quickly.”

DO YOU LIKE THE CHANGE IN QUALIFYING PROCEDURE HERE AT MARTINSVILLE? “Today we just have to cram everything together – race trim and qualifying trim. There’s going to be a lot of laps today. I would expect lap totals to be close to 250 laps just here on Friday – that’s going to be half a race. Tomorrow is just two qualifying laps – that’s where a driver has to step up and show what he can do for his team and make sure that he gets the best out of his car. At a short track, thousandths of a second dictate if you’re going to be up front or 10 rows back. We hope to get our best effort in today to make our job as easy as it can be for tomorrow. For the race fans, I think that it’s great to have the race atmosphere. You come in to watch a truck race and you get Cup qualifying as well. And then you get the full action on Sunday with the full 500 laps. Whatever we can do to make it better for our fans, I think NASCAR has adjusted to it as well as the race tracks.”

DO YOU STILL WORRY ABOUT BRAKES HERE AT MARTINSVILLE? “I think early on, this track was a challenge for all the cars to see if they could make it 500 laps on the equipment, primarily the brakes of course. This track, built in the 40s, they started racing here early, was more of a challenge for the cars and it still is. Now it seems like the cars are really durable and can make the full 500 laps, no problem. I always worry about the brakes in the back of my mind – glazing them over. What that means is you get the same amount of heat in the rotor as you do in the pad and it doesn’t have the stopping power like it would in the beginning of the race similar to what you would want at the end. Yes, brakes are still an issue. You can abuse them and hurt your overall effort in terms of a good lap time if you’re too hard on the brakes throughout the day.”

CAN A VICTORY TURNAROUND A TEAM AND ESTABLISH MOMENTUM? “Wins do great things for team moral. The most important thing that a win does is validate what setup you have in the race car and what key ingredient can you take from that win and apply to other race tracks? Martinsville is its own identity. Now if you go and win next weekend at Texas and you feel like you had something special in that car and you take it to the next mile-and-a-half and you do well with it, then it’s something that you run with for a while and it just carries you in points for quite some time. That’s the thing that we need to find at Penske Racing to help us maintain where we are in points.”

WHAT’S THE FEELING LIKE FEELING ‘INVINCIBLE’ AT A RACE TRACK? “The moment that you feel that you have an edge on the competition, you just have to step back and go, ‘Ok, now I need to utilize this the best way that I can’. That means that it’s a good race track for you and the team. You want to get a win. Something short of top five would be a disappointment. You go into the weekend knowing that what you’ve had in the past works and you continue to polish up on that to keep your edge. It just seems like the weekend’s flow so smooth. It seems like you have the practice speed when you unload off the truck. It seems like any of the changes that you make will make the car better. The next thing you know you’re running around and have the best-average lap time as far as practice goes and you are prepared for Sunday more than anybody else. It just seems that the weekend goes that much easier.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.


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