Kurt Busch Open Interview — Michigan

Friday, June 17, 2011

Michigan Int’l Speedway Dodge Motorsports PR HELUVA GOOD! Sour Cream Dips 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

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American Muscle

KURT BUSCH (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T) CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE GREAT THREE-RACE STRETCH YOU’VE HAD? “It’s been a good three-race stretch for us, even further back to Dover. Working through some of the ins-and-outs to make our team better and how we can perform better. Last week, we had a great shot at winning and finished second. The week before, we led the most laps at Kansas and were four laps shy on fuel and brought it home ninth. The week before that, it was a good run at Charlotte and were running in the top 10 most of the day and come home fourth on the fuel-strategy side. It’s just nice to get back to some of the basics. Earlier in the year, we were running around 25th-place. We were running around 20th at Texas most of the day. It’s good to be up there competing for those wins and putting ourselves in contention. That’s what Roger Penske always says and it’s a good feeling to run up front and lead laps.

“To be up here at Michigan with all the race fans and of course the auto manufacturer’s backyard, this is a big event weekend for Dodge. They had an employee appreciation day last Saturday and over 35,000 people came out to the headquarters to celebrate. A bunch of executives came out handing out hot dogs, serving drinks. It’s just great to see Dodge, Mopar and the Chrysler family on the rebound. Out on the race track, we’re doing our job and we need to continue to do that.”

WHAT IS YOUR SENSE OF THE NEW POINT SYSTEM? “I didn’t check it this week, but there’s websites out there that have the updated point system and have last year’s system. You can compare them. I checked it a few weeks back. The same guys that were in the top 10 are the same guys in the top 10 with the new system. It really doesn’t matter. I think the only interesting element that we have with the new system is the wildcard where, if you get a win and you’re in the top-20, you have a shot at making the Chase over guys who haven’t won races. I’m included in that group who hasn’t won races. Dale Jr. is in that group. There are quite a few guys. Right now, if Brad Keselowski gained 13 more points, he’d be locked into the Chase. That’s the element that we’re all fighting. It’s different in the fact that to get a win, you can do it off of fuel mileage, you can stay out on tires and try and hold track position. (There are) many different ways to win races, but primarily, if you’re going to stretch something, you’re going to stretch you’re fuel. Is that good or bad for the sport?”

SUNDAY IS FATHER’S DAY; WHAT IS THE BEST LESSON YOU DAD EVER GAVE YOU? “Dad taught Kyle and I everything about race cars, how to work on them, how to driver them, how to protect them. Even when we did things wrong racing them, he was there to pinpoint what was wrong. I think the No. 1 lesson was when I was seven-years old, I had a go-kart. It was just a little yard kart. It wasn’t meant to go racing. It was just meant to be a fun toy. Well, I didn’t treat it like a toy. He treated it like a tool with me. Every Sunday after we watched the Cup race, we would load it up in the back of the truck, take it over to the bank parking lot – banks are closed on Sunday’s – smash a couple Coke cans, throw them out (there) and (he would) tell me to drive. He would have a stopwatch and keep track of me. He’d tell me to go left, go right, and do a figure-eight. He would teach me what to do…change air pressures on it. Then the go-kart would go back in the truck, back in the shed and I wouldn’t touch it throughout the week.

“Even when one of my buddies would come over and say, ‘hey, let’s take the go-kart out and find trouble, find mischief’, I’d say no and that I don’t do that. I don’t take my go-kart out without my dad. That’s probably the best lesson that he ever taught me.”

LAST YEAR, BEING THE ONLY DODGE TEAM IN THE FIELD, YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU WERE ON AN ISLAND OF YOUR OWN. DURING YOU STRUGGLES EARLIER THIS YEAR, BEING THE ONLY DODGE TEAM, DID THAT CONTRIBUTE TO THAT STRUGGLE AT ALL? “I don’t think so. I think that it gets back to just the procedures and how we’re doing things internally. I think we get sufficient support from Dodge and that group. Meeting with some of the top engineers yesterday and seeing the Pennzoil people there and meeting with the engine developers. It was a great day to see those three groups – the (Penske) South engine builders, the North (Dodge) designers and the group out of Houston, Texas from Pennzoil there to show them the lubricants they can bring in and help us develop the power we need, the cooling and everything that we need under the hood. It was great. There are aerodynamicists working right now on the 2013 car and what we’re going to bring to the table. It’s great just to see everybody working in-tune with one another to expose myself and Brad and even Robby Gordon, we see the support from the manufacturer. It’s great.”

HAVE YOU HEARD THAT NASCAR CONFISCATED THE OIL PANS FROM THE GIBBS CARS TODAY? WHEN YOU HEAR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, DOES IT RAISE AN EYEBROW? “There’s always the fun time in the morning as a driver to go sign in, peek your head in the door and see what NASCAR has found on race weekends. It sits there right on that countertop through Friday morning. It’s always fun to peek in and see what that is. They put a tag on it from what car it came from and you analyze it and look at it. They leave it there for other teams to look at, feel it, touch it, and see what they’ve got going on. I saw the cross-member cut into the oil pan. I saw how heavy it was and you go back to your team and say, ‘this is what I saw’ and they say, ‘ yeah, we already saw it. We’ve got our engine guys on it. We know what they’re up too.’ It’s open. When you have an unapproved part like that, whether they submitted it or they didn’t (to NASCAR), it’s just open for everybody to see. And if you weren’t working on that internally, now we have an opportunity to do that.

“My evaluation is that we’re going to look at it. I’m not in-tuned enough to know where our engine department stands with this oil pan, whether it’s aerodynamically sensitive, whether it’s lowering the weight in the car or if it’s something else with horsepower – the way that the oil goes through the pan. You get to see it all. It’s exposed and it’s right there.”

HOW FINE OF A LINE ARE THE TEAMS TOEING WITH THE RULES? “It’s a tough line that’s drawn. There’s a rulebook. There’s the grey area. There’s the relationship that you have with NASCAR. There are the times that you were up against that limit for so long that when you do cross the line, it’s almost as if they were trying to tell you, but you did (cross the line) and now they really have to get on you hard. If you do an honest mistake, which sometimes happens, there’s a small penalty in that. Like Kyle’s (Busch) left front was just a little too low after Pocono, that’s a six-point penalty. Clint Bowyer’s deal last year was 150 points. That’s very large, a huge amount and that takes a full race of points. Maybe they’re up against that window for too long or maybe the tow truck beat it up? I don’t know. There are different reasons for different penalties and NASCAR has their reason for it. The best thing to do is just don’t put yourself in position to have them make a call on you. Whether an unapproved part or the way that you hung your body or speeding down pit road, you never know.”

HOW HAS THE NEW POINT SYSTEM CHANGED YOUR APPROACH TO THE RACE? “I think wins add insurance in your pocket. You feel real good about your position. Like Kevin Harvick, there’s no way he’s going to miss the Chase. He’s got three wins. That’s how I would feel if I were him. If I was Juan Pablo Montoya with zero wins, 14th in points, I’ve got to go win Sonoma. I’ve got to go try and get Watkins Glen, those are my two best chances. The same thing for (Marcos) Ambrose who I believe is in the top 20 in points. Then you have a Michigan race that could be a fuel mileage race. Then Kentucky, who knows what’s going to happen there? I think Kentucky will play into the hands of guys like Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, and Carl Edwards, guys who have run Nationwide there over the years. I think those are the guys that will run strong there and they’ll be tough to beat.”

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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