Daytona International Speedway Coke Zero 400
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Kurt Busch Open Interview
KURT BUSCH (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T) YOU GOT YOUR FIRST ROAD COURSE WIN LAST WEEK AT INFINEON, NOW ON TO DAYTONA: “It was a great win for our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge. To be able to bring it home at a road course was event that much sweeter. Neat stuff all the way around with winning. It helps us with padding or creating that insurance policy, so to speak, in making the Chase this year. To get a win over the years and keep adding to that was great. But just the overall team perspective, to win, it’s just great to know that we know that we’re doing the right things on the race car to make it fast. To be able to execute with a perfect plan last week, I think the only two cars to do the two-stop strategy were the Penske cars. It was awesome that we had that fuel mileage and the speed to carry it through and do that.
“Coming into the Coke Zero 400, it’s a great sponsor of ours with Coca-Cola on the team and we want to try and get a check mark off the list which is to win a restrictor-plate, points-paying race. It’s the same car we ran here at Daytona in February. It was a top-five finishing car. We had a great Speedweeks. Not much has changed with the rules package or throughout the garage area as far as the competition side. So, we’re hoping that we’ll have that strong car like we did back here in February and put our Dodge up front and see what we can do in that two-car draft to bring it on home first this time.”
WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON DRIVERS SELF-POLICING WHAT HAPPENS ON THE TRACK? “Road course racing gets tougher every year at Sonoma. At Watkins Glen, we see the packs give a little more appreciation for one another on double-file restarts and not roughing each other up. It seems like at Sonoma it gets rougher and tougher each year. To be up front and stay out of the mayhem, that was a goal of ours. I learned over the years that I could be running fourth or fifth and you’re in a vulnerable spot for someone to take a shot at you. Does it carry over to the next week? It’s always there. Drivers never forget. It seems like each year that you go to those restrictor-plate races that you have your friends that you’re going to draft with and then you have those guys that you’ve had some run-ins with that you don’t necessarily want to draft with. But what ends up happening in this two-car draft scenario is wherever you come out on pit road after a pit stop and if you haven’t teamed-up with someone, you might end up drafting with someone that might be on that list that you don’t like, but you have to do the best that you can do to win. You got to put your differences aside for the short term.”
WHERE DO YOU STAND ON THE TWO-CAR DRAFT? “It’s necessary right now. To win, you have to have speed in that two-car draft. Anytime that you can tell a driver that he’s going to be four-seconds faster a lap and he’s got a shot at winning, then he has to do that. And so that’s what everybody is doing – this two-car draft. I’m for it. It’s what it takes to win right now. As this track gets older, as Talladega gets older and as we maybe see rules changes come about, we won’t see the two-car draft as prominent. But right now, it is and it’s what it takes to win.”
CAN YOU TELL US WHO PATRICIA DRISCOLL IS AND HAS YOUR PERFORMANCE AT ALL BEEN AFFECTED BY ANYTHING IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE THIS YEAR? “There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes. Obviously, when you win people want to take you down and that’s happened this week. I’ve got some notes and things that I’ve put together and all I really want to say about that is that drivers sometimes have a beef with certain media members or different ones of the print or broadcast media. Things are reported, generally speaking. The majority of our journalists are hard working, responsible individuals who like us, are trying to do their jobs the best way that they can. I appreciate that. I also appreciate the fact, until now, the media has been extremely professional in respect to my personal situation with Eva and I. And, although all those in the NASCAR community have been aware, for some time now, that we’re no longer together and that we are legally separated.why do we go through this process? It’s been tough. The upcoming weeks, we’ll work toward formally terminating our marriage. We do so with the most respect for one another and we’ll always be friends. With that, I’m happy to answer any other questions about the racing side of it. It’s just the personal side is just that.
“There are things going on at the personal level. There are things personal with the team that’s been well documented. Like I’ve said, performance on the track is always the best antidote for putting all that aside. I think the way that we’ve handled the situation of this sport; we’re really good at respecting one another. I’m happy that I’m an athlete in a sport that really cares about writing about our sport versus writing about our personal lives. The other sports get into the professionals lives in a very personal way and I’m glad that I’m in the NASCAR world to work with you guys and to respect that as well. It’s tough. We’re an entity, but I’m still a person.”
CONVENTIONAL WISDOM BEFORE THE SEASON, WAS IT WAS GOING TO TAKE ONE WIN TO GET INTO THE CHASE; ONLY ONE DRIVER HAS ONE WIN IN SPOTS 11-20. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THAT? “I think over the years we’ve seen guys get into the Chase without wins and that’s what this wild card was meant to do, that the 11th and 12th place group of cars have been running consistent, but we want to see the winner’s in there. We want to put a bonus together for the guys that win. Right now, we’re supporting that No. 2 car as much as we can. We want to see (Brad) Keselowski in that wild card group because he’s got a win, but right now he’s 12 points on the outside looking in. It’s an insurance package to have that one win and right now, we’re ahead of a lot of guys. Even if we start to struggle in points with overall finishes, we still have that one win to boost us ahead of quite a few guys that don’t have those wins.”
DO YOU THINK THAT YOU CAN GET IN THE WILD CARD BIRTH WITH ONE WIN? “At this point, yes. But the problem is that there is 10 weeks to go and there are 10 opportunities for guys to get that one win. Kevin (Harvick) with his three wins has a great opportunity – he can cruise on easy street. If guys still add up those wins and he doesn’t have those points buffer, it can get interesting pretty quick. Ten weeks to go with one win, we feel pretty solid.”
WITH THE WIN NOW, IS THERE LESS PRESSURE ON YOUR TEAM? WILL YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT? “There’s a little less pressure, but we’re not going to do anything different to change the game. We still want to win. We want to compete for wins and most importantly, that’s done with competitive cars that are leading laps. It’s been cool the last five weeks to lead the most laps at two events. That definitely gives us the confidence that we’re heading in the right direction. We know that there are still certain areas that we can improve and make ourselves even that much more of a threat once the Chase begins.”
WHAT WAS THE SPARK THAT TURNED AROUND THE RECENT PERFORMANCE AT PENSKE? “We asked everybody at the roundtable discussion this Tuesday, which was a very positive meeting, from where our meetings were, on what is that one thing. None of us could come up with one thing. It was little bits here and there and everywhere. Even Walt Czarnecki was in the meeting personally and we had some of the other executive who were there to slap high-fives for a great win and a good momentum run right now. There’s just not one thing that we can point at that has helped us improve. It’s been a wide range of things.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON NEW ASPHALT AT DAYTONA VERSUS THE OLD SURFACE? “Last year, it was very interesting with the old surface and still being so focused on handling and making sure that you could keep your car wide open throughout the entire race track. The big bump between turns 1 and 2 was still and issue. It was that old school ‘who can slide it the best’ and this time around, we have that grip in the asphalt still.
“It’s still fresh. We’ll be able to hold it wide open quite easily. We’ll be connected in that two-car draft. Just coming in today and just working on radios and to have radio communications with other teams has been the big thing instead of sitting there worrying about your setup and what you’re going to bolt on you car for that handling package. Right now, it’s just about raw speed, very different from just 12 months ago.”
IS THERE A TRACK ON THE CIRCUIT THAT HAS FRUSTRATED YOU AS MUCH AS DAYTONA? “This place has been good for speed and opportunities to win and yet, I’ve still been the bridesmaid three times in the Daytona 500. I haven’t had quite the success in the 400 here. I’m looking forward to it. There’s a track named Martinsville in Virginia that I just struggle at. I just can’t find the one niche there. I won there years and years ago, but since then, it’s just been a struggle trying to find the right amount of turn versus grip. I’d say Martinsville is my toughest track.”