Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011
Dodge Motorsports PR Watkins Glen International
26TH ANNUAL HELUVA GOOD! SOUR CREAM DIPS AT THE GLEN
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
KURT BUSCH (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T) WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO JIMMIE JOHNSON’S COMMENTS TOWARDS YOU YESTERDAY IN THE MEDIA CENTER? “When you said Jimmie was in here, I didn’t know if you meant (Jimmy) Spencer or (Jimmie) Johnson (laughs).
“It’s one of those emotions that boiled over and I felt like the way that we raced each other on the track was what champions need to do. And that is to bring the cars home where they were running on track. Third and fourth is where we were and that’s where we crossed the line. Where we raced each other with a juke-and-jive and rubbin’, that’s racing. I was caught up in it this week following it. I talked to my dad about things and my dad was like, ‘well, that’s rubbin’. That’s racing, son. That’s how it works.’ He just gave me that confidence to know and he’s the one that taught me a lot about racing. Everything that I’ve done in racing is to try and make him proud. He’s like, ‘it’s rubbin’ is racing.’ I’m putting the “R” back in racing and rubbin’ is racing.”
ANY CONCERN ABOUT THE EMOTION BETWEEN YOU AND JIMMIE MIGHT BE A FACTOR IN YOUR CHASE FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP? “It can. I look at year’s past before the Chase points system was implemented, back in the early 90’s when you had Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki and Bill Elliott running that year. When that group starts to separate themselves on who’s going to run for the championship, just like years past with Rusty Wallace and Dale Sr., it was those two guys. You always seem like you have two or three guys, and then it got down just to two guys who were going to compete for the championship. I’d love to see that atmosphere. If we can perform well enough in the Chase and be in position to race Jimmie Johnson for the championship head-to-head, that would be wonderful. For the way the new points system was structured, it’s not really possible because you can’t just focus on one guy. There’s going to be 12 guys that make this Chase and every one of them has a shot at the championship. I feel like you just can’t focus on one, you’ve got 11 other guys out there.”
WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT JIMMIE WAS THAT ANGRY LAST WEEKEND AFTER THE RACE? WHERE IS THE LINE FOR ‘RUBBIN’ IN RACING? “He was very excited after the race and came over to my car in my pit area where we were parked and was really excited. For me, I think the line was when he swerved at us to break the draft, that’s not a move of a five-time champion. That’s the move of a guy that has had an issue with a guy like me. We’ve raced each other hard and I’ve been spun out and wrecked a few times. We both know that we look at each other very sternly. That’s great competition. That blends into rubbin’ is racing. When you have a history with a guy, you just don’t forget about it. I learned from one of the greats about how to keep a memory of who does you right or who does you wrong and that was Jimmy Spencer. He taught me a lot.”
WHEN YOU FIRST MET YOUR TEAMMATE BRAD KESELOWSKI, WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF HIM? HAS YOUR RESPECT FACTOR CHANGED FOR HIM OVER THE LAST YEAR? “Brad’s done a tremendous job of blending into our system at Penske. He raced for Dale Jr. for a while and was following Jr.’s mold and that’s going to take you places. So is the Penske way of life. He’s done an incredible job of working with those Nationwide jobs in winning that championship.
“Now to have Paul Wolfe on his side on the Cup side, those two are definitely clicking and hitting on all eight cylinders. It’s neat to see his maturity continue to grow. The “Bad Brad” label is not as bad. He’s able to go out there now and compete at a level that’s going to get him a Chase berth. That’s what we want to see. Right now, he’s in great position to get that Chase berth.”
YOU’RE BEING AWFUL NICE ON JIMMIE. WHAT ARE YOUR REACTIONS ON WHAT HE SAID ABOUT YOU? “It’s great. It means that I’m in his head and if I’m in his head, he’s got to worry about us running through this Chase.”
WHAT’S A COMFORTABLE POINTS MARGIN WHEN LOOKING AT MAKING THE CHASE? “I’m glad that we’re in a more comfortable position, being up in the top-four and having an 88-point cushion on the cutoff. You can gain 40-some points in a race and you always think of that as the ‘big cushion’. So right now we have a two-race cushion. I’m glad that we can sit on the outside of the fence and not be one of those guys racing their way in or trying to race for a win. How many guys like David Ragan, Paul Menard, (Denny) Hamlin could fall into that, (Tony) Stewart’s going to be in the mix. You’ve got guys like Dale Jr. who doesn’t have a win and is right on the edge. There’s going to be a half-a-dozen guys going into Richmond with the stress level pegged.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BRAD’S TOUGHNESS? “You’ve got two tough tracks in a row. Martinsville would be the toughest with someone with a foot problem like that. He’s a tough character. He’s going through the rehab portion of it, doing what he can to go through the pain to try to get it better for when he really needs (it) and that’s when the Chase starts. He just needs to do the right things from the doctors and follow their lead. I’m just here to lend a hand and try to help up relieving his duties on the Nationwide car, so that the No. 2 team is focused. I worked with those Miller guys for years and they want to be in the Chase. They want to be a player towards the championship.”
CAN YOU SPEAK ABOUT THE DYNAMIC INSIDE THE TEAM AND HOW BRAD HAS BEEN ABLE TO ADD TO THE TEAM? WILL THAT CHANGE IF YOU ARE BOTH TITLE CONTENDERS? “I felt like Brad’s intensity for that Nationwide car really kept him back a little bit last year. But that was the focus, to bring that championship home in that Nationwide car and continue to build on the Cup side. So to see him settle in with Paul (Wolfe) and where they are as a team (is great). Their pit crew on the No. 2 car is hands-down faster than the No. 22 this year. Those guys have that desire, youthful exuberance, to go and to try different things and find it. Right now they’re putting it together. My team needs to feed off of that and find the groove the next few weeks to be that championship leader within the Penske team.”
DO YOU THINK THAT YOU AND JIMMIE WOULD HAVE HAD A DIFFERENT DISCUSSION IF YOU HAD MORE TIME AFTER THE RACE? “If we would have run into each other in the motor coach lot afterwards, the adrenaline would have calmed down a bit and there would have been a better discussion. He’s was really amped up. He felt that I did him wrong. The response that we got from different people this week and the race fans, they said it was exciting and that’s what they wanted to see. That’s the intensity and passion that our sport is built off of. This is a bunch of guys running stock cars in the Southeast. This isn’t open-wheel racing where we’re supposed to pass each other clean and be leading by 10 seconds.”
WITH BRAD LIKELY TO BE IN THE CHASE, HOW DOES THAT DYNAMIC CHANGE WHEN THE TEAM HAS TO SUPPORT TWO CARS IN THE CHASE? “It’s just more hard work from those fabricators in the back. Like last year, we made the Chase, Brad didn’t. If there was a car that was built off of new specs and went to the wind tunnel and showed brand new numbers, obviously it would go to the championship-running team. Now if you have a new car that is built and it spits out these great numbers and you have to have this next week at Charlotte, we need to have two now. Maybe if I was going to run my car at Charlotte, then he would get that car and I would get the new one based off of where we are in points.
“I go back to some of my memories at Roush Racing when had five cars in the Chase. We had cars going everywhere. We had people pulling ropes like it was tug-o-war trying to get the best pieces for them. I remember winning the Loudon race the year that I won the championship and Mark Martin wanted that car for Phoenix. Where do we stand?
“I’m up there in points, but Mark Martin is the veteran and the guy supposed to be running for this championship level. It gets very difficult when you have a lot of cars in the Chase. Luckily at Penske Racing, we have the facility and the people to crank out good new equipment if something comes up.”
DID YOU EVER ANTICIPATE BEING THIS GOOD OF A ROAD RACER? “It’s been a work in progress. I thought all along I could run hard on the road courses. The one race that helped me get to this point in my career was winning at Southwest Tour race at Infineon. It was only my second time on a big-time road course like that. Racing in the Grand Am Series in Rolex cars, just trying to run anything that I can on a road course over the years. I always thought road courses had a feeling of an ‘off-weekend’ where there weren’t points at stake. It was to go have fun and enjoy the atmosphere. That’s the mentality that I’ve taken. It’s led to a few poles and one win. I’ve actually got one win here in the Nationwide car. It’s fun to get out there and test your skills at a road course because we run so many ovals that you still want to be the jack of all trades on road courses. I’ve had fun running on dirt tracks and street stock cars and even my NHRA Pro Stock car.”