Ford Performance NASCAR: Kurt Busch Winner’s Press Conference Transcript

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Bass Pro Shops Night Race (Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, TN)
Saturday, August 18, 2018

KURT BUSCH WINNER’S PRESS CONFERENCE

Q. We were doing some numbers. The last time you were in Victory Lane here was when most of these people were in high school. How does it feel to be locked in for the Playoffs now with this big win?

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KURT BUSCH: Did you replace the batteries in your calculator? Probably wore it out.

It’s been a while. I’ll tell you, this track brings out the best in everybody. Just to come here, to feel that Saturday night atmosphere, racing under the lights, it brings you back to the roots.

To have Billy Scott, his first win, short track racer that grew up going through all the different tracks. When you come to the Holy Grail of short tracks, you want to win it. I’m proud of his effort, the whole team.

I’m always a little bit more nervous when my dad is at the track. He’s watching, sees every move. There’s things you do on restarts he taught me from the beginning. The Saturday night atmosphere is family, brings out the best in you. Glad we were able to deliver tonight.

The race was incredible. Every time I looked in the mirror, somebody different. Restarts, I look in the windshield, somebody different. Ton of fast cars tonight.

Q. How much did that damage affect the car on the second lap?

KURT BUSCH: I’m glad it didn’t. I didn’t really know how much was there. I just told the crew what I could see from the inside of the car. The hinges were intact. That’s a good sign. So the hood was just folded up. As long as they get that flat, get the tape on there, that still held our downforce at least at 90%. We weren’t full front downforce because of the damage, but it’s a short track. As long as you got enough.

It all held together after the first application. We didn’t have to keep coming back in to fix it again. I hit it once, we were able to move on.

Q. How much of a transition period was it this year to work with a new crew?

KURT BUSCH: It was a little transition period just because we weren’t together last year. Working with Billy Scott, he’s very committed, a great lead engineer with William, a group of guys that know what needs to be done. It’s just a matter of us working through practice sequences, that feel in qualifying, as the race progresses what adjustments we need.

You can add to this, Billy.

I think we turned the corner going to Loudon a few weeks ago. We had never been to Loudon, but we treated it like it was the second Phoenix. We sat on pole, led most laps at a flat, one‑mile track. It’s time now. We’ve been a consistent team, but we’re starting to crest that corner of now we need to win.

We got the win tonight.

BILLY SCOTT: Yeah, much to that point, Kurt has a lot of experience and knowledge to know what it takes to get the job done, how to keep perfecting the car as the race goes. We did make a conscious effort to keep ‑‑ started out the year having a lot of good runs in the first part of the races, running up front. It’s a lot to capitalize on it, adjusting in the right direction at the right time. That’s something that is tough here of all places. Tonight had good feedback back and forth on what direction to go, what we need to keep getting better towards the end of the race.

KURT BUSCH: I think we helped each other. You were relying on a ton of my experience. At the same time I’m starting to step back. The way we joke around about our setups, we’ll change this, that, the other thing, just shoot in the middle. That’s how closely we are starting to narrow down on it. It feel goods going into each of the sessions without having big questions going into practice, qualifying or the race.

BILLY SCOTT: It takes time to learn that communication, what somebody means. But I think now when he says something pretty simple and short on the radio, we get what he’s talking about.

Q. Any win, since you hadn’t won since the Daytona 500 last year, is a good time to win, but is there no better time to win to show your focus on this year when there’s all sorts of chatter about what you’re doing next year?

KURT BUSCH: Winning is great, any time, no matter how long there was in between. The motivation is always there. To have a group of guys like Billy, so many first‑time winners on this crew of the 41 car. I remember winning my first race here at Bristol. We all got special rings. I’m going to get all the guys rings on their first win. It’s big. It’s a moment. I’ve been pushing hard to get those guys to Victory Lane. I’m glad I can deliver.

For me, you never waiver, you keep focused. The timing was perfect with our team gelling, this Bristol night race, go after it. Then with the rumors on the outside, is all rumors. You just stay focused, laser focused on the task. That’s what I love putting my helmet on, even though I left my helmet out on the track after I won, have to go find another one. You put the helmet on, it’s go time. Can I make top five helmet tosses?

Q. How does it feel to be one of the few guys that can say they won at the old Bristol and the new Bristol? There’s only like three guys that have done that maybe.

KURT BUSCH: This track has been kicking my butt since they redid the concrete, reground the outside lane, then have been throwing the traction compound on the bottom lane.

Today was funny, lap 150, the bottom lane was so caked up with just everything, it was like a punk rock kid in the ’80s continuing to put Dippity Do gel in his hair, going the next day with more in. The bottom groove was a hot mess.

I’m like, The outside is going to come into play. Always have to stay cool here. Have to roll with what damage you have here. You have to find lanes on restarts that will work. At the end of the day, if you’re in position at a certain lap number, I’ve always had a lap number in my head, we were right where we needed to be, you got to deliver. I’m glad Billy put me in that spot to win here. It’s great to win on the old one and the new one. It’s been a while.

Q. You mentioned on pit road you considered you were the most consistent team this season that didn’t have a victory. A lot of people search for the consistency you’ve shown this season. Now that you have the victory, do you feel you have all the pieces necessary to contend for the championship?

KURT BUSCH: I feel like we’ve had them from the get‑go. It’s just a matter of them maturing. A win doesn’t change anything. We’re going to go like the same group of guys to attack, to get the best out of each session, to know what we’re supposed to do with the tires, qualifying, aero. No reason for us to change on anything what we’re doing. There’s this nice progression. Each and every week we have not more confidence but more clarity. Just keep going. We’re going to keep it simple.

Q. Given how long it’s been since you last won here, where does this win rank for you for wins in the second half of your career?

BILLY SCOTT: Ranks one for me.

KURT BUSCH: Race one, bro. I always wanted to get to 30. This is a big win for me. I grew up at Roush Racing watching a guy named Mark Martin help me. He was a great mentor. I looked up to him as a racer. He had 33, 34 wins. I think he might have ended his career with 40. Early on, before I won my first ever race, If I can get to 30, that’s a pretty special career. Made it tonight. I’m choked up about it. I really love this win tonight. To have six Bristol trophies is special.

Q. You mentioned 30. You and your brother are the only two brothers with 30 wins each now in the series. You are fifth and sixth all time on Bristol’s win list. What is it that made this place a place you two both could click? Is it genes?

KURT BUSCH: My dad is sitting right over there, we should ask him. He’s going to decline.

But the education our dad gave us about racing cars, how to get the best out of all four tires, maybe the little bullring track that we grew up on at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was a fast 3/8ths mile. If you slipped up a little bit, you lost a ton of time.

All the different videotape we reviewed, all the tracks we traveled to. I don’t know what it is about this place that fits our style. There’s not a lot of braking here. Kyle and I are notorious for being hard on brakes. It took him forever at Martinsville to find that rhythm.

Just the attack, go after it, you run hard. You run 99% here all the time. That’s what Kyle and I do. It pays off at this track until you step over that 1% line. This track just fits our style. I don’t know what it is about it. A guy like Larson, we know he goes 99% all the time. Now he’s starting to find his rhythm.

Q. What does it mean, if anything, that the Busch name is now cemented, the more you two accomplish at brothers, not even teammates, Petty, Allison, what does it mean to you that the Busch name is up there?

KURT BUSCH: Just keep going. There’s nothing that you set forth to have as targets with name or legendary status with your brother. My dad was a great racer at the local level. It’s nice, though, that there are the big wins. We both are champions. We’ve both been through a lot.

Next thing you know, there’s another one in Victory Lane. It’s still fun. It’s still a fun challenge. The books and the different accolades, the trophies and things, in due time will tell their stories.

I don’t know, haven’t really thought about it. It all will kind of pan out where it does.

Q. You mentioned six trophies. Last trophy here, they didn’t have swords. What are you going to do with that now?

KURT BUSCH: There’s this new gladiator Coliseum sword thing, of course. Better watch out. Might be sharp. We’ll find a special place. I think that will be a great gift for all the guys to take away something special from this race, to have that, to conquer the Coliseum.

I tell people all the time, Go to cool tracks here, go to cool tracks there, but when you come to Bristol, make sure you’re ready for a show. This place puts on a show. The grandstands, the atmosphere, a marquee top five event on our calendar. It’s really neat to win here.

Q. You said your goal was 30. What’s next on the bucket list?

KURT BUSCH: Southern 500. That’s next week. Right, Billy?

BILLY SCOTT: Yep.

KURT BUSCH: We’ll go after all of them.

Billy, what’s on your list?

BILLY SCOTT: Number two.

KURT BUSCH: Baby steps.

Q. With it having been so long since the Daytona 500 victory and this one, how have you handled it emotionally? Billy, because you’re in your situation, how has Kurt’s experience in these types of striving to win and all helped you?

BILLY SCOTT: First off, he obviously knows what it takes. 30 times is pretty impressive. But he’s never lost the confidence. I don’t think it’s ever been a question of if the next one will come, it’s when. There’s been a lot of opportunity there. It’s just putting it all together.

These things are no doubt everybody knows it’s hard to win. Everything has to go right. You have to be in the right position at the right time, have the car right, not have damage, everything else that goes into it.

I think it’s been clear to him, he’s had plenty of opportunity to do so. It just hasn’t all come together. I don’t know how it was before, he can elaborate on that part, but just having that confidence carry over to us, we could feel it. He didn’t ever question whether it was a possibility to win, it was always we’re going to win, we just need to put it all together. Yeah, tonight is a good example.

KURT BUSCH: Having raw speed in the car is very important. You can’t have any weak areas. If we have any weak areas, it’s driver on late race restarts. Some of those have been forced by some slower pit stops. Tonight the stops were perfect. No need to get in a panic. It unfolded nicely on restarts for us. We executed as a team.

Q. Billy, you’ve worked with lot of drivers before. Talk about the team building skills that Kurt has. He’s notorious for doing fun things with the guys.

BILLY SCOTT: Yeah, absolutely. This goes a long way. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in some good teams along the way. That’s carried over into my mentality, too. We’ve had just in the last month numerous events, going to the rock quarry, his birthday party, even we went testing in Texas this week. The guys that were there, we all hung out at the basketball court at the hotel shooting hoops, joking around, making fun of each other.

You can tell, he genuinely loves everybody on the team, believes in them. All that does make a huge difference. It’s special to get a lot of them their first win. As a group to win, it will be cherished and appreciated.

Q. Over the last 24 laps, in the early stages of race I saw you driving all over, trying to find a line. It was like you were packing away information you would use in the closing stages. What was going through your mind over the last 24 laps on old tires?

KURT BUSCH: Track position is key, but the heat cycles on the tires are going to change which lane you choose. With fresh tires, the bottom lane is going to give you the speed you need for 10 laps minimum. Then it’s a matter of going up high, and not losing lap time when you switch lanes. Just have to throw the car in there, step on the gas and go.

With the heat cycles, Larson starting behind me, I had no doubt in my mind I needed to own the high lane, as is Larson’s MO. If you take somebody’s strength away, that means you’re ahead of them. It just worked out where I had track position, I had the lane to choose, I hit my restart, then you just check out.

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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