Ford Performance NASCAR: Kurt Busch Wins Inaugural Roval Pole

Ford Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Bank of America Roval 400 Qualifying (Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC)
Friday, September 28, 2018

Ford Qualifying Results:
1st – Kurt Busch
7th – Clint Bowyer
9th – Ryan Blaney
15th – Joey Logano
16th – Trevor Bayne
18th – Michael McDowell
19th – Kevin Harvick
20th – Aric Almirola
22nd – Paul Menard
23rd – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
25th – Brad Keselowski
28th – Matt DiBenedetto
30th – David Ragan

KURT BUSCH, No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion – “It’s pretty special to get the pole at an inaugural event and to do it here at the Roval, I mean, there’s so much going on. There’s so much that everybody has to manage, crew chief, lead engineer, myself, engine tuners, everybody chipped in on this 41 car the right way. We had a plan for the first two rounds and it paid off. I struggled this year qualifying at Watkins Glen and at Sonoma, so we came here with a plan and it worked. Some conventional wisdom and thinking played out with our pole run today, but thanks to the guys, Monster Energy, Haas Automation, and Ford. We’re on the pole for the Roval.” WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO KEEP IT UP THERE ON SUNDAY? “Let me think about that tomorrow. We threw a pretty aggressive setup at it today and now we have to protect our tires. I’m seeing a lot of rear tire drop off, which means the cars are sliding a lot with the rear as we make laps, and so stages are 25 laps in the first two and we’ve got to make sure our rear tires want to hang out that long. Right now, they’re telling me they’re not gonna hang out that long.”

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RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Pennzoil Ford Fusion – “That was a whole lot better than the way practice was going for us, so that’s a positive. It was a long day for practice. I thought we got better in qualifying, which is good, and I probably left a little bit on the table there. I messed up the last two corners here, but definitely better than what it was a few hours ago.”

CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Mobil 1/Advance Auto Parts Ford Fusion – “I was really worried about today. I mean, if we’ve been faltering anywhere it’s been qualifying. That at least puts us in position to capitalize on some stuff. I’m confident in our race package and confident we can go out and run long runs and weather the storm. We just needed to get by that and we just did, so I’m fine.”

KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion – “We went faster than what my goal was, so that was a good thing. The goal is to make the driver faster, but the car is plenty fast.” SO HOW WAS YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORT TODAY? “Better than expected.”

TREVOR BAYNE, No. 6 AdvoCare Rehydrate Ford Fusion – “It went alright. We didn’t end up in any tires, so that’s a success. I think if I can say that at the end of the day Sunday, we’ll have a trophy to show for it. If you just survive this thing, you have a shot to win. I think it’s fun. I think it’s kind of like indoor karting. Everytime you come in it’s like, ‘I could have done this better, or I could have got a little bit more here.’ The other road courses we go to it’s just muscle memory. It’s like, ‘OK, I know this braking point and this lift point and if I don’t do that, it’s not gonna be a good lap.’ Here, you don’t really know until they call out the lap time if it was a good time or not because you don’t have that muscle memory. It’s just kind of feel and you’re judging things, so I’m OK with how we ran today. We were decent in practice and 16th in qualifying. That puts me right in the bees nest, so I already told Matt (Puccia) to pit me off-sequence and get me out there by myself where I don’t end up tangled up in turn one on the green flag. If you see the 6 coming down pit road to start the race, you’ll know why but it was fun (laughing).”

 

KURT BUSCH POLE-WINNING PRESS CONFERENCE

KURT BUSCH, No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion – “This is really special to win any inaugural race or pole, and to have this little trophy next to me means a lot. It brings me back to my past of when you go into a new event and you’re a rookie, you have to execute with fundamentals and an open mind, and the way our team on the 41 car approached this weekend was to make sure we had all bases covered with the front cambers, the rear shocks, the setup in general and all those little things. But behind the scenes I spent over two days at the Ford simulator working on the Roval, making sure my shift points were proper and braking zones, and when you have such good technology available to you it’s a matter of utilizing it. I turned 40 this year and there I am on the simulator acting like it’s a video game and you have to do those things, and I’m really happy that it panned out today. After our second qualifying run in practice, we were on the heavy loose side with the tires. The rear tires are already struggling for rear grip and so we made some adjustments and that put us right on the bubble for the first round, but I was hoping that it would play out and that our setup would be optimum for round two. Those are fundamental things you do on short track type weekends where the grip level is low for second and third round qualifying. I’m really happy. Thanks to Billy Scott and everybody at Haas Automation, Monster Energy, Doug Yates and Ford. It’s really special to have the inaugural pole here at the Roval.”

WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF THE COURSE TODAY? “My most challenging part of the Roval is the back straightaway chicane. There’s a lot of speed to be gained and a lot of speed to be lost. When we were here testing the tire barrier didn’t seem as close to the racing groove as it is now, so the risk versus reward it’s a huge penalty when you scrape that tire barrier versus the speed you’re going to gain, so that’s where I put most of my focus today. I even talked to NASCAR about it. We could look to the inside of that tire barrier and create an escape hatch in case cars are all plugged up and you’re still trying to move around that tire barrier you can go far left and kind of just get away if there is trouble. There are all these little things all the way around the race track and today to sit on the pole every corner felt slow, every corner felt like I lost time, but I think that’s part of the key is to not overdrive in the next corner trying to pick up time you lost in the previous corner. I think that’s an important fundamental aspect of going into a new style of track and those are things that I take with me when I race different Indy Cars, Rally Cars, drag racing, even like the Race of Champions. When you drive a variety of different cars you try not to lose time when you’re out there, you just try to maintain.”

WHAT IS THE PHILOSOPHY ABOUT SETTING UP THE CAR FOR A COURSE LIKE THIS? “We’re definitely out of our element when we have this style of road course because at Sonoma we’ve got years and books and stacks of information. Watkins Glen we’ve got a ton of information, thumb drives, files, everything to help us, so this week we came in with a 50/50 approach. The front 50, rear 50, left 50, right 50. Everything just has to be 50/50 and then go from there, and so we got aggressive on our qualifying setup and it worked. I’m happy that it did and that means we can now try to de-tune that setup and make the rear tires last for the full fuel run.

“That’s gonna be the toughest part once we settle into race trim is the rear tires. After lap five on a test session they were already telling you, ‘Hey, we’re tired. We have no more grip for you,’ and you’ve got to get another 20 laps out of them.”

WHAT DOES IT SAY TO YOU AS A DRIVER ABOUT YOUR ABILITY TO ADAPT TO A COURSE LIKE THIS SO FAST? “When I first started racing I had a little dwarf car and when we started winning some races the Legend cars were getting hot. We had one of those. We had an IMCA modified and on any given Saturday night I would run three divisions in one night at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Bullring and driving three cars, heat races, main events, all in one night, those are the things my dad was teaching me to adapt to, whether I knew what I was doing or not, and he did the same thing with my little brother, Kyle. It was drive anything at anytime, be prepared, and my dad was way too serious. That’s why Kyle and I are always so serious, but today I came in with a mindset of just have some fun with it and try not to slip too many tires and you might come out on top. The guy that I circled, AJ Allmendinger, I knew he would be a tough guy to beat, so when you can predict who is gonna be tough and you have a gameplan, that’s what led us to this pole for the Roval.”

WHERE DOES THIS POLE RANK IN YOUR MOMENTS WITH THE 41 TEAM? “It’s a fantastic moment that ill have a nice Stewart-Haas banner hanging in the rafters. We’ve put together banners for pole wins and race wins and I’m happy to add to that legacy in the 10th year of Stewart-Haas Racing. It could be a top-five moment if we win on Sunday. Poles are special. They’re not the end of the world, but when you come to something for the first time and conquer it quicker than anybody else, and it has inaugural written on it, I’ll be moving maybe a trophy over on the shelf and sliding this one in its spot because this is pretty special today.”

WHAT HAS MADE YOU A GOOD ROAD COURSE RACER? “I just like to have fun with it. Early on when I was struggling at Watkins Glen, Penske put me in his Busch Series car and I sat on the pole and won the race. It’s my car. It’s not me. It’s not the track. It’s more of the car and mastering the Monster Energy Cup car around the track, and that teaches you to look at front tire wear, rear tire wear and not just burn through things and you have to be good on long runs. So to get a pole today it’s special again, but you have to be a student and you have to apply braking zones, apexes, corner exits. Those are things you learn in road racing school, and then you have to learn how to drive these big heavy stock cars that have half the tire and weigh too much and have 800 horsepower.”

ANY PLACE THIS COURSE REMINDS YOU OF THAT YOU’VE RACED BEFORE, AND IF IT WORKS WELL COULD IT SERVE AS A BLUEPRINT TO TAKE NASCAR TO STREET COURSES IN THE FUTURE? “There are different aspects of the track that have a street course attitude and it’s mainly the exit of turn one, crossing over pit road, and then up a hill where there’s a bunch of different asphalt seams and it’s really rough, and you have this funnel of concrete on both sides through turn two and the exit of turn two there’s a concrete wall on your far right side that draws your eye to making sure you’re clear of it, but then now you’re crossing under a pedestrian bridge and turn three’s curbing is tucked behind it, and those are all these blind corners and funnel effects that you see a lot on street courses similar to Long Beach or Belle Isle in Detroit, and you watch the IndyCars, you watch the sports cars go through those tracks and those sections and how bumpy it is and yet how they’re creating grip and the forward drive, and then the section coming back onto the oval is very similar to Daytona in the section where you turn back onto the turn one oval at Daytona. That leads to the longest straightaway and you better nail that corner or you’re gonna pay a big price in your lap time. And then the curbing. The curbing is very violent. You have the red and the white alligator teeth and then right behind them are the blue turtle shells that are very round and tall, so there’s the nice cushion leading up to them, but if you hit them too hard, then you pay a big penalty, so there’s speed to be gained until you lose all your speed and that’s the unforgiving nature of street courses.”

DID YOU FEEL THIS COULD BE A TOTALLY CLEAN WEEKEND FOR YOU OR KNOWING THAT AT SOME POINT YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE SOME SORT OF DAMAGE? “If I could turn into spy hunter and throw out the smoke screen and the oil slick out behind me going into turn one, then we’ll be clear for a while. I don’t expect a clean weekend. There’s gonna be something here, something there and we just have to protect our car on the 41 group because we’re in a good spot to transfer to the next round of the Playoffs. We’re in a great spot right now to cash in on points in stage one and we just have to continue to roll with anything can happen and be prepared for it and have a game plan, and right now we did our job today and I just want to thank Billy Scott for pushing me to find more and to always continue to give feedback. It’s days like today that really make you think of that teamwork aspect.”

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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