NASCAR Winston Cup Preview
Topics: Winston Cup
January 18, 2003
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
Q. Kurt, what is the outlook for the No. 97 Sharpie/Rubbermaid team this year, starting with Daytona?
KURT BUSCH: Daytona is always fun for us. We always try to prepare the best cars that we can and work around the 8-ball so to speak with the Ford situation, so we're going to continue to move forward with it. We had a great finish with a 4th last year. Testing was mediocre; that's the way it seems to always happen at Roush Racing. We never show any signs of brilliance; we are not holding the rear with both hands. Its just Daytona. We can't wait to go to (Las) Vegas and test out there and begin the season with the quick stop at Daytona and Rockingham, Vegas.
Q. There is talk about, at some point down the road, cutting the down force and softening the tires back up which supposedly would be going back to the way the cars were a few years ago. Do you guys have any feel about that or do you just show up and drive whatever rules NASCAR gives you?
KURT BUSCH: It seems like that's going to be the media feed for a while, with taking down force away and giving us softer tires. There is always change that comes about with Winston Cup racing, a little change here, template change here. They will take a track bar away from you at Daytona, Talladega. There are always things they do to try to keep the competition level. Whether you are a new guy or old guy, there are always things to adjust to. They have to change with the times, keep up with what the drivers are asking for and with what the fans are asking for and of course putting on a great show which is what Winston Cup racing is all about.
Q. Last year toward the end of the season you were arguably the hottest driver on the circuit. Did you wish the season could have gone on a little longer last year? And you must have a hell-of-a-lot of confidence going into this season; given the finish you had last year?
KURT BUSCH: Yes, things were a lot of fun. When you are winning races, there's a lot of pressure that's put on you. You get pulled in different directions, media, sponsors, owner, but really it was about having a good time and a lot of fun. With the season ending the way it did, if we continued on, it would have been a great test to see what the team was capable of doing. I think the biggest factor in our success at the end of the year was we were back in 12th place in points midway through the year after a couple of bad races. That was where we didn't think we belonged. We thought we belonged somewhere in the top-10. We kept giving each race our best effort and we knew if we slipped we would end up 8th or 9th. We just kept applying pressure, making sure we did not make mistakes to beat our self because we were only 20 points out of eighth place at the end of the year. So eighth place wouldn't have been a bad season but third place is a heck of a lot sweeter, so we are looking forward to the coming season. .
Q. Kurt, it doesn't sound like you are excited to be going to Daytona?
KURT BUSCH: Well, it's the same old story at Daytona. Jamie explained it fashionably. We go there and test three days in a row with just sitting out there waiting in line to go back out. There is the hour of drafting practice. I got all excited for that. That was to break up the monotony of just doing qualifying runs. It's just qualifying runs, that's all we do during testing. It's difficult to give input to the crew chief on what the car is doing. It's just a time that's part of the process. You know, there are teams that are real excited about speedway racing and there are other teams that go there just to gather up the finish. With my recent history with plate racing, it's feast or famine, top-5 or DNF. So it can go either way with us. We need to build a solid points base at the beginning of this year. And Daytona, there is still prestige behind it. I can't wait for February 16th. It's just the days leading up to it.
Q. Kurt, when you answered the first question you said something about still being behind the eight ball with the Fords. I guess you meant at the superspeedways. Is that still going to be a problem this year with all of the changes that have been made?
KURT BUSCH: It just seemed relevant in testing that the Fords were a bit behind with the strongest Ford coming from Mark Martin which is a good sign. With there only being 11 Fords this year, the cars are stacked up a little different. But of course we are going to build the best cars that we possibly can and build the best restrictor plate engines, do all of the testing that we can and we will see how the 125 shakes out. I'm in a different position this year, I can sleep much better at night when I know that I am going to be third in points and have a guaranteed spot in the 500 where the two years leading up to this I had to race my way in. I only made it in by one position. So it's been an eventful Daytona for me for the first couple of years; this year it will be more satisfying.
Q. You are one of the younger drivers, more attuned to the computer generation, that type of thing, and I know during testing today, they hook everything up on these cars; they are running three or four computers on a car. Do you feel the fact that you have come up with computers and this type of racing that you may actually have an edge over some of the older drivers when testing wasn't that sophisticated; you are more attuned to a little bit of the new technology out there?
KURT BUSCH: It's just like anything else in racing, you have to be open-minded to adapt from it, to learn from it and just ask questions. Whether it's easier for the young guys to do that or tougher for the older guys because it's a different way of life for them, I don't know. It used to just be them and the stopwatch. Now you can say that some of the engineers, they bring up a lot of ideas about the car. Of course you have to AB everything and that is test it one way and then back it up again. It's a process that everybody is going through and it's easy for everybody to learn if you put your mind to it.
Q. Kurt, last year you kind of came up underneath the radar screen to finish third in points. This year people look at you as a championship contender. What are the challenges or differences, the mindset now that people are keeping a closer eye on you at the beginning of the season than they were last year?
KURT BUSCH: In the past, I have not spent many years in the racing divisions that I have been in. With the (Craftsman) Truck Series just one, with the Southwest Series just two. Before that, it was a maximum of two years. So this is my third year in a racing series and it's the most comfortable that I felt because of the way that the team's come around me and with the experience that I have gained. So with the pressure of obviously living up to the expectation of the previous year will be a new element because I haven't had that opportunity yet. So it's a challenge. I'm looking forward to it. It will be a lot of fun to be able to have that limelight, so to speak. But it's a matter of being able to produce results. You got to go out there and be competitive. We are going to try to shoot for 25 Top 10s this year, which will be the solid backbone for what we think we need to accomplish our objective this year, which is championship aspiration. We'll just give it our best shot; analyze it halfway through the year. If we've done things wrong, we will change things so that in the second half we can make a run at it.
Q. What about the pressure associated with being a contender for the championship?
KURT BUSCH: There's different types of tensions that pull you in directions. There are things I haven't seen before and I am not familiar with; you have to roll with the punches. Being a rookie in Winston Cup racing is probably the most treacherous, the most mind-boggling situation that one individual can go through. So this is a new element where you have to continue to strive forward and to be one of the forces to recon with in Winston Cup. There's a lot of pressure that comes with it.
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