NASCAR Media Conference
May 26, 2009
DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's NASCAR teleconference in advance of this weekend's event at Dover International Speedway. Joining us today is Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing. Kurt comes into the Autism Speaks 400 presented by Heluva Good!(r) third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. He's 115 points out of first.
Kurt, it's the Monster Mile. It's a tough place with endurance and all kinds of strategy challenges. What's the outlook this week?
KURT BUSCH: Well, it is. It's always a tough track that you look forward to going to because if you don't, it makes the weekend that much longer. For me I made my first what was then Winston Cup start at Dover, so it's always had that special place in my heart. Get pumped up for it just because of that fact. Like you said, the Monster Mile, it can jump up and bite you very quickly, and you always have to be on your toes when you go there to make your adjustments on the racetrack.
Q. You've already had a fair amount of success this year with the new Dodge engine, and I guess Kasey Kahne is going to start using it at Dover this coming weekend. I know they're a different team and all that, but is it going to help to have more of those things out on the racetrack for everybody involved?
KURT BUSCH: Well, I've always felt that more is better, and the fact that they're getting it in their cars is great news, just so that we can advance the whole Dodge program in general. Does it affect us? No, not really, but it's good news to know that they're moving forward with that engine because of the fact that who knows what direction Gillett Evernham Motorsports is heading or Richard Petty Motorsports is heading because their contract is up at the end of the year. So it's nice to know that they're pushing forward with their Dodge product.
Q. Looking back to this past weekend, you were running really well up until you reported a vibration. Did you guys ever figure out what that vibration was?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, we actually had a loose wheel. It was the right front, and the stud length on the new hubs, they've mandated the length on all the threads that when the lug nut goes on it has to be a certain length. I see it almost as a safety hazard because of the fact that they're so long that the crew guys have trouble getting them tight every time, and therefore it creates a loose wheel situation.
So we've had it almost every other race this year, and it's a big concern of mine to get this ironed out.
Q. As you know, this media is going on today or maybe has already taken place. I just wonder from a driver's standpoint if you have any suggestions for NASCAR on how to improve the racing.
KURT BUSCH: Well, it's always a difficult question, and to address the issues for the drivers is always in NASCAR's mind, and then, of course, putting on better racing is always in their mind, and a lot of times when the drivers ask for one thing, it doesn't necessarily mean the best for racing. So we always have to keep in mind that we need to put the best foot forward in everybody's concerns, whether it's safety, whether it's better racing, whether it's on Goodyear making a better tire for us.
That would be one of my big issues is the tire seems to be a question every week, and it's due to the fact of this new car. So if Goodyear can produce a wider or a bigger tire, why don't we go to that. So that's going to be one of my questions that I'm wanting to get answered for me.
Q. Looking ahead a little bit, and I know this is kind of like in the future, but if Dodge drops out of NASCAR because of the possible bankruptcy, does something like switching to a different car present a big problem for you as a driver? It's too bad because the new Dodge engine seems to get you out of the hole faster when they drop the green flag, and it seems like the car has much more power and it's faster. But what does happen if all of a sudden there's a bankruptcy situation and Dodge drops out?
KURT BUSCH: Well, it's always difficult to play what-if, and right now our concern is to make Dodge as fast as we can on the racetrack to allow people to feel comfortable with their decision to buy a Dodge product. And for us to be third in points racing our Dodge Charger feels good, and we just have to continue to work hard to keep at that pace.
It's always difficult to look beyond what is current or what the reality is, and so therefore I look up to a guy like Roger Penske to make those decisions for us, and to me it wouldn't present any type of problem if we did have to switch, but right now our concern is to really go forward with our Dodge products and make sure that they're receiving all of the credit with this new engine and the products that they give us to race.
Q. These days it's tough growing up anywhere, any way actually. But your brother and Joey Logano have had to grow up in the top levels of motorsports under the public eye. It seems like around the time that you were in the NASCAR championship you seem to have matured a lot. I just have a question, do you have a comment on your brother's situation and his maturity process and how it compared to yours?
KURT BUSCH: It's great to see him having the success that he is, and he's one of the top drivers out on the circuit. When you grow up in the spotlight or under the microscope, it definitely can humble you very quickly. So he's seen the good and the bad with it, and he's doing an excellent job of staying focused on the race car, because ultimately that's what's most important. And the fact that he's able to go out there and answer the critics' questions and perform, that's all that he's worried about and that's all that he wants to do right now. Is that the best thing? Of course, that's what every driver wants to do. But in the big picture, he'll begin to settle in and find his own rhythm sooner than later.
Q. What specifically have you done and has Penske as an organization done that's elevated you really into a point where you're able to contend for a championship this year where maybe you wouldn't have the past few years?
KURT BUSCH: Well, it's been a battle with the new car, and we felt like we had to improve in all areas of the program, whether it's downforce, better power from the new engine. The setups that we're running seem to be quite a bit different than last year. So we're really just -- going through a year of hardship and struggle of last year helped us focus this off-season to develop new things, new ideas, and we can't just really point our finger at one thing that's helped us. It's been all around. So we look forward to more ideas and better things that can advance our program to keeping us at this level.
Q. I'm going to head to Pocono in a little bit. Some drivers in the past have expressed a little bit of disdain for coming up here. Have you seen anything or experienced anything that might make it difficult to drive on this track or at least maybe make it a little bit annoying?
KURT BUSCH: Well, Pocono is a difficult track, and it's challenging because of the fact that all three corners are different and the fact that it's hard to find that perfect setup, you could say, and therefore it presents a challenge that some drivers are up for and some drivers aren't. But Pocono is a great racetrack. One of the concerns is the fact that 500-mile races there seem to be a bit too long, and when you can only go 35 laps on a tank of fuel, it seems to just add a little bit more to the fact that it does last a long time.
Now, 400 miles, would that make sense for Pocono? I think so. But hey, those 500-mile races are very prestigious and people always want to win on those long, long races.
Q. I wanted to quickly follow up. Last year you were very frustrated at times with the car and with the team. What did the guys on the team do to build a positive relationship and situation among you guys when you were struggling?
KURT BUSCH: Well, we've got a good solid group of guys, whether it's the road team or the pit crew that jumps over the wall, and even the guys back at the race shop are all motivated to build better cars and get the best result that we can. When you're having troubles and struggles, everybody wants to work harder and try to put those hard times behind us and move forward. When you have a good group of guys that know that when things are going bad and people get frustrated, you just work a little bit harder and put those bad concerns or those things that take you away from the actual objective, you put those behind you quickly, and I've got a good group of guys that know what's being said but actually what needs to be done is really the group of guys that you want.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the monster makeover. Obviously they've made some significant changes to that pit wall between Turn 1 and Turn 2. Obviously it's a lot wider coming in, and then your actual slots themselves are a little bit longer. So what's your game plan for this new pit row, and how are you going to optimize that to help you finish this race in a nice way?
KURT BUSCH: It's difficult to hear your question, but I believe you're referring to Dover's pit road and the changes that they've made. The way Dover has always been set up is they have that horse track in the infield, and it's limited space between pit wall and the pit boxes and just the tight defines of the garage area, and it's going to be refreshing and nice to see the new changes and what they've added to the racetrack to make it better for all the racers.
I remember sharing a pit box at Dover my rookie year because I qualified so poorly. They only had 42 boxes, and the last-place guy had to share with the other last-place guy. It makes it difficult when you know you're behind the 8-ball to start with, and so now that they've made improvements, it's going to be a better atmosphere for everybody. I think getting in and out of the garages there was always difficult. So I'm pleased to see that they've made some changes, and we're all excited to be able to go out there and race and get more practice time because of these changes.
Q. Just to follow up on Tom's question about your team, what makes Pat Tryson such a good crew chief? I guess you'd say he's sort of old-school now compared to some of the newer guys with engineering degrees and stuff like that. Can you talk about that.
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I believe the best quality about Pat is his experience level and knowing that there's always something that you can rely on from your past to help you with a current situation. And the fact that when there's a decision to be made and a question to be answered, he has that experience level to bring out the best result, whether it's a pit crew call or whether it's a decision to choose this pit box over that pit box. Just having that experience factor leaves a better feeling in my mind to know that I've got the right guy on top of the pit box.
Q. I wanted to find out, we're well into the season now, and all the talk coming into this season was about the economy and how teams have to cut back. I wanted to find out what your personal experience has been, if you've noticed things with your team that have been cut back due to finances, and if you've had to make any personal sacrifices as far as travel or anything along that line.
KURT BUSCH: Well, I have been blessed with a great car owner in Roger Penske and how he operates his business. We've been sheltered from some of the changing times in our economy and being able to make differences here and there. With the way that he has things set up and our team president, Tim Cindric, those guys have done an excellent job of maintaining a high level of operation, a comfortable working atmosphere and just the ability to go about business as usual, and knowing that at the same time they are making adjustments behind the scenes. And so therefore me as a driver and David Stremme and Sam Hornish, we haven't really felt the strong effects of the weakening economy. But we're able to go out there and race our cars and have business as usual.
And at the same time, to finish up on your question, to make travel arrangements a little bit differently, whether it's plane-pooling or driving to one race or making sure that we do a better job logistically to get to our events, that's one of the concerns that we've always tried to address.
DENISE MALOOF: Kurt, thanks very much for joining us today. We appreciate it on a short workweek, and good luck this weekend at Dover.
KURT BUSCH: Thank you very much. I'm definitely anticipating the new pit road and garage area and improvements that Dover has made. It just shows their commitment to our sport to be able to make those changes and be able to move forward because of the fact that this always is a moving target, but Dover has always been a great racetrack in my mind.
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