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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Kurt Busch
February 1, 2006

KURT BUSCH: I think everything's going real well. Getting up to speed. We've been on a pretty good tear with tests. We've done Lakeland so far, Atlanta with Goodyear tire tests, Daytona for three days. We did Nashville the week before this. We're going to hit Kentucky not really on our way back, but logistically it looks like on our way back to North Carolina, get ready for Daytona. We have quite a few cars we've run through. One is a Charger, one is an Intrepid. We have these cars, those cars. I think it's been a great start. The team is definitely gelling real well together, making good adjustments, bringing up differences in the way the 2 car used to drive versus where it looks now as well as comparing things to the 12 car, what they've got going on. It's been a good day, much better day than what we were doing yesterday. Yesterday, just trying to decide the real differences between a Charger and an Intrepid.

THE MODERATOR: Does it feel strange at all climbing into that blue 2 car? Have you kind of gotten used to it now?

KURT BUSCH: It still feels strange for many different reasons. I kind of feel a little like Rusty Wallace. Everybody says, "You're just not big like Rusty was." I'm working on that. Rusty is a great guy to look up to and to fill his shoes. I think of it more as just carrying on his legacy, the good times he's had, the championship, all the race wins, and of course he's a short-tracker. That's really where I'm beginning to shine in the Nextel Cup Series is on the short tracks. Looking forward to the challenges of Bristol, Richmond, Martinsville, those good short tracks. Of course, we've got all kinds of good races coming up.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions here in the media center.

Q. Jeff Wolf, Las Vegas Review Journal. Kurt, what was it that made you want to go to Penske?

KURT BUSCH: What made me want to go was just the sheer determination to go to Victory Lane that you could see from Ryan Newman, but mainly from Roger Penske. The relationship we've developed over the last few years has turned into a great relationship. Looking forward to this weekend. I get to go to the Super Bowl with him. Having that relationship with a car owner, that's really what drove me to make that decision. But when it gets down to the bottom line, I've got to look at where Kurt Busch can go and win races. I believe with Penske and Dodge, I can go do that far more into the future.

Q. Damien (inaudible), Orange County Register. Was there ever a time after Phoenix you were worried a relationship that you thought was building might not be there as strong as it would be or supportive through the whole thing?

KURT BUSCH: Roger was very supportive, 100% behind me. Never gave me any indications that things would change. The way he came to stand up to bat for me really gave me that great impression on his leadership and the values that he has as a team owner. Not at all. He knew the truth. We were moving forward. We've been in the car, we've been testing. Going to the Super Bowl this weekend. Roger has been a great guy, no doubt whatsoever, that things were going to change since then.

Q. Doug Kazarian, Channel 13 here in Las Vegas. Talk about the Super Bowl, going there. You saw some images from media day yesterday, all the hype, bizarre questions. Talk about how excited you are, maybe what you can bring over to NASCAR from that event.

KURT BUSCH: I love to go to different sporting events. Live sporting games, events, are things of my passion, whether it's all the way to the Super Bowl or as small as my buddy's little league baseball team. I really enjoy going out and sitting in the bleachers, just absorbing the atmosphere. This time around, going with Roger, I probably won't have much time to sit down and absorb the atmosphere with on-the-go things we're going to be doing. Roger invited me to the Super Bowl. I got a chance to go a couple years ago when the Carolina Panthers were there. This time around, I'm for the underdog. We'll see if Seattle can pull it through. Reminded me a little bit of the 1985 Chicago Bears with the quarterback having that flair to him, having an MVP runningback.

Q. Debbie Arrington, Sacramento Bee. We hear you are happier than ever right now. You look it.

KURT BUSCH: Thank you.

Q. How is it racing against your brother? You've seen him develop a lot. Back here in Vegas, you still get a little rivalry going between the two of you?

KURT BUSCH: Oh, absolutely. Last year he finished second in the race. I finished third. Went up to him, put my arm around him, said, "I'm cutting you off from information, no more, you beat me. You're out my windshield instead of my rearview mirror." He's done a great job to develop through the Busch Series, come into Cup and win two races in his rookie year. He's a quick study, a challenge to race him out on the racetrack because he's a hard racer. Any time that I get to finish in front of him, I just kind of jab him and let him know. He's definitely calling me up on Sunday night, even before we get home, "Where were you today? I was up front." It was great. Great to have him win a couple times last year, to have him develop so quickly. Man, we never raced against each other all that much at the local level. We did, but now it's really for some serious competition. We're going to have those bones thrown back at each other last year.

THE MODERATOR: When you did race, you could never figure out who won because you always argued who won as many races.

KURT BUSCH: Exactly.


Q. Kurt you have to be completely objective testing the Charger versus the Intrepid. We heard from the Dodge guys there was a balance issue. Very well-balanced car with last year's Ford. You had probably some of the best horsepower in the garage. Talk about where you think the Dodges are in comparison to the past and present automobiles.

KURT BUSCH: Yeah, spending yesterday on a two-day test, so a full day committed to challenging the '05 car against the '04 car. With the results that we found, they have to go back and sit down and look at the things that we recorded. A full day committed to that type of test is quite a bit of time to distinguish the difference between the two cars. Then with my experience from the Fords, running well, having a chance to win races, they're looking at me at a broader perspective and not necessarily in detail on which car is better. I'm just relaying the information that I felt, and that is my past experience versus what I'm experiencing now. So bottom line is I think there is way more educated people at Dodge right now than me making these calls. With Ray Evernham, his team ownership, with Penske and his team ownership, you have the Petty's team ownership, and Ganassi fits in there as well. Their engineers and their people are much further ahead on the research in the difference between the '05 car and the '04 car. My input will help impact them in making their decision. I'm not just sitting there holding the gauntlet. Ryan Newman has more of an impression on these cars, I only have a one-day test so far.

Q. (No microphone.)

KURT BUSCH: I think I explained to the first one that it's not my responsibility to pick which car we run. I think it's a great opportunity that Dodge has to look at two different cars. I've seen qualities from the Charger. I've seen qualities from the Intrepid. It's the '04 car versus the '05 car, that's what we're calling it. I keep saying the wrong word, help me out with that. The look that each one has, the '05 car seemed to run faster by itself but fall off sooner. When you do that, you don't have a chance at winning races. The '04 car doesn't run as fast in the beginning, but it seems to maintain its speed better. When you look at it, does Dodge have a problem, because they're always on top of the speed charts? They just never end up on top of the speed charts when it count, and that's at the end of the race. That's why there's a movement to look at the '04 car.

Q. Joe Stiglich with the Contra Costa Times. You accomplished a lot in a short time in your career. Being with a new team, how much of a feeling is there of wanting to prove yourself just because you're with a new team and new people and also taking into consideration the guy you're replacing in that car?

KURT BUSCH: Honestly, I'm just happy to be here, to get a fresh start, to move forward. What Penske Racing can offer me, the chance to drive the Miller Lite Dodge, is the opportunity of a lifetime. I'm challenging myself to model myself after Rusty Wallace, legendary champion, a great spokesman for his sponsors, a great guy that could really go out there and get into the marketplace and reach the fans. That's my No. 1 objective this year, is to be able to show the fans that I have that drive to go out there and do those creative things to create different opportunities for the fans to meet me, because I want to go and meet the fans.

Q. Claire B. Lang, XM Satellite Radio. In talking to Roy McCauley, he called you a journeyman champion. There is no question when he comes in in the morning that he knows the guy behind the wheel knows how to drive a race car, and that puts a smile on his face. What have you learned about Roy since we talked to you at Daytona, since you tested with him for a couple of days and your team?

KURT BUSCH: It's tough for me to go down this path and say that he's done this and this and this so much more differently. Jimmy Fennig was probably the best crew chief I've ever worked with. Roy McCauley is going to be that guy again. He has just a different approach. Fennig is the old-school veteran, where he knows how it's done. Just don't even worry, don't ask him a question, he'll get it done. Roy McCauley is a guy that has this engineering background of open-wheel cars, blending it into stock cars. It's just a different approach. I can relate Roy to a very energetic, enthusiastic crew chief that has all his bases covered. He's lacking experience, but he's covering the lack of experience by the depth of knowledge that he has about race cars and conducting people in a manner to run a race team. So to have a two-day test in Vegas, one day committed to the '05/'04 challenge, then today we're moving forward on our '04 car, we chose the best car, and that might help Lee Spencer with that one, and we're moving forward in that direction this morning. So now this afternoon, he's got a program set forth on how we can attain speed in qualifying. We'll go to Kentucky next week, brush up with a few more of our details, we should be ready to rip for the downforce season when we go to California after our Daytona 500. Great crew chief. Nickname Cannonball because when he runs around, he makes some damage happen. He might look like a cannonball, too.

THE MODERATOR: Kurt, thank you for coming in. We're moving in another driver.

KURT BUSCH: All right.

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