NASCAR Media Conference
NASCAR Media Conference
August 16, 2007
THE MODERATOR: Hello, everybody. Thanks for joining us. I want to thank Kurt Busch from Penske for joining us. He is 12th in the NEXTEL Cup point standings, and, Kurt, I think we'll jump into it.
Will you give us a recap of your last five weeks as you moved yourself into position being 12th in the point standings?
KURT BUSCH: It definitely has been exciting the last five to six weeks moving up in the point standings and getting comfortable with the new crew chief, Pat Tryson. The two of us are hitting it off well, and the race car we used at the Pocono will be prepared for California Speedway, with that race coming up in a couple weeks; that car won't be used in Michigan.
Q. It's great to see you back in the fold.
Each and every week feels like the last week for us, whether we're running for a championship or getting in the chase. It's been a little bit of a nail biter; we're not out of the woods yet, but we have a cushion with four weeks to go before the playoffs begin.
We feel comfortable, we're the ones with the edge to get in, and we need to stay cool and consistent these next few weeks to give ourselves a shot at the championship.
KURT BUSCH: Thanks.
Q. Now, I sure don't want to be a jinx. You seem like you got a pretty good position in the chase. The Cubs are one and a half out of first. How good would life be if you and the Cubs both make the playoffs?
KURT BUSCH: (Chuckles.) I remember back to 2003 when the Cubs did, in fact, make the playoffs, and I found myself at way too many Cubs games instead of working on my life, which would be the race car.
Q. Have you been to many Cubs games?
Life would be great. We're definitely pulling hard for them, and I know that we're doing the job we can at Penske Racing to make sure we have all our T's crossed and I's dotted to make the chase.
KURT BUSCH: Actually hit one before the Pocono race, maybe that was an omen! Cubs lost that day 7â6 to the Phillies, but it was great to visit Wrigley and have an afternoon at the ballpark. Sat in the bleachers with all the bleacher bums, so I had a good day.
Q. Hey, what's the secret on the bond between you and Pat? What will make this special as opposed to some of the other crew chiefs that you've had in the last year and a half?
KURT BUSCH: I think it gets back to Pat's experience level, reminds me of what Jimmy and I did together, where he was confident in his pit calls, and he knew at which time to pit and what to adjust on the race car, and he's a car guy.
Q. You had good luck at Michigan and Bristol and Fontana. Are you confident going into these last three weeks that you guys can continue this roll?
I think the bottom line is he knows how to work on it himself, he loves to tinker with the aerodynamics of the car, and he gets along well with team engineers, but he's not an engineer himself; he's a car guy, and I think that's why we're clicking.
KURT BUSCH: I certainly hope so. I have had an opportunity to win at each of the upcoming tracks before the chase starts with Michigan and California Speedway, Bristol is in the mix, and then Richmond is the final race. But your general past can help you, but yet it's what you do live at the track these next few weeks, Dale Jr. had a strong car at Watkins Glen and ended up with a DNF, and that's the situation that we have to avoid right now.
Q. Clint was on the call yesterday, and he said he thinks the top 12 are going to be the ones going into the chase. Do you see much movement happening in the next four races?
KURT BUSCH: I would like to agree with him; that would give us a lock in the chase, but anything can happen. There's so many points that are up for stake each week, if a guy has a DNF and a guy goes out there and wins the race, there is the ability for 150 points to change.
Q. Who is the one that's outside right now that kind of scares you the most?
You never can count your chickens before they hatch, and for us we like being 12th, but yet we're not locked in, so I look forward to catching guys like Truex and Harvick and Bowyer, possibly, in these next four races to help put pressure on them.
KURT BUSCH: You know my teammate, Ryan Newman I think has put a good string of races together. I know what equipment he has, and right now the way the teams have been operating together, we've been doing a fantastic job, and I think the Dodges continue to get stronger as the year progresses with the downforce cars. It will be interesting, two downforce races and two COT races left in the season. It's going to be interesting.
Q. Kurt, do you find yourself in these lastâ ââ have you found yourself racing for the points? I know at Pocono you guys had a dominant car, but does it affect the way you guys approach a race to try to get the points? Not to take any chances that you might have taken earlier in the year?
KURT BUSCH: We have to be fairly conservative, and at road course races, just as this past weekend at Watkins Glen, it usually comes down to fuel mileage, and we would have had to stretch our 16 green flag laps to make it ââ or yellow flag laps to make it, where Jeff Gordon stayed out, Denny Hamlin, a host of others stayed out, and they made it on their fuel, where we couldn't have made it.
Q. How do you and Pat come up with these calls? Is it a combination of what you guys are thinking, or is it all Pat telling you, "Here is what we're going to do here"?
And we may have been able to stretch it but, with the aid car having problems on that same yellow flag, we decided we needed to pit and take the conservative route.
KURT BUSCH: If I could give a percentage, I would say it's 80/20; 80% of it's controlled by Pat, and I'm the one driving the car, so if I decide I don't want to pit, we can stay out. But his experience level brings more confidence to me, and it seems like we're all clicking on the same page at the same time.
Q. What happened with Harvick and Montoya last week? Is there more pressure heading into these races, and do you think we might see more stuff like that?
KURT BUSCH: I think it was an isolated incident, and Truex gave Montoya a push into the 29. Anytime Harvick gets wrecked, he's upset and doesn't take in the whole story.
Q. More pressure on you guys to make the chase, do you think stuff like that could happen? Do you have to be careful or what?
He jumped the gun on that. Montoya was there to apologize, but now I'm sure Harvick is getting a few death threats from Columbian race fans, so I think he knows what he did wrong.
KURT BUSCH: There is an incredible amount of pressure each and every week, whether it's to get your car into victory lane or get a topâten finish, but with the chase here, I think it's a matter of points, which are very important, and you don't want to have one guy take away a shot off you gaining points, so the drivers will be upset.
Q. Kurt, what do you think of Kyle's decision to go over to Gibbs? Do you think he and Hamlin and Tony will fit in pretty well together?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I've supported Kyle's decision to go to Gibbs Racing. It's one of the best Chevy racing teams out there next to Hendrick Motorsports, and it gives him a fresh start, new group of teammates, but still work for the same auto manufacturer. He will take that and run with it, and I think he'll do very well over there, no matter if Tony likes him or not.
Q. Sitting here on the bubble like this, do you ever look back and think of one race and say, "Hey, man, if only that would not have happened, I might have been in the top"?
KURT BUSCH: There's quite a few circumstances that we have to look at if we don't make the chase, but we can't look at the past; we have to look ahead and move forward.
Q. How about the last finish at Pocono? Was it a good victory for your team?
To do that, if we had better fuel mileage, I think we could have had some better finishes at five different races versus where we sit on points, so we're looking at that and our pit calls. We've moved forward with Pat taking the helm, and we've looked at the small things and are trying to move forward and improve.
KURT BUSCH: It was a great victory, whether it's myself understanding that it is still possible, or the fact of getting Miller Lite to victory lane, with our investment with Penske and myself, and even Dodge, that was their first win on an oval track this season. If you can peak before the chase starts, you are being looked at as a strong team once the playoff begins.
Q. It's almost viewed as winning a mini championship.
KURT BUSCH: It seems that way for the sponsors and for the team owner and manufacturers. They want to see their car having a shot at the championship. If we miss the championship chase, and then we go and win three or four races after that, then you just sit there and go "what if?" "What if we would have made the chase? We would be leading the points right now."
Q. Kurt, from start to the current time now, what do you thinkâ you have learned? Have you grown? What's made you different right now than in, say, Februaryâ at Daytona?
KURT BUSCH: It's been a year and a half now at Penske Racing, and learning their system, the people, how to communicate with Roger, and of course his group, just pleased to be here with this team and the way that we seem to be hitting our stride right now.
It just took a while in the beginning to communicate and to really be on the same page with everybody, and I think we have that now. So to be as strong as we are right now feels great.
THE MODERATOR: Kurt, we appreciate it. I know you're on a tight schedule today. Thank you very much. We look forward to having you out here in the west in a couple of weeks. Good luck in the next few weeks.
KURT BUSCH: Always enjoy coming out to the west coast, born and raised Las Vegas, raced in L.A. many times, and Arizona, looking forward to it.