NASCAR Hall of Fame Media Conference
Topics: Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota
October 7, 2010
STEVE BYRNES: Good morning. Thank you all for being here. I'm Steve Byrnes. I want to thank the race fans that have come in the Hall of Fame, I saw a bunch of you heading in right at 10:00 o'clock sharp. Certainly the media, as we preview the Bank of America 500 week, not weekend, that's an important distinction.
Just I want to share a quick aside before we get going. I've been in Charlotte since 1985, and I'm still overwhelmed and humbled by being in this Hall of Fame.
I was telling Winston Kelley, and let me get my manners first. Want to introduce Winston Kelley, who is the executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and Marcus Smith, CEO, president of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Also want to recognize Tim Newman who is the CEO of the CRVA, they run the Hall of Fame.
So my quick little story is this summer I had a low day, brought my 8-year-old son and my 12-year-old nephew down here. And my 12-year-old nephew plays baseball, football, he thinks racing is okay, it's just something uncle Steve does. But he said, Uncle Steve, I cannot believe the Hall of Fame is in my hometown. Once I got in here, they were completely blown away. And I told Winston, They like the older exhibits more than they do the new stuff. I think that's a lot more eloquent than anything I could even say as a broadcaster. So it's a big hit, the Hall of Fame.
For five decades, Charlotte has certainly established itself as a premier destination for race fans each October. But never before has there been so much to do surrounding the fall race week, between the speedway, the Hall of Fame here, and all of the different race shops. This will be the biggest Bank of America 500 ever.
You know, you seldom see a true Sunday through Sunday schedule surrounding race week, but Winston, you're kicking things off early with an affordable way for fans to visit the Hall of Fame.
WINSTON KELLEY: Yeah, we're kind of taking a page out of a lot of folks in sports and in NASCAR in particular into numerology. I think D.W. won the Daytona 500 on the 17th day of February in car 17 in his 17th try. So we're kind of taking a play off of that with a 10/10/10 promotion.
This coming Sunday is October 10 of 2010, so we thought it would be neat to offer $10 tickets to everybody that came to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on that Sunday. Course, we've got a special parking break, it's only $5. And our friends at the Charlotte Motor Speedway have offered a $10 voucher good for any ticket for Charlotte Motor Speedway event coming up the following weekend. So in essence, with our base ticket being $19.95, you're essentially getting in for free if you take care of that $10 ticket and $10 voucher. So that's something we're kicking off with a lot of other activities throughout the week.
STEVE BYRNES: Marcus, talk about the other pre-race activities. The second class of the Hall of Fame will be announced pretty soon.
MARCUS SMITH: First of all, that's a great deal, Winston. I'm glad you told us about that, that's really good. You can take that gift card over to the speedway and our dirt track. Course, we have the modified coming in with the Southern Modified Tour coming in Thursday night, pole night.
One of the great things about being in Charlotte is just like your nephew said we don't realize how good we've got it. You've got the NASCAR Hall of Fame in our hometown, our home state, so the fans that come from 350 miles away or more -- which the average distance traveled for a race fan for this next weekend's race is a 350 mile one-way distance -- they'll come in, and they get to come to what is really the Disney World of NASCAR.
So they kind of get on the Charlotte Motor Speedway cruise ship, and will be welcoming thousands of fans as we come into Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and we start up with a lot of activities for our campers that come in early. Course, we're going to have a great pre-race show on Saturday for the Bank of America 500.
STEVE BYRNES: We have a couple of questions before we open it up, but want to say, this will be the biggest Bank of America 500 week ever.
Marcus, I want to get back to the idea of coming to Charlotte Motor Speedway, coming to Charlotte and the surrounding area being more than just a place to see a great race. I mean, you've got a lot for fans to do before the race even starts.
MARCUS SMITH: Well, we really do. When you look at all the things we have going on at the speedway starting this Sunday, come out to the Hall of Fame, enjoy it for $10, get your $10 speedway gift card. You can go out. If you've already got tickets to the race for the Bank of America 500 on Saturday, you can take that $10 to the racetrack, take a friend to the race. It's going to be a lot of fun.
We start off at the campground for a potluck dinner for our campers that come in early on Sunday after they come to the Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we really have something special for everybody.
The other thing that's great about racing, it's a family affair. When you come out, you can bring your family. In fact, we just announced the first ever kids section in turn four. We're going to have characters from Charles Schultz there, the Peanuts gang, Snoopy and Woodstock, and we'll have lug nut come and join us in the kid's section.
We've got great kid's pricing; $10 to come to the Sprint Cup race, Bank of America 500 on Saturday. That's going to be active on Friday as well. Face painting, and cotton candy and all those great things. And the big thing is the first time having a no smoking, no drinking section all for the kids and their families to come out and watch a Sprint Cup race. So you can come out, enjoy it with your family, and we've got kids- sized head sets. It won't be too loud for them so they can have a great time.
STEVE BYRNES: We've talked about the amenities. Of course, the highlight is the only Saturday night race of the Chase. The primetime running under the lights of the Bank of America 500, and if what's already happened in Charlotte this year is any indication, we've got a lot more to look forward to.
Ladies and gentlemen, for all there is to do during the Bank of America 500 week, the biggest accomplishment will take place on track if Kurt Busch can become the first driver to ever win all three cup races in the same year at Charlotte. Won the All-Star Race, the Coca-Cola 600, now hoping to win the Bank of America 500. Please welcome the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, Kurt Busch.
STEVE BYRNES: Kurt, we were talking early this morning, you've joined a pretty impressive list of guys that have swept in May, D.W., Earnhardt, Davey Alison, Jeff Gordon. But this weekend you could make history of your own.
KURT BUSCH: It's amazing. To hear the names and to be able to do the Charlotte sweep, I would have assumed that Jimmie Johnson had two or three sweeps at the Charlotte track over the years, Dale Sr., of course, Waltrip, Petty. It's really a neat fraternity of guys to be part of.
To have my shot at it here in 2010, we're definitely going to give it all we got. The best part about it is if we do that, that only helps us for our chances for the championship this season.
STEVE BYRNES: Winston Kelley, if Kurt is able to win, you've got a special addition to the Hall of Fame?
WINSTON KELLEY: We have said all along, and before I go on, I'm tired thinking about that. I'm glad the boss is here. Can I have Monday off, the 18th? Okay, get that out of the way. But we always said that there is so much to do here in racing. One of the things we also promised is we would have transition and rotation of exhibits throughout the NASCAR Hall of Fame. These two exhibits which highlight some of the premier moments in Charlotte race history will be transitioned next week to have some of the highlights of 2010. So you'll want to come back next week and see what those are.
But we hope to have an addition to that, in addition to the two vehicles that will be joining us next week, we've talked to Kurt and the folks at Penske Racing, and they have promised that if Kurt wins and accomplishes the sweep, that the Miller Lite Dodge will come here to the NASCAR Hall of Fame after that. So that's pretty cool.
KURT BUSCH: Then it won't have to go to the NASCAR R & D center and hang out for a couple of weeks. Who knows what happens there. No, that's great. I'm humbled and honored. To be able to go for the sweep and do something as special as this, and to have the car for everybody to enjoy afterwards, it will be a special meaning at Penske Racing for that to happen.
MARCUS SMITH: Kurt, I have to ask you, do you have any superstitions?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I do. What are you going to do to me? Are you going to help or hex it?
MARCUS SMITH: So far, our track record is not too bad. We were involved in the announcement when Dale Jr. announced he was going to run the Wrangler car. Ended up winning there, and it came to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Back May 6, and I've got to remember these, because our track record is better than I had thought. May 6, Denny Hamlin was here as a part of our soft opening. He won the next weekend at Darlington.
July 21st, Greg Biffle was here as a photo shoot, he wins at Pocono. September 7, we had a prearranged photo shoot with Jamie McMurray that we had booked a couple of weeks earlier, he wins the Nationwide race in Atlanta the weekend before. September 14th, Richard Childress was here for a nominee appearance. And September the 22nd Clint Bowyer had been scheduled for a couple of weeks to do an appearance here. Clint wins that weekend at New Hampshire. And September 21st, Rick Hendrick was here for a nominee appearance, and Jimmie Johnson won the following weekend at Dover.
So we've got a pretty good track record if you're superstitious. I wore my blue and gold today in honor of the Miller Lite Dodge. So help us out. Normally I don't pull for anybody, but I'll be in your cab come Saturday night for the Bank of America 500.
KURT BUSCH: That's an incredible streak. I'm feeling this is the chair of opportunity right now. That's what Roger says when I go and sit in his office. He says, Sit down in the chair of opportunity. And it's funny, if somebody else comes in the office right after that, then I've got to get up, and it's the next person's opportunity.
So we hope to follow suit and bring on the big trophy with all this good vibe. And what really is most important about the Hall of Fame is the way that it resembles our past, present and future.
To have a car already here and to be where I am in my career, I still feel like I've got nothing to show for it. I still need to go out there, push hard, try to get those wins, bring home championships and have the motivation like I do these next weeks. So we're definitely pushing to get the Miller Lite Dodge here after the Charlotte sweep.
STEVE BYRNES: Kurt, you have 22 career wins, and I know you guys look forward not back. But the last four have been on mile and a half tracks. So is there anything to that or is that a coincidence? Do we expect to see you in victory lane in Charlotte?
KURT BUSCH: There's a lot of times when you go through a streak at certain style tracks. I won it in New Hampshire and Phoenix four or five years ago. And this has been a streak that hits you. The way the teams build the cars. And the mile and a half has been very good to us; with Atlanta, here at Charlotte, of course, and then Texas. So what's funny is those are all Bruton tracks. So, hey, SGMI, we're doing it, feeling it.
MARCUS SMITH: I know you had some lucky friends that you bought some tickets for in May for the All-Star Race, and then for the Coke 600. Have you bought any tickets yet for the Bank of America 500?
KURT BUSCH: I can't buy them just yet. They have to be last minute, jump through hoops of fire. I had a bunch of friends come in that wanted tickets to the race. So the contact I had was Adrian Parker, the PR rep at the track. He said, I'll get you tickets. I said, I'll pay for them, I don't want them for free. So it was like $1200 in tickets I bought. So same thing has to happen. Make sure all my friends get slid in last minute, and hopefully good vibes come from that. We'll keep pushing it in our favor here.
MARCUS SMITH: Sounds like a sure thing.
KURT BUSCH: I don't know where they sat. I just said, I need good tickets and Marcus hooked us up.
STEVE BYRNES: Before we start our one-on-one interviews do we have any here?
Q. I'd like to know how you prepare yourself for a big race coming up that's going to mean a lot.
KURT BUSCH: That's the toughest part when they throw all these numbers out in front of you and say nobody's ever done it, maybe being naive about it and knowing we had a chance to do something very special would be better. But every week is a "Big in '06" challenge for us. We raced in practice this weekend there and we move it into Charlotte, week after that it's Martinsville. So each weekend is a big, Super Bowl style weekend.
Ultimately you get into the practice zones of qualifying, and trying to make the crew as fast as you can, and in the end when you're in position to win, and you've done all of your homework, and you've gotten through that pit stop, and you're out there in the lead running for the win, that's when the pressure starts to close in on you and you have to block it out. That's the most exhilarating part of the job, to stay focused and determined to win even though all that pressure is on you.
Q. I just wanted to know how you feel about not being in the blue deuce next year?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, it's going to be tough to switch from the Miller Lite No. 2 car, next year I'll be in the Shell Pennzoil. He served as the double deuce. So we'll be the 22 car next year. My favorite color is blue. It will be tough to see that go away. It will be wonderful to work with the guys at Shell Pennzoil. Worked with them a couple times behind the scenes. I'm racing out there with Harvick who is my teammate. That's not right. I got to go out there and beat him, and can't have anything happen to that Shell car. Right now I want to protect it, and that's kind of funny.
Q. You were talking about the traction next week, you didn't mention the sink hole. Fans have an opportunity to get in there?
STEVE BYRNES: Thank you for asking, Jenna. We have had a massive sink hole open up that has turned into a time capsule of sorts at Charlotte Motor Speedway. So we're working hard to replace the pipe that actually initially was put in as a second layer of the landfill of the speedway in the infields of turns three and four 30 years ago.
So we're replacing that pipe. It's going to take a little more time, but I think we'll have it ready for the fans to come into the infield and have a great time.
The center of the hole happens to be right where media parking is right now. So, hopefully.
STEVE BYRNES: That's kind of appropriate.
MARCUS SMITH: We've got all the fans taken care of. So you don't have to worry about your campsites, it's just media parking. So we're kind of pulling back and not too worried about it at this point. No, but we feel good about it. We've got a super crew out there. Some mega machines from Caterpillar that are helping us put it all together. We did find what seems to be Burt Reynolds' toupee from the filming of "Stroker Ace" out there in 1980.
STEVE BYRNES: They pulled out of the Charlotte newspaper from 19 -- early 1970s, and had an ad for a Peugeot, $4985. Seemed like a good deal.
MARCUS SMITH: Yeah, it was good. And if any of you remember Joe Whitlock was just hired in this Charlotte news story as the speedway's PR guy back then. So predecessor to Mr. Cooper over there.
And there's no truth that you found something from the 1985 car that won the All-Star Race in Junior's coming back to reclaim the parts?
WINSTON KELLEY: We did find those parts that appear to be related to Darrell Waltrip's engine winning that first Winston. So who knows. We'll have to get the forensic experts out to take a look at that.
MARCUS SMITH: And Junior Johnson's going to be at the track. And Richard Petty next week as well as the Hall of Fame inductees that will be announced next Wednesday are going to be the grand marshals.
WINSTON KELLEY: Yeah, that's a really big deal. So Wednesday, this Wednesday the Hall of Fame inductees for 2011 are going to be announced. And Saturday night with Bank of America 500 and NASCAR Hall of Fame, those inductees will be our grand marshals to give the command to start the engines again like we did last year. It will be really special, and should be a super night.
MARCUS SMITH: And they'll be here on Saturday for fans to come see the inductees, and maybe Junior can shed some light on that car. Darrell told us the other week it was more illegal than the car that finished second.
STEVE BYRNES: Relatively speaking.
WINSTON KELLEY: On Friday, we've got the Dollar General 300 Nationwide race. And we've got a free NASCAR Nationwide Series driver autograph session on pit road for everybody who has a ticket to the Nationwide race that gets in in time.
So the first people that show up for that will be able to go in for an autograph session on pit road. And I have a question for Kurt. I'm a race fan. Can I ask a question?
STEVE BYRNES: Sure, go ahead.
Q. Kurt, I'm just wondering, when you are down to the last 20 laps and you've got some guys in front of you that you like to be friends with and everything, but you've got to put the pedal to the floor and win the race, right? When does it become all business and you're going to take care of that friendship later even if you have to get up and get somebody a little loose?
KURT BUSCH: Well, I think the Busch brothers are the ones that invented the have-at-it atmosphere. I thought you were going to throw Kyle into this some way if we were racing neck and neck for the win.
When it come gets down to business, it's every man for himself. I've worked at Roush racing, and there were five teams that raced together. We worked together six days out of the week, and we go race on the seventh.
So you go out there and you race. You have your friends, but it's better to have a better friend list than enemy list. You try to keep your enemies down to the minimum. But at the end of the race, though, everybody knows you're out there fighting hard for every position, especially when it's as important as it is for a win.
With this being amped up for next week, a chance to sweep at Charlotte, there's definitely going to be a target on us. People are going to be shooting to take down the Miller Lite Dodge to say they're the one that's kept Kurt and that team away from doing the Charlotte sweep.
So when it gets down to the end -- plus, we talked about this earlier for this championship. It's my last few rides in the Miller Lite Dodge. They made an agreement, we'll give you beer for life if you win this championship. So if I'm running over guys, you know my motive now.
STEVE BYRNES: Hey, Marcus.
MARCUS SMITH: My new best friend.
STEVE BYRNES: I asked that question of Buddy Baker a year ago. What do you do if these guys are friends he said, Steve, if it you want a friend, get a dog.
MARCUS SMITH: I like it. I know if my brother and I were racing on the track, he would be the first one in the wall.
KURT BUSCH: That happened at your track a year ago. There were a million dollars up for grabs and Kyle and I ran into each other.
Q. It seems more and more drivers are getting involved and starting to sell tickets. Are you feeling the crunch that some of the tracks are under to fill the stands?
KURT BUSCH: We're just doing our jobs to help promote the sport. We're the draw and the reason that race fans come and want to see. We're doing our job out there to work alongside the racetrack for the promoters and the fans.
Just to have the opportunity to do the Charlotte sweep is something pretty special, therefore, I'm going to be involved in it. Whether it's this weekend going out to California Speedway and seeing Gillian Zucker out there and helping her with things. After that I'm doing the Winner's Circle program for Martinsville Speedway.
So each week where there are different programs that we're doing, we're not feeling the crunch. We're just doing a better job. We're not going to be shy to promote the event that's we race in.
MARCUS SMITH: The drivers have been fantastic stepping up and giving extra attention to race fans. For all the race fans out there, there's never been a better time to be a race fan than today because the tickets are less expensive, the driver access opportunities are more than they've been in ten years.
We're going to have, like I said, the Nationwide driver autograph session. We've got the Speed Channel out there with the Speed stage, having drivers come out and do the interviews and the Q & A race sessions. And they've added more and more programming to that program.
Tuesday night we'll have Kurt and a few other drivers out to the dragway. We'll open that up for fans to come out and see drivers, so that will be a lot of fun.
So more and more opportunities for fans to see drivers up close and personal like they haven't had in years. Of course, the ticket prices are more competitive as well.
Q. What is the etiquette in your mind between Chase drivers and non-Chase drivers?
KURT BUSCH: I've been on both sides of the fence. More years than not I've been the Chase and had the mentality of the other guys need to yield to a Chase guy. Then I've been outside looking in as a non-Chaser going well, I need to respect the guys that have a shot at the championship.
But in the end, you're a racer, and you're going out there to race hard for your team, your sponsor, your crew, and you're not going to treat anybody different out on the track. You want to go out there and still fit into the same rapport that you have through your whole career.
So when somebody steps over the line with you and they're a non-Chase guy or a Chase guy, you have to filter through it, digest it, and understand whether it was during the race, why did it happen? And each case is different.
I've been involved in plenty of them to know when it was intentional and when it wasn't.
So to me as a Chaser, a non-Chaser, it doesn't matter. You're your own identity. You are who you are. It's just the non-Chase guys need to know what's at stake for the Chase guys. There's just that small difference of this is postseason. You've got to play a little different when it's the playoffs than it is regular season.
KURT BUSCH: New Hampshire in '05. I got spun by Scott Riggs and that killed our Chase chances. It was accidental, it wasn't predetermined offer thought through that he was going to go retaliate like what we saw this past weekend. So that's a little different as well.
There are times that you step over the line. Like a guy like Carl Edwards stepped over the line to take out Brad Keselowski earlier this year. That was right over the line talking about Reutemann and my little brother. But you hope everybody goes out there and races the same way, but you've got to know it's playoff time.
Q. Did you drive the same car both races, and are you bringing that back for the next one?
KURT BUSCH: No, this will be our third car for the three races here at Charlotte. We won the All-Star Race, and I tore off the whole right side of the section right before the final ten laps. So that car was bent enough to where we couldn't get ready for the 600.
We won the 600 with chassis 704. Getting back to a more superstitious, 704 is the area code around here. Out in Vegas I used 702 to help try to win that race.
So we'll see what we learned from this test session yesterday at Rockingham, the car we're going to bring to California. We'll dictate what car we bring here to the Charlotte racetrack.
It moves that fast. The sport and technology, the way we build our cars and turn things around for the next week. It can happen just that quick on how you make decisions.
Q. Can you elaborate on that just a second? As we've talked to Steve and Tim and the folks, they said we'd love to have the car here. It can stay for a while, but there is a caveat that you may need it at another track. I thought they were going to talk about Texas, and they were talking you talked about that process, and when you decide and what you're looking for to decide. Then you can run it in Miami and bring it back too.
KURT BUSCH: Of course, I hope we have this problem of a race winning car that swept all the race weekends here in Charlotte, and we're talking about taking that car down to Homestead for the final race of the year. We've got three distinct cars in our fleet that have an advantage in down force over the other cars. And with us being in the Chase, the 2 car gets a choice.
If I don't choose to take that car to the racetrack then Brad Keselowski takes it or Sam Hornish Jr. takes it. So it's a pattern we've seen each week.
We know what we struggled with at Kansas this past week to finish 13th. We're taking something slightly different to California, and we'll adjust as we go. And this car could be the Holy Grail, and we'll need it back to go hopefully win another race and shoot for a championship.
But it adjusts week-in and week-out. That's why I have quality guys on my team. They're able to filter through chassis and overall how the car performed on the track race weekend.
Q. Do you feel like Kyle got what he deserved last week?
KURT BUSCH: We'll have plenty of time to talk about Kyle and Reutemann when we get to the track on Friday. This is a Hall of Fame-type event, and that is the atmosphere and the thought process that I have today.
It's racers being racers. It's not every day that guys run into each other. So when guys run into each other, it's good to talk about it. Everybody up here that's on this row behind me has had their run-ins with other drivers, and it's what makes our sport what it is today. The fierce rivalries, the competitiveness, the fire in the belly desire to go and be a champion driver and to be a winning driver you're going to have conflicts. That's just part of our sport.
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