NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Dickies 500
Topics: Dickies 500
November 8, 2009
FORT WORTH, TEXAS
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with our post race press conference. We are joined by tonight's race winner Kurt Busch, crew chief Pat Tryson, and car owner Roger Penske.
Kurt, tell us about your night.
KURT BUSCH: Just a full team effort all the way around, good solid pit stops, to good pit strategy, back to the guys at the shop building a fast racecar, that I was a bit apprehensive of bringing to the racetrack. So it shows what I know and what they know. Just keep to the driving, Kurt, and let them do the engineering. In the end, this just makes a very solid team.
We were well-rounded tonight with power, with downforce, with handling. In the end, strategy is what played out for us to come out on top. A small bit of fuel mileage we had to play, but it wasn't very large, for us one lap shy. Our Dodge engine was able to give us the fuel mileage we needed to come out on top of everybody.
KERRY THARP: Pat, tell us about your day.
PAT TRYSON: It was a pretty smooth day really. We started off real good. Looked like us and the 18, whoever ended up getting in front of the other, would be the guy to beat. So clean air was real important.
But at the end we knew we were going to be real close. We knew everybody else was shorter than us. We were waiting for them to either pit or run out, and then we could save a little more. I think that's what helped us make it.
KERRY THARP: Roger, your turn.
ROGER PENSKE: I think it's a real credit to Kurt. Great job tonight. He had to pick up a lap on fuel. We told him early on, Pat, it's your call there to stay out. Kurt had a little vibration. Stayed out longer. It gave us not very good track position when we cam out, you could see that. Had to race pretty hard to get back up there. But we were really picking up on the 18 and the 00. He took his time.
At the end, I really wasn't concerned because the guy said we only needed one lap. I knew he could make at least one lap. You could see that.
Pat, great job for you. Appreciate the commitment you made in these last races. I want to say that publicly. I know you're a first-class guy. What a great win for you and for the team.
PAT TRYSON: I appreciate it, Roger. Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Kurt and Pat, was it an easy decision to stay out, considering where you were in points, or is it always a difficult decision on a fuel mileage game?
KURT BUSCH: For me sitting inside the car, when I came out with two stops to go, or one stop after we just initially stopped, Pat said, Save fuel. I looked at the scoreboard, I saw 120 something to go, if I'm not mistaken. I did the math. Divide that by two, it's 60 something on a tank of gas.
For us, it wasn't necessarily as big a risk as you might think. We could play it out the way we wanted to. We stayed out a little extra on the first run. That enabled us to stay out on the second run. I could feel it. I knew that's what Pat's direction was going to be. To risk fuel, I didn't think we were in that zone of risking.
PAT TRYSON: The biggest thing is when you're doing that, worrying about a caution falling late because you're giving up track position. That's how Kyle got the lead from us the first time, by shortstopping, making up half second a lap there for three or four laps, gets him by us. You know, only concern was a caution falling before everybody had to pit.
Q. If I'm correct in assuming you guys are running the new Dodge engine today, I don't know who would be the best person to answer this, was this a good test for that engine? Could you just talk a little bit about how moving forward the development of the new Dodge engine is going for you guys?
ROGER PENSKE: I think if you go back, you really got to go back to last year, Kurt agreed, we'd started returning the R6 last year. We've really been running it all season. I think we had to get it to a level of power of the R5. You can see Kasey Kahne has had some good runs with the R5 even this year.
I think each step has been a little bit. Certainly we saw it in the restrictor plate last week with Stremme. Kurt didn't have one because we were worried about reliability here. We had probably the best engine we've had all year. I think that, along with the new car, gave us at least a piece he could drive. There's no question in his ability to drive it. We just need to give him a car that's competitive.
The engine side looks good. We got a lot of work to do to make it better to be competitive every weekend with the top teams. But I think overall we're very happy with the Dodge commitment.
Q. Why are you not wearing a cowboy hat, Roger?
ROGER PENSKE: I don't know. Sorry about that. I got my Dodge hat on. I don't know where it is.
KURT BUSCH: He's got the more important one on. Any hat that he wears is more important.
ROGER PENSKE: I didn't know the cowboys were here. Put that on the side of the car for next week.
Q. How much fun was it out there with it being you and Kyle for most of the race? Did you really think it was going to come down to the two of you at the very end?
KURT BUSCH: You know, it was quite a bit of fun. I felt it early on in the way that each of us would beat each other out of the pits, then we would play cat-and-mouse on the restarts. The way we would take off and separate ourselves from the pack, I knew it was the 18 and the 2.
To have him going for his sweep of the weekend, I was rooting for him. But it's bittersweet because we took the sweet part, which is the victory in Cup. Sundays, you want to win on Sundays. I think it takes five wins, Nationwide and Truck, to equal one win in the big-time show.
But we raced him hard. It felt like old times, the way that we raced Legend cars with each other, coming up through the ranks of racing, to do it at the Cup level for a win, this one's definitely one of those fun days. Not to mention Michael McGee, from Dickies sponsorship, won a million dollars. I had an angel riding along with me. A million bucks for a fan and beat my brother on the sweep.
Q. To be clear, the decision to play the gas game out, the decision was actually made one or two stops before? You were thinking about that well into the race?
PAT TRYSON: Yeah, it was pretty much made the stop before the last one. So it was two stops. You know, you're sitting there figuring if it stays green, how far you can go. We had to stretch it a little bit that first run. I think we picked up just about everything we had in the cell.
ROGER PENSKE: You could see the 00 pitted four laps before we did. The 18 pitted. I think we ran two laps longer than they did. We knew if everything went to the end, with Kurt having to pick up one lap, we were in pretty good shape. We weigh the fuel after every stop so we know exactly what the fuel mileage is. I think he ran probably a little more of a fuel mileage run at the end, the last 10, 15 laps.
Q. Kurt, to run a hundred laps when you're saving fuel, you still have to run fast enough not to lose ground, how disciplined do you have to be in there not to run a heavy throttle through the corners? How tough is it to do that?
KURT BUSCH: It's definitely challenging in all aspects. You have to make sure when you're letting off the throttle that you do it a proper way or when you pick up the throttle you're doing it a proper way. Maybe there isn't the right way to do it, other than I worked with my dad back racing cars at an entry level. We had to take care of our equipment. We had to race it for what it was worth, ginger it, make it to where it could be brought back next week. That's the mindset that you go into.
I asked Pat, I said, Do I have to worry about the 18? He said, No. I don't even know that he exists on the racetrack is my thought process. I just have to be in front of the 00. Then I radioed in and said, he told me I was a lap ahead of him.
We really didn't conserve fuel till the last 20 laps. Otherwise we were hammer down, get our car back up on the track position that we lost. That was the give-and-take. We lost a lot of track position by stretching it an extra two laps. We had to really hammer down, get those spots back on the track.
We had to pass Mark Martin. We had to pass Matt Kenseth. We had to pass the 00. We were as far back as sixth place on the racetrack. We hammered down to get through these guys.
ROGER PENSKE: Tony Stewart, too.
KURT BUSCH: And Tony Stewart.
Q. There was a lot of assumption on our end that the Chase might be wrapped up by next week. Looks like now with what happened to Jimmie, the Homestead race will be in play. Does that kind of speak to the power of the Chase, one bad start can derail you, or do you think it's a points system that still needs to be looked at?
KURT BUSCH: It's very competitive, no matter who is in the lead, who is behind trying to gather points. We hope it always goes to Homestead and there's five, six guys eligible, like the first year, 2004.
Jimmie Johnson, they've won an incredible amount during this Chase. A couple years ago we thought the Chase format needed adjusting, so we gave more points to race wins. Now he's so far ahead, we're thinking we have to adjust it again. We can't keep doing that. They're that good. For them to stumble today puts everyone back in the picture, within a reasonable amount.
For us, I'm kicking myself for what happened to us last week at Talladega. Running sixth place with a lap and a half to go, I put the car on the hauler at 30th. I didn't do my job last weekend. We find ourselves too far behind, but we're still within a reasonable distance.
Q. Kurt, Jimmie came with a 184-point lead, now it's less. A similar thing happened to you in 2004 at Atlanta. What's it going to be like for him the next few races? What was it like for you five years ago? How do you rebound from something like that?
KURT BUSCH: I don't want to give all of the mental approach on what Jimmie Johnson has to do because his game has now changed. They definitely have to look over their shoulder at who is around them, who is behind them, because the other guys feel like he's vulnerable now.
Who knows. I mean, we race the races. That's why we do it. We don't do it off paper. We go challenge ourselves to be the best at Phoenix and challenge ourselves to be the best at Homestead in two weeks to try to see how we can move up in points. We don't wish any bad luck upon anybody else. I have a great car owner, great crew chief by my side, great engineering staff. We're doing what we can to put ourselves in position.
Q. Can you talk about how your performance has been? It looks like you have turned things around and are dealing with consistency.
KURT BUSCH: You know, I didn't quite hear your full question. I'll go with a report card type status. If we can get 10 grades, we got an A plus tonight. If we grade ourselves throughout the Chase, I would say we're a B plus. We had some A plus runs so far. We had a C at Martinsville where we finished 17th. But that so far is our worst finish, but we did finish 30th at Talladega. That kills you.
Talladega, overall we came from two laps down and battled back. That's what you have to do as a Chase contender. But right now, I can't give ourselves A pluses in all categories. Right now, the 48, they have A pluses all the way till this weekend.
Q. Roger, you put Brad Keselowski in the 12. What type of strategy can you have with two cars, because you haven't named a crew chief?
ROGER PENSKE: I think from a crew chief perspective, we're focused on Phoenix and Homestead. Pat is fully committed. We got some great guys internally. Right now we're looking at internal candidates and external.
For one thing, we're not going to announce what we're going to do until after the season, right, Pat?
PAT TRYSON: We're going to go finish it off.
ROGER PENSKE: I think we're going to finish it off. I think the guys have done a terrific job. This gives us some momentum for the last two races, and certainly some direction from a car, from an engine. And certainly the driver lineup we have, we think we're going to have a great shot to do even better next year.
Q. Kurt, you mentioned in Victory Lane bittersweet. Can you talk about that.
KURT BUSCH: It's fun having a sibling out there to race with and to challenge. For us to do it at this top level, there's just so many emotions that go with it.
For him to be going for the sweep this weekend, winning the Truck and Nationwide race, for our car to be competitive, for him to be competitive, it's that thought that you have as a young teenager growing up in racing. I see my little brother, my dad is helping us out a lot, maybe we'll make it to the top level one day and be able to race each other for a win.
It wasn't quite the door-to-door, nose-to-tail, fender-banging, 'green-white-checkered' like we would have hoped, but it came down to strategy and it came down to who could persevere with their team.
Right now, with the way that we're situated, it's bittersweet because, hey, Pat is leaving. We wish that we could stick together. We want to get the best we can out of these last few races. It's bittersweet to beat Kyle. He was going for the sweep. We took it away from him. I don't think he could have picked a better driver to lose to tonight. So it's fun (smiling). It's really fun. We race each other to the bone, but we pat each other on the back at the end of the day.
Q. All things considered, a 73-point lead with two races to go is still a pretty sizable margin. Do you think we might be claiming it's a little bit tighter than it really is?
KURT BUSCH: We're not the guys 73 points out. That might be better served for Mark Martin, who is in that position. For us, we have nothing to hold back. We may as well go for broke and see if we can't bump up in points before the last couple races.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations. We're joined by the Dickies American Worker of the Year promotion, Michael McGee, of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Michael, why don't you tell us a little bit about the contest, why you picked Kurt, how it feels to win a million dollars.
MICHAEL McGEE: I just want to say this has been an absolutely amazing experience. I want to first and foremost thank my personal Lord and savior Jesus Christ for giving me the opportunity, and my family, my girlfriend, and Dickies for making this contest possible.
Last weekend at the bull ride in Vegas, I was named it Dickies American Worker of the Year and won 50 grand. Then this weekend I had a chance to up that to a million dollars if I picked it right driver. There was the top 12 drivers. They had the girls that came in, the models, you had to pick one of those models. If you were the lucky man to pick the right one, you won a million bucks. I had it in my mind before I went in that I would pick the seventh girl that walked in. That's what I did. She had a No. 2 on her back, so we went with it. It turned out well for us.
THE MODERATOR: Kurt.
KURT BUSCH: That's unbelievable. I didn't know the full story on it. To hear that this guy's work ethic and his family history, what he's done as an entrepreneur, to be rewarded by Dickies, a special promotional program that creates a work atmosphere for all Americans, then to be especially served out in Las Vegas, my hometown, out at the rodeo, I go every year for the finals, to see a guy like this, it hits true to home. I'm a working man's man, one that goes out there and gets his hands dirty, wears Dickies clothes when I'm out hunting, working on the cars. To have their type of program, it's really neat to see what they've done for a special someone like Michael.
Then to have his strategy, I'm digging the strategy, I was waiting to see how he was going to answer which girl or why he picked which girl, with his beautiful girlfriend sitting here. He did real well. He said lucky No. 7, came from Vegas, I'm from Vegas. Hey, it was destined. Sometimes those things happen in life and we can't explain why.
THE MODERATOR: Do we have any questions?
Q. I have to imagine that you're a Kurt Busch fan now. Were you a Kurt Busch fan coming into this race weekend? Do you have an additional favorite racecar driver? Talk about being a NASCAR fan.
MICHAEL McGEE: Actually I didn't even follow NASCAR that much. I watched it on TV every now and then, but I didn't follow it that close. I can tell you now, I'm Kurt Busch's favorite fan. Go No. 2 (laughter).
Q. Are you going to splurge or save?
MICHAEL McGEE: No, I want to save. I think I'd like to pay off my house and maybe start some sort of scholarship program for some kids going to college, maybe pursuing some type of career in agriculture, something like that.
Q. A little off topic, but, Kurt, with the military sponsorship you had, could you talk about winning, having that military affiliation, given the events of this week.
KURT BUSCH: I'd love to. Again, it gets back to some of those things that you can't control, but yet you feel around you. To have my name pulled for Michael, and to have Miller Lite so supportive of Operation Homefront, which is a program that helps our military families in need. When an individual comes back from battle or in war that's either injured or not, they're displaced, whether they don't have a home, they can't pay their car payments, whether they're having a new baby and can't buy a crib or a stroller, Operation Homefront stands up.
We went through this program the last six weeks to create awareness with a special paint scheme, then to have it all culminate here in Texas on Veterans' Day weekend, it really hits home on how special this program was because of all the military that I met, and am infected by this. I don't drive the U.S. Army car, have ties with the Air Force car, or even the Navy. But to meet different men and women that have put their lives on the line for our freedom, it gives us a newfound respect for what our American military does. To celebrate with them, I know there's a lot of veterans with a Miller Lite in their hand saying, Hey, Kurt Busch won for us today, as well as Michael.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you both very much. Congratulations.
KURT BUSCH: Thank you.
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