KURT BUSCH PRESS CONFERENCE
KURT BUSCH - #41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion - YOU'VE PICKED IT UP THE LAST THREE RACES. WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON WITH TONY GIBSON? "Nothing particular other than the research we've done through the different races that are comparable to the tracks that we've just run on, and in all honesty, you have an off week, there's a reset and now there are 12 weeks to run out the end of the season. I said, 'Why are we saving anything? If we are saving anything, why are we saving it? Let's just go now.' A lot of times you go to Chicago and you pour all the extra wind tunnel notes that you've learned into it, the engine department usually has an upgrade. I just flat-out asked going into the off week, 'Can we go to the Southern 500 with everything we've got?' And there wasn't any objections and it's been nice. Everybody really jumped in to give more. Yeah, for these 26 races we're pushing hard and giving it our all, but these last 10 weeks, these last 12 weeks let's go after it even more and that's the Playoff intensity that I want my guys to understand and to enjoy it as well. So we had two races - Darlington and Richmond - right before the Playoffs and I said, 'Let's just go with everything and be loose, let's have fun, and that way we can go to Chicago already knowing what we're supposed to do to get the job done.'"
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT WINNING THE TITLE IN 2004? "Having the plan beforehand and executing it, and it went perfect nine out of the 10 weeks there. The only week that didn't go smooth was the engine failure in Atlanta, but a plan was put together months in advance. That's how you get ahead to be able to bring more energy and more to the track is that your preparations are done months in advance, so we looked at things around July 1 on where we were this year and what we really needed to pour into the car, and I would say that our August and September went really well after changing things around in July."
ANYTHING ABOUT THE FINAL RACE IN HOMESTEAD IN '04? "The biggest things from the final race the year I won the championship was 60 laps to go our crew chief Jimmy Fennig said he didn't want to pit because we couldn't make it on fuel. We could go about 55 laps on fuel then. I'm looking at the 24 and the 48. They're just ahead of me and if they pit, I'm pitting because it means we're all gonna make it to the end on gas together or we're all gonna run out together. You race the cars around you, not necessarily the race itself. So there's that added element that you have to adjust to to be a champion in this sport, so that's the biggest thing that stood out. We ended up making it. There were a couple extra yellows and that helped us all race our way back up to the top-five together. Johnson finished second. I think Gordon was third and I was fifth and I had just enough points in the bank to be able to win the championship."
WHAT DOES YOUR RESEARCH SAY ABOUT CHICAGOLAND? "We were able to test there a few weeks ago, but Chicago is a worn-out mile-and-a-half track. The track went really well for us, but you compare it to similar tracks like Darlington. I know Darlington isn't a mile-and-a-half, but it's fast. It has worn-out asphalt. Now that we have more notes on the stage racing and how points are accumulated, that's what I'm talking about how you apply things as you learn them. This is the first year for all these bonus points going with you through the Playoffs. Atlanta is a sister track and then Homestead is a sister track to Chicago, so all of the worn-out mile-and-a-halves are the way you prepare for Chicago."
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THE FINAL 10? "Each individually. You have to go after one really hard in each round to go for that win, but yet consistency will still allow you to advance through these different stages in the Playoffs. So with Chicago, I think that's the most important one. If you win there, you can win at Charlotte. It's a fast mile-and-a-half with high grip, but that's that first race in that round and then you go to Martinsville. That's the most important race, I think, in the final 10 other than Homestead if you want to win the championship is getting through Martinsville clean and if you win there, you get a free ride to Homestead."
ANYTHING DIFFERENT PAST THIS YEAR? "I feel like this is my chance to be the best leader that I can be and to project the image to all of my crew members, to my crew chief, to Stewart-Haas, to Ford, Monster Energy, to Haas Automation, everybody that's a part of this 41 team, it's my job to show them - and I've done that since the break - on we're going there to win, we're going there to execute as a team, and we're gonna get all we can out of this Playoff run knowing that there are some variables still out there as far as my contract and where the sponsorship will all line up. It's a matter of just focusing on the task at hand and that's each practice, each qualifying session and each race."
DO YOU APPROACH THIS AS THOUGH IT COULD BE YOUR LAST CHANCE AT A CHAMPIONSHIP? "I feel like there are plenty more opportunities for championships to happen, but with the unknown you have to utilize the present and it's not looking at the past, it's not looking at the future, it's living in the present."
HOW DO YOU KEEP THE CONTRACT DISTRACTION FROM AFFECTING YOU AND THE TEAM? "You hire good people, and I have a great staff around me with my agency and the trust that I have I people that work for Ford Motor Company, people that work for Haas Automation and the people that work for Monster Energy. It's having the trust I them and the right people around you in a situation like this."
IS AN ANNOUNCEMENT COMING SOON? "There will be. As soon as I have more or it's complete, then there will be more updates."
HAVE YOU SOLVED THE BALANCE ISSUE WITH YOUR CAR? "I feel like there is still more to learn and more to apply, but I felt like when we were making changes this past month we would gain grip in the front of the car and the rear of the car, where we were trading it back and forth most of the summer. When you're finding grip in one spot and losing it in another, you didn't really affect your overall lap time or the strength of the car or the feel of the car. I think now we're finding things that are helping it gain grip in both ends and the next step is being able to do it for short run speed and long run speed. We see guys like Truex that seems to be better on long run speed, but Larson is better on short run. I would call us, on a scale of 1-10, an eight on long run speed, but a six on short run speed. We need to be better there so that way we're prepared for green-white-checkers or extra yellows at the end of the races."
IS EXPERIENCE A FACTOR IN THE PLAYOFFS? "You can't replace experience. It helps and I'm glad I've got that in my back pocket each time I fire up the car. I won a championship at a really young age and it surprised the NASCAR world. It surprised myself, but it was executed with great leadership from Jimmy Fennig, my team at Roush Racing and having basically the key ingredient is raw speed. Raw speed is what this new format is built around and if you have raw speed through the regular season, now you have bonus points that carry with you all throughout the Playoffs. So guys like Truex are gonna be tough. Larson is next. You have Johnson, my little brother, Keselowski, they're in that group. We've been running well as of late, qualifying good and finishing good, and each time I look at the scoring pylon there are a few Toyotas ahead of us. There's a bunch of different ways to skin this cat, and yet, the new kids if they just have that raw speed, and we saw that in Daniel Suarez last year in Miami. I'm like, 'Where did the 19 car come from?' And he got the job done and now look at him, he's got a Cup ride. So you never know what's gonna happen."
IS ANYTHING AT SHR A DISTRACTION NOW? "I'm smart enough now to see how it all adds up and how different parts of the program have to come together to make it a successful operation. And Stewart-Haas Racing is doing the work they need to do and, for me, I know my job is to be entrenched with Tony Gibson, Johnny Klausmeier, my pit guys and just the overall health and well-being of the 41 car."
DO YOU HAVE A LEG UP BY BRINGING YOUR NEWEST STUFF TO DARLINGTON AS OPPOSED TO CHICAGO? "It could be going two ways. Everybody shows up with their stuff at Chicago and we've already brought all our stuff and now are we gonna be behind? But these last couple of years it's like we save everything for Chicago and then we run the same position. It's as if we should have brought this stuff sooner and gathered better momentum, better finishes and had more opportunities to win races. Worst-case scenario is you get eliminated after this first round so what did you do? You spent 25 races prepping for three? No way. I want to go to try win every week and in this game it's tough. I hope that we've made all the right moves because there's a game within a game, and I hope we've made all the right moves and now we can go to Chicago knowing that we've got our stuff and it should be comparable to when everybody brings their stuff."
ARE YOU A BACON FAN? "I'm a bacon fan, yes. I like mine slightly underdone and not too crispy."
WHAT HAS DANICA MEANT TO THE SPORT? "She's meant a tremendous amount to everybody - to have pioneered the way for many women to look at our sport and that you can have the chance to be competitive. She did that in Indy Car and she's done that everywhere she's been. I see more female racers around our country and around the world for that matter interested in racing. She paved the way. She's a true pioneer in this day and age of social media and the power of media recognizing that she's moving the needle even though she wasn't running consistently up front. She was a very professional teammate and always willing to learn. She maybe had a bit too many rookie mistakes that lingered into the middle part of her career, but we always wanted her to finish the races stronger and to be able to get in there and get those door donuts and get the fenders crinkled up and still come back with a good finish. Some of that isn't just being a female, it's that open-wheel mentality that's tough to bridge out of and all of our group right now you're seeing a ton of talented young kids or even the veterans that have all come up through late model racing, spent a ton of time in trucks, XFINITY and know the stock cars in and out. So she had two variables going against her, but she did a tremendous job. I was hoping to see her continue on, but that won't be the case."
DO YOU FEEL SHE BELONGS IN THE HALL OF FAME? "I believe so. She's too powerful and too hard to ignore on what she did outside of the car. There's many women that are in the hall of fame in the NHRA world, I don't see why she wouldn't be in the hall of fame here in the NASCAR world."
WOULD IT BE A BIG DEAL TO GO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP FOR FORD? "I don't have any problems finding motivation to win this year. It came from the off season switch to Ford, Monster announcing they were gonna be the entitlement sponsorship. I felt like Daytona this year was gonna happen and it did, and I'm trying to channel those same thoughts, theories, practices and the mindset to go through these next 10 weeks the same way that I went through those 10 days down in Daytona. It would be a fantastic victory for SHR, for Ford, for Haas Automation, for Monster Energy, for everybody. That trophy I can see over your shoulder is beautiful and I want to have my name on it first, just like I had the first Nextel Cup."
IT WOULD BE A GOOD YEAR FOR SURE. "I was done after winning Daytona. I got married. Steven Tyler was at my wedding. I was nailing it in January and February."
DO YOU HAVE A GAME PLAN FOR WRIGLEYVILLE? "I don't think I'll be able to make it to a game this time around. I've got a bunch of buddies in town that came in for games and for the race, but our focus is on the car. It's on these 10 weeks and we need to be in contention all the way to Homestead. That's my goal. The Cubbies can be second this year because they won the World Series last year."
--- Ford Performance ---