Image by: Jeff Kluss/SIT
08/21/2007 Kurt Busch Winner’s Circle Interview
“It was a great run for the Miller Lite Dodge. To be able to get the race underway was a relief. I thought we had a good car in practice, and it turned out to be true. We made one big adjustment at the end of Happy Hour and three days later we were able to put it to use. It really turned out great. It was a really smooth and steady day for us. We had to race some guys hard and got to move forward. We led some laps and put ourselves in position. That’s what it takes when you’re running for the Chase, to get in, its just smooth and steady effort. Pat made excellent pit calls. With all the restarts at the end, it challenged me to be my best and to be on top of my game with restarts and feeling the car out. This Dodge ran magnificent in the corners and the straightaway power was Penske/Jasper Power and it was great. It was a total team effort. You can’t leave anyone out. To be conservative is our approach and so far it’s worked out.
“We started off a little bit on the tight side with the Miller Lite Dodge and we freed it up from there. It was able to maneuver through traffic. We, fortunately, had flawless pit stops. The guys did an awesome job. Everybody is working so well together and once we get up there with clean air, we’re pretty hard to handle. The motor was awesome again today. I can’t say enough about the motor program we have at Penske.”
WILL YOU CELEBRATE WITH THE SHOP? “We have an abbreviated week this week. Last time we won we were able to get everybody together at the race shop and ordered over a 100 pizzas and I said, ‘next time around we might need to start this party around four o’clock’. I’m sure Roger will let us get out an hour early and we can have pizza and beer and that way everybody gets to celebrate.
“When you go to these big tracks aerodynamics is key. Those guys at the body shop, we know how hard they work and the paint shop and the guys that bolt these cars together and the engine shop. You can’t win at a 2-mile racetrack, or a 2.5 mile, without some serious power. We do need to do some more brownie points for the motor shop.
“I can’t thank everybody that’s involved for the long haul here, especially the way that it took awhile to get some wins, but then the new guys that have come aboard seeing that we are building something strong. They are able to enjoy the victory as well.
“Great celebration all around; I don’t think this team has any trouble celebrating.
“It’s great to go to Victory Lane and celebrate and know we did the best with this style car and this set-up. The next time we come to Michigan we’ll have to put this set-up and race car in the garbage because of the Car of Tomorrow. Our focus has been primarily the Car of Tomorrow races and to be able to win while we’re revamping our mile and a half program feels incredible. With Pat (Tryson, crew chief) taking the reins it filled in some of the holes we were missing, so to speak, and it has just hit with gear. We have both the Car of Tomorrow races at Bristol and Michigan. They are very important to get into the Chase. We have a very good car we are taking to California. Beyond that, you look at half the races that are left in the Chase. We’ll test Memphis and I’m sure we’ll test again. We’re going to test at Talladega. All of the testing we are doing is for the Car of Tomorrow, looking ahead to 2008.
“I would say right now we feel very comfortable with where we stand with the mile and a half program. With the Car of Tomorrow races, we have a good shot. We don’t have the edge now with Pocono and Michigan behind us. The Car of Tomorrow races we’ll have to work hard. Bristol will be survival like it always is. We finished fifth at Richmond in the spring and we’re looking to build on that.
“I’m more at ease with this group. I’ve worked with Pat in the past and working under Roger and learning his ways to deal with people whether it is internally or with Miller Lite and our other sponsors. It really gave me a better perspective of what this racing thing is all about. Maybe before, I pushed too hard thinking I could predict or control the outcome of races and not use the team atmosphere. You take some hits when you’re younger and you learn it makes you better in the long run. I’m happy flying under the radar and I’m happy delivering wins for our sponsors. Right now, the most important thing is to just get into the Chase. Having great guys and people all around me makes everything feel like we’re pulling the rope in the same direction. I just feel satisfied racing for this race team.
“Right now we’re pretty strong, but we still have more work to do. I felt today that we had a good plan going, but is just been the same plan that we’ve had for the last five or six weeks. It’s just to gain points and don’t loose track of the big picture which is to get in the Chase.
“We don’t need to change much. I would say that after Charlotte and Dover and the middle of May and first of June, we had two DNFs in a row plus a penalty. We were seventh in points just before that and dropped all the way to 17th. My approach has been just to race each race to grab points a little at a time and stay steady. At the same time, our cars and our team and set-ups have developed into being stronger and that has helped us.
“I’ll start by just saying that Bristol, no matter what car we take there, if we’re running a truck or a Busch car, a Hooter’s Pro Cup or a pace car, you try and survive. You try and miss the accidents. The cleanest car usually has a shot going to Victory Lane. That’s the approach I’ve taken there every year and I’ve had some wins.
“Ryan (teammate, Ryan Newman) started with some problems and at the end I got his car running quicker and at the end was able to pass the second place car. I think that just gets back to the two teams working together, not on the track necessarily, but set-up wise. The combination with the two teams has never been stronger.
“I was astonished by the support of this group of fans. To be here on a Tuesday, I’m sure some of them may not have a job when they show up tomorrow morning. There are some die hard fans in this area and I think Roger knew that when he bought this place back in the late fifties, early sixties when he turned it from a 15,000 seat oval to a two-mile oval with over a hundred thousand seats today. The heart that NASCAR fans have is incredible.”