KURT BUSCH TALKS ABOUT WIN
March 31, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
KERRY THARP: Let's hear from our winning race team of today's 65th annual STP 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race here at Martinsville Speedway. Our race winner is Kurt Busch. He drives the No.41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart?Haas Racing, and he's joined by his crew chief Daniel Knost. Congratulations to the No.41 team. Very well deserved, and glad to have you guys up here today. This is Kurt's 25th win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. This is the silver anniversary for your victories here today. You were part of 33 lead changes, which is a new track record, and certainly can't wait to hear you talk about how the race unfolded at the end. Daniel's first win as a crew chief, just your sixth start as a crew chief, and you're a Virginia Tech grad. Being able to win your first race in your home ?? I know it's not a state, it's a commonwealth.
Let's hear from Kurt. Talk about this win here today and what it means to you as a racer and to be able to get into the Chase and just the significance of winning this here today.
KURT BUSCH: Well, it's an unbelievable feeling, you know, to have a shot at winning, and when it comes across you, you want to deliver for your team. There's things you have to do in the car to manage your emotions and then tires, most importantly, and to be in position to win this early with the Haas Automation team, it's been for?? to the credit of a lot of hard work and a lot of mistakes have been made, but enough that we could learn from. To deliver for Gene Haas this early, it shows the potential of this team. I know Kevin Harvick won earlier this year at Phoenix, and I think our strength this year with the Haas Automation Chevy and most of Stewart?Haas Racing has been at the short tracks.
A win like today is a great step forward. I don't want it to camouflage any of the work, though, that we still have to do to make our car stronger and to be more competitive week in and week out, but don't think that I'm not going to enjoy this for one moment.
I'm going to soak this in. This is an unbelievable feeling, to get back to victory lane after this tour that I've been on, to find this opportunity with Stewart?Haas, and to win, it means the world to me. That's what I've always driven for was just going for the Ws and you let the rough edges drag on the other side. You get compared to guys that are sponsor dreams and they've won one or two races, and now to hear that I have 25 wins and to have a championship and to hoist a trophy at a track that I would draw a line through this track every time I'd show up not ever having a shot to win because it was one of my worst tracks. So it shows what teamwork is all about. That's what I want everybody to take away from today is teamwork. What better way to win than using that old cliché, can't beat 'em, join 'em. I've got a Hendrick chassis and a Hendrick motor prepared by Stewart?Haas Racing, and we brought our No.41 car home to victory lane.
Awesome feeling. Thanks to Daniel. His pit calls were wonderful. The pit crew did an excellent job holding serve on pit road, and every time that I had a little handling issue, Daniel had a fix for it today, so great teamwork. Thank you, Daniel.
KERRY THARP: Certainly it's a big deal, too, the first time the Haas Automation Chevy has visited victory lane. Daniel, talk about how it feels to have your first victory as a Sprint Cup Series crew chief.
DANIEL KNOST: You know, it's very exciting. In some respects it hasn't hit me. You have that kind of moment on the box where you yell and scream and stomp your feet and hit something and you get that out, and now, maybe just in a little bit of a daze. I can't believe that I've had success come to me this fast. But we've got a great driver, we've got a great organization. We have guys that really work hard on our stuff, and that is manifesting itself. We took a chance and almost got it last week and this week we cashed in, so I think our group is pulling together at a good pace.
Q. Kurt, Kevin Harvick said one of the main reasons he wanted to join Stewart?Haas was to get the Hendrick equipment. Is it that much different and that much better?
KURT BUSCH: You know, it still is about the people. You can have the best things given to you or you can purchase them, such as Gene Haas and Tony Stewart have, and they've provided us with a foundation to work off of. Every team has their own custom pieces that they add to the car.
I do have to thank Rick Hendrick, though, for allowing the information that they create to be shared and for the technical alliance to exist and for us to run those motors. It's a Chevrolet brand, and coming from a Chevrolet brand last year, there's small little things that are different, but let's face it here, Jimmie Johnson has got six championships, and the Hendrick group, every week it seems like are the cars to beat. So that's what Harvick's mentality was, is let's jump in with that equipment and shift gears. He's been with Childress for a dozen years, so a big change for him, and I was happy to see him win at Phoenix right away.
Q. Getting the box checked and getting essentially a seat in the Chase, you've got this upcoming huge opportunity and challenge coming up with the double. Does that take pressure off doing that and make that easier for you?
KURT BUSCH: Wow, that kind of hit me hard. I hadn't thought of that. My focus is here in the stock car world and with my NASCAR team. It is nice, though, to have a genuine position now to make the Chase. At this pace, though, six winners in six weeks, right, or is it five?
KURT BUSCH: It's going to fill up quick, and we have to do our job on this 41 team to develop as a team and to be a bona fide chase contender when the Chase starts. So we're not going to rest on this win. We have a long way to go, though, to get up into that top 16 in points, and once we get there, let's keep digging. Consistency now is what we'll focus on. A win is a win. If we get a second win, that's when I would call ourselves locked in. But we have this consistency battle that we have in front of us, and I'm up for this challenge, especially when you have all this weight lifted on your shoulders with a win so early.
Q. Kurt, I asked Jimmie about this earlier, a couple years back you had famously said that you would rather lose to 41 other cars before the 48, but you've come a long way in the last couple years and he even mentioned that you guys had sat down and talked it out and everything was good on that front. I'm curious, two years ago versus today, if you were in that same scenario, because you guys had a fantastic clean race there at the end, would your temperament have been different when you were attacking the 48 over those last laps?
KURT BUSCH: You would think it would be worse today with not winning for two years. It flashed through my mind when he passed me that I'm hungrier than he is. I'm ready to tackle 10 prime rib steaks right now. I was hungry, and I wasn't going to let this slip away with it being so close.
You know, a few years back when we were battling, I was speaking for the fans. Anybody but the 48, when you have the same winner time and time again, it can get stale, and I wasn't doing my job well enough on that team to challenge Jimmie for the win and to knock him off the top. When you win as much as he has, he has that target, and you want to go there and knock him off his podium.
It was great to have raced him, and there was that respect today because we don't come from the same garage, but we do have some ties. We do have Mr.H, we do have Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, and there is a little bit of that camaraderie of teammates back and forth, and you don't want to start it off on a bad foot like that. But that's an epic?type battle at a short track, with a six?time champion to go back and forth and exchange the lead, a couple taps, a couple moves, a little bit of a chess game. I was hoping I had enough rear tires to drive away from him at the end, and I got an arm pump at the end. That was the hardest 30 laps I ever drove not to slip a tire in my life because I didn't want to let last week where I let the win slip away, let it slip away this week. So I gave it all I had, and it felt good. It felt really good to give it my all and deliver and to win knowing that after this two?year run it can still be done.
Q. I understand Gene Haas wasn't here, which I would think is pretty disappointing with the lengths the he went to to get you aboard. Have you had any interaction with him after or anything at all?
KURT BUSCH: He texted me on Friday, how's it going. I said, it's Martinsville... he goes, what does that mean? I said, we're loose, we're sliding all over. He goes, well, just slow down. His sarcasm is unbelievable. I love him. He's great. He gives us every tool we need to win, and when he hired me he said go for wins. If you go out sliding sideways and you wreck, I'm okay with that. Just bring home those trophies. I said, deal, you're just going to have to carry them out of victory lane. Unfortunately Gene wasn't here today to carry the trophy out of victory lane. Daniel carried it out. Last week at California we had a shot to win in his backyard and I didn't deliver, and to see him go with the car to tech inspection and hang out with the guys and he wasn't in a rush to jump on a plane to get out of there because he lives in Southern Cal, it was a moment missed, and I'm glad I could deliver the week after, and we need him back at the track again as soon as possible to help us win again.
Q. You talked about the first win in two years. Has not winning over the last two years been as frustrating or less frustrating considering you've been working with teams that are kind of growing?
KURT BUSCH: You know, it was a process. It was a challenge to work with those Furniture Row guys. I thought we were knocking on the door about the 10th race in last year, and we couldn't win. It's amazing how many things have to fall into place, and so I never doubted myself. I never gave up. I kept trying to find little stones to uncover and rocks to overturn to try to make teams better for the way that I knew how to make them, and I was just trying to find the right combo, trying to find the combo that Daniel found today, and Stewart?Haas Racing is that combination for me. It's great to win six races in with a brand?new team like this and have that feeling of a competitive organization around you.
Q. And as far as what happened on pit road with Keselowski, can you talk about what happened and were you surprised that he was upset?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I can't believe he overreacted and he's as upset as he is. The 5 car was trying to pull into his box, Brad ran into the back of him, I steered right to go around Brad and then he clobbers our left?side door, and it's like, okay, accidents happen on pit road. It's congested. It's not a place to race, because of all the pit crew guys down there and I didn't think much of it, and then once we were back out running, he targeted us, he was aiming for us. He tried to flatten all four of my tires. That's a no?fly zone. That's a punk?ass move and he will get what he gets back when I decide to give it back.
Q. You said that you were really going to let this victory soak in. When you took that checkered flag, was it a sigh of relief of just like, I told you I'd be back, I'm back, and how have you changed? How have these last two years changed you?
KURT BUSCH: You know, I had such focus for the last 30 laps not to slip a tire and the emotion of performing at my best and then to deliver, I had this sharp chill go through my body of I've done it, I did it, I'm back on that stage, we're with a competitive organization, we're a winner, and it takes a team to do it. I ran a lot of my early part of my career as an individual, and I didn't respect my team, my team owners, and to have a team owner like Tony Stewart who's a driver and an owner, I can communicate things to the mid?level personnel, those are all the things that I knew I struggled with and that I needed to communicate better to the channels of people that are all part of this team. It's not just me and the crew chief or the pit crew that jumps over the wall. There's a full channel of everybody, and when you have racers like Greg Zipadelli that are there to help you, Matt Borland was there to assist Daniel in our growth, and a whole group of guys back at that shop that are hopefully not going to tear the lobby down when we party, it's that camaraderie and it's that feeling. Those Furniture Row guys gave it to me. The Phoenix Racing guys gave it to me, but we just never were able to deliver a win, but we've been knocking on the door for the last two years, and it feels great to get back there.
Q. You won this race after I think earlier you had even said you're done and there was a lot of adversity early, the Keselowski thing probably would have rattled you or anybody. How did you refocus at that point? How did you pull yourself together, brush that off and say I'm just going to move past this?
KURT BUSCH: Because it wasn't that big of a deal. When somebody has a problem on pit road, it's like, ooh, I'm glad everybody is cool, pit crew guys are fine, and then he brought it out on the track and he really tried to ruin our day. If we would've got a flat tire at that moment, we would have gone a couple laps down because it was a green?flag condition, and there would have been hell to pay.
Q. You touched on a question that I was going to ask about, and that's the dynamic of driving for a driver and what that means not just for the Kurt Busch team but for the entire organization. If you want to just expand on that, and then secondly, at what point did that car come in? Did Jimmie start to lose? Did you start to dial in because it seemed like maybe the weather conditions started to change, and at what point did that start working for you?
KURT BUSCH: You know, it's a blessing to have a team owner who's a racer because then there isn't the cloudiness or the lack of clarity when the drivers are asking for something specific. I remember sitting in big meetings with Jack or with Roger and there was some question on what's the driver really talking about. Tony Stewart can really clarify that and move the things quicker.
It's great to have him out there. At Fontana we raced for the win, which was an interesting situation. I really enjoyed racing him for the win, but the problem was the 14 and the 41, neither one of us won that day, so it's kind of a bummer we didn't deliver for our team last week. It's all about the team guys. Tony can communicate very easily.
You know, the car never really told me it was a winning car, but we kept passing guys, and I got to 10th and I had to celebrate. I was like, I've never been running 10th after 200 laps here before, and we kept looking out our windshield going to chase down more guys. I didn't know what that feeling was like to have a winning car here at Martinsville because I haven't won here since 2002.
Q. You've taken a journey that none of us can relate to, can quite understand. When you get to this point, what does winning feel like? What is special again? What has stood out in the last 25, 30 minutes and is part of this two?year journey that you've gone on, and did you ever think you'd get back to this point?
KURT BUSCH: You know, it's a moment of self?satisfaction and enjoyment of all the hard work that I've put in and all of the people that have been around me to help me, and to have a guy like Gene Haas believe in you and give you a shot with a brand?new team and a brand?new car. You've got to put life in perspective, and you have to learn from your mistakes, and you can't just sit there and try to muscle your way individually through certain situations, and so you rely on your experience level, you rely on your team, and this is a great day for me to be able to lift the trophy in victory lane for Stewart?Haas Racing.
Q. You had said last year you really wanted to win and get little Houston in victory lane, so I'm curious what that moment was like today to finally be able to do that.
KURT BUSCH: It's pretty emotional. To see him starry eyed and not knowing what he needed to do and I was directing him where he needed to stand and where he could see it all better and put him up on stage. And to have him break down in tears, it got me crossed up because I've been trying to deliver for him, and when you deliver for your team and everybody that's on this Stewart?Haas, Haas Automation team, we're all adults, but when the kids get involved and he gets to soak it in, it just kind of took it to a new level. He busted out crying, and tears of joy from a nine year old are probably the heaviest tears of all.
Q. You kind of touched on this a little bit. You said how special it was for a team that's only basically six races old to be winning already, but for you personally, and you mentioned this, this has never been one of your best tracks. When you add the two of those together for you guys going forward, doesn't that even kind of provide you, sort of set it up for what could be a very special season when you've accomplished a goal like that so early at a place that's been difficult for you?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I don't know how to exactly define it. I've always looked at Martinsville as a struggle. To get a 15th and just kind of move on. To beat Jimmie Johnson and to pass for the win and have him pass me and then I got back by him, it was a great short?track duel. It was as if I hadn't missed a beat. But it's been a long two years, and it's been a lot of hard work, and I just kept staying the course.
You've just got to believe in the people that are around you, and I'm very thankful to have a chance to win today and to be in a good position for 2014 already with a race win and moving our way up through points. Now our next objective is just to build more consistency in our Haas Automation Chevy. Daniel deserves a lot of credit. He's brand new in his position, Wes, the lead engineer underneath him is brand new, the guy underneath him is brand new in his position, so a lot of guys we promoted internally. I think the key to today's victory was no practice on Saturday, so I'm taking Saturday off when we come back here in October, or just give me a blindfold. I might do better. I think I've been really good at dialing the car out on practice days here at Martinsville. A lot of times we could just kind of roll the dice on Sunday morning with the setup. We took advantage of today's conditions with the track being rained out and the new ride height rule through a lot of teams' guaranteed setups out the window, and it put everybody more on an even playing field today.
Q. Can you talk about what a relief it is to get this win behind you because it makes the whole Indy challenge probably a little bit less daunting?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, it didn't hit me until the question was brought up about Indianapolis. I've had my mindset around the beginning of the season, get these first 10 races under our belt, and then once we get to Talladega and to Kansas, that's when the Indy stuff will really start picking up. There's going to be a lot of flights back and forth.
This is just a great feather in the cap. It's a load off our shoulders. There won't be the questions or the distraction thought process anyway. It'll be, hey, the 41 car is doing well. We still have a long way to go to be competitive to give ourselves a shot once the Chase starts, but my Indianapolis adventure, now we can breathe easier as we go through these next two months.
KERRY THARP: Kurt and Daniel, congratulations. Big win here today, and I suspect we'll see more of that this season. Enjoy this victory.