MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY
BASS PRO SHOPS NRA NIGHT RACE
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
AUGUST 16, 2019
KURT BUSCH, NO. 1 MONSTER ENERGY CAMARO ZL1, met with media to discuss the challenges of the current Playoff format, what it takes to be successful at Bristol Motor Speedway, the expectations of the traction compound, and more. Full Transcript:
WHEN IT COMES TO THIS CURRENT ELIMINATION-STYLE FORMAT OF THE PLAYOFFS, HOW WOULD YOU CHARACTERIZE IT?
“The current format makes it to where you have to earn bonus points in the regular season and then those bonus points carry with you through the Playoffs. So, it actually hurts the effort of the Playoff atmosphere, in my mind. Whereas, when we had a system of ten weeks straight, that was basically a clean slate for everybody and then you start earning points from there and showcase your skills over a ten-week run. Now, you have those bonus points and they get lumped together with a three-race stretch. In a three-race run, you could have an O-ring go bad on a rear end seal and you are knocked out for the year. So those are the tougher consequences that come up with this system. It use to be just ten guys and ten weeks, and that was the who’s who of it all. There are 16 guys that make it. We need more teams to feel like they are part of the Playoff atmosphere than just the 10, so I think the numbers are right on that side of it. But it’s tough. I feel like three races in one little lump is too short and the consequences are too high. Things can be adjusted possibly in the future, where a Playoff run in NASCAR might just be five-weeks straight and it could be a challenge of five different style tracks.”
BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR BROTHER (KYLE BUSCH), THE LAST FOUR WINS HERE HAVE STAYED IN THE FAMILY. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS PLACE THAT YOU AND YOUR BROTHER HAVE REALLY TAKEN TO?
“I’m not sure what the exact shared element is. Being a racer and finding different things about a certain track are always the key to stepping up and having a shot at winning versus just kind of riding around and not capitalizing on a good day or on a good car. For me, Martinsville is a track that doesn’t quite speak to me in a way that Bristol does and that’s why I have six wins at Bristol and only two at Martinsville. This track just speaks to us when we are out on the track. There are things you have to do to protect the car and stay out of the trouble most of the race, and there are things that you have to do to really go hard and put yourself in position to be in the right spot at the right time. Usually that’s after lap 350 to position yourself for the end. It’s funny the two of us just kind of think the same way at certain tracks and as the years have gone by, our stats can kind of start to parallel each other at certain places where we do good and there are places where we both struggle. Those stats show up as well.”
WHAT MAKES BRISTOL UNIQUE AS FAR AS FINDING SUCCESS HERE?
“A key element is just looking ahead and seeing where trouble might be developing that you are able to steer clear of, whether it’s somebody spinning or you see a stack of guys together that usually create trouble. You don’t want to push too hard and be right in the middle of that mix. You want to give them space and sort it out. But at the same time, if somebody is on your rear bumper, you have to go and you don’t have time to wait. You always have to analyze where you are on the track and you who you are racing around. I think that’s part of every race track, but it happens at Bristol way quicker than most tracks.”
IS THERE A PARTICULAR BRISTOL MEMORY THAT COMES TO MIND AS A FAVORITE?
“My first win at Bristol in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was in the Spring of 2002. I had a tough rookie year and I quite couldn’t get settled in right. So, this was my second year on the circuit and I was thinking ‘Man, am I ever going to be able to break through? What’s it going to take?’. My team said your car looked really good on exit of Turn 4, and I was feeling it and I was hoping it would turn out to be a good day. The race as it unfolded came down to a nice battle with me and Jimmy Spencer. He had moved me out of the way and roughed me up at a few of the tracks before that race, so I remembered all of those moments and said I was going to move you out of the way and show you what a bump-and-run is all about. I won the race that day. To beat a veteran like him, to have a great team with Roush and get that first win in the Cup Series will always be more special than any other win at Bristol.”
IS IT FACT OR FICTION THAT THE RACING ISN’T AS AGGRESSIVE OR HEATED AS IT ONCE WAS HERE?
“I believe the racing is as equal with the drivers pushing it to the limits or throwing caution to the wind. It’s a matter of it being talked about the right way and how the drivers raced each other on the track or who wrecked who. What’s disappointing is everything turns into this drama story that you read about in PEOPLE Magazine versus the actual racing that was on the track; who was in the high lane, who was in the low lane, who bumped who. That is more of what I think we enjoyed in the 90’s and the way it was absorbed. Now, it just seems like it’s what drama can we drag out weeks afterwards.”
EARLIER THIS YEAR YOU PARTNERED WITH VET TIX TO BRING MILITARY VETERANS TO THE TRACK. HOW SUCCESSFUL HAS THE PROGRAM BEEN THIS YEAR AND HAVE YOU KEPT IN TOUCH WITH THE VETERANS?
“It’s been fabulous. It’s a gift that keeps giving with vettix.org helping manage the tickets for our Veterans. I bought 100 tickets for every race and then tracks started to jump in and donated another 100 tickets. It seems like the motivation that they have with the free tickets to come to the race, they are obtaining pit passes from different sources and different connections. I bumped into a few of them wanting a picture and we repost things on my social quite a bit to really just say thank you and that the program is there for them. I’m glad they are all enjoying it. There are some that are coming to races for their first time and there some that live in the regions close to the race to where they don’t have a ton of travel costs. I can’t thank the tracks enough and other fans. I think at New Hampshire, they opened it up for race fans to donate tickets. Whereas, most tracks threw in another chunk of 100. Chevrolet jumped in at the July Daytona race and added 50 hot pit passes for the men and women. Each track has had their own fun with it and again, it’s like a gift that keeps giving.”
DO YOU THINK WE ARE GOING TO SEE THE TRACK SPREAD OUT AT ALL DURING THE CUP RACE OR WHAT IS YOUR EXPECTATIONS?
“I think the outside lane is still going to come in. It’s not a one-grove track like it was when they re-did the concrete for the first time back in the 90’s. But there was something they did to it to grind it or scrape it up top, so it’s going to take longer for it to come in. We’ll learn more tonight during the Xfinity race and they will spray more of the traction compound on the bottom lane to enhance it for the start of the race tomorrow. What I’m getting at is we as drivers keep showing up each week and there is a driver counsel that is trying to help with where the traction compound should be sprayed. But then there are these random tracks that are grinding the race track and NASCAR didn’t know that Bristol Motor Speedway was going to grind the race track. The theory is that the track was trying to eliminate the grip level that the drivers have been able to find up there and put it back down on the bottom. Each race each weekend is something different. Even the tires this weekend have the same code, but they have less stagger, so that changes the car setups. There are so many fun variables each and every weekend that we are juggling now.”
HAVE YOU GOTTEN ANYTHING SOLID YET FOR NEXT YEAR?
“I don’t have anything solid for next year yet.”
WHAT’S YOUR REACTION TO DALE EARNHARDT JR.’S ACCIDENT YESTERDAY?
“I was glad that he, his family and the pilots are OK; it’s a tough situation. We all travel quite a bit and it was just tough to read about it. I’m sure the facts will start to unfold for us to figure out what happened, and I’m just glad he’s OK. We will miss him this weekend. I think it’s best for him to be at home. His motorhome was parked next to mine and they were leaving last night as we were pulling in. It’s just tough when you’re missing a good friend from the race track.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE BALANCE BETWEEN THE AGGRESSION AND THE PATIENCE AT THIS TRACK?
“I think the key is just knowing when to go and push hard, and when not to. When somebody is running on your bumper and it’s lap 30 of the race, you can’t be upset at them for why they are there. You have to move over, let them go and tell them to knock themselves out because I’m set up more for the later part of the race. That’s the challenge of Bristol, especially as of late with the traction compound that they spray down because it can provide a ton of grip way early in the race, but it’s not going to be there later. You hope that your setup is more tailored for the later part of the race. So, there are times where you see race-winning guys barely holding onto the lead lap early in the race. Then, you have either really good pit stops or really bad pit stops and you have to manage those situations too. The key is not getting so focused on 10 laps or 20 laps at a time, you have to really spread it out to 50 to 75 laps at a time for your run and make sure you’re maximizing gaining spots and protecting the car.”
YOU GUYS RELY ON YOUR PLANES TO GET TO SO MANY PLACES. DOES IT MAKE YOU PAUSE TO THINK EVERYTHING OVER OR DO YOU GO ON BUSINESS AS NORMAL?
“I owned a plane for 14 years and I had the same pilot for 14 years. It’s something you put all the trust into him or her on how they are going to fly their selves and their own safety. I’ve never challenged my pilot to do anything they didn’t feel was safe. The only time we had a couple of little bugs with our plane was after a big inspection when things are torn apart and put back together. There was a little thing with wiring issues here or a magnet that censored a light over there. There are times when it’s easier to drive and just go to the track, but driving can be just as dangerous as flying. It gives you a pause on the amount of racing and traveling that we all do. I would say that the drivers have it the easiest out of what the crew members have to go through, what the media have to go through, or what some of our race fans that go to a lot of the races. It’s the tough part of it. I hope everyone applies the safest approach possible and that they put themselves in the best situation possible to be safe.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS GOING INTO DARLINGTON AND LOOKING BACK ON THE DIFFERENT ERAS OF DRIVERS?
“Darlington is a snapshot and it is today when you show up. It brings you back to a nostalgic feel of how cool things were with the way the sport was growing so fast, but yet how old school things were. It was just a challenge to make the car last for the full distance. There might be one guy on the lead lap and second place was 12 laps down because they had to figure out how to re-weld the trackbar back together. Darlington just has that feel. It’s really neat to go there. I tell people all the time that if you’re looking for a race that compares to Fenway or Wrigley Field for baseball or an old stadium for college football, you go to Darlington to get a taste of the old south and experience how the track looks like, as well as how the racing is.”
Team Chevy high-resolution racing photos are available for editorial use.
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is one of the world’s largest car brands, doing business in more than 100 countries and selling more than 4.0 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature engaging performance, design that makes the heart beat, passive and active safety features and easy-to-use technology, all at a value. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.