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2013 Daytona 500 Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Kurt Busch
KURT BUSCH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed what itâ€™s like to compete in the Daytona 500, his program with Furniture Row Racing, the new race car, how he describes himself in terms of Cup racing and his personality, and more.
KURT BUSCH: -- when I developed my skills, dad and I would run one, two a lot. When we would get in first and second, he would slide up high, bump me, move back up front, and it would turn into a little bit of a show. It was enjoyable doing that with dad. When Kyle started getting a little older, getting his skills developed, it was fun for me to do the same thing back to Kyle.
Q. Was there a point in time when you realized, I got this?
KURT BUSCH: No. Still don't. The racing thing, you're always trying to develop more skills, to understand more about everything that there is to do in racing to be successful.
But just as a family, it was a lot of fun as an operation to make sure we didn't wreck the car because we couldn't afford a lot to repair it and spend excess money digging from behind.
Q. Do you get butterflies on race day, especially before Daytona?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah. Each qualifying day is pretty stressful. Each race, the start of the race, you have the national anthem, then it really settles in on all the weekend's preparations, all of the setup notes just start flashing through your mind. It makes you a little nervous until they throw the green flag.
Q. Is that when it all goes away?
KURT BUSCH: When they drop the green, it's business as usual.
Q. You are even more closely tied with the RCR folks this year. What kind of role can you play in lifting all the boats?
KURT BUSCH: Well, I can't do it by myself. It's a whole team operation. Mark McArdle is our lead liaison in a sense to tie everything together. But Todd Berrier, he's worked for 15 years at RCR. He'll know more channels than I'll ever know.
It's a matter of making Eric Warren, the chief engineer at RCR, more tied directly to us. When we're a customer in a sense, they want to see us do well. That way it provides the opportunity for other teams to go, Wow, they're treating them with respect, this is what they're involved with the financial side of the support, so you want to see that return on investment.
For me I want to see it in results on the racetrack and go from there.
Q. What about working with those three drivers? Would you be in those meetings?
KURT BUSCH: Absolutely. I was in Charlotte last year. The setups for all four cars were there on one sheet. The crew chiefs are in a meeting, the engineers are in a meeting, the drivers are in a meeting. You have all the top guys spread around into the meetings as well.
It's like we are the fourth car. Instead of it saying 33 on the door, it says 78 and Furniture Row.
Q. You're not just picking up from what they gain; you give stuff, too?
KURT BUSCH: I talked to Barney last night on the phone. It was a great conversation because it helped me understand a little bit more about his mindset, some of the strategy on why the team is set up this way.
Technically when we pay for the support from RCR, it's just a one-way street. We can just take whatever we want from them and not give anything back. Last night Barney taught me something on what we're doing with a specific component that we could have kept to ourselves but we're letting RCR know about it, we want them to be better.
At the end of the day it circled around to me what Barney meant; that is, if we can make RCR better, we're going to be a better team.
Q. Are you forming as close of a bond with your team? How is the bond with the team now?
KURT BUSCH: Things are good, with the six weeks especially at the end of the year to run well, have two tests during the off-season, then this past two weeks hanging out with the pit stop guys. They're based in North Carolina. They're not in Colorado. They're right down the street from my house here. I stay at Todd's place when I'm in Colorado. Just definitely tied in the with the team. When you eat, sleep and drink it, that's full-on NASCAR. That's the best way to be with the team.
Q. What kind of people do you have on that team as you would compare it to the other teams and RCR?
KURT BUSCH: I think we're a B plus program right there, right now, as is. What we're able to do with a smaller team is navigate through the waters more quickly. I said that at the media week in Charlotte at how we can take something that we receive from Richard Childress Racing and implement it quicker and not have to have as many channels to get it approved by. That's the exciting part of being a smaller operation.
Q. We're entering a new frontier with boyfriend racing girlfriend. Any thoughts?
KURT BUSCH: It's TMZ now. We used to write about racing, now it's more about the emotional or personal side of it now. It's an element that will draw attention. It's exciting. At the end of the day I don't think it's going to be anything different than a couple racers out there racing.
KURT BUSCH: They're both rookies. Rookies are prone to making mistakes. That is a better opportunity for the two to run into each other.
But we have to understand that Stenhouse is a two-time defending Nationwide Series champion. That's a big difference.
Q. Did you like the COT? A lot of drivers say looks matter in a car.
KURT BUSCH: The generation five or whatever it was? I thought it was hideous, we took a step back when we introduced that car. In 2007, if we have what we have today, the sport would be further ahead. We have to have a cool-looking car that people want to look at and think that was futuristic. That didn't happen with the Car of Tomorrow.
Q. (No microphone.)
KURT BUSCH: Absolutely. This is that European sedan look. The car has the aesthetic look that Chevrolet can give it its brand, where Toyota can give it its, and Ford.
Q. (No microphone.)
KURT BUSCH: Oh, yeah, I raced Biffle in the wiener mobile. We both had our own.
Q. In some ways you're not removed from being a kid that says, That's a cool-looking car.
KURT BUSCH: Instead of having Hot Wheels in our little suitcase, we might have a garage that has six cars in it. One can be an old car, a sports car, an old truck. I have a bunch of old cars. When you're a car guy, you want something that you race to look cool.
Q. Do you think you're in a better position to have success this year?
KURT BUSCH: This year is great with Barney Visser and Furniture Row. We thought we could do great things with Phoenix Racing. It was just a matter of all the stars aligning perfectly. It almost happened a few times. Plate races, Sonoma, we finished third. But this year definitely. We finished last year with three top 10s in a row. That's the foundation that this team wanted to build right away. Now that we have that done, now we can start looking forward for the top fives and the wins.
Q. Can you talk what kind of track will be the hardest to adapt to with the new car?
KURT BUSCH: The mile-and-a-half's are the core of our schedule. Any team that finds an advantage early on, usually a team that wins Vegas will run all the way till May with an advantage. That's going to be an important race.
I think Phoenix, we raced there in November there with the old car, I think it will be the same with the new car. The mile-and-a-half, that's where we'll see the different.
Q. (Question regarding where to test.)
KURT BUSCH: We're in the same meetings. We are the fourth car there. We don't need to be at a test along with somebody else from RCR. Then we have the Dillon boys. They can go and test at tracks as well.
Right now I chose one, I was selfish, I said, I have to go to Richmond. It's been the toughest track on me the last two years. That's where the 78 will test. But then we have the 29 going here, we got the 31 going there, 27 going there.
Q. Are you expecting a lot of drafting in practice?
KURT BUSCH: I think each day it will ramp up. So Friday, tomorrow, is Shootout practice. We'll get a small taste. Then Saturday night will be a big blow-out of drafting, what's going on. Once we come back next week with Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, it's going to lead in heavier and heavier and heavier, just as far as the knowledge you gain going into Sunday.
Q. Would you describe yourself as one of the real characters of Cup racing in terms of personality?
KURT BUSCH: I would just say that I've always been true to who I am, a hard-nosed racer. Yeah, that defines your question, one that gives his all all the time. I guess I do stand out on most occasions, so, yeah, there is that identity with it.
Q. From what I learned in Europe, quite often you've been in the center of controversy, center of attention. Is that something that you have to work on or that will stay with you forever? You know what I mean?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, there's ways to look at it. There's positives and there's negatives. The story I tell with this type of question is, I was a rookie here in Cup, and there were five other guys. We had a big rookie class. If you didn't stick your neck out, you could be like two of the guys that you never heard of again, Casey Atwood, Andy Houston. If you didn't stick your neck out, you'd end up in that position. If you do, you end up in is it hot water or you have talent to back it up.
You go through the thick and the thin and hope you're able to maintain and create a long-lasting opportunity to drive in this series. Sometimes it comes with baggage, other times you let the rough edges drag and go for those wins. That's what I've done.
Q. Last year you were optimistic with James Finch. Didn't quite work out the way you planned it.
KURT BUSCH: We felt there were opportunities that we had that we lost quickly with part failures or small mistakes. It kept building and building. We never really learned from them. That was some of the problems. When you're a small team, it's hard to bounce back after those tough days.
Q. Now with the 78 team, you have a better prospect?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, we're the fourth car at Richard Childress Racing. The team's depth, this gives us a great feel, especially with how we finished last year with three straight top 10s.
Q. Does it also allow you to step in with the drivers from RCR and talk to them about what you feel in the car testing?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, we did that the final six races last year. My first race at Charlotte with the team, I'm in the meetings with the other drivers from Childress, the other engineers.
First couple weeks you just have to blend in and settle in. But they were asking me for info right away on how those Hendrick motors drove, what types of trends I've been doing with some of the bump-stops and shocks. It was, boom, right away they wanted my feedback.
Q. Would you talk about how the things went with the sports psychologist, whether the media overplays them, whether it's worse in other sports than NASCAR. How did it go for you?
KURT BUSCH: It's just another tool in the toolbox. There's so many situations that come up these days, so many hats that you have to wear as a driver, that when you work through those situations, they can teach you things to pick up very easily, to bring out the best in yourself.
It's just another tool in the toolbox. It's like a heavier hammer at some points.
Q. Is that something you're still doing?
KURT BUSCH: Oh, yeah. It's fun to be able to interact, teach them about NASCAR, bring them to the race so they can see it. We see this in all types of sports, whether it's in golf. That's where I met my first guy. He was with the Ryder Cup team. He would go and travel with Tiger Woods and those guys that were on the Ryder Cup team. He would be right there with them. He was on a golf cart. He would be helping them, coaching them along the way.
Q. You raised half a million dollars for soldiers. Can you talk about what that experience was like.
KURT BUSCH: It was an incredible, emotional event. Barrett-Jackson has always been great to the Armed Services Foundation. I'm just piggybacking on that to line up some of the bigger power players to bid on the car. I was doing autograph sessions, drawing attention to the car is where I was trying to help out. Ultimately that was Patricia, the president of the armed forces foundation, my girlfriend. Her connections through Barrett-Jackson, you have to get the time slots, the TV slot, you have to get the people in the seats that are going to be there to bid. It's an amazing process.
To be able to bring home the second largest charitable donation from a vehicle down there is something to be proud of. That helps with getting the AFF up and running for 2013, the Armed Forces Foundation is the official military charity of NASCAR. So it ties right into that.
People that have a passion for cars, a lot of people definitely have a past in the military and have a strong passion for it. So it's really neat, half a million dollars off of one car, and it's going to go to so many different areas.
Q. What is special about that for you?
KURT BUSCH: Going to visit the troops at the hospitals, the VAs, you see the true stories, and you feel the work, their dedication, their life commitment that they've given. Then there's some of the unforeseen battles such as post-traumatic stress disorder, TBI, traumatic brain injury. Those elements, you can't see 'em, but the families and even the children feel the effects from their mom or their dad that has been in the service. So there's a lot to learn from them and there's a lot of motivation to receive from them as well. It's very gratifying to be able to give back that way and take something in.
Q. Have you been to Afghanistan to visit the troops?
KURT BUSCH: I have not been overseas. It's all been here domestic.
Q. I've been asking some of the drivers about their role on social media. You're active on Twitter. What do you get out of that?
KURT BUSCH: You get the beat on the street. You get the heartbeat, the thoughts. It seems as if everything these days is juried by public opinion. So you can go on there and get a pretty quick answer.
Q. How do you respond when you get negative feedback and positive feedback?
KURT BUSCH: You want to make sure you're getting the right message out there, whether it's sponsor related or something you're trying to give for insight to help explain things because there's no other form that we've ever had in sports where you can talk directly to the fans.
Twitter still has to be moderated, it still has to be professional, but there's a quick way to get the information right to the fans. The fans look up to us as role models or their sports heroes. It's a quick way to be able to communicate.
Q. Steve O'Donnell said the policy about language and stuff on Twitter is really informal. It's on a case-by-case basis. Is that a concern where you might find yourself cursing on Twitter?
KURT BUSCH: When you're typing, you have a lot of time to think about it.
Q. You would think that would make a difference.
KURT BUSCH: Common sense has to play the lead role. There's situations that can get you excited, but it's a matter of just playing the right role as an entity for everybody to view and to watch.
Q. How does someone get a follow from you on Twitter? What would they have to do to get your attention?
KURT BUSCH: If they're 100% and spot on, I'm feeling the same emotion at the same time, then they'll get something.
Q. What kind of pressure is Keselowski going to feel this year?
KURT BUSCH: There's the target that's put on your back and it's because you're the guy on top. When you're the guy on top, everybody wants to push you off. The pressure that comes with that, it comes from all areas. It's not just internally in your team because they'll have a young, hard-charging teammate going against him. It's everywhere, whether it's sponsor, media-wise, different things with the fans that expect certain things out of you as a champion.
There's not one thing to look for, there's just a lot that you always have to keep in mind.
Q. Is it a situation that nothing can prepare you for except going through it?
KURT BUSCH: Well, Brad has won I'm sure championships in his other racing divisions, so when you have that feeling, that's the first thing you lean back on.
Q. Do you have any race day traditions that you try to avoid, superstitions?
KURT BUSCH: I try to always get a turkey sandwich in. I don't know why. That just helps settle my stomach. We're always a little nervous before the race. A turkey sandwich.
Q. Stay away from peanuts?
KURT BUSCH: I see what you're saying. Peanuts are a bad thing in racing. Banana peels are bad. Green and the number 13. Peanut shells are bad. Might have been here at Daytona years ago and people just blamed it on the peanut shells.
Q. Juan Pablo says he still gets grief for hitting the jet drier. You don't get any grief, do you?
KURT BUSCH: This is a social age to where something is burned into somebody's mind once, that's what they're tabbed with for a long while. I'm guilty of that, right (laughter)?
Q. What is your workout regimen?
KURT BUSCH: Primarily strength training and cardiovascular. You don't work out too hard pushing heavy weights, but you try to have every bit of your body toned with certain muscles being used in certain ways. Cardiovascular is the biggest thing, running.
Q. What do you do?
KURT BUSCH: Running, biking, elliptical machine and swimming.
Q. How does it fit into your schedule every week?
KURT BUSCH: It's just something you have to do. We have usually slow days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so you try to implement it then for sure. On race weekend, you end up doing stuff inside the motorhome or you get out into the infield in the wee hours of the morning before the fans wake up, get out there and run.
Q. Are you better at this than your brother?
KURT BUSCH: I would say yes. But it's a matter of what you feel mentally from the workouts to be better prepared for the racing.
Q. NASCAR is more about having strong mental strength, considering what you see in Europe.
KURT BUSCH: I would say that the European racing is similar to a 100-yard dash. It's quick, intense and it's done. Whereas in NASCAR, it's more of a marathon. You're out there for four hours. You don't have as much adrenaline at certain points, but you're doing it for a longer duration.