CHEVY NSCS AT DAYTONA MEDIA DAY: Kurt Busch Press Conf Transcript

FEBRUARY 16, 2016

KURT BUSCH, NO. 41 HAAS AUTOMATION/MONSTER ENERGY CHEVROLET SS met with media during Media Day at Daytona International Speedway.  Full Transcript:

Q.        Danica gets attention because she’s the girl on the block.  Is it nice to just kind of be the guy that can go under the radar and kick everybody’s ass?

KURT BUSCH:  We have our job to do on the 41 car.  Whether it’s positioned to be in the spotlight or if it’s not, we’re still doing the same job.  It’s always been a matter of how a story can be told and how things can unfold if you’re going to be that big, bright shining star or if you’re just running through the system, posting results.  Nobody’s necessarily talking about it.

For me, we have everything to be successful on the 41 car.  Haas Automation, Monster Energy as co-primary sponsors, it’s unique how we’ll have the claw on the quarter panel every race.  Haas will be on the hood or the quarter panel every race.  It doesn’t matter which race we win, where we run well, both of our sponsors will be shown in a co-primary sponsorship format.

Then the whole crew situation, where everybody coming back on the team, it’s about getting every little extra ounce on the car this year that we didn’t get out of it last year.  Yet last year was my best results year ever as far as average finish.

Average finish will only get you so far.  You have to get those quality finishes, which are race wins and top fives.  That’s what we’re after on the 41 car this year.

Q.        Last year, at the beginning of the season, the Daytona 500, that Saturday night had to be a low point for your family.  You came back and ran so well the rest of the year.  What is your takeaway from that?  How do you feel going into the 500 this year?

KURT BUSCH:  Well, we have a lot of things that can give you motivation.  This year is no exception with the chance to go win the Daytona 500.  It’s right there in front of myself, Kyle, for his team being a championship-defending team, and then with Tony Gibson as my crew chief.  He wants to win this thing again.

We have so much motivation in all directions to be successful.  Now we have to go out there and do it.

Q.        Everybody in this sport certainly wants to win every race every time they go out, every championship every year.  The two big prizes are the 500 and the championship.  Does having won the championship sort of take a little of the pressure off to win the 500 in that you know your career is complete?  Do you think vice versa?  Do you have to have both to be complete?

KURT BUSCH:  Well, you want all those big trophies.  You want the Southern 500.  You want the Coca-Cola 600.  You want the Brickyard 400.  Those I think are the three to four majors, like golf has or tennis has.  You want to go out there and have those right alongside that big championship trophy at the end.  That’s the most important one.

For me over the years, I’ve been somewhat conservative at this race.  I finished second three times.  I have such a strong team this year, I’m not worried about points, I’m worried about one thing that weekend, and that’s getting the trophy for the Daytona 500.

Q.        (No microphone.)

KURT BUSCH:  We’re at Daytona and we’re all focused on Daytona.  I think once we get through Atlanta and that NASCAR Goes West Tour, that will give a better indication on whether I’m going to run Indy this year.

Q.        (Question about Kyle coming back.)

KURT BUSCH:  Tremendously proud of Kyle, genuinely happy for him.  Excited for him to see him hoist up that Sprint Cup.  For him to have to go through rehab and all the things to rehabilitate his leg, his foot, being out of the car for an injury, I’ve never had that happen.  All the mental side of it, the physical pain, he did an incredible job.

I was very happy for him.  It’s great to see both Busch brothers with a championship trophy.

Q.        Have you talked to Stewart yet?

KURT BUSCH:  No, I haven’t talked to him about the full duration of his rehab.  This isn’t something that Tony hasn’t been through before with breaking his leg a couple years ago.  He knows the process.  He knows what it’s going to take to get back in the seat.

I think, though, we saw some relief for Tony last year when he announced his retirement, the commitment to not race Sprint Cup full-time.  It just created a smile.  It created a lighter footprint, so to speak, for Tony when he was walking around the race shop.

He’s got so much ahead of him, yet he’s accomplished so much, that he’s not going to let this get in his way.  He will come back and have a very successful and happy final season in Sprint Cup.

Q.        When you talked about being conservative on the plate tracks, you don’t have the win, but you have some top fives, you don’t get those by being conservative.  What have you done that’s been conservative?  What do you do now to get there?

KURT BUSCH:  It’s a matter of blocking more aggressively and taking risks on keeping guys behind you instead of just following the guys in front of you.  So the conservative approach just to find a solid finish and to take advantage of other people’s mistakes when you run a race versus controlling the race.

That’s something to where I don’t have a Daytona 500 trophy, but I’ve got a great team behind me that’s going to help give me that best effort.  This is that year.  I’m feeling it.

Q.        How much are you looking forward to this race?  Do you feel like you want to go out there and dominate, for lack of a better term?

KURT BUSCH:  It’s a matter of just finding the feel of the car.  Man, Tony Gibson has provided me with the best chance.  That’s where you go.  You feel it in the 150s and go from there.

It’s a matter of getting through all the segments of the race.  You can’t just lead the first hundred miles and go, Yep, we’re going to win this thing.  There’s things you have to do in each sector of the race.

Q.        (Question about drafting and Danica.)

KURT BUSCH:  I don’t think she’s had a problem at distinguishing herself as somebody that needs more time in the seat to be able to draft with.  I think it’s just a matter of her closing the deal when it comes to restarts and finishing the race just stronger.  I think we could pull up some stats, I don’t know them for sure, but I would say the first three quarters of her races are a lot better than the final quarter.

That’s what I’ve been trying to teach her, We’ve got to finish stronger at the end of these races.

Q.        (Question about Kyle maturing.)

KURT BUSCH:  Time always helps with that maturity level.  When you’re thrown into Sprint Cup racing at such a young age, you have plenty of time to grow and mature to.

The generations before us, drivers didn’t really get started till their 30s and they’d go to their 50s.

I can say at 35 I was a heck of a lot smarter than I was at 15, and then 20 when I got into Sprint Cup.  It’s just that time always gives you more experience, and life circumstances in general have changed for Kyle and it’s all been for the better.

Q.        Kyle’s accident put the focus on getting SAFER barriers.  15 years ago it was all about head and neck restraints.  What do you anticipate the next frontier for safety?

KURT BUSCH:  Wow, I’m not sure.  There’s always so many innovations that continue to come into all of motorsports.

Seat belts have been a big thing recently with how they’re keeping the driver in the car during roll-over situations and different styles of impacts.  Constantly we’re worried about that right front impact.  Now we’re worried about the roll-over, we’re worried about the driver’s side impacts.

It’s still about protecting that egg in the basket, so to speak.  So it’s that driver compartment area that I see as a new development area, such as the foot box to help like with Kyle’s injury, and then door impacts from the left side of the car, being able to withstand more and more g-forces.

Q.        Do you feel like we have the reset coming back here?

KURT BUSCH:  I just felt like the rug was wiped out from underneath me.  And we’re back.  We’re here with a good shot at winning.  I was here with a good shot at winning last year.  This is more for making up for lost time.

Q.        Did you watch the race last year?

KURT BUSCH:  No, I did not.

Q.        Do you feel like this race owes you something this year?

KURT BUSCH:  Well, I finished second three times.  That’s where it owes me something.  I feel like the first few times when I did finish second was, I’ve got more to learn, I’ve got more to do, more things to understand about the race.  Then the year I helped Ryan Newman win, that was my maturity as well as experience level combining for that decision to push him instead of trying to take a risk to go three-wide to take the win away from us both.  So that was a big moment.

Just haven’t had cars that were capable of winning through the early 2010s.  I think this year is the best year I’ve ever had with Tony Gibson, this whole Haas Automation and Monster Energy crew.

Q.        What do you have to do this year to close the gap?

KURT BUSCH:  Have to be more aggressive in the draft with blocking.  We have to have the right strategy to spend the least amount of time on pit road at the end of the race, and to be able to choose the right lane at the right time.

Q.        Who is the best person in this series to have behind you to give you a push on the last stretch?

KURT BUSCH:  I’d go with a teammate or somebody that’s won the 500 before.  If you haven’t won the 500, you’re going to do whatever it takes to get around that guy in front of you to try to win it.

Q.        (Question about the target on his back.)

KURT BUSCH:  It always is.  You feel it.  The team feels it.  Yet it’s because you accomplished something so special the year before that you want to reward yourself in a way to where you’re that first team going through tech inspection each Friday morning, or you’re the first car that hits the track in practice every weekend because of those special perks that come along with winning a championship.

So, yeah, everybody wants to be that guy.  You’re that guy for the moment.  That’s why everybody wants to take you down.

Q.        Chase Elliott is getting a lot of attention.  Knowing the Penske organization, having raced against Blaney in a number of races last year, do you think he’s going to be a formidable opponent?

KURT BUSCH:  I believe so.  The rookie crop is pretty strong this year.  My rookie class had a guy named Kevin Harvick in it, a guy named Ron Hornaday, it also had Casey Atwood, Andy Houston.  There’s always names that pop up in rookie classes.  It’s just a matter of what type of season they have to help create their foundation for their career.

We know that Chase Elliott has that primary 24 car.  That is a good car, a good team.  That 21 car is the Wood Brothers.  Yes, they’ve been around for decades, but it isn’t as powerful as the 24 car.  So we’ll see how things play out.

I think Blaney is just as good a driver as Chase Elliott.  We have Brian Scott out there, and who else am I missing?

Q.        Did you sense a difference in yourself when you returned last year?

KURT BUSCH:  No (laughter).

Q.        You mentioned a while ago having someone behind you.  Who do you trust during this race to help you, work with you, or can you trust anybody at the end?

KURT BUSCH:  At the end every man is for himself.  You do trust teammates.  I would trust Kyle, my brother for life, here.  The way that it all works out here is every man is racing for himself.

Q.        Was there at any time a Busch family celebration?

KURT BUSCH:  I could tell you from times before when the championship celebration is so busy, it’s hard.  There was one quick moment where I was able to give him a hug, tell him how proud of him I was.

The schedule just keeps you grinding and grinding and grinding.  I was real happy for him, but there wasn’t much time.

Thank you.

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