Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, participated in the NASCAR cam video teleconference in advance of this weekend's racing at Bristol, which includes Sunday's Food City 500.
Busch heads into Bristol third in the series standings and is coming off a victory at Atlanta. He has five Bristol victories in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition, and he's tied with Jeff Gordon for the most Bristol wins among active drivers.
He was asked about the keys to his fast start in 2009, and what he's looking forward to at Bristol.
KURT BUSCH: We're definitely pumped up with how our season has started. Daytona is one thing. Then to evaluate where you are in the mile-and-a-halfs is another. The third step for this season to get under our belt is short tracks, Bristol and Martinsville. We're hoping we can blend in the setups that we've figured out so far this year into Bristol and into Martinsville.
But that's going to be the big challenge. Nobody knows what to expect because we haven't had much pre-season testing to help us with the short tracks.
But we feel like we've got our homework done. Went down to New Smyrna Speedway in Florida and tried to get used to the short track feel of things again.
Q: What has it been this year for you and Penske Racing that has made the difference for you running up front this year?
A: Well, we've worked on all areas. Last year everybody would ask: What areas do you think you need to improve on to make your car a championship-caliber car? We couldn't put our finger on just one thing. I think we had to look at all areas and make every area better. And we've had a lot of people pulling the rope in the same direction helping us do that.
Engines, aerodynamics, setups, you name it, we're doing it better.
Q: What's the difference now for you at Bristol, now that the place has been resurfaced, based on how it was a few years ago?
A: You know, that's a great question because I haven't had the success since they have resurfaced it. I believe it's the fact that it's not so cut and dry anymore. You had to race the bottom. You had to be on the bottom. That's where you had to get your car to set up and work well.
Now you can run around anywhere on that racetrack. It still has some small things that are Bristol, but yet it's not as tough, it's not as mean as it used to be.
Maybe I just need to relax a little bit more on the driving style there.
Q: Along the way to better results this year, I'm sure you weren't thinking that Kurt Busch has forgotten how to drive. What have been your thoughts as the good results happen? What were your thoughts as you went through the valley and finally see a peak at the end going into the rest of the year now?
A: Well, it's been just a thought all along with the Car of Tomorrow, thinking that we couldn't get our front ends to turn right. They weren't reacting to our adjustments. We were struggling out on track. Knowing all along that, yeah, maybe sometimes you question yourself.
But it's just think sitting in the seat, knowing that, man, the front ends just aren't turning. When that got back to the engineering department, the guys setting up the cars, when we could really sit down and think about it, we threw some ideas off the wall.
When we didn't make the Chase, we were able to use those ideas, put them into race circumstances, and find out from there what we needed to do heading into 2009.
So you got to bang your head up against the wall every now and then if you want to figure out what you need to do.
Q: You got a name yet for that victory celebration?
A: You know, we had compiled over 10,000 types of emails, letters, phone calls. It's been fantastic. The results, we're going to be able to reveal them this Friday. I hope that it fits and everybody enjoys what's come up with it. Just the sheer excitement of going to Victory Lane is one thing, but creating a new style of celebration, that was the fun part. Hopefully we'll be able to do it again at Bristol this week.
Q: Was this something you had thought about before or is this something that just happened after you saw that checkered flag?
A: Well, the victory lap going backwards was definitely thought about beforehand. Me and my buddies might have had too many Miller Lites one night and said, Let's do it, let's see if the reverse gear will make it all the way around the racetrack. It did. Didn't know the name of it. It took off like wildfire.
The results from my home state of Nevada, Virginia, all the race teams, people here in North Carolina, Chicago, and the guys up in Milwaukee, folks that work at Miller Lite, they're really heavily involved in this trying to make it fun.
We're having a grand old time with it. Hopefully there's going to be plenty of time for it this year.
Q: You're so good at Bristol. You look at Jimmie Johnson, he's struggled at that track. Have you noticed anything about his driving style that makes it tougher on him?
A: You know, him and I actually had a joke about that last year, how I feel like when I go to Charlotte, that's the fastest track as far as the feel, to know when you're slipping, when you're sideways. He says, "That's funny, I feel that at Bristol."
Those are the two tracks we won at the most and we almost had the same complaints. It's hard to know when you're sliding, when he's going fast down into turn one. It just has a different complexion. Some drivers view tracks different than others, but yet we're both champions. We've done well at each of those tracks.
It's a hard question to answer.