NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500
Topics: Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500
November 9, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We'll roll into our post-race press conference at Phoenix International Raceway. We're pleased to be joined by race runner-up. That is Kurt Busch. He drives the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge.
You had a strong performance out there this afternoon and trying to chase down that 48. But you sure gave it a good run.
KURT BUSCH: Thank you. We felt like we had a great race today. We had a great race car underneath us. Just had a great effort all around with pit stops, with changes during the race, just nice and steady progress throughout the day. We thought we were on our game. We thought we had most of the group covered, but we just got beat, and we got beat by something special.
I'd like to talk about Jimmie. I'm supposed to do the NASCAR thing and talk about my team and my sponsors, but he's doing something pretty special. There was a restart with 94 or something laps to go when he was second behind Jamie McMurray, I was third, and the way that he went high, went low, and he was in the lead before you could snap your fingers, it was unbelievable to watch that type of display, and it's something pretty special. To be able to race against him right now, that team, Chad Knaus, Mr. Hendrick, and Jimmie Johnson, that combination is potent. It's the same for all of Hendrick, but it's that extra 10 percent that him and Chad Knaus, it's just tough to beat.
It's really a privilege to finish second to him today, but I thought we had a great run for our Penske Dodge. Miller Lite is going to be ecstatic with that. We feel like we're building some momentum with our runs recently, and just to be in contention for it, just to be up front, it's just something special to watch Jimmie right now.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by our third place finisher in today's race, and that is Jamie McMurray. He drives the No. 26 Irwin Industrial Tools Ford. Jamie, you had a great weekend. You qualified up high. You mentioned about your engagement earlier in the week, and you finished third in the race. Congratulations.
JAMIE McMURRAY: It's been a fun week. You know, when the race started I really thought that we might have the car to beat. I got by Jimmie on the outside and was able to somewhat check out. Then when I got back in traffic, I think we started fourth or fifth. You get so tight when you get behind guys.
I thought if they can ever get me back out front, I'll be able to drive away from those guys. But our car got tighter as the day went on, and the run right before I was in the lead with Jimmie behind me on one of those last restarts, my car was as good as it had been, and then it just went really tight all of a sudden.
They just did a better job of adjusting on their car and getting it better as the race went on. But it still was a really solid weekend for our team.
Q. Kurt, the fact that Jimmie is racing for a championship, did that change the way that you tried to approach him in those last couple restarts? I mean, were you in a position where I really can't put a bumper on him, I have to really race him hard to race him clean?
KURT BUSCH: What I had as a game plan was to at least get close enough to him to make him think big picture and to force him into actually making it cross his mind. I just couldn't get that close.
Of course, I want to race a guy clean when he's running for the championship. I'd want him to do the same for me. It's just really a matter of trying to get to his bumper, but I couldn't quite get there. I couldn't quite put enough pressure on him. I knew I had all the race fans up on their seats. I was looking to put on a good show; I was wanting to get there; I was wanting to get next to him. I was wanting to win for our team, but I just came up a bit short. We got beat by a really good team today.
Q. Kurt, kind of another spin I want to ask you on Friday, there was nothing easy when you won the title in '04. Are you surprised as a competitor how easy Jimmie and Chad are able to make this thing look this year?
KURT BUSCH: Yes and no. '04 was a battle to the end. I wish every Chase could be like that so that every driver gets to go through the gut-wrenching feel that we had to go through.
But as a quick timeline, 2006, these guys peaked, they hit their game. That's when we had the old downforce car, and they were tough to beat.
2007 was a transitional year. They were really strong with the new COT. They were still strong with the old car. If you win during a transitional year, that's only going to bode well for the future.
2008, they're on their game. It's something special to watch.
Q. For either Kurt or Jamie, you guys both had a frustrating start to the season and both have been running much better in recent weeks. How much does this momentum give you a lift going into the off-season, and is it something that you can carry forward as you get ready for '09?
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, I think that for any of the teams, if you run well at the end of the season, that team is going to run well when next season starts.
The way our schedule is laid out, a lot of the tracks that you run the last ten races, you have in the first bit. Fontana and Bristol, Richmond, a lot of those races you have towards the beginning of the season.
I think the tone of your season gets set in those first five races. You know, if you look at the guys in the first five that were in the Top 10 in points, they still are, and to end this year strong is super-important because you're going to start next season hopefully where you left off.
Q. For either one of you guys, when you watch a team get into the groove like that, get into this whatever they're in, Johnson's team, do you think -- somebody said make it look easier. Knowing how hard it is to win once, does it make you just kind of go, man -- do you sort of marvel? What's going on, and do you just appreciate it?
KURT BUSCH: I'll just quick jump in and then I'll let Jamie go. That restart when he was behind you, 94 laps to go, I was running third, I was like, all right, here's our chance to tweak it up a little bit; let's see if Jimmie struggles. He went high, he cut low, he was underneath Jamie and cleared by the dogleg. I watched something so special, I was like, that's why they're so dominant.
And that's something I want to get with my car. I want to get that feel underneath in the Miller Lite Dodge. But he cut and bobbed and weaved and he was gone. That's hard to beat.
Q. Kurt, you had the new Dodge engine in your car. Can you talk a little bit about that and how it runs and maybe the confidence it gives you and the rest of the Dodge teams going into next season?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, it's great to be able to throw some R & D, research and development, in our program right now. The way that we feel like we've been struggling with power, this has been a good addition for us. Could we stand some more? Of course, we always want more.
The way the engine runs, it seems to run cooler on water temperature, warmer on oil. The durability is defined by every race that we run with the car. So the more that we get underneath it, the better that will be. I'm just a guy that works as quick as I can with getting stuff into the car and trying it out.
Right now I don't think we would mind if we finished 13th or 34th in points, 35th. We're just out here trying to find something that's going to make our Miller Lite Dodge fast, make Dodge proud and make all of our sponsors get that warm, fuzzy feeling over the off-season.
Q. I don't know if you guys know, you probably don't, but ABC cut away from this thing for the last 30 miles and went to America's Funnies Home Videos on the East Coast. What would be your reaction? The network is carrying your game, and all of a sudden it switches to America's Funniest Home Videos?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I knew about it. Did you get that DSS feed in your car?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I did not. I didn't get that memo, no.
I mean, I don't know that I would be the guy to answer that. It seems a little odd to me as big as NASCAR is and as many people as watch the sport, I can't imagine being a race fan and being on the East Coast and trying to watch this and then going to that. I mean, maybe if the President was going to talk, maybe if something big had happened, but I can't believe that America's Funniest Home Videos would take priority over us.
I mean, I like that show, but I'd rather watch the race (laughter).
KURT BUSCH: I guess that means I wasn't close enough to him.
Q. You said over the radio that you just got beat by a better organization. What does Penske have to do to catch up?
KURT BUSCH: I don't know who scans me every race, my goodness. You know, I feel like it's been the same problem that we've had for 35 races this year, and that's the front end doesn't respond to the steering wheel that I'm holding. I feel like we're just tight. Most of the time it's in the center of the corner. There's times when it's on entry, there's times when it's on exit. I've got the thing so sideways most of the time, but then the front end is chattering. That's what we have to work on is getting our front end to turn, center it all along.
There's plenty of things that we could adjust on the car and make it better, but I see all those changes done to the Nationwide car. The front splitter is raised up -- the new Nationwide car. The front end is raised up, they're not running on bump rubbers, they've got a rear spoiler back on the car. All the major components that are wrong with the COT are addressed on the new Nationwide car. That's what I would vote for, but it sounds like we're not getting any changes. Sounds like testing is still up in the air, and it could get dwindled down to hardly any testing due to the economy, and that will be tough to catch the competition.
Q. For Mr. McMurray --
JAMIE McMURRAY: You play any golf lately?
Q. Yeah, yesterday morning. Can you talk a little bit about you guys lost people off your crew before you start of the Chase. You've come back really strong in the last nine races. I mean, what does this do? How does this set things up for next year? Obviously they asked you about getting a new crew chief next year, but are you going to work on the pit crew, work on everything? Obviously you've shown the last few races that all five cars can run up in the Top 10.
JAMIE McMURRAY: Well, it's very frustrating for me, and I mean, I told Robbie Reiser that whenever they called not to ask but to tell me what was going on. I mean, it's easy to talk to Robbie because he was a crew chief at one time, so I just asked him, if you were the crew chief of this team, what would you say to this. He's like, well, I wouldn't want that.
It's tough because that has certainly hurt our pit stops, and at Dover it -- I don't know that it'll cost you the win, but it cost us another really good run because we got back in traffic.
The way they explained that to me is that if next season, if I'm in the Chase and somebody is not on at Roush that they would let me have -- if I needed somebody off that team, they would give it to me. It was just based on the guys that are in the Chase and the guys that aren't.
So I kind of understand that, but at the same time, for me I'm doing everything I can and along with everybody on the team and with Crown Royal and with Irwin, it seems odd that you would take away from them to help someone else. I guess it's because I got the short straw, too, and they've told me that part of this process was trying guys out for next year to get them ready.
It's just really tough for the two tire changers that they've brought over. They've never worked with any of these guys, and some of these pit crews have been together for years. I know the 48 team has been together for a long time. And you can't expect somebody just to jump in and in a few races do better than those teams that have been around for a long time. Hopefully we'll be able to get that worked out.
We had bad pit stops at the beginning, but the last two were really good. I beat cars out of the pits. Those guys are certainly more than capable of doing it. It's just being a little more consistent, but they did a good job at the end.
Q. Are you fighting for one of those four spots at Roush in 2010?
JAMIE McMURRAY: I don't know that there's a fight there. No one has ever acknowledged to me, hey, this is what the game plan is or if it's the lowest car in points. No one has ever said that, and I've never asked. I don't know how that's going to work. So I don't know that there's anything to fight for. Maybe that's already set in stone. I don't know that.
You guys should ask Jack. He'll probably have an answer.
THE MODERATOR: Okay, guys. Congratulations. You did a super job this afternoon. Good luck next week at the finale.
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