NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Gatorade Duel 1
Topics: Gatorade Duel
February 17, 2011
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP: Kurt Busch and Steve Addington join us up front. Kurt wins the first Gatorade Duel looking ahead to the Daytona 500. Back-to-back wins here at Daytona, Kurt. No one has ever won the Shootout, the Duel and the Daytona 500 in the same season, but you certainly have a better opportunity than anybody else in the field to do that.
Talk about your performance here at Speedweeks.
KURT BUSCH: It's the double deuce power right now. Great ride through these Speedweeks, being in the right place at the right time. To be in those positions, you have to have a good drafting partner. I had that with Regan Smith today, had it with McMurray on Saturday night. You can't be in those positions if you don't build a great racecar.
My guys have put together an awesome Dodge for me. The cars we brought down here, all of them have great strength to them. The engine department knows they're going to bring us even more for Sunday's race.
So I'm really excited. Again, I can't get too far ahead of myself because this is Daytona and this place can jump up and bite you pretty quick. But we are going to ride this wave. We've made the right decisions so far with all of our adjustments on our car, adapting to the rule changes with restrictor plate sizes, grill-opening sizes. This is a new era at Daytona in my mind.
Right now, I feel like I don't know anything about the draft. I'm trying to latch myself onto somebody to learn with. I've had a great teammate with Brad Keselowski in testing to do that with. We're going to keep going. It's bright, it's yellow, it's fast.
KERRY THARP: Steve Addington, talk about the performance of this No. 22 Dodge, your anticipation for Sunday's race.
STEVE ADDINGTON: It's been awesome. I think that goes back to what went on over the winter, this group of guys that come to the racetrack every week. They're a great support group. They work really hard. They do anything that I ask out of them without any bickering or anything else. They just get in there, keep their heads down and dig. That's the kind of group of guys that you need to go to the racetrack with every week.
Really proud of them. They've been doing an awesome job with making changes, like Kurt said, in grill openings and stuff like that. They've took it to the next step and did some extra things that I asked out of them. No complaining, so I'm really proud of that group of guys.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions.
Q. Steve, can you talk about at the end or overall in the race how you worked with the spotter and how important that was? Kurt, there was a time where you thought you were going with Kenseth, then back. How did all that play out? How much of a role did the spotter play in all that?
STEVE ADDINGTON: I stay in contact with the spotter the whole time. I've got guys scanning and listening. They give me feedback to give to the spotter from what other guys are seeing in trying to help me make decisions. Chris Osborne is doing one hell of a job every week. He did it every week last year. He just stepped up to the plate here with all that's going on down here this week. Hats off to him.
KURT BUSCH: Chris Osborne, our spotter, deserves quite a bit of credit to how he's adapted to this as well, with his communication with other spotters.
The way you think you have alliances, you've watched guys work together throughout the race, it's not necessarily a chess game, because chess takes too long. You have to react in thousandths of a second, split-second decisions. We had a general idea of what was going to happen on that final restart. It's almost like you see everybody get their deck of cars, like you're playing Texas Hold 'em. You're looking around to see who is betting with who, who is going to hang around and wait to see the flop. Has a lot to do with split-second decisions if you're in or out with a certain group.
Q. Kurt, in 2008 you manned up, did the teammate thing, got on Newman's bumper and pushed him to victory. You've been somebody who is always fiery, competitive. You never complained when you took second for the team. Do you feel the fact that two guys who have pushed you and sacrificed themselves for your benefit was kind of this whole thing coming full circle this time?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, when you do good onto others, you hope good comes back to you.
Just with the way the draft is, one race can't define how you're going to work with somebody. It happens over time. I would get frustrated, like 2002, 2003, it was only my second or third year out on the circuit. I thought I knew enough to kind of hang out and ride. Shoot, I finished second in the Daytona 500 back in 2003. Nobody ever wanted to latch on and to be that drafting partner.
So over the years, friendships develop, rapport develops with other drivers. To be a pusher as many times as I've been, hopefully this time around we can be a pushee. Things do cycle back around. You can't expect it, though. You hope it does with the goodness and kindness in your heart.
Q. Kurt, all these years you've been coming down here, you weren't able to win a restrictor plate. You changed sponsors. Now you're two for two. Is it almost like that new driver's suit is a Superman uniform for you?
KURT BUSCH: It was here at Daytona. It was Harvick's past success. The way Shell-Pennzoil people are excited about Daytona, it's neat to be able to deliver for them right away. To have this double deuce in Victory Lane again, new car number, new sponsor, there's a new look around our program, and we're going to ride this wave while it's in our sails.
It's neat to have the group of guys we have. It's the same program. Just could never figure out why the Miller Lite Dodge couldn't pull into Victory Lane here, but they were a great sponsor, as well.
Q. It sounds like you're saying the new drafting system is learn as you go and you do everything on the fly? And, do you like it?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, there's so many things I've learned each and every drafting session, whether it's the practice or the race Saturday night and today's Thursday race. I'll get back with Addington, my guys, they'll analyze what they saw as well, what other teams are doing, specific types of moves. You just try to bank as much information as you can in your mind to know what to do when.
You're kind of flying by the seat of your pants 'cause you haven't put those ideas into an actual experience just yet. Today went through quite a few more. But there's still more to learn. I hope Sunday can be our day.
It's a matter of leaning on your teammate that I have in Brad Keselowski, leaning on my crew guys, and Roger Penske. I'm having dinner with him tonight. He'll come off the spotter's tower and have a whole bunch of insight from there.
Q. Do you like this style?
KURT BUSCH: I love this style. We're in Victory Lane and there's no way I'd change it.
Q. Every Speedweeks we have someone who asserts themselves. Is that you now? Are you the favorite for the Daytona 500 now?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I would say we're hard-pressed not to be the favorite. We've got the pectin target here. The Shell-Pennzoil is out front right now. The guys are going to be gunning for you. We have the pole, the starting position, we won our Duel today. I don't like to be a favorite, I like to be an underdog. When you're tabbed or dubbed the favorite, you try to block the outside emotions what the day is going to be on Sunday and focus on what's important. I'm going to lean on Steve and my guys to keep me in check and get me through these 500 miles.
I didn't mean to confuse everyone, the Shell logo is called a pectin, p-e-c-t-i-n. (Laughter).
Q. NASCAR has always been a fan-friendly sport. Do you expect your fans to get used to the idea that someone they do not like in the past is helping you in this particular system?
KURT BUSCH: You know, there's been quite a few lessons I've learned with being the villain or being the guy that everybody loved to hate. Our fans are the most vocal fans in all of sports. They're a great group. They're very loyal. They love the sponsors they see on these cars. We hope they support those, the manufacturers that are involved as well. You go through cycles with fans on having your good days or having your bad moments. Sometimes it takes longer to get over those bad moments. Then there's those good days where you drive to Victory Lane and get to celebrate and to be able to be born again, so to speak.
This has been a great Speedweeks for me. It's not over. We have a big race on Sunday. The fact of driving a new car with a new car number, it just feels like it's a whole fresh opportunity to start over with something new.
Q. Kurt, I just wanted you to address the added bonus of -- correct me if I'm mistaken, but you get to slide into that prime starting position because Junior goes back, you'll slide up and take the green as the polesitter. Can you talk about the advantage that presents you?
KURT BUSCH: It's just going to be one of those moments in time that I'll remember for a long while, to lead the field to green. You know, it was somewhat by default. So was Saturday's win with Hamlin going below the double yellow. These are the rules. I'll make sure I massage my right calf so when I go full throttle it doesn't cramp up, because I'll have Regan Smith behind me pushing up and hopefully settle into this Daytona 500 early on once all the emotions get in check.
Q. Steve, can you give me the breaking point of these engines? How hot can you go before the relief valve gives up?
STEVE ADDINGTON: We went up to probably 270 yesterday by accident. We had a gauge go bad. We didn't lose any water. Our guys have our engine spec, what they want to see us run, not go over. That was a little bit too warm than what they wanted to see.
I don't know what the breaking point is. I heard Steve tell Dale Jr. to run it up to 290 yesterday right before he wrecked. He was pushing water. I was scratching my head on that one.
I don't know what the breaking point is. I'm afraid that some of these guys are going to find out. But I don't know. You don't want to see it up around 290, 300, that's for sure.
Q. When you came down here and tested last month, Kurt, you mentioned that you and Brad, all you worked on was this two-car tandem thing. At the time you were doing that, was it, We think this is what is going to happen in Speedweeks or were you sure it was? Looking back now, how smart does this make you look?
KURT BUSCH: We're not all the way through Sunday yet. What I'm excited about is I haven't even teamed up with Brad yet in a race. Did we think this was going to be an important factor? Yes. Did we think it was going to be as strong as it is right now and as potent? No. But we thought this was going to be an interesting part of what the new draft was going to be about and how can we learn as much as we can in this short amount of time.
Brad and I spent a lot of time to work with one another and to have Addington and Paul Wolfe get together with ideas. We felt, If this is track time, we need to be out here plugging away, and so far it's paid off.
STEVE ADDINGTON: The good part about them spending that afternoon doing that, we learned a lot about brakes, brake packages. Nothing like we ever ran here before or any Speedway race I ever ran. We just stepped up our brake packages because you have to stay in contact with the guy behind you and use brake now. It's kind of crazy. We learned stuff like that.
Q. Steve, the idea of blowing engines on Sunday, how big a factor do you think that's going to be? Kurt, how much more strategy-wise does it add worrying about engine temperature?
STEVE ADDINGTON: Honestly, I say that, but I think everybody in that garage area is a smart group of people. All 43 drivers and crew chiefs will be in communication. You're going to have to back out of it, pay attention to your water temps and back out of the situations. You have to be there at the end to finish this deal. Trying to take the lead at lap 100, burning the car up, it's not worth it.
I hope that everybody pays attention and we have a good race with all 43 cars running at the end.
KURT BUSCH: The management of being the second car pushing, you have to keep track of the guy in front of you, you have to absorb if he's coming up on a pack, stay with him, not give him too hard of a push in a sense. At the same time, you have to keep peaking that grill out to keep it cool if you want to stay attached.
There's a lot that goes on. It's tough. Right now I think the key element to all of Speedweeks thus far is the fact we had a Shootout with 24 cars and we had the Duels today with 23 cars apiece. We're going to throw 43 out there on Sunday and it's going to be a different game again.
Q. Your move up the middle was tough. The guy leading is being pushed like a cannonball, the guy behind you is running blindly. There's no room if somebody moves up. Do you have to be confident out there that you're going to hit the hole?
KURT BUSCH: That's the risk involved. You have to keep track of the guy behind you if you're the lead car. You can't make any erratic movements with the steering wheel. You can't second guess yourself. The moment you second guess yourself, turn the wheel the other way, when you zig, the other guy is going to zag, and you're going to get in trouble. We've seen a lot of guys getting spun in this two-car deal.
Q. Steve, from a technical standpoint, why are we seeing this? Is it a pavement thing? Is it an aerodynamics thing? A combination?
STEVE ADDINGTON: You look at it, it started at Talladega when it got repaved. You saw Denny, guys like that, started this back then when they repaved Talladega. I think the racetrack is so smooth, the guys can stay hooked up together. There's a ton of grip out there. There's no way this would have went on on the old track with the asphalt the way it was.
The repave has brought that to Daytona, just like we were doing at Talladega.
Q. Steve, how much of a thrash is it when NASCAR middle of the week tells you you're going to run restrictor plates and smaller front-end openings, change this, change that? How much effort and expense and stomach churning goes into that?
STEVE ADDINGTON: It's the same for everyone. You call back to the shop, talk to the guys. You have fabricators working their tails off getting stuff together. You have engine guys putting them back on the dynos, different scenarios, getting them back down here, letting us know what adjustments we need to make on the car for plate changes. Timing and jetting in the engines for plate size.
To put a price on it, I wouldn't want to do that. I'm not into that. I just want Roger to give me what I need to go racing and win races. I don't ask him about the budget.
But, no, a lot of people back at the shop support that and send parts and pieces down here to make it easier on us.
KERRY THARP: Kurt and Steve, congratulations. Best of luck Sunday in the 53rd running of the Daytona 500.
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