Kurt Busch to Ganassi Team in 2019 - - Q&A
TELL US WHAT IT MEANS TO BE ALIGNED WITH CHIP GANASSI RACING FOR THE 2019 SEASON?
KURT BUSCH: “Well, this is a tremendous opportunity to go out and win races, to have a shot at the championship and to use my experience that I’ve gained over all these years with a group like Chip Ganassi Racing. I feel like it’s a good mesh with Kyle Larson. Something that Chip and I talked about as far as the driver line-up and the way that we wanted to go into 2019 and attack and go right out of the gate and go for wins and get this program where it needs to be and what Chip has for his championship dreams.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE KURT JOIN THE ORGANIZATION ALONG WITH MONSTER ENERGY COMING ON AS A SPONSOR?
CHIP GANASSI: “I think first of all I think as anyone knows it’s not often times a NASCAR champion and a Daytona 500 winner comes available. I think when you’ve got a guy that’s a racer like Kurt, who has certainly… with 30 Cup wins, he has won at every place like Daytona, Charlotte, Bristol, he has won the All-Star race of his bigger wins. You know, I think when somebody like that comes along you’ve got to take a serious look at him. It didn’t take me long to say yes, we he became available. Also, to bring on somebody like Monster is something we are pretty happy about. They have brought a lot to this sport of NASCAR and I’m as excited as I’ve been in a long time to work with both of them.”
KURT BUSCH: “You know the way that I look at Ganassi and all of his motorsports platforms, I mean, IndyCar, SportsCar, NASCAR, all these champion type drivers and situations, there is nothing different with the quantity of the cars and equipment and effort. What I see, is more of a quality with the two-car program with Larson and myself and streamlining the cars and having that transparency amongst the two. I don’t see much difference in it. I just see more of a concentrated effort in making sure that the cars go to the track and there is that communication that is completely black and white and wide open. That is what I’m looking forward to the most because sometimes in a four-car program if one car goes through tech, the other one might not necessarily go through the same way and then by the time you get to a fourth car things are very different. I just like a challenge with this whole thing of switching and going after a fresh start and having a guy like Kyle Larson who is going to teach me some things about how the new trend of driving style is going.”
DO YOU EXPECT JAMIE MCMURRAY TO STICK AROUND?
CHIP GANASSI: “Well, first of all, I do expect Jamie to stick around, yes. And as we talked about, we are going to have some announcements forthcoming on that subject.
WHAT DO YOU THINK KURT CAN LEND TO YOUR PROGRAM?
CHIP GANASSI: “Well, I think a lot. I can tell you this, I’ve had calls from two different people at his previous team saying they were going to miss him and they liked him around the shop. They liked him how he got involved with the cars, they liked his input, they liked what he did as a builder of the team and as a teammate. So, I think anytime you can have a veteran guy like that, that A. knows how to win races, but B. is a good guy in the locker room per say, I think that brings something to our team that I think will only enhance a young guy like a Larson or any of the other young guys we have that maybe don’t have the years of experience that put a little gray hair on me from time to time.”
THERE HAS BEEN SOME SPECULATION THAT THIS IS A ONE YEAR DEAL AND THAT WILL BE KIND OF IT FOR YOU. IS THIS GOING TO BE YOUR LAST YEAR?
KURT BUSCH: “For me, I know right now I’m all in, no matter what its going to be. Whether it’s 36 races and a championship run or as a pact like Chip and I have talked about along with Monster, if we come out of the gate gangbusters and we’ve got five wins by July Daytona, well let’s talk about 2020. But for me, the way that everything has panned out with my switch from SHR (Stewart-Haas Racing) to Ganassi Racing I had always talked about 2019 and that being my 20th full-time year, that’s a number I had in my mind, but anytime you get an opportunity like this and now seeing everybody on the shop floor this morning, you don’t know what is around the next corner as far as motivation and challenges. So, for right now I see it all in and we will see how it goes from there. I am really excited about though the chance to work with Matt McCall (crew chief) and everybody on this No. 1 car. There are things that I see with them that was the same thing that I saw with Billy Scott my crew chief last year. He was working with Danica (Patrick) for the last year or two and when we switched it was immediate chemistry and I think that is the same thing that can happen here and who knows what will happen down the line as far as how all the dominoes get put in place.”
CHIP GANASSI: “Let me add something… if we win five races by July it is going to be an automatic, okay I’m going to make a contract change right now (laughs).”
ARE YOU GOING TO RUN THE ROLEX AND/OR THE INDY 500 AND ARE EITHER OF THOSE UNDER DISCUSSION?
CHIP GANASSI: “Let me answer that. I think and in my conversations with Kurt, all that stuff is available. All our cars are available to all of our drivers. I think it’s just a matter of if the opportunity presents itself and there is obviously a lot more than just me saying ‘hey let’s do it’ and him saying ‘yeah let’s do it’. I am game. For the two of us to decide is somewhat on a bit of an island when it comes to those types of things. The important point is those things are available for conversations and that is one of the things I think we … and again it’s not often you have a guy that has the experience to do that like an Indy in an IndyCar. It’s certainly on the table if need be.”
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF MCDONALD’S AND CESSNA? ARE THEY STILL WITH YOUR PROGRAM?
CHIP GANASSI: “Yeah, they are still on the team.”
WHAT KIND OF A RELATIONSHIP DO YOU HAVE WITH KYLE LARSON? CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BEING ON A TWO-CAR TEAM VERSUS A FOUR-CAR TEAM HOW YOU EXPECT THAT TO BE MORE BENEFICIAL FOR YOU?
KURT BUSCH: “Kyle Larson and I have a good racing relationship on track and I saw things change even during the Playoffs this year with some of the talks we have had behind the scenes. As far as outside the track, we haven’t hung out all that much. If I had half a day off, I would go hang out with Chip and his Sportscar program, if Larson has a half a day off, he is already at the dirt track, so we will have our time to get caught up. We just chit-chatted and he welcomed me to the team a couple of hours ago he said he is off to New Zealand to do some racing and we will get caught up with off track stuff when he gets back in January. I’m looking forward to that relationship. He is a hard charger, he is always up front, there are things he has done to win races, there are also things he has done to lose some races where he was really fast and it’s a matter of putting all of the puzzle pieces together. For me, there has just been that change in life where I feel like I want to help somebody like him. I see the talent and for me with all these years of experience, I still have that fire and that desire to challenge and to be upfront and I was only a few laps away from making it to the championship round this year.
“Two-car team, that is where I think there is a positivity of a balance shift to where all efforts are put into two and you don’t have to spread it out across four.”
NO MATTER HOW JAMIE MCMURRAY’S PLANS ARE GOING TO UNFOLD IN THE COMING DAYS, WHAT HAS BEEN HIS IMPACT AND LEGACY WITH CHIP GANASSI RACING?
CHIP GANASSI: “I think it starts off with sort of a storybook entrance to Cup back when Sterling (Marlin) got hurt there. Jamie came on at Talladega, he was running at the front and we ran him out of gas, I remember. The next race was Charlotte and he won. So, I think, when you have an entrance into the sport like that, put that down as your foundation and then building upon that with obviously two or three wins leading up to 2010 there where he won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard in that sort of storybook year that the entire organization had, Jamie has got a nose for the front of the pack. He is the type of driver that wakes up when you can get him to the front. So, I think, as I’ve said before, I want him to continue on with our organization and I think in the coming weeks you will find that out. I think he is somebody that can take a lot of stock in any of the success that this team has or happens in the future. Jamie can take a lot of stock in that in helping bring a level of maturity to the organization when it was badly needed.”
WHAT DOES ADDING FORMER DRIVERS TO YOUR ORGANIZATION, WHAT KIND OF ROLES CAN THEY HAVE AND WHY DO YOU SEE A VALUE IN SOMETHING LIKE THAT? HOW CAN THEY ENHANCE YOUR ORGANIZATION?
CHIP GANASSI: “Yeah, I think you have to look at Josh (Wise) or look at Dario (Franchitti) in our IndyCar team, I don’t know if you know we have an IndyCar team too (laughs). So, I think anytime you have guys that are current in the sport it’s an opportunity. That is what guys like Josh or Dario or Jamie can bring. They are the most current guys that are maybe not driving for one reason or another and that is something that is invaluable in a team organization. You are constantly building this book of information and you are constantly tapping this book of knowledge or building it. You have another head in the room. It doesn’t have to be much, just one little piece of advice or one little tidbit of information can be invaluable on a race weekend. Whether it’s Friday practice, whether it’s Saturday qualifying or Sunday in the race, it is having a quality person around that is current. This business changes so much from year to year at what I would call the grassroots level of NASCAR you know in the engineering meetings, in the trucks on the race weekends in the meetings Monday through Friday you can see people that step out of it for a year and they come back and they are lost. So, it’s invaluable to have people that are current would be my answer.”
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE STICKING POINTS OF THIS DEAL AND THE ENVIRONMENT NOW OF WORKING OUT A DEAL VERSUS 20 YEARS AGO WHEN YOU FIRST CAME IN?
KURT BUSCH: “This deal worked out in a three-hour meeting with Chip over a quick Monster can. It was so smooth and so genuine. I felt like Chip and I had been around each other for years. Why I wanted a small delay in the announcement was really strictly me being selfish and wanting a really cool introduction of the smoke show that Monster brings, the glitz, the glamour, the fun and the energy that they bring, but it also dovetailed off a fantastic 2018 season that I had at SHR. That group knew mid-summer that we weren’t going to be together and I have to commend Greg Zipadelli and Tony Stewart and the way they approached the Playoff races. When Chip and I struck our deal and Monster confirmed, Chip and I looked at each other and said ‘you know what, as long as you are championship eligible, as long as we are still running strong then we will just delay the announcement. It just worked out perfect. My final day was the last day of November for SHR and here it is, December 4th and I wish today was February 4th. I wish we were going to Daytona next week. I’m all pumped up to get going and to get to the track.”
THANK YOU BOTH FOR JOINING US AND WE WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK IN THE 2019 SEASON.
KURT BUSCH: “Thank you very much. Again, Chip, thank you. This is a tremendous opportunity and I’m happy to be part of your alumni within the NASCAR portfolio and you know what, Daytona is two months away. IT’s not next week, so we’ve got some time and we are going to have some fun.”
CHIP GANASSI: “Alright. I’m ready.”
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