Kurt Busch back in Charlotte, talks about Indy
KURT BUSCH, NO. 41 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed qualifying for the Indy 500, logistics, this evening’s All-Star race at Charlotte, and more. Full Transcript:
|Kurt Busch and his mother at Indy|
HOW WAS IT TRAVELING BACK TO CHARLOTTE FROM INDY? ALSO TALK ABOUT HOW FAST YOU WERE IN QUALIFYING FOR THE INDY 500
"It’s been an exciting day. It’s a lot of fun to qualify into the Indianapolis 500 my first outing. I was hoping for a little more, but the air in the morning there is so thick, those cars have a hard time cutting through that air. And then as the day progresses, conditions get better. And then right here, now, we got bumped out of the Fast Nine, which I thought we might be able to hang on but, hey. First time there to be 10th, 11th, 12th is right in the mix and it’s really exciting. To have had the chance to go 230 mph; and then to have a fast plane with Cessna to get back here to be ready for the All-Star race."
WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING TONIGHT IN THE ALL-STAR RACE?"
I’ve got five segments tonight; four of those are 20-lap runs. Last year the No. 78 car was a bullet. It was fast. So I’m hoping to use some of that same chemistry within the car and just settle back in. I’ll need that first segment to settle into the car and to feel the four tires and to feel the stock car again and to respect it. Back and forth there’s a lot of excitement and a lot of emotion but I haven’t been in this car yet this week. I’m going up against the best of the best in this All-Star race. You can’t take this for granted."
WAS TODAY AS GOOD AS YOU EXPECTED IN THIS FIRST-TIME EXPERIENCE?
“Last night, there was a Casino Night that’s mandatory for the drivers that are full time and I went. I wanted to go and feel it and experience it. There’s just a lot of Indiana hometown people that appreciate the fact that the Indianapolis 500 is in their backyard. And it’s the people that have made that race track what it is; and that race track makes that for the people. So it’s really need to feel that small hometown Indiana feel on a grand stage. The world does watch the Indy 500. So, it’s emotional. It’s fun. We qualified first run out and then was 12th and then bumped-up and got as high as third, and then we got bumped out of the Fast Nine. That’s part of the emotions of qualifying into the Indy 500.”
WITH ALL THE PRACTICE AND BEING ON THE TRACK ALL WEEK, HOW HAVE YOU EXPECTATIONS CHANGED? ARE YOU THINKING MORE ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF WINNING?
“Each day is a lesson of just being a student and learning what I can do to advance with the car. My inexperience is what will hold us at that last little bit. Each day though, there have been nice improvements. So it’s hard to know what to expect. We’ve got another qualifying round tomorrow and then Monday is a full race trim day and then it’s a week off, it feels like, when I’ll be back to Indy to run again. So, we’ve got one more qualifying run and then a race run and we’ll see. I expect there to be more competition this year just with the rules being very close and everybody is comfortable with the package they have. I see that lead group of cars 18 deep; maybe even into the twenties. Any little mistake will come up and it will come up big, and then you’ll be buried in traffic.”
HAVE YOU HAD MUCH OF A CHANCE TO RUN IN TRAFFIC?
“Yeah, we focused the first four days on running with traffic. We got rained out Wednesday. It was nice though, to go back Thursday and get some race runs in. And I felt comfortable making passes on guys.”
IT WILL BE A NIGHT RACE TONIGHT. YOU SEEM RESTED AND CALM. ARE YOU TIRED AT ALL?
“No, just trying to keep up with my checklist. This qualifying run, I take the green on track, and coming down pit road I don’t have to slow down for pit road speed and I don’t have any reference points. I didn’t practice. That I’ve just got to clear that hurdle and get back out onto the track as quick as I can; and hopefully after a great pit stop by the guys, and see where we stack-up for the first segment. Once we do that, then that will dictate our race strategy.”
WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE SO FAR IN TRYING TO DO THE DOUBLE? OR, WHAT’S BEEN THE HARDEST THING?
“The open cockpit is a whole different experience. The biggest surprise has just been the warm welcome in the open wheel paddock. The Indy Car guys have been just so supportive and giving me encouragement. It’s been really neat to see them reach out. I thought it would be more cutthroat from those guys, but we haven’t gotten into race weekend yet. I’m sure that will change.”
REGARDING GETTING TO CHARLOTTE IN TIME FOR QUALIFYING TODAY
“Well, the driver’s meeting is the most important part so we could keep our starting position. I thank NASCAR for allowing me to miss yesterday’s practice and still be eligible to run tonight.”
YOU ALSO HAD GREAT SUPPORT FROM WITHIN THE SPRINT CUP GARAGE. THAT HAS TO BEE A GOOD FEELING
“It’s neat. Dale Jr. has been tweeting about it and I heard when I did do my qualifying run to get up as high as P3, Tony Stewart said congratulations and that one hit me hard just with the Indiana feel of everything. It’s near. Everybody has been curious about it. There’s still a lot of anxious moments and the speed is probably the most fun part. I can check 230 mph off the list. It’s a hair-raising experience to put a car on edge for four laps. I had three, what I felt were moments, in the car. If I had had a fourth, I might not be here right now. I’m glad that we went as fast as we did today to make the Final Nine was really exceeding expectations.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF NEXT WEEKEND’S 600 RACE?
“Just settling into race trim next week and we’ll see. It’s a race; it’s anybody’s race and we have to position ourselves for not making mistakes and stay away from mistakes on pit road to earn the gentleman’s respect out on the track as far as the protocol. That will be the next step in the first third of the race.”
WHAT’S THE OPEN COCKPIT LIKE AT THOSE SPEEDS?
“Yeah, you’ve definitely got to make sure the helmet fits nice and snug and we’re not worried about the oddities of driving an open wheel car. I just said I had a death grip on the wheel and that’s just because I wasn’t relaxing. So it’s just a matter of settling in and not putting too many things ahead of the curve.”
THERE IS SUCH A DIFFERENCE IN THE CARS, WHEN YOU’RE GOING BACK AND FORTH, ARE YOU PUTTING ONE OUT YOUR MIND AND FOCUSING ON THE OTHER? HOW ARE YOU HANDLING THAT?
“I made sure I got a nice nap in on the plane. And to wake up and look out the window and there’s Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s a visual reference, but at the same time it’s All-Star time. Stock cars. This is what I have to do the next four hours. And then when I fly back up tonight, I’ll just zone back in tomorrow morning when I get up. It’s Indy. We’ll do a baseline run tomorrow morning to do a q-run and then hopefully have a good q-run in the afternoon to make the Indy 500 a 10th.”
HOW IMPORTANT ARE STARTING SPOTS?
“We have a shot at the fourth row. That’s going to be our best. That will be our goal. If we can come away with 10th, 11th, or 12th, that will be a great spot to be in. Is it ideal? No. There are guys that are better. But for me there’s going to be so much when they drop the green flag, that I might be starting fourth and have to yield ten positions just to get settled in. So, we’ll see how that goes.”
WAS IT A SMOOTH FLIGHT FROM INDY TO CHARLOTTE?
“Door to door, I walked out of the paddock in Indianapolis and made it here, to the back of the hauler, in an hour and 31 minutes. We gave ourselves a two-hour cushion so if there is anything that happens, we’ll know exactly what our timeline is.”
DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE GAINING CROSSOVER FANS?
“They have a different feel up there with Gasoline Alley and they’re right there on top of the drivers when they go in and out and rooting the teams on. I heard the crowd after I got out of the car and the crowd was very supportive. I heard a guy heckle me. He said hey, you taxicab driver you! And I went hey, that’s awesome. I come from the stock car world and that’s my home and that’s where I’ve raced for 15 years. And it’s nice to have the support of those guys up there.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ALL-STAR RACE WILL BE LIKE TONIGHT?
“I think a fast car is going to prevail. Jeff Gordon was fast last week along with Kevin Harvick. The average of the four segments we hope that we can be in the mix and in the mix is top six. If we’re in the top six, then I think we’ve got a shot at winning it.”