THE MODERATOR: Now joining us is Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet who finished third in today’s Toyota Save Mart 350. This was his fifth Top 10 finish in 12 races here at Sonoma and Kurt also placed eighth in the Road America race yesterday and has had a full weekend of racing in road courses, so we welcome Kurt to the stage and we’ll go ahead and get his opening comments and we’ll do similar as we did to Tony.
Kurt, if you’ll talk a little about your run out there today and if you will, brief mention to your run yesterday at Road America as well.
KURT BUSCH: It was just a full weekend of road racing. It was a solid day yesterday and even better day today.
You know, to have a nice, steady pace, and to have a smooth pit strategy for my Phoenix Racing guys, I thought I could deliver for them. We were in contention. We made it all the way to the final restart, and today with all of those long green flag runs, I thought the race would play into our favor. Our car is a little better on longer runs than Bowyer, but he did a great job. I just kept thinking, “He’s a dirt late model racer from the Midwest; there’s no way he’s going to be able to run the road course.” And he did. He did great. That car and our car, I think we separated ourselves from the pack today.
Thanks to Kyle and KPM yesterday; to get me back and forth on a nice, private jet that allowed me to rest up and be prepared for today. Yesterday was not quite the day we needed. We needed one more car with the Monster Energy car to get up there with the nix and get that Top 5 finish or even battle with Nelson Piquet, who is a friend of mine. It’s amazing to see a Formula 1 guy come in and win right away in a Nationwide car. The Nationwide race was stacked yesterday. And of course, everybody wants to be in Cup, because this is where the best racers race.
Today we came home third. Chevrolet and Monster Energy and tag his or her, our three big brands with us this year I’m a bit choked up. I just made a little mistake there in turn 11. Those tires have never been bolted down, ever and I clipped a set of tires and it broke the front suspension and the rear panel bar and I couldn’t compete for the win after that; so a mistake there. Our guys, but if we pulled it into victory lane with all red car and no sponsor, here in California, I thought it was Team Tiger Blood with Charlie Sheen around (laughter).
Q. Why are you so emotional about this effort?
KURT BUSCH: When you show up and you’re on a third of the budget and you almost bring it to victory lane, you can’t say that one guy does it out here. It takes a full team effort. But I really want to deliver for my guys today, and being that close, and make one mistake, it’s a tough game. That’s why it’s Sprint Cup.
Q. Did you have any plans to make any Bonsai moves, win or finish tenth? Is there a big difference between that?
KURT BUSCH: The final restart with 20 something to go, 25 to go, I was patient. I was very patient with Bowyer. I got to his rear bumper, three, four times in turn 11 and bumped him.
No Bonsai moves here. There’s a lot of respect that I was trying to give.
Q. Considering you won last year and how well you’ve done this year, it looks like it’s got to be the driver.
KURT BUSCH: It’s definitely not the driver. You know, a lot of thanks has to go to Penske Racing and the commitment that they gave to me to help me on road courses and all of the testing we did to arrive at this point; I can’t pat myself on the back too much. But there was a car on the front row with my setup from last year, and there was a 48 car out there with my setup.
Hendrick Motorsports is a great organization. They give us engines and chassis. This weekend we wanted to help them with a bit of set up notes.
Q. You’ve won races and big championships, but you took a crippled car home to third. Does that fit anywhere in your feeling of accomplishments?
KURT BUSCH: Thanks, it does. You’re that close you and want to deliver. To have a wounded car like that, I had to yield to Tony. I didn’t want to get up into the loose gravel and lose a bunch of spots.
So it’s a great day for Phoenix Racing and James Finch who gave me this opportunity; he’s like, “The hell with that road racing stuff, I ain’t even going out to California” (speaking in cranky tone of voice).
So it’s great to surprise him with a nice top three finish out here.
Q. What can you say about the guys at Phoenix Racing? Because Nick Harrison is so in your corner and the kind of support a driver has to feel that and a driver has to be able to feel when guys are behind him as opposed to where there’s kind of, I don’t know, dissension in the ranks. But it just seems like these guys propel you.
KURT BUSCH: They bring the best out in me. This is a no nonsense group for a bunch of racers. The way this program feels is we are a bunch of boy scouts where we have to support each other and teach each other things and everybody has three jobs on this team.
Yeah, the closest family atmosphere I’ve ever had to racing with Kyle and my dad. We are not blood brothers or anything and cut fingers and touch and go Team Tiger Blood or anything, but it’s really a neat group. Nick’s leadership is just so much fun just to follow him and be a part of.
Q. Two weeks ago you were almost not in the car; what does this mean to run like you did today?
KURT BUSCH: If I can get my head on straight here and after the race, then I’m able to race every weekend and go for victories.
Q. We are used to a lot more skirmishes and crashes and cautions here. Why do you suppose there were so few in this race?
KURT BUSCH: It’s hard to say. The only thing I can think of is the tire was different this year. It was a tire designed to give you speed in the beginning and then drop off. You have speed in the beginning, you have control over your car, and cars can get separated. Maybe that helped us all get strung out. Felt like a genuine gentleman’s road race today, but I wasn’t in the back. (Laughter).
Q. When did you hit the tires, and if you had not done that, did you have any doubt that you would have or could have won the race?
KURT BUSCH: I hit those tires in turn 11 with about eight to go. Without a doubt I thought I could have pressured Bowyer into a mistake.
He was there for the taking on coming to the white, and I couldn’t do it when my panel bar broke. The rear end was too unstable under braking. So I just look back at that one moment, and it’s just tough. But, solid top three.
Q. On the radio you asked the guys when you were going to pit, 70 laps, 71 laps, pit on 72; were you having radio transmission problems during the race or did they correct themselves or what happened?
KURT BUSCH: We had radio problems. My helmet blower stopped blowing about halfway. We were running 280 degrees water temp all day. So just battles everywhere today inside the car.
Just tried to ignore it the best I could, and I just wanted a commitment lap on when we were going to make it on fuel in case we got disconnected with radio.
You’ve just got to do all you can inside the car when you’re disconnected from guys, so I expected them to lean over the pit wall with a chalkboard: “Pit now, 51.” (Laughter). It all worked out.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations on both of your runs this weekend. Thank you for your time.