AVONDALE, Ariz. Kurt Busch finished second-to-last in last Sunday's race at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. But coupled with troubles by seven of the other nine drivers in the Chase for the Championship, he was able to maintain his lead in the series standings.
Busch talked about the Chase and what it's going to take to win his first championship.
Question: Do you feel destiny is on your side?
Busch: I think we've raced hard enough to put ourselves in position for the playoffs. We've had a great regular season and thus far we've had an excellent playoff system with running the way we have, with leading laps and putting together the solid finishes that it takes to win a championship. With this new Nextel Chase for the Cup program, it's a matter of doing it in the final 10 after you've positioned yourself in the first 26.
Question: How would you evaluate yourself this year?
Busch: Each year you begin to settle into more of a routine and things are more comfortable working with my crew chief now for the third year straight and pretty much the same guys as well, things are just comfortable. The education you learn on the racetrack is easier to see now and you're able to implement stronger ideas back to the program. That's where our team has been able to sit back and put together a testing formula and an outline that was going to carry us towards this championship this year and we haven't burned ourselves out. We still have another test left and just seeing things in a bigger perspective has been the greatest adjustment I've made over these four years.
Question: What do you think about the last three tracks, including the Phoenix International Raceway where you will run the Checker Auto Parts 300 on Sunday?
Busch: Phoenix is a track where we finished fourth last year and a top five the year before that, I believe. It's been a great racetrack for me just because of the experience level that I have at Phoenix racing Southwest Tour races and Trucks and, of course, I enjoy the West Coast and the flat miles have been good to us this year with New Hampshire as the prime candidate. Darlington, that's a place where you race just the racetrack. You don't have to worry about your competition, it's just you and the racetrack and that leads us to Miami, where we had a horrible finish last year. We got limited track experience with the new banking, so that's where we're going to use our final two-day test to prepare ourselves for the final event knowing that the final event is going to be different anyhow with everybody's outlook the final race and all the marbles are out on the table for you to grab.
Question: Do you feel the pressure?
Busch: There's the pressure to perform each race and not get too far ahead of yourself and looking in the wrong direction, whether that's to gain speed or to calm your mind. There's that balance of stretching it out for so many days. I just saw the World Series end and it seemed like the Red Sox were just a wild card getting in and now they're already done with their playoffs, whereas ours is stretched out for 10 weeks 70 days and there's so much time in between each of our events that you want to get back in the car and focus on what's important.
Question: What makes your crew chief, Jimmy Fenning, so good?
Busch: His ability to adapt to a changing racetrack for the day. You show up with your notebook and it might say run 'x,' and if he says the track is too hot and the aerodynamics have changed too greatly, he'll throw it away and adjust for that day. Years of experience will teach you that and that's one thing he definitely has on every other crew chief in this garage area.
Question: Do you look differently at the other 33 cars not in the Chase?
Busch: They can definitely attack the racetrack with a more aggressive stance. Whether it's (Jamie) McMurray in 11th, who has to somewhat run like a top-10 guy to protect that position, or it's Dale Jarrett through Kasey Kahne. Those guys are competitive, they're going to win races, and they can get away with running a bit more aggressive setup or an aggressive gear and chance a two-tire stop versus four. Whereas, the guys in the top 10 -- especially the case that we're in -- we have to do things on a conservative base but still run competitive and still put together a solid finish. Whether we have a chance to win with that setup, that's something we're going to do. It's something that's a little bit easier for them to run those lap times than to run up front.
Question: Are you a fan of the new system, and would you make any changes?
Busch: That's something we looked at the beginning of the year was how can we take advantage of this new system the best way? How can we run the best when it counts? Right now, with these 10 races, we've done that job and we need to continue to do that for (three) more. We know that some teams would have approached it differently. We definitely wouldn't have been in the state of mind we were in for the first 26 races, so we could have raced differently. Whether (Jimmie) Johnson experimented or not, he had a couple of motor failures in there that took away his points advantage and he'd probably be leading right now. There are so many ways to look at it. If we implemented the top 10 a different type of point system for the final 10 races, that's something to where it would take away those bad finishes. You would give a guy 10 points for winning and one point for finishing 10th of those guys in the final 10. That's something that could be looked at, but, right now, the way they have things balanced out is you still have to run consistently, you still have to adapt to all different styles of racetracks. One thing I think that's been overlooked is you still have to gain bonus points and that's one thing we've put a strong focus on. That could be our upper hand when the final points tally is added up.
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