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April 26, 2015

Kurt Busch

Tony Gibson


AMANDA ELLIS:テつ We've now been joined by our race‑winning team.テつ Kurt Busch, driver of the No.41 Haas Automation Chevrolet and his winning crew chief Tony Gibson.テつ Kurt, we'll start with you.テつ You earned your second victory at Richmond today, putting yourself now in a position to contend for the championship.テつ Talk about what today's win means for you and the team.
KURT BUSCH:テつ Well, today is a great day of total team execution. テつI mean, it starts with building a fast race car back at the shop and coming to the racetrack and fine tuning it, and really a great effort from team communication because we felt like we were a fifth‑place car after practice, and the way that the team looked at things, we even qualified better than what we thought, and there was still this realization of, hey, let's continue to fine tune it, let's not ignore the lack of speed that we don't have.テつ Let's go for it all.
And that's what Tony Gibson did, along with Johnny Klausmeier, our engineer.テつ Everybody chipped in.テつ The tire guy had some health problems this weekend, and we had to bring in a backup tire guy, but then Jet made it back to the track to enjoy victory lane with us today.
And why I tell that long story is it's all about team, people, and chemistry within the organization.テつ For us the last few weeks, we've not given away wins, but we've made some small mistakes and we've had some things go against us that it made us stronger.テつ It really put a bond between all of us to go, you know what, this 41 Haas Automation Chevy has got some speed.テつ The wins will come.テつ We don't need to force it, and let's just settle in for the long run.テつ And so here we are.テつ We're winners in April.テつ It feels good.テつ Plenty of time to do fun things to build the team up, get stronger, learn from all these races coming up and continue to go forward and like Gene Haas said, one win is great; I want four or five more.
AMANDA ELLIS:テつ And Tony, for you a week ago you were unable to call the race from the pit box, so to come back this week and not only call the race but have such a dominating performance for the 41 team, talk about what that means to you and then also just to the team.
TONY GIBSON:テつ Well, I think like Kurt said, it's about having depth in our team, and we have a lot of depth and we believe in one another.テつ When I had to bail there after the drivers' meeting at Bristol, normally I can fight through the pain on those things, but this one put me down.
But I called Kurt on the phone before the race started and told him, look, I'm not going to make it, so it's up to you and Johnny and Zippy to make this deal happen.テつ Johnny did a fantastic job.テつ He's going to be a crew chief one day.テつ I'm getting old, and he's going to be moving in pretty soon.テつ He's going to be a crew chief.テつ Put him through the fire pretty quick is what I said, so he did a fantastic job, Kurt did a great job communicating with Johnny last week, and it's a race that got away from us, and we didn't win.
So we came into this week and if we could stay focused and execute a little better, it's like Kurt said, we really not so much gave them away, but we just didn't execute on a few races we should have won.テつ We knew we had to get better at that as a team.テつ The depth of our team is incredible, whether it's the tire guy or me going down.テつ We have enough depth in our organization and in our team to overcome.テつ That's pretty cool going in to win and know you've got a shot to go for a championship, knowing you've got those kind of people that are working on your race team is pretty cool.テつ I think we've seen that before with the 48 when Chad has been suspended or whatever, they still come in and win races, and that's what you've got to have.テつ It's not about me, it's not about an engineer or a tire guy, it's about us all, and that's what happened today.テつ We all executed perfectly overnight.テつ We had a fifth‑ to eighth‑place car.テつ I told everybody Friday when we ended practice, me and Kurt and Johnny and our guys, we sat down and talked about it.テつ We didn't have a car to win the race.テつ So when you don't have a car to win the race, you have to execute and think about things that are going to be better for long‑run speed, and that's what we did.テつ Today we executed and we did a good job overnight making changes.
Kurt is so involved in our changes that we do, he's in the loop 100 percent, and we don't do anything unless we discuss it with him.テつ As a group we go through it.テつ I think that's the bond that we share with Kurt that a lot of drivers don't have with their teams is how involved the driver is in our setups and the way we're going to move forward.テつ Hopefully we can win four or five more.

Q.テつ Clearly you're a championship favorite along with Harvick.テつ You've had fast cars every week since you've been back, but you haven't been able to get that win.テつ Did you feel like it was a matter of time or were you‑‑ is it a relief now to have that, because that first one is different than getting two, three, four.テつ What was your thought of not getting those?
KURT BUSCH:テつ My thought was you've got to go slower to go faster.テつ I think that I might have been driving too hard, too much of a chip on my shoulder, so to speak, to start the year.テつ But it was playing out well.テつ I mean, we came out of the box at Phoenix with a fifth‑place finish and a chance to win, backed it up with a chance to win Fontana, brought it home third, and then a few weeks of missing it a little bit, and why were we missing it?テつ Well, maybe because I was just overdriving the car.
I think last week at Bristol, that track, if you drove it aggressively, it would pay off, but if you stepped over the line just a little bit, you ended up spun out or wrecked or brushing against the fence, and after the race last week, I felt like, you know, just settle down, get into the groove where you let the race come to you and let the talent of the crew members come into play, and that way we all carry the same weight.
I think I was just trying to carry too much weight.

Q.テつ Maybe this is for both of you all, but Tony, knowing that you have one of the best drivers in the sport, when the first three races you knew he wasn't going to be there, was there fear upon his return that maybe the momentum that you all had so quickly achieved in 2014 may either be backed up a little bit or maybe just wasn't going to be as strong as it was when you initially made that switch in the last three of 2014?
TONY GIBSON:テつ No, I don't believe that at all.テつ I think we went and did a Vegas tire test there, and we had a tremendous amount of speed at the test, and we felt really good and positive.テつ You're not dealing with a rookie.テつ It's a guy who's won championships and a ton of races.テつ He knows what he's got to do.テつ It's just a matter of we knew we were going to get him back, it was just a matter of when, and he hit the ground running.テつ We weren't fearing for that at all.テつ We knew whenever we got him back, whenever that was, that we were going to put ourselves in position to win races and be fast, so pretty cool.

Q.テつ Kurt, you had a number of years where you won and won multiple races.テつ This is the second win since 2012.テつ I'm just curious with the path that you've gone on over the last several years, does winning change or is there a different feeling with winning now as compared to maybe earlier in your career as you've gone through just a longer time in the sport and just different life experiences?テつ And Tony, if you could address what Kurt was saying, he felt like he was overdriving things earlier.テつ Did you see that?テつ Obviously you guys were still having strong runs early in the season when he jumped back in the car.
KURT BUSCH:テつ You know, I felt like victory lane is victory lane.テつ I was standing there, the confetti is flying, they gave us the champaign bottles from Sprint, and it's victory lane.テつ It doesn't change.テつ It's great.テつ As I'm older I can appreciate it more because of the time and effort that it takes to assemble a good group of guys.テつ That's where I recognize what now I might have took for granted when I was racing with Jimmy Fennig in the Roush days and when we won the championship.テつ It's the total team effort, and Gibson has a great group of guys that he's assembled over the years that are winners, and they're ready to win, and here we are in victory lane, so I can appreciate it more so now, to answer your question.
TONY GIBSON:テつ Yeah, on your deal, I don't think he drives too hard.テつ I know he beats himself up.テつ I think the thing that we missed early is we didn't execute as far as our practice stuff.テつ Should have had a little bit better practice plan of making longer runs and making sure we had long run speed.テつ I know he goes out and he gives you 150 percent every lap, every practice, and I force some of that on him.テつ I said, man, let's just go out there and while we got 'em down, just kick 'em while they're down, try to win every ‑‑テつ set fast time and win every practice.テつ I don't think he overdrove at all.テつ I know he takes a lot of blame on himself and puts a lot of pressure on himself, but as a team we didn't execute on those races.テつ We should have made longer‑‑ like Texas we had short‑run speed, we could haul the mail, sit on the pole and all that stuff, but we didn't execute our practice plan out to where we should have spent more time making longer runs to see where our car was going to go, so that falls back on me, on that part of it.テつ He needs to drive as hard as he needs to drive.テつ It's our job to put a car underneath of him that he can run that hard with.
Today was proof of that.

Q.テつ Kurt, you mentioned in victory lane the idea of keeping your personal stuff from your business stuff.テつ Was that a struggle for you when you came back, and how much of a relief is it to have kind of nullified the three races you missed by winning today?
KURT BUSCH:テつ It wasn't difficult to separate the two.テつ Standing on the truth the whole time, that gave me the feeling of when I do get back to the car, it's going to be easy to focus, and I think I've shown that.テつ And it's great to have a victory.テつ It's only April, and here we are with momentum building, right in time for the Charlotte race weeks and into the summer months.テつ I'm just so proud of Tony Gibson and the team and Gene Haas for believing in me, and now that we've got this win and we're stamped in here, it just feels like, hey, now it's business as usual, and we'll have all of our team members up and running and strong and as good as we can make them here through the summer months, and like Gene Haas, he'll joke around and say, all right, that's one win.テつ Where is more?テつ We want to win more.テつ We want to win more often.テつ We want to be ready for anything that comes our way on making pit calls, two tires, four tires, restarts, inside, outside.テつ We want to be that universal team that's ready for any circumstance or any situation, and that way we can advance through the Chase and be a competitive team for the championship.

Q.テつ Tony, as was mentioned earlier, it was clear when you first started working with Kurt at the end of last season that you guys really hit it off.テつ I just wondered if you could talk about why you and Kurt meshed so well.テつ You mentioned earlier about his involvement in decisions.テつ Is it how much he is involved in the car, preparations and so forth?
TONY GIBSON:テつ Yeah, I think it's old‑school racing.テつ That's where I'm brought up, in old redneck racing and tape measures and strings and it's still four tires and a hunk of steel that's got to meet the racetrack.テつ And I know Kurt, he feels the same way.テつ You know, me and Jimmy Fennig have a lot in common.テつ We're great friends, and I lean on him now, too.テつ We talk every weekend.テつ He's a big influence on my career and where I go.テつ And I know Kurt, he's driven that same way.テつ He believes in engineering just like I do, but sometimes you've got to go with your gut, and you've got to go old school, and I think that's why me and him, me and Kurt hit it off so well.テつ We share the same passion of racing.テつ We don't want to run second.テつ We're hard on ourselves when we've got to be to be better, and I think we both have that same mindset.
I think he makes me be better, if that sounds right, and hopefully I make him be better.テつ Moving forward, I think if we push one another and believe in one another like we're doing right now and our team, we've got a shot to win the championship just as well as anybody.

Q.テつ How was it you guys were able to navigate the different conditions this weekend from the rain to what the track gave you today?
KURT BUSCH:テつ It came with a universal setup.テつ I mean, I believe we made the right adjustments from our last practice session into the race, whether the race was at night or during the day.テつ We made the four tires communicate better to one another, and we didn't burn up one tire versus the next tire.テつ And the changes that we made all helped the front end turn, and man, the car turned really well.テつ I mean, it stayed right on that yellow line all the way through the corners, fresh tires, old tires, and so when you make adjustments going into the race and you feel them right away in the car, it's the best feeling, and now it's a matter of executing and having the right pit strategy and beating the other guys on long runs or on restarts.

Q.テつ Kurt, when you were starting off the race, after having a long night of rain, you had a clean and green track.テつ What kind of a concern was that type of track compared to having rubber down from previous practices?
KURT BUSCH:テつ It's a big difference when there's so much rain that the track is very abrasive and it chews up tires, and as a driver you have to manage that first set of tires in a way where you don't put too much emphasis on how the car is handling, but I need to relay to the crew chief and to the engineer what the car feels like so that it gives them a pattern on what adjustments they want to add to the car as we go throughout the day.テつ Once you get into that second run, that third run, now you're getting towards halfway, now you've really got to put a stamp on what you have and execute from there.
So early on, you're just trying to juggle the tire wear because of how abrasive the track is after it rains.

Q.テつ When you had McMurray kind of tapping your shoulder toward the end, what kind of a concern was that for you?テつ He said he didn't think he could catch you on the short runs even if he did get ahead of you.テつ Did you have that same kind of feeling?
KURT BUSCH:テつ Yeah, I had him in the long‑run box, so he would have come into play if we were on a set of tires for 70 laps, and once we crested into, what, 40 to go, I didn't think he would be much of a player.テつ But then you've got to go back to who's fast on the short runs, and I kept track of that throughout the day, and the 4 car was that guy.テつ The 48 kept creeping in there, as well.
And in this day and age and game, if you're beating Kevin Harvick, you're doing something special.テつ I'm glad Tony Gibson and our guys, we looked at some of their notes, but overall it's a total team effort, and I'm glad we came out on top today.

Q.テつ Kurt, you said that you had a chip on your shoulder after missing those first three races.テつ Is the chip off your shoulder, and how do you compartmentalize what takes place in your life off the track so you can be successful on the track?
KURT BUSCH:テつ Yeah, the chip on my shoulder will now be a trophy that I get to carry out of here today, and the way that I told myself to go slower to go faster, that's how I need to drive as a driver, and that way I'm able to focus on the finer details that separate the good guys from the great guys in this garage.テつ Tony Gibson allows me to be the driver that I am.テつ Gene Haas allows me to be the person that I am, and in my personal life, my family has been very supportive and very helpful with finding the time to relax and stay focused on the race car and then show up every week refreshed and ready to go even though all that stuff is behind us now.テつ It's been leaning on everybody around me.テつ That's been the key to all of this.

Q.テつ Tony, you mentioned that Kurt is really involved with making changes and that any change you're going to make, you consult him.テつ Is it fair to say his level of knowledge of the car and involvement in the changes is above average for the typical driver in the garage?
TONY GIBSON:テつ Yeah, absolutely.テつ It reminds me of Alan Kulwicki.テつ I worked with Alan for a long time, and the desire and the enthusiasm and the want‑to is incredible, and the only reason that he wants to know about the race car, because he feels like between his input and our input, we can make a really good product.
I think that's huge.テつ You have to have a driver that's involved.テつ You have to have a driver that's engaged, and we talked about this last year when they asked me over the winter what did I like about him.テつ He's an engaged driver.テつ He's there early before every practice.テつ We talk on the phone at night or we text back and forth.テつ He looks over data.テつ He looks over the Dartfish stuff, whether it's pit road speeds or whatever, he's on it.テつ He's 100 percent involved in this, and he's committed.
And that's the part that I love about him.テつ I'd rather have a guy like him than a guy who just shows up every once in a while to the shop or just shows up five minutes before practice and climbs in.テつ The more we can be involved and work together, we're going to make a better product.

Q.テつ Is there any way to quantify how much that has to do with your success?
TONY GIBSON:テつ Absolutely, yeah, absolutely.テつ It's all about being on the same page, and it's hard to be on the same page if we're not opening up the book at the same time.テつ You know, I applaud him for his dedication.テつ Even if he was not in the car the first three races, he was coming to our debriefs at the shop, spending time in the shop with the guys.テつ Me and him would talk.テつ He would look over Regan's debrief notes.テつ He was involved.テつ He was engaged.テつ And that's what's got us where we're at today is that he never let anything lapse over to where he wasn't involved in our race team.

Q.テつ Is it more fun passing cars or passing kidney stones?
TONY GIBSON:テつ Well, yeah, that's a good question, but passing cars.テつ I had one at Vegas when we landed out there, and I was able to make it through a couple weeks carrying that thing before I got it blasted out, and normally I can overcome the pain just from being at the racetrack and the love of it, but this last one I couldn't do it.テつ But passing cars is the most important thing.テつ The health will come later.テつ I can rest later.

Q.テつ How close do you think the 4 car was to your car setup wise and all today?
TONY GIBSON:テつ Actually this was probably one of the times we were not really, really close.テつ We were actually kind of backwards from one another this week.テつ We were kind of opposite.
We have a generic‑‑ at Stewart‑Haas Racing, we have a generic geometry setup that we all try to stick close to, and then the rest of the stuff we kind of mess around with for the driver's feel.テつ But today was probably the furthest that we've been from them in a long time.テつ Whether that's good or bad, I don't know, but nine times out of ten, our two cars are extremely close, and we've been that way for a couple years now, and we work really good with that bunch.
But today we were quite a bit different.テつ We were probably further away today than we've been in a while I would say.

Q.テつ Kurt, it looked like you were having an absolutely perfect day on that racetrack.テつ So the question is was there ever even a single moment where you thought that victory might not be yours today?
KURT BUSCH:テつ No single moment.テつ I felt like we had extinguished all of the little demons or odds and ends or strategic happenings with yellows, with tire strategy, restarts.テつ I felt ready for anything today.テつ I was not going to relax until I drove across the checkered flag, and maybe I relaxed a little bit.テつ I came off Turn 4 and I let all the air out of myself.テつ I felt deflated‑‑ did you see the lap time drop on that last lap?テつ I was like, wow, this is that feeling that I've been looking for, and it was because I put so much effort into making sure nothing was going to get in our way today.

Q.テつ Kurt, you had an early win last year, but I know you guys still fought to kind of find the speed and turn yourselves into more of a championship contender.テつ How are the conditions different with this win?テつ How do you do things maybe differently moving forward with this opportunity with the speed, I guess, in comparison to where you were last year?テつ And Tony, can you talk about that caution about 135 to go where most of the field got behind and had to do the wave‑around?テつ You guys hadn't pitted yet.テつ Were you close to having to come in, and how much did that help you guys with I'm assuming just kind of saving track position, but how close were you to pitting in that situation?
KURT BUSCH:テつ To win early in the year is special, but you can't hang your hat on it.テつ And last year what I can learn from that situation is developing a new team such as Daniel Knost and a newer group of guys, I felt the responsibility of being a mentor.テつ This year I feel the responsibility of being the driver and doing my duty because I know I've got the best guy on the box with Tony Gibson, the best lead engineer with Johnny Klausmeier, the best car chief, best front‑end guy, rear‑end guy, tire guy.テつ Everybody on our team is at a top level so I don't have to do anything other than drive, and that's what Gene Haas wants me to do, and he's not happy with one win.テつ He wants multiple wins.テつ Hopefully we'll be off and running.
TONY GIBSON:テつ Yeah, we were really close to having to pit right there.テつ We were, I think, like 10 or 12 laps away from having to pit.テつ We were‑‑ it was on‑‑ we were on the fence right there what to do, too, so we were kind of glad to see that happen.

Q.テつ Were you thinking about coming‑‑
TONY GIBSON:テつ Well, we weren't going to come until the guys we were racing close we're going to pit.テつ That was our strategy all day is, I'm not going to pit until the top six.テつ Those are the guys I'm racing because we had a decent enough lead most of the time, that I didn't want to pit too early and then caution come out.テつ So I figured as soon as anybody in the top six pitted, that's when we would hit pit road.

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