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June 6, 2016

Kurt Busch

Johnny Klausmeier

Long Pond, Pennsylvania

THE MODERATOR: We now welcome our race‑winning driver and crew chief, driver of the No.41 Monster Energy Haas Automation Chevrolet, Kurt Busch. Also joined by his crew chief, Johnny Klausmeier. Congratulations on a great win today. Kurt, take us through the final few laps.
KURT BUSCH: Well, thank you. It's an amazing feeling when you get to drive into victory lane at any track, any weekend at any time, and it's very special, because it makes you think of all the hard work that everybody at Stewart‑Haas Racing put into this car. To be in position, that's what it's all about. Johnny Klausmeier called a perfect race to gamble on the fuel a little bit, but he also gave me the ball. He's like, hey, we're two laps shy, go get it for us.
And so as a driver, we were restarting I think 10th at that point. We had to work through some of the guys that stayed out, which you knew or I knew we could get those guys because they were really gambling on fuel, but just overall a great team effort. It's a lot of work at the shop, but each week we've been in position this year so far, and we haven't quite sealed the deal, and so today we did, and we're going to enjoy this win.
THE MODERATOR: Johnny, I believe this is your second stint atop the pit box there, so you're batting .500. Tell us what's going through your mind when you're developing that strategy.
JOHNNY KLAUSMEIER: Yeah, it was nerve‑racking, but it all ended up working out really good. We just knew that we were racing guys on fuel that had the same engine horsepower, Hendrick power as us, so we knew that we should be in the same sequence as them. Kurt did a great job of saving it. We just kind of kept him informed on everything that was going on, and he took it and ran with it, and it was great.

Q. What do you think this does for your legacy?
KURT BUSCH: It's something that you don't think about, but it's nice to have the acknowledgment to be in an elite group, but it takes an elite team and an effort that you have to have as a driver in this day and age to be in position to win, and so far this year on the Haas Automation Monster Energy Chevy team, we've been on one side of the yellow or one side of the restart at the end of a bunch of races, and it sits there and it wears on you a little bit, but then you've got to focus. Focus, focus, focus, and allow the races to unfold. The more often that you're in position to win, the more chances at winning you're going to have, and throughout my career I've always enjoy racing here at Pocono. It's a fun racetrack. It's a different racetrack. It has road course rhythm. It has oval characteristics. But then it challenges engine builds. It challenges new setups because we race here in June and then we come back here quickly at the end of July, and then we don't come back again for another 10 months, and technology changes so quickly.
So Pocono is always a fun place to go to to challenge the team and to find that right strategy to win, and it's an unbelievable feeling. I'm going to enjoy this one just like I've enjoyed the other 27.

Q. Is it any different having Johnny in your ear telling you to save fuel versus Tony just because you worked with Tony for so long, you might know kind of what he means when he tells you you have to save so much?
KURT BUSCH: I don't know what it was. His voice was way more calming than Gibson. When you have an engineer calculating your fuel, I mean, it's a calculator. I know Gibson can do it just the same, but when you have a new guy or somebody different and you're not at your full strength, there's something that happens to everybody on the team. Everybody pulls harder. Everybody digs in a little bit deeper, and not having Tony Gibson here today, I know everybody gave that much more, and this is a win for Gibson.
He's assembled this group of guys, and Klausmeier took over, and it was a perfect called race. We had a great setup to maintain speed, and when he says you're two laps shy, I'm like, great, all right, well, let's see what we can get, and I knew he was going to gamble. I knew I needed to do my best to preserve the fuel and to deliver the win.

Q. On that fuel preservation, Jeff Gordon in the booth said based on what he was hearing that you guys were actually idling down or shutting off the engines at the end of the race in 1 and 3. Is that accurate, or did you do them in all three turns?
JOHNNY KLAUSMEIER: We can't give all our secrets.
KURT BUSCH: No, we can't give our secrets. Jeff Gordon is pretty smart. He's a champion driver. He knows how to save fuel. For us we did what we needed to do. They'll pull up the data to see the things that I did, and we're going to learn from this, too, on which sequence is better to save fuel. There's about three different like game plans when it comes to saving fuel, and I thought, though, two laps at a Pocono track, that's seven miles. Seven miles is just pretty far, and so you've got to do what you can to save fuel.
But Hendrick engines put us in this position. We have a great engine tuner that is always looking at certain things on certain weekends, and Pocono you always know that fuel could come into play just like it will next week at Michigan.

Q. Johnny, Kurt said your voice was pretty calm. Were you that calm inside? Did you have nerves of steel up there? What were you feeling during the last few laps?
JOHNNY KLAUSMEIER: Yeah, I was definitely nervous. You know how the deal goes. You can be hero or zero really quick. I knew once we took the white flag we would be in good shape, and once we got to that milestone I felt pretty confident in it.

Q. Kurt, of your 28 career wins, is it possible to say where this one ranks on the totem pole, and if the win hasn't sunk in yet, when do you think it will sink in for you?
KURT BUSCH: It's a win and it's special, and any time you get a chance to enjoy a win at the Sprint Cup level, it's hard to rank them against other ones, but there's certain tracks I've done well at in my career, and Bristol is one of them. New Hampshire I have three wins, Atlanta I have three wins, and now at Pocono I have three wins. So it's nice to have the confidence when you come to a track, and then you have a great team that's pulling together to pick up the workload of Tony Gibson missing. So this one makes it more special because we were missing our crew chief, and we've got a first‑timer that got a win today.
JOHNNY KLAUSMEIER: Yeah, I mean, it hasn't really sunk in yet, but I'm sure tonight it will be. Like I said, the biggest thing for me is just the relief of being into the Chase with one win. I think that's huge. Like I said, we've been so close, it's just a matter of getting that off our shoulders, and now we can just build our notebook for the Chase.
KURT BUSCH: It'll sink in when they roast him at the shop tomorrow.

Q. For you, Kurt, when you're in the car, obviously I know you had faith in Johnny's call there, but how stressful if at all was it during that last run knowing that you were short, and was there ever a doubt in your mind that you would get there to the finish?
KURT BUSCH: There really wasn't a doubt. I can honestly say that Klausmeier gave me the confidence. He kept giving me numbers. I kept finding ways to think that I was saving fuel. I kept checking the mirror, kept checking my lap time on the dash. I felt like a cook in a kitchen trying to beat the buzzer and not get chopped at the end of the show with as many things as I felt like I was managing, but the spotter helped, Klausmeier helped, my past experience on saving fuel helped, and it all turned into a win here at Pocono. It feels great.

Q. Kurt, could you just kind of describe what turned out to be the pass for the lead? I think it was‑‑ on the restart there was‑‑ got together a little bit with Chase and Dale in Turn 2 and then you wind up passing I think Dale in Turn 1. Describe that sequence that got you the lead.
KURT BUSCH: It was definitely an exciting restart. Those Hendrick guys, they came with a different second‑gear ratio that I know all about now, but I didn't have it today. What it did is it allowed them to jump ahead, and then by the time we got into Turn 1, I could choose easily left lane or right lane, and Chase Elliott wanted to block me coming off of Turn 1, and I said, okay, kid, here we go. If you're going to block, you're going to get a pretty good head of steam here down the back straightaway and then you're going to have to decide what you want to do with it. I expected to get to his outside, and it didn't turn out, and then he made a mistake, washed up, the 88 checked up, and I was able to get them both.
Again, that gets back to what I answered about earlier. We've been on one side of the restart or the other at a bunch of races towards the end here, and I'm just glad that the restart panned out perfectly for us. Chase Elliott did a phenomenal job. He's a smart kid. Dale Jr. swept both these races last year. I knew we were in good company up front, and we just needed a little bit of luck on our side, and we found it.

Q. With the victory today, you guys head to Michigan International Speedway next week, where not only are you the defending champion but you're taking the momentum with the new package. How do you feel about going to Michigan next weekend?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, we definitely need to stay focused. With this package next week, it could be the future of our sport, and you always want to start off on a good foot when you have less downforce with the splitter change and the rear spoiler change. I've got one of the best in the business with Klausmeier, the read that we have from one another, and I think we took a great step moving forward this weekend on understanding each other, understanding the cars, the setups, the tires, and it was fun to work with him today in calling the race, and so we'll see. I mean, last year's win with the new aero package this year doesn't mean much. We've got to go there with an open mind next week and attack for the future.

Q. Did anybody talk to Gibson yet? Did you guys text him or call him in victory lane or anything like that?
KURT BUSCH: I was trying to get him on the phone before we walked in, so he's going to be the next phone call. I talked to Gene Haas in victory lane, and Johnny and I posed for a picture when we had the Sprint hats on withlike a ‑‑ yeah, we're going to superimpose Gibson in between both of us.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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