MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
PRE-SEASON MEDIA AVAILABILITY
CHIP GANASSI RACING
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
JANUARY 29, 2019
KURT BUSCH, NO. 1 MONSTER ENERGY CAMARO ZL1 AND CREW CHIEF, MATT MCCALL MET WITH MEDIA AND DISCUSSED HOW THE TEAM IS COMING TOGETHER, EXPECTATIONS ON THE NEW PAIRING, WHAT THEY HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH AT THE UPCOMING TEST IN LAST VEGAS, AND MORE. SELECTED QUOTES:
HOW DO YOU EXPECT THIS TO WORK WITH A CREW CHIEF WITH A RACING BACKGROUND AND THEN A DRIVER WHO IS INTO THE CARS JUST AS MUCH, LIKE ONE BRAIN HERE, ARE WE EXPECTING GOOD THINGS?
MATT MCCALL: “Yes. That’s the easy answer for that. Absolutely. I think obviously with Kurt’s history we have a little grace and experience here and there. So, yes, I’m excited, for sure.”
KURT BUSCH: “Yes, this is great. It’s like a brother I’ve never had before where they’re a racer and somebody that’s worked on the car. And then with all of the changing technology, you’ve got to have all the different backgrounds it seems like, to be able to adapt; but also, our learning curve will be less, at this point because of all the racing experience we have together.”
KURT BUSCH: “We’re actually going to the Go-Kart track tonight (he and Kyle Larson), so we’ll see how good he really is at the driving thing; because he doesn’t want me crew-chiefing while he’s driving (laughs). I think the respect that we both have for one another will definitely help that transition and the fun-factor too of just being able to talk cars and the different sequences of changes that we’ve gone through over the last couple of years in our sport, I’m learning things from him already that I didn’t know we were doing at my previous race team.”
YOU SPENT MOST OF THE OFF-SEASON IN WEST PALM. THE TIME THAT YOU HAVE SPENT AT CHIP GANASSI RACING, HOW IS THE DYNAMIC DIFFERENT THAN IT WAS AT SHR?
KURT BUSCH: “It’s very similar. Everybody that’s in this sport of NASCAR wants to win. They want to work hard and they want to have fun while they’re doing it. I’ve been up here plenty of days. I show-up early and surprise the crew guys and jump in the pit stop car and kind of put them out of rhythm and just see how they react to it. But the overall shop atmosphere, I think here, is very hungry. At SHR we had a fantastic year last year with all the wins. That changes people’s demeanor sometimes like oh yeah, we know what we’re doing. Where I think this group here is that much more eager and they’re hungrier and they want to do more. That’s what I feel as I walk through the shop.”
YOU’RE STILL LOOKING FOR THAT FIRST CAREER WIN, AREN’T YOU?
MATT MCCALL: “Yes mam, that is correct.”
HOW DO YOU STAY UPBEAT WHEN YOU KNOW YOU HAD A DECENT DRIVER, BUT NOW YOU’RE WORKING WITH A CHAMPION
MATT MCCALL: “Yeah, obviously, I’ve raced my whole life. And racing is different from other sports, right? There’s only one winner. I feel like you’re used to the abuse and the low win percentage, no matter what you do. Even if you win a lot compared to everyone else, you’re still low percentage, right? I’m looking forward to that. It’s going to be entertaining, for sure, when we put that together.”
HOW DIFFERENT IS KURT FROM JAMIE (MCMURRAY) SO FAR?
MATT MCCALL: “I guess as far as we have zero at-track experience, just in-shop, it’s just two different mentalities and different backgrounds. But it’s still pure racing, so I think that’s the biggest thing. The racer in Kurt is impressive, for sure.”
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION YOU GUYS WANT TO HAVE ANSWERED THIS WEEKEND AT THE TEST?
KURT BUSCH: “For me, it’s just to get behind the wheel and to feel the Chevrolet and feel the drivetrain and to go through a few set-up changes. But I think the most important thing is radio communication and how we want to mock-up certain pit stop sequences for changes as we’re out on-track, and just having that banter back and forth so when we roll into Daytona as best prepared. That’s a big reason why Chip Ganassi Racing is having the No. 1 car go do this test is to work the bugs out of it and just work those sequences into how we’re going to go attack things in Daytona.”
YOU’RE A GUY WHO REALLY KNOWS THE CAR. YOUR TEAMMATE, IN CONTRAST, IS SOMEBODY WHO BASICALLY JUST GETS IN THE CAR AND DRIVES IT AND SAYS HE DOESN’T WANT TO KNOW A LOT ABOUT THE CAR. ARE YOU GUYS GOING TO BE ABLE TO HELP EACH OTHER?
KURT BUSCH: “Yeah, that’s one thing I’m looking forward to, as well. Daytona is Daytona. You’re worried about low drag, mastering the draft; he’s shown the skills to do that. But once we get into Atlanta and Vegas and going to Phoenix, where we have all the horsepower and all the downforce, I’m very curious on how his style will play out versus mine. Right now if my first gut instinct is I’m the guy that drives off the right front tire from all the Late-Model experience I have and he’s the guy that drives off the right rear tire with all the dirt track experience that he has, and it shows that there’s two ways to skin the same cat. But, that gets me excited to learn things. I think he’s feeling that same thing as far as having my experience come to him. And then there’s going to be the friendship that develops from it, too. There are all kinds of things that are ahead of us and we have a learning curve (with) teammate, crew chief, even with Chad Johnston on the No. 42, everybody just getting in the same room and getting going. And hopefully we can just get that behind us by the end of February and that way we’re rolling out to the West Coast for the Swing ready to go with all the questions answered.”
AS A FORMER CHAMPION, AS PART OF YOUR DUTIES HERE, TO HELP HIM BECOME A CHAMPION AND CONTINUE IN THE SPORT TO A LEVEL THAT’S OF EXCELLENCE FOR CHIP GANASSI RACING?
KURT BUSCH: “I think I just feel a small responsibility just due to my age and where I sit, personally. I don’t have any children yet, but the times that I see Brexton, my nephew, and see different kids in racing, he’s at the top of his game in the top sport of racing here in the U.S. Larson can be bigger. He can be better. And I see something in him. And that’s part of the draw of why I came here. There are plenty of reasons, but that’s one of those things on the side. It’s not a trophy. It’s not a win. But, I would feel a sense of accomplishment by helping him out.”
MATT MCCALL: “He means by helping him finish second and the championship to us (laughter)”
AT WHAT POINT IN THIS SEASON DO YOU THINK MAN, I REALLY DON’T WHAT THIS TO BE MY LAST YEAR?
KURT BUSCH: “I haven’t really thought about that because the unofficial handshake that I have with Chip and with Monster Energy and everybody, is to just go out there and see how much fun we have. Let’s see how the stats add up. And let’s figure it out as we go. But the unofficial handshake, I guess, is like if we’ve won five or six races by Daytona July, of course we’re going to stick around. We’ll all figure it out.”
SO YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE?
KURT BUSCH: “Oh, yeah. I wouldn’t say this is the last year. It’s like Tom Brady. He says that this is not his last game coming up in the Super Bowl; I don’t know. We’ll see.”
YOU MENTIONED THE TEAM BEING EAGER AND HUNGRY. WHEN IT COMES TO CHASING A SECOND CHAMPIONSHIP SO MANY YEARS AFTER THE FIRST, WHERE DO YOU STAND IN YOUR PERSONAL DESIRE OF PERFORMING AND CHASING THAT CHAMPIONSHIP?
KURT BUSCH: “It’s there and as strong as ever. Coming up just short last year, in my 19th full-time year, and to get in that wreck at Phoenix and not making it to the championship round at Homestead, it proves that it’s right there. Everything is close. And you have to master this system of how you gain the stage points and collect those bonus points to take with you through the Playoffs. We were in position for it and that’s what I expect to see this year. And we need to capitalize on some of the small mistakes that I made or that the team doesn’t need to make, to have a shot at the championship. The drive is stronger than ever. I fee like I’ve accomplished plenty of different things throughout the sport. But, I have goals set for this year that will lead to a championship-type of run.”
SOME SAY A SECOND CHAMPIONSHIP IS MAYBE EVEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE FIRST, AS THOUGH IT VALIDATES THE FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP. DO YOU THINK ALONG THOSE SAME LINES?
KURT BUSCH: “I don’t have that second so I can’t speak educated on it other than the fact that it’s my drive to go out there and to do it. I know that when I won my first championship I was very young and somewhat naive to everything that goes on in our sport of Monster Energy Cup Series racing. Team, pit crew, the engineering, the design; there is so much I took for granted. And then there is so much that’s changed nowadays. And I feel like I’m in a very good position and I feel like Chip Ganassi is in a very good position. There’s also the fun that we’re going to have along the way of Larson, our pit crew, and the way that we’re going to come together as a team. I enjoy helping people learn at this stage of my career. And that can’t overshadow me from stopping learning. I have to continue to lean as well and that’s what teaming-up with Matt McCall is going to help me to do again this year.”
HOW DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL WHEN OTHER DRIVERS LOOK AT YOU AND USE YOU AS AN EXAMPLE OF A TRUE RACER…? SOMEONE WHO CAN WHEEL A CAR NO MATTER WHAT? A LOT OF THEM DO LOOK UP TO YOU
KURT BUSCH: “It’s a nice compliment. But you can’t rest on anything that’s happened in the past. You have to keep moving forward. I think early-on my dad put a strong work ethic in me about business and racing. And you’ve got to put in the time. So over all these years of learning hard and running up-front, that I think will end up being ultimately how I’m described and how people want to set out to reach my type of goals will go out and do.”
WE SAW POWER IN NUMBERS WITH THE FORDS IN THE RESTRICTOR PLATES AND YOU WERE PART OF THAT GROUP. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? LOOKING AT DAYTONA, YOU’VE CERTAINLY WON THE 500 SO YOU KNOW WHAT’S INVOLVED. WHO ARE YOU GUYS GOING TO TEAM-UP WITH? ARE YOU GOING TO TRY TO GET SOMETHING IN PLACE WITH THE HENDRICK DRIVERS? ARE YOU GUYS GOING TO TRY TO FIND SOME SORT OF SYSTEM OR GAME PLAN THAT WORKS SINCE THE FORDS HAVE BEEN SO DOMINATE?
MATT MCCALL: “Obviously we try to work with Hendrick Motorsports every chance we get with having their engines and drivelines. And, It’s always I feel like Ford was way ahead on that at the very beginning and I feel like everybody sort of just came together just their cars it seemed were faster than everyone else’s. So, the numbers and the speed out-powered everything else. But I think this year will be a little bit different and I think that Hendrick Motorsports will be the first group we work with, for sure.”
WHERE DOES THIS UPCOMING TEST RANK FOR YOU AMONG THE MOST IMPORTANT TESTS YOU’VE BEEN A PART OF?
MATT MCCALL: “It’s almost at the very top, obviously, because this is our one chance to work on communication, the new package; we have some new players in the shop too, engineering-wise. We’ve got a lot of different stuff we need to communicate on, not just between me and Kurt and the team and Kurt. So, it’s pretty high up there, for sure.”
ANY INSIGHT GOING BACK TO THE GOALS YOU HAVE THIS YEAR THAT WILL LEAD YOU TO A CHAMPIONSHIP? ARE YOU GOING TO OUTLINE THOSE OR KEEP THEM TO YOURSELF?
KURT BUSCH: “You have to check all the boxes. Last year, if I had a strong box that we have to duplicate, and Matt knows this, is Stage 1 points. Those are very important because if you can bank those, then you’re not pinned-in on Stage 2 to have to gain points. You can then skip Stage 2 to work toward the end of the race. That’s ultimately the most important prize on getting that trophy at the end of the day. Sitting on more poles, winning more races, but ultimately navigating the Playoffs with the pattern that it takes to get to that final four, and a lot of that is done through bonus points.”
YOU QUALIFIED EXCEPTIONALLY WELL LAST SEASON. YOU TOP-10’D YOURSELF ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE FINAL EIGHT. WHAT MORE CAN YOU DO, LET ALONE WIN RACES?
KURT BUSCH: “You have to take away a point from a guy that’s going to get a point. (Kevin) Harvick laid down the law on a teammate at Chicago against us. It would have been nice to have that one bonus point, which would have been a total of three for us and not 30 for him. You’ve got to start earlier. And that’s what Kyle did and that’s what Truex did and Harvick, and that’s just the way the system is set-up. And that hasn’t changed. So you have to go and get those bonus points. It’s the same thing in any sport when somebody is going to go down and score and you make a stop and then you take it back and then you go and score with it, that’s a two-point swing. Those are the things I think we need to work on.”
ARE YOU AFRAID TO CRACK THE WHIP EVEN THOUGH HE’S A VETERAN AND A CHAMPION AND OLDER THAN YOU? ARE YOU GOING TO KEEP TOTALS IN YOUR HEAD AND BE ABLE TO DO THAT WHEN HE’S BEHIND THE WHEEL?
MATT MCCALL: “I’m pretty persistent is the easiest way to say that. I don’t really rollover to anything. I don’t know if ‘crack the whip’ is the word, but similar characteristics as far as staying on top of it we need to be working on, for sure.”
KURT BUSCH: “Yeah, I think if he sees something that I didn’t see, absolutely jump in there and he’s going to tell me what to do. And I have no problem listening to that.”
DO YOU EXPECT TO BE ABLE TO INCH THE HORSEPOWER UP FROM THAT 550 BASELINE AS THE SEASON PROGRESSES?
MATT MCCALL: “Obviously Hendrick Motorsports will be trying to make gains, for sure. As far as those numbers, that would be making a huge guess if I thought I could give you a number on that; but I would say yes, there should be some change for sure.”
THE NEW RULES PACKAGE IS GOING TO THROW EVERYBODY FOR A LOOP. BUT, WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS WHEN IT COMES TO THIS ORGANIZATION IF YOU WERE TO TELL FANS OF CHIP GANASSI RACING WHY THIS COMPANY IS GOING IN THAT RIGHT DIRECTION AND THEY’RE GOING TO HAVE TWO SUCCESSFUL CARS?
MATT MCCALL: “I think our strong suit is we can react quick. I would say I feel pretty good with where we’re at. The test will give us a pretty good idea of actually where we’re at speed-wise. And, the reaction we can have after Vegas of stuff we either need to implement or change I think can happen pretty quick, and I think that’s an advantage since I’ve worked here, to overcome adversity pretty quick.”
KURT BUSCH: “When you build stuff for two cars versus four, you can move the ship in the ocean a little bit quicker. That’s something I noticed with the Furniture Row guys a few years back with the one-car team. And, if there was a meeting on Monday, you usually had it by that Thursday. It’s still a balance of cost versus making the right decision for the company. But with Chip’s passion and the whole group here, there really hasn’t been anybody that’s changed in the overall core group. Even on the No. 42 car, most everybody has stayed the same. That continuity I think will help us a ton with me coming in just to sprinkle in certain areas what I learned from Yates or Ford or the things we were doing at SHR.”