Chevy Racing–Daytona–Press Conference

JULY 6 2014

Kurt Busch Leads the Charge for Team Chevy Finishing Third

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – July 6, 2014 – Team Chevy’s Kurt Busch was looking for his second win of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and first restrictor plate win at the rain delayed Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday when the skies opened up again and dashed his hopes.  The wet and wild race was postponed due to inclement weather on Saturday and continued to be plagued throughout the day Sunday with showers and two major multi-car crashes. Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, had to settle for a third place finish when the race was finally called at lap 112 of 160 originally scheduled laps.

“We led a lot of laps today with our Haas Automation Chevy, it’s a tough pill to swallow because we want to go back out there and race,” said Busch following the race.  “There is still plenty of daylight left and there are lights here at this track.  I’m disappointed because we want to go for the win.  At the same time this team has turned a good corner it’s been about five weeks in a row now that we have been in the top 15.  We cashed in on a top-five finish today.”

Casey Mears came home with his first top-five finish of the 2014 season by bringing his No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS home in fourth place.   It was also his first top 10 finish since the season-opening Daytona 500.  Like Mears, Austin Dillon notched his first top-five finish in the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/NRA Museum Chevrolet SS in fifth place, giving him the honor of being the highest finishing rookie of the year contender.

Danica Patrick, No. 10 Florida Lottery/GoDaddy Chevorlet SS, earned her second best finish of the season by coming home eighth.  It was also her second top 10 finish of 2014.  Patrick moved up one spot to 27th in the standings.

Series point leader Jeff Gordon rebounded from an early incident to finish 12th in his No. 24 Pepsi Real Sugar Chevrolet SS. Gordon maintained the lead with a 27 point advantage over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who gained one spot in the standings by bringing his No. 88 National Guard Chevy SS home in 14th place. Jimmie Johnson, who was sidelined by an early multi-car crash in his No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet SS, dropped to third in the point standings with his 42nd place finish.

Aric Almirola (Ford) was the race winner and Brian Vickers (Toyota) was second to round out the top five finishers.

Next weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup series will head to New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  The Camping World RV Sales 301 will begin Sunday, July 13th at 1 pm, ET.


KERRY THARP:  We’re now joined by our second place finisher in today’s race, and that’s Brian Vickers, and he drove the No. 55 Aaron’s FSU National Champions Toyota, and our top finishing Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate, coming in fifth place, is Austin Dillon.  He drove the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet.

KERRY THARP:  Austin Dillon, talk about your run out there today, a strong top‑5 showing for sure.

AUSTIN DILLON:  Yeah, it was a good run for our Bass Pro Shops Chevy.  We just made it through the wrecks.  Seeing it like Brian and everybody up front at the beginning was swapping ends and didn’t look good, and we made it through the first one, and then the second one hanging out there down the backstretch, and my teammate was in front of me, and he checked up, and I checked up, I kind of just shot the middle and they went left and got lucky.  I saw Jamie flying through there.  That was crazy.  Made it through that, and sitting pretty good there.  I think me, Brian and a bunch of the guys right there would have loved to seen it go back, but it’s racing.  It’s part of it.  We’ve been here for a while and would love to go back, but that rain has been tough to deal with all weekend.  I’m ready to go to my dirt race, which is in Indiana.  I’m trying to get out of here.
Q.  Guys, this is obviously one less kind of wild card race off the books, and that means with Almirola winning there’s one less spot in the Chase for points.  It’s been so much talk about wins this year, but now that there’s even less spots for points, does this sort of accelerate what you’ll be looking at every week as far as the standings and trying to have good points days as well as a win?
AUSTIN DILLON:  Yeah, same.  We jumped from 18th to 13th in points.  There’s less positions now, but just got to stay consistent.  We had a test at New Hampshire this past week.  I felt like it was a good test for us, and we go on and try and keep these runs going for us as a rookie, and I think it’ll close up the rookie points now, too.  We’ve gained a lot the last couple weeks, and this will definitely help.
Q.  Austin, how bad did you need this performance today after the strong season that Kyle Larson has had?
AUSTIN DILLON:  It’s huge for us getting a top 10, a top 5; it definitely can change the rookie race.  We’ve got some momentum now.  We’ve got the last four races, I think, in the rookie race, and just stay consistent and hopefully we can come out with this thing.  Our cars have been really fast all year, and we’re getting better each week.  I feel like we’re gaining a little bit, and I’m excited about that.
Q.  Austin, after all the attention you got down here in February, you’ve still been hanging around, so just where would you assess your team halfway through the season and what do you think is the biggest thing you have to work on going forward?
AUSTIN DILLON:  Well, Kyle has had a great season and I’m kind of putting our season against his because we’re racing for the rookie of the year.  That was our main goal going into this year.  Any other year the last couple years it would be a great season, but the way they’ve run we’ve put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

You know, we’re hanging in there.  Just want to find some more speed at these mile‑and‑a‑halfs, get more consistent.  Kentucky was a good race for us, just didn’t make a good adjustment at the end.  Experience will come with that, I hope, and like I said, I feel like our cars are getting better and we’ve been really harping on that as a group at RCR to make our cars better, and I think we’re starting to show.  Ryan had a good run at Kentucky, and hopefully we can carry that on at New Hampshire.  We still saved a test or two, I think, as a group, so maybe those tests will help us out.
Q.  Austin, as far as the rookie part of it, are there some learning curves that you had to overcome in the Cup level you’d like to share with other rookies and fans out there?
AUSTIN DILLON:  Oh, for sure.  Each week you learn a little bit here and there and what it takes to compete at this level.  I mean, it takes a full weekend from the start of the weekend when you unload off the trailer, and learning that is just ‑‑ it’s the hardest level of racing in the world in my opinion, because I’ve never done anything past this.  But for us, just progressing each and every week and being smart throughout runs and trying to make our cars better throughout a race instead of maintaining, that’s one tough spot.  You’ve got to be able to gain through a race and you can’t just maintain, where in a Nationwide race or a truck race it’s shorter and you can get your car decent in track position and you can kind of maintain that way.
Q.  How odd is it to be racing not knowing is this going to be the last lap?  Is this the last ‑‑ because you know that the bad weather is coming and you’re just uncertain like do I have two more laps to make it move or do I have to get it done now?
AUSTIN DILLON:  For me, it’s tough because I thought we were racing to 80 there for a while, and when we got ‑‑ I hang around in the back for quite a while just trying to miss some of the stuff that looked like was going to happen up there.  It was pretty wild.  It is tough not knowing if you’re going to get to 160 because you’ve got guys saying, oh, it’s going to rain out, it’s going to do this, and there’s so many opinions and you just have to trust yours, I guess, when it comes down to it and get there when it counts at the end.

KERRY THARP:  Austin and Brian, thank you for being here today, and good luck next weekend.
Joining us now is our third place finisher in today’s Coke Zero 400, and that’s Kurt Busch.  He drove the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart‑Haas Racing, and Kurt, certainly you had a strong car up there, and we heard you on a couple of the TV interviews during the rain delays that this might have been one of the strongest cars you’ve had down here at Daytona.  Just talk about how the race unfolded for you and how things went today for the 41 team.

KURT BUSCH:  I thought we had a good finish today.  You know, I’d love to be out there racing and competing for the win, and the car ran strong.  We dominated, led most laps, and the Haas Automation Chevy was a good car right from the time it was completed and shoved into the wind tunnel, and those guys really did a good job back at the shop to prepare the No. 41 for all the speed that you need here at Daytona.

We executed well on pit road.  Again, we led a lot of laps today and thought we were in good position, and when you’re racing knowing that there’s weather in the area, it’s best to be in that lead position because that gives you the best shot at when the rain does come and if they do call the race, that you’re the leader.

Most importantly, though, we’ve made a good turn on the 41 car the last month with good solid finishes.  Today it’s disappointing to finish third after leading the most laps, but all in all, looking at the long‑term projection, it’s been solid on the 41 car, and it was great to run good Daytona weekend, July 4th with a patriotic paint scheme with America’s Machine Tool with Haas Automation as well as the symbolization for our Armed Forces, so it’s great to have the race dedication that we had on the race this weekend from the Armed Forces Foundation.
Q.  Is it difficult to set up a strategy when you don’t know when the end is coming?
KURT BUSCH:  I thought we did well.  Daniel, my crew chief, was on top of when we needed fuel and when we were playing the halfway game as well as when we were playing the pit the last time to make it all the way to lap 160, and it seemed like it was putting us in a good position to lead laps, which we did.  We were leading at the time, and that’s what you want if the rain is going to come out.

So the race was a bit uneasy.  I think the competitors were looking to jockey harder for positions towards the front, and we saw a couple big wrecks today because we didn’t know if we were going to get much past lap 80.
Q.  Just your thoughts, were you surprised the race was called at this point because there’s still so much time left in the day?  And you talked about the building of your team.  You guys are doing it at a variety of tracks, it’s not like you’re having one type of success, so what’s helped turn things around for you guys at this point?
KURT BUSCH:  It seems early to call a race.  It is Sunday already, and the majority of our fans that showed up were going to use this day to travel back home.  On average how far are the fans here locally traveling to get back home?  Is it four hours?  Maybe we could have run later on today and still finished and everybody could have back home and to work on Monday.

You know, the network TV side of it versus the safety of the fans, as well, with thunder and lightning in the area, it’s a tough call to make.  I didn’t do my job to be the leader.  We didn’t quite have a couple solid restarts at the end to be the leader for when the race was going to get called.

As far as our team developing and moving forward, you know, it’s nice that we’ve shown speed on all different types of tracks, and I can’t really pinpoint one thing other than just working through some of the aerodynamic balance changes we’ve made to our car since around the Charlotte race as well as we built up enough notes on what we were doing wrong to steer a different direction, and we did that at the first Pocono.  So the 1st of June we’ve been running a lot better with two different balance changes.
Q.  Are you and Daniel (inaudible) new relationship?
KURT BUSCH:  Yeah, the relationship with Daniel, you know, there’s some times when a driver and a crew chief hit it off and they’re off to the races right away.  Daniel and I have been slower to mature together in our relationship, and so we’re 18 races into our first date.  Now we’re going into the second half of the season, and all of our first dates are done.  We’ll go to New Hampshire next week, and that’ll be the last new track that we see together, and then from there on out, all the tracks that we’ve been to we have notes and we have test sessions planned, and that’s where we have to make the 41 team stronger.
Q.  As far as your team members and you, when you get rain delays, especially when it’s delayed to the next day, is it harder on a driver?  Is it harder on those team members that have to go to work?
KURT BUSCH:  It’s tough on everybody.  Are you going to go back to green?  Are you not?  You’ve got to pack the stuff up while it’s in a torrential downpour.  I told the spotter as I got out of the car, be sharp, be focused, stay upbeat, keep this good attitude about this right now because we have a shot to win this if it goes back green.  Instead the race is called.  We were almost ready to start kicking the tires because we were third.  But it’s a general good feel when you’re running up front, and we led most laps today.  That’s what we’ll take away from today.
Q.  You’ve been really successful at this sort of weird form of racing without popping through for a win.  Does it frustrate you or do you like it?  Do you anticipate coming here because the stats are good but no trophy yet?
KURT BUSCH:  No, you’re right.  I haven’t won a points paying restrictor plate race.  It’s been tough over the years.  15 years into it, I’ve won IROC races and won a Shootout, won a qualifying race; even Nationwide, I’ve won a Nationwide race here but haven’t broke through for a points paying Cup win yet.  I’ve got to go to the videotape.  I’ve got to go back and study more.  When I’m the leader, I have to advance my game.  I have to be better at blocking and strategically managing the race as a leader.  I’ve been really good at seconds and thirds, top 5s, just got to break through for that win, and I believe I need to do more work to get better at it.
Q. (Inaudible).
KURT BUSCH:  Well, there’s the film study, then there’s the – you have to be in position to make mistakes or you have to be running up front more often to learn from it.  You can’t learn by dragging around in the back waiting for wrecks to happen.  You learn by leading and getting shuffled out of the lead, and then trying a different approach to stay in the lead and to be able to make your car as wide as you can at certain spots and to make others have to rethink their strategy. The chess game definitely comes into play more so when you’re the leader than anything else.

KERRY THARP:  Thank you for putting on a good show this weekend.  We’ll see you at New Hampshire.