An interview with: KURT BUSCH
THE MODERATOR: Kurt Busch, today’s third place finisher. Kurt, thanks for taking the time to join us today. Why don’t you run through your run out there in the first race back.
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, thanks for having me. Wow, this was a great feeling to be able to have such a good car with a good team at Chip Ganassi Racing. To be out there with no fans but yet I could feel them all the way through the television cameras. Out there racing hard, trying to put on a good show.
I think we were a third place car with the Monster Energy Chevy. We were a little tight to start the race. That pace that Kevin Harvick had for the first 10 laps was tough to beat. Bowman was really quick. His setup like from Fontana helped him here today. Had a really good run at Fontana.
So to dance with the Lady in Black, I’ll take a third place finish. It was great to be out there and to race 200 miles an hour, to feel g forces again, to have a day where I was out there working and being part of a team.
Again, just thanks to Matt McCall and everybody making good adjustments. Felt good all the way through, good teamwork.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll take questions for Kurt.
Q. You mentioned no fans there. What was it like walking to your car prior to the race without fans, then hanging out for a few minutes with pretty much no one around you?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, there were those times when you’d look in the grandstands. When you see an empty seat, you feel a set of eyeballs that are coming through the camera lens. I knew FOX was going to do a tremendous job to broadcast our race, to have as many people feel like they were there today.
That’s the way I approached the race, was even just walking out on pit road, crew members with masks on, halfway you don’t recognize anybody until I got to my No. 1 guys. That was our core group. We went into battle today together and brought home a top five finish.
Had a chance to push for the lead. Pit stops were solid, adjustments were good, we just didn’t have enough. But again it’s a privilege to be out there racing in a situation like this. So thank you, NASCAR, for getting everything together. We’ll be back on Wednesday.
We always make fun of ourselves in a Monday meeting afterwards where, Oh, man, if you’re going back there tomorrow, what would you do? This is that moment. So I’m happy we’re going to jump in on some digital meetings and jump back here on Wednesday.
Q. Another strong day for the Chevys. Seems like as a whole what we saw earlier in the season carried over or picked right up. Do you feel pretty confident at this point in the next few races that Chevys are going to perform well?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, I believe we’ve improved our Camaro tremendously. Hendrick has done what I would call a fuzz step better than us at Ganassi. We’re right in that box to be able to be in the top five. Now we’ve got to cross over and lead some laps, be consistent on pit road.
But all in all from the way our day started, buried 22nd off the draw, we’re going to be buried again back in the mid pack for when the race starts Wednesday. Man, just Matt McCall did a really good job. It’s a balance of Hendrick, our engines, the chassis from Ganassi, then the body with Chevrolet, everybody helping out.
Good to get back out there.
Q. When we talked earlier this week you admitted you were nervous getting in the car for the first lap. What were those nerves like? Did Ricky’s (indiscernible) help you settle down just a little bit?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, it was awesome. The feelings, the nerves, the anxiety, the excitement, knowing we were in uncharted territory. I didn’t know who spun, didn’t know who had trouble.
Everybody did a real good job of settling in even on the next few restarts to race the racetrack. You have to do that here at Darlington. I would call today a success all the way around.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about the atmosphere when you got here today amongst your fellow drivers or in particular the Ganassi team? There seemed to be a great sense of people having sort of relief maybe of being back to work.
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, a whole different vibe today versus Atlanta. It was great to see everybody working, from the Goodyear side, the Sunoco side, the inspectors. Today had a really good vibe all the way around. People were smart, had good distance between each other, respect for what we had to do to perform.
Just the electric atmosphere, again, of something so new and something so uncharted that once we dropped the green flag, you got to zone in and focus on Darlington. Really a special time today around 3:30 to get belted in and do something we’ve never done as a sport.
Q. What does today mean for Chip Ganassi Racing? Both cars top 10. Your thoughts in regards to Matt getting a top 10 his first race back since 2018?
KURT BUSCH: That was awesome. When I got out of the car in the infield, they have an old school pylon of where the top 10 finishers are with their car number. There’s old Matt Kenseth, No. 42, finishing 10th. That’s what he will do every day, all racetracks. I mean, that’s Matt. That’s what he does.
For him to balance out with Chad Johnston, Ganassi, everybody, first day out to get a top 10, that’s huge. That sets a big tone.
I have yet to be able to call Chip Ganassi or Rob Kauffman. I’ll be calling Matt Kenseth on my way home. It’s really a neat day for us to bounce back like that. For us to back up what we did at Fontana with a top five run, let’s keep this train rolling.
Q. You referenced because of the invert you’ll have to start further back Wednesday night. A hundred fewer miles. What is the challenge in trying to work your way up with less time?
KURT BUSCH: Today we went from I think 12th to fourth on one of our pit stops. It was amazing. Then we went from sixth to 10th. The pit crew has a huge responsibility at this racetrack. Today’s runs weren’t very long. It was very weird that a 400 mile race didn’t have much more than a 40 lap run. The way that the stages are set up for Wednesday, we could have a very, very long run in the stages.
We’ll see how things play out. Our car was really good I think on the long run, but we have to make adjustments to battle hard for a race win.
Q. What kind of statement does this make about NASCAR and its perseverance to ensure racing got back?
KURT BUSCH: What a tremendous effort. The collaborative effort from everybody from the NASCAR side, the officials, the team owners, the drivers, our television broadcast partners, radio. Everybody had to reach out of the normal, reach out of the box, do it with common sense, do it through all of these Zoom, Skype, Team Viewer exercises through the phone, through the computers. What a job. I’m very proud of the effort we put forth today.
To put things aside, this is a privilege to go out there and race racecars at 200 miles an hour and have a job during this pandemic. Have a great sponsor with Monster Energy, great manufacturer with Chevrolet. Thanks to everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing. I’m over the moon. It was exciting to race. We missed our fans not being in the grandstands, but we felt you through the TV and through the radio.
Q. Would you change anything personally to how you approach Wednesday, maybe not on the track but off of it?
KURT BUSCH: For me? We’ll see how my body feels tomorrow. Hydrate, eat, stretching. I felt like coming to the track four hours before the race start was a bit much. But I really enjoyed my time here in the motorhome, in my own self isolation, that zone to focus in. We didn’t know what was coming our way.
I don’t know what to change. I’m going to have all my gear where I’m going to be washing everything, sanitizing it, rolling back out to pit road on Wednesday with my driver bag, hop back in the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevy hopefully with a chance to win.
THE MODERATOR: Kurt, congratulations on the run today. Good luck again on Wednesday at The Track Too Tough to Tame.
KURT BUSCH: Thank you, everybody. Appreciate it.
— NASCAR —