NASCAR CUP SERIES
DIXIE VODKA 400
TEAM CHEVY PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
FEBRUARY 24, 2021
KURT BUSCH, NO. 1 MONSTER ENERGY CAMARO ZL1, 1LE Media Teleconference Transcript:
WHAT IS YOUR FEELING ON THE DEBATE BETWEEN DENNY HAMLIN AND BRAD KESELOWSKI ON TWITTER? REGARDING SPONSORS, WHERE DO YOU LAND ON THE YOUNG KIDS COMING UP AND BRINGING BIG CHECKS AND TAKING PEOPLE’S SPOTS? HOW DO YOU SECURE YOUR OWN FUTURE?
“I’m not quite familiar with that debate. Is it the fact of how young guys are coming into the sport without the credentials from the driving side, but they have the sponsorship opportunities?”
ALONG THOSE LINES TO SOME DEGREE
“I think, like anything in life, there is the evolution and there’s change. And I want to say that I am the beneficiary of the boom of NASCAR in the late ‘90’s. And when I came in as a rookie in 2001 with a brand new TV package, the sport was in a completely different space because of the amount of money and attention that the sport had invested into itself and how much it had positioned itself for what we all benefitted over the last decade and a half. And so, things change. Things evolve. Jeff Gordon came in and had all this talent. We had Tony Stewart coming in with all his talent from the INDYCAR side. And these were owners, Rick Hendrick and Coach Gibbs. Richard Childress found a guy named Kevin Harvick. Roush Racing found guys named Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch. We can go on and on about how the owners were hiring drivers and it felt more of like an arms race. And something changed right in the beginning of my career where John Deere was a sponsor at Roush Racing and they wanted a young driver to come in and better the results, was the answer that I was given or the opportunity that I received. And within seven months, the CEO changed, and John Deere is not in NASCAR anymore. Well, was it because of me? No. The CEO liked golf. And that’s where the John Deere Classic was born.
“So, I might have gone off on a tangent there on what it means to be a driver with talent or what it means to be a driver with sponsorship, and you have to do it all. You have to do it all in this day and age. You have to have the on-track results. And even if you don’t, you have to have the off-track results and your influence through social media and the power of your name and your credibility to be able to move the needle and to give these sponsors and these partners the proper appreciation for why they’re investing with you or the team. And it takes a lot. It takes a lot from all these different categories. So, there’s no right or wrong answer on is Denny saying one thing and Keselowski saying it another way; and there’s different upbringings for many different people on how they’ve even arrived at this point. It’s endless with the amount of discussion we can have on this.”
YOU WERE RELENTLESS THIS PAST WEEKEND AT THE DAYTONA ROAD COURSE RACE AND WE SAW PEOPLE COMING UP TO THE FRONT; WE DIDN’T SEE THEM FOR A WHILE, AND THERE THEY COME AGAIN. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT? YOU JUST DID NOT GIVE UP.
“Yeah, we had to bounce back from the Daytona oval race; the 500 did not go very well for us. And our road course program at Ganassi, we’ve been chipping away at it since I got there. For us, we got fifth at last year’s ROVAL. And that was in the Playoffs. We needed that solid finish. And we needed that again to start our season here in 2021. So, I drove elbows out. It was definitely a feeling of overdriving and getting back to this letting all the rough edges drag. And I did that to set a tone. I did it to help confirm our road course changes because we’re going to see a lot of road courses on the schedule this year in NASCAR. And so, we had to come out of the gate strong. I’m really proud of everybody at Ganassi for switching some things around and investing more into our road racing program. And then the fine line of stepping over the line right now on the road courses, the cars aren’t forgiving. And you can find trouble pretty quick. So, I’m just really happy that the day turned out as well as it did even after my mistake while I was leading.”
YOU TWEETED, ‘WOW, TY GIBBS JUST PUT ON A CLINIC’. WHAT DID YOU SEE IN HIM IN THE NASCAR XFINITY RACE FOR A RACER AS YOUNG AS HE IS?
“I saw something special. And to jump into the Xfinity Series and never have run a race there with those guys; these cars and the tire and the track, they put him in there to go get road course experience, expecting him to just run around there and gain laps, right? He had never done a live pit stop is what I heard on the broadcast as well. I mean, that was something special. I stopped Coach Gibbs on pit road the next day and said congratulations. We’ve been in this sport a long time. Coach has seen a lot of different moments in sports. I said Coach, I saw something special. I haven’t seen something special in a long time and I just wanted to say congrats. He’s got it. And you guys know exactly what to do with him to make him a star. But I just wanted to say that on social and I wanted to stop Coach Gibbs and say wow. That kid drove like a veteran. He didn’t put a wheel out of place and brought home the win. Man, it’s like boom. You’re first start. Way to go, kid.”
LOOKING BACK AT THE ROAD COURSE RACE LAST WEEK, THERE WAS A CAUTION FOR THE RAIN. NASCAR FOLLOWED THE RULE BOOK IN THAT SITUATION TO ALLOW TEAMS TO PUT ON RAIN TIRES IF THEY WANTED. NOBODY DID IN THAT CASE. IS THIS A SITUATION WHERE THIS IS STILL A GOOD RULE IN PROVIDING A WARNING IN A PARTICULAR AREA ON A BIG COURSE OR IS IT BETTER FOR THE DRAMA OF THE SPORT TO LET THIS BE UP TO THE TEAMS TO DECIDE? WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL SEE AT SOME OF THE OTHER ROAD COURSE TRACKS THIS YEAR?
“I saw the problem developing. The radar was clear. My team didn’t even mention rain. And I radioed to them and said hey, it’s raining in the Turn 2 oval, but it’s not anywhere else. Then the spotter chimed-in and said it was raining on the front straightaway but it’s really light. And then the engineer said there’s nothing on the radar. And then the yellow comes out. So, what we have here are rules in place to create the safety aspect of it, but also to create a controlled environment of when we’re going to switch to rain tires. But it’s the weather. It’s Mother Nature. If I had children and I was helping them in life and giving them advice on where they could go and who they could be and what they want to do in life, I’d just say hey be a meteorologist. You can get paid and be wrong on the same day. And I’m joking because you just don’t know what the weather is going to do. And so, they way to get away from this gray area of a call on whether to switch to rain tires or not, is to allow the teams to do it. But here we are at Daytona, doing 180 mph on the back straightaway or in the banking on the oval and if we’re on slicks and a rain shower hits that section of the track and cars are spinning out wrecking, then the teams are going to be like, where was the yellow? So, it’s a catch-22.
“And yes, we’re going to Road America, a four-mile road course. Daytona is 3.6. COTA, I don’t know the distance, but it’s huge. Turn 11 is probably a mile and a half away, as the crow flies, from the front straightaway. So, we’ve got to look at local cautions. Those have gone away over the years. It’s now just one major caution it seems like. And it was a tough call for NASCAR to have to make but it was on the side of safety. It’s similar to when I lost a race at Daytona two summers ago when there was a lightning strike in the area but then the next one was further away, and they called the race.”
CHRISTOPHER BELL GOT THE WIN LAST WEEKEND. WHAT IS IT LIKE FOR A YOUNG DRIVER TO GRADUATE TO THAT TOP TIER?
“I think he’s ready for it. The kid has proven himself as a great talent. And it’s his stage to stand on now. He’s now been in the Cup series a couple of years and he’s with a top tier team and he’s a winner. If I can revert back to my situation around this point in his career, it would have been like after I won Bristol in 2002, my second year; and you’re like around all these guys now. There’s a different feel of racing up front. And so, he’ll blend in just fine. He did a great job to win that road course race last weekend. Now he gets to show his talent on an oval with a top tier team that’s been very good at Homestead. And now you just start rolling with it. He’ll have those emotions. But as a good racing that we all know he is, he can block that out and focus on the job at hand.”
DO YOU REMEMBER THAT CHALLENGE OR LEARNING CURVE ONCE YOU GOT UP THERE?
“It was pretty wild; you know? You’re like man, Jeff Gordon is behind me right now. Or Dale Jarrett is up ahead. Do I pass him now? Do I wait? What do I do? And so, you have those moments where you can’t get too wrapped up in it, which happens with a young guy. And he’s just going through these new experiences and he has to learn on his own.”
HEADING INTO HOMESTEAD THIS WEEKEND, WITH THE TIME OF YEAR AND THE NEW CHOOSE RULE IN EFFECT, WHAT KIND OF ADJUSTMENTS DO YOU MAKE WITH WEATHER AND NEW RULES?
“Yeah, this weekend, for the Miami race and looking at the weather, it’s going to be the hottest race we’ve ever had down there. It’s going to be during the hottest portion of the day. And so, the track is going to seem extremely slow, lack of grip; and we’re already making set-up changes to adjust for that. It’ll be a refreshing change to go back to the choose rule. We’ haven’t had that in a while, and here we are back at a 1.5-mile. We’ve haven’t been at one of those since Texas last November. Like everything right now with new protocols, the new schedule, lack of practice, there is a lot of shooting from the hip and reacting in the moment. And that’s where you can’t over-think it and you just have to do it.”
LOOKING AT THE BRISTOL DIRT RACE, SOME VIDEO CAME OUT LAST NIGHT OF SOME TESTS OF DRIVERS RUNNING ON THE BRISTOL DIRT TRACK, DRIVERS THAT WERE TAKING MODIFIED AND STOCK CARS WERE SAYING THEY COULD HOLD IT WIDE-OPEN AND THAT IT WAS THE FASTEST THEY’VE EVER BEEN ON DIRT. THE CUP CARS ARE HEAVIER, BUT DID YOU WATCH OR HEAR ABOUT THAT SESSION AND DO YOU HAVE ANY TAKEAWAYS?
“I wasn’t even aware of the test session. I was told that we’re not supposed to be at the tracks that we race, testing and all that. So, I’ve got to look into that. And yes, Bristol is a very wide, heavily banked half-mile race track. You put dirt on there and it’s the fastest, biggest dirt track that any of these guys are ever going to see. The thing that a lot of people are really focusing on is the Sunday race in our Cup cars will be after a long week of the track being used. The Trucks, the Xfinity, and the Cup cars are all big and heavy cars. And with the quantity of forty NASCAR Cup Series cars on that track, it’s going to get pounded down and glazed over and it’s going to be super slick and super slow. And there’s no way to get the mud in that racing condition. And so, you could go there and practice and test and do all these things, it’s just not going to be the conditions on what it’s going to take to win. And so, guys like Kyle Larson are probably the most valuable people to talk to right now. Clint Bowyer. Anybody. Christopher Bell. Anybody with a dirt background will tell you more about how the dirt’s changing conditions will go versus what I can. It’s just going to be that experience level and that knowledge of what to do when. But it’s Bristol. It’s a lot of big hype. They’ve been pouring mud on that thing since January 1. I heard it’s sold out. And that’s the job we’re all supposed to do is hype it up.”
WITH THE NEWS ON RICK WARE RACING ANNOUNCING CHRIS WINDOM FOR THE BRISTOL DIRT RACE, ARE YOU IN FAVOR OF HAVING DRIVERS RACING CUP IN ONE-OFF ON DIRT RACES KIND OF LIKE ROAD COURSE RINGERS? OR NOT REALLY, CONSIDERING THE CHARTER SYSTEM IN PLACE?
“I’m a racer. I’m game for anybody that wants to show up and race. You always want the best competition out there. You always want to beat the best. Did (Scott) Bloomquist get the ride? I want to see him out there. Is Steve Kinser going to come out of retirement and come out and race with us? That’s what this dirt race is all about. It’s just the newness and then the creativity. How to get a ride and get out there. It’s just like Ron Fellows back in the day. Or Boris Said showing up at a road course. That’s what you want to see. You want to see everybody out there.”
NASCAR HAS TV SHOWS NOW AND YOU’RE ON SOME DIFFERENT PROGRAMS LATELY. WE SAW THE MONSTER ENERGY VIDEO. WHAT IS YOUR CELEBRITY STATUS LIKE RIGHT NOW? WHAT PLANS DO YOU HAVE TO CONTINUE WITH APPEARANCES ON SHOWS OR MORE VIDEOS?
“It’s when the phone rings or when there’s an email or whatever opportunity leads to the next one. My chance to film the cinematography cool picturesque scenes down in the (Florida) Keys with Monster was something important to me because I wanted to get a NASCAR car out on the open road. When you do that, now you’ve got people talking. Production crews, the state of Florida was helping us shut down the bridges. Their tourism bureau was excited to help promote the video. And it just snowballs. The next thing you know you get this phone call over here. Or that person goes and talks over there. It’s the duty and the job of teams and drivers and sponsors. What I mean by that is we have to still have the activation outside of our races. There still needs to be the activation where our fans come back to the Midway areas to create that excitement; and have the commercials and the advertising space that you see out in the general public. When I was putting on my driver’s suit down in Key West and going to do that last scene where we did a burnout on Duval Street, one of the photographers, who doesn’t know anything about NASCAR goes, oh look, he’s got his PJs on. And that’s probably from Denny Hamlin’s Dominos commercial where he’s got his PJs. That’s where we have to connect again to mainstream and to people who don’t necessarily watch NASCAR. We have to be out there pushing. Days of Thunder did huge things for us in the 90’s; Talladega Nights in the mid-2000’s, we’ve just got to keep going. And that’s part of where you basketweave and create a bigger spiderweb that gets more eyeballs to our sport.”
Team Chevy high-resolution racing photos are available for editorial use.
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world’s largest car brands, available in 75 countries with nearly 4 million cars and trucks sold in 2019. Chevrolet models include electric and fuel-efficient vehicles that feature engaging performance, design that makes the heart beat, passive and active safety features and easy-to-use technology, all at a value. More information on Chevrolet models can be found www.chevrolet.com.