23XI Racing driver Kurt Busch was made available to media prior to the Bristol Motor Speedway race this Saturday:
KURT BUSCH, No. 45 Monster Energy Toyota Camry TRD, 23XI Racing
Can you give us an update of how your practice was yesterday and how the track looks today?
“I feel like the way that everybody has adapted to this in the second year in the Cup Series and the Trucks to dirt being on top of Bristol – it seems like there is more confidence out of everybody and the practice sequences and how you attack them are all about that track prep and how you read the mud. With yesterday’s practice, I thought we were a top-five car in the first practice and the second one we were sideways loose, struggling for grip. I’m glad we had both of those elements in both of our practices yesterday for my team on the No. 45 car. So, with Billy Scott (crew chief) and my engineering group, the mechanics, we all have our theories in dirt racing and with Bubba (Wallace) and the way that he approaches it, as well, it’s just a matter of collecting the right information and then applying it to each of our sequences or each of our times on track. Watching the truck races – their heat races will be important for our heat races, and then we will see how the mud looks and what the trucks will do in the different stages tonight and who ultimately wins will have to do it on a dry slick style dirt. That’s what we will end up seeing with the Cup cars, but to start tomorrow’s race we are going to see it just as muddy as this is right now, so you have to go through all of the changes and make sure you adapt to all of the changing circumstances.”
How long does it take a veteran driver like yourself to embrace all of the recent changes?
“Ever since we had the break for COVID and came back, it’s been night and day, so you roll with it. You just smile. For me, it gives me an appreciation more so of my job and the fun that this is and the challenge that it takes for everybody to keep finding that rhythm of that sequence. I would honestly say that the crew chiefs and the crew members have a tougher time than the drivers do. Each week is fun, new challenges everywhere we go.”
Has your previous success here helped you since it’s been covered in dirt?
“For me, I ran dirt back in the mid-90s in a little dwarf car. When we found a rhythm with that car at some of the dirt tracks we traveled to, the setup didn’t change much. We just stuck with three or four things to try to make it easy and to make it travel and go to all of the different styles of mud or banking. With Bristol being dirt, it’s completely different than the concrete. The spring race had its attitude versus the night race on how it raced. The old Bristol versus the new Bristol with the way the concrete was reconfigured. This Next Gen car – every week – is a fun, new challenge – with all honesty. I have over two decades of experience, but I try to throw all of that out and just go with it and just challenge myself with my team to get the best results for the No. 45 Toyota Camry.”
How would the schedule look if you were in charge of it in the future?
“I think we made huge improvements last year. All of the new venues we went to seemed to have that inaugural vibe. The energy level was up with everything that went on in Road America, Nashville, the Indy Road Course even had that different feel through the garage area. Everywhere we are looking to go with dirt here at Bristol, whatever we can do to keep things right on that edge of doing it for the right reason and integrity of NASCAR and to know that these are oval cars that are supposed to be going 185 mph. That’s important, but also to be reaching out to new demographics, new fans, new markets. That’s a key element. Keeping the variety going is what I would recommend.”
NASCAR and FOX see tomorrow night as a big opportunity. What kind of race do fans need to see to justify that?
“It’s the product. We know that we have a show to produce. We have the cars and the way that they have to look on track, whether it’s the speed, whether it’s the passing. We are going to see cars sideways and in yaw, and it’s like the best stock cars drivers in the world are hanging on to these things and putting on a great show. The 250-lap count is tough because you are just cooking that dirt and now you are ending up with way more dust and it’s very difficult to control that so, I’m hopeful that the night element helps the dust level stay down. It helps the mud level and the consistency of the track stay more consistent, because if it is in the day, you are just going to cook it and get it slicker quicker. The atmosphere of a cool coliseum effect, the stands all wrapped around this track. It’s rare you see 150,000 seats ready to watch a race and this is a good show to stand on. I don’t know what produces a good show other than cars side-by-side and commentators talking about what makes it fun to be a fan in this sport and what it means to have fun as a driver, owner as well as the sponsors being involved.”
How confident are you that the double-wide racing can exist throughout the race?
“It looked great. That was the biggest thing. I was on a FOX production call earlier this week talking about track prep and the fun, quick answer was it was a monsoon last year. What do you do with that type of track prep? I’m like I think we are going to see something different. Kudos to the staff here at BMS and the way the dirt crew has made the track look thus far. Let’s hope the Truck race goes that same way and we can get that with the Cup cars. It’s just tough. Our Cup cars are 3,600 pounds. They are 40 of us out there and we are blazing the tires across the surface and that is why we cook it more than any other dirt series in the world.”
Can you talk about the decision to paint the top of the wall white?
“That’s good. I just thought because I was one of the older guys, I just couldn’t find the wall and then the white line people would rub the white line with their left side tires and it’s like wow, everything is dirt out here. I think a few guys have recommended something for the outer wall and then the inside line, I guess they just need to go out there with a quick paint crew. Just like you would do in baseball – put in a new chalk or new lines to help during the stage breaks. We’ve all got to work together the right way and we should all be pretty darn smart from the all the dirt racing that we have for experience in this group.”
Toyota Racing PR