MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY
PENNZOIL 400 PRESENTED BY JIFFY LUBE
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT
MARCH 1, 2019
KURT BUSCH, NO. 1 STAR NURSERY CAMARO ZL1 and Craig Keough, President of Star Nursery, met with members of the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and discussed Kurt coming up through the ranks, this week’s aero package, the expectations for qualifying and the race and many other topics. Full Transcript:
KURT WE WILL LET YOU KICK THINGS OFF AND SHARE YOU HAS JOINED YOU TODAY:
KURT BUSCH: “I would love to introduce, Craig Keough, the owner of Star Nursery and my first ever big-time sponsor that started all of this madness back 22 years ago, Craig Keough gave me the opportunity to drive his late model and here we are with a special paint scheme to commemorate that championship run we had in 1999 in the Featherlite Southwest Series. Great to have you on board and great to have this sponsorship and thought we would make sure you got up here to speak about how many plants are for sale at Star Nursery.”
CRAIG TALK ABOUT GETTING TO KNOW KURT:
CRAIG KEOUGH: “I think Kurt was 14 years old when I first met him. A friend of ours, a mutual friend, Joey Mancari, introduced us. Kurt came up and told me all of his high expectations of what he wanted to do and after about a 20-minute speech I listened to, I gave him $100 out of my pocket. Three days later he brought me a picture of his dwarf car with a Star Nursery logo on it, which I still have today. The next one I think was two years later he jumped into a hobby class and I sponsored that car.
HOW DID YOU DO THERE?
KURT BUSCH: “We won four races and we got the championship at the year end.”
CRAIG KEOUGH: “Yeah, got the championship and that was 1996. So, in 1997, I had an opportunity to jump into the Southwest Tour and asked Kurt to be my driver. Well, he had never been in a late model ever and I had to rent a car to break him in and the very first time he was in that car he won here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Pretty unbelievable. The local guys didn’t like him, didn’t like that at all and I think the next race he went out and I think they destroyed the car.”
KURT BUSCH: “Yeah, I got turned sideways off Turn 4 and the car was basically the same shape as a pretzel now that we got turned and wrecked off Turn 4 and that was because we did too good in our first time out.”
CRAIG KEOUGH: “And then the next year, I put him in a Tour car, he did very well, won Rookie of the Year, next year, he exceeded in everything he did, won six races and won the championship. And I think you all know the rest of the story. That was in 1999.”
WHAT DID YOU LEARN DURING THAT FIRST PRACTICE SESSION WITH THE DRAG DUCTS ON THIS PACKAGE?
KURT BUSCH: “Yeah, as far as the new NASCAR package with the drag ducts, and today’s procedures for qualifying practice, I thought it would be easier to hold it wide-open all the way around with the draft. The cars are still able to go wide-open by themselves but we saw a few teams, Gibbs got out there and did a four-car run. We tried at Ganassi to do a two-car run, a few other teams did some runs where they were just trying to catch the air in front of them and that is the game that is being played is how well you can manage catching the right draft. That is what we are going to try to do this evening in qualifying is just try to catch the right amount of air, be able to hold is wide-open and see how things progress. Once we get into race practice tomorrow that is when we will see the Star Nursey special and it’s handling characteristics and what it can do in the draft to be able to stay wide-open, but to be able to do it comfortably.”
ON PHOENIX NEXT WEEK:
KURT BUSCH: “Remember our first trip to Phoenix (Kurt to Craig) we didn’t have brakes at the end and I radioed in it didn’t have brakes and he was like well just lift. Oh well that is a novel idea. Craig was my first spotter as well. He helped me from the top of the grandstands with all his wisdom and also all that car owner passion. He taught me how to protect the race car and at Phoenix it was pretty wild. Turn 4, the exit where you would hold it wide-open as a kid you don’t even know where the corner exit it is and you are driving off into this distance holding it wide-open and Phoenix was really a challenge early on for me.
“Next week when we go there, I’m really looking forward to the package. We have all of our horsepower back and we have full downforce. And so, I’m expecting track record type speeds next week. We will get back to more of our standard style of short track racing with this high downforce and high horsepower package. So, we have had a good variety so far this year with Daytona’s package, Atlanta, here in Vegas and then Phoenix next week. Full downforce, full horsepower that is the one I’m looking forward to.”
DO YOU THINK EVERYONE IS GOING TO WAIT UNTIL THE END OF QUALIFYING AND GO OUT IN A BIG DRAFT OR CAN YOU JUST DRAFT WITH YOUR TEAMMATES AND HAVE AS GOOD OF A RUN IF SOMEBODY WAS IN A 10-CAR DRAFT?
KURT BUSCH: “Craig would just tell me to go out there and hold it wide-open. That is what we will do. I think each round will be a little different. I’m hopeful we will get through that first round with the raw speed in the Star Nursey No. 1 Camaro and then Round 2 and 3 we will see how things progress because we are going to need the air and the draft to be able to advance. Lots of unknowns heading into the round tonight.”
WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE TO WATCH KURT PROGRESS IN HIS RACING CAREER?
CRAIG KEOUGH: “That’s a great question. Very simple – very proud of what he… where he came from and where he is today. I think it’s also very special that Kurt and I have carried our bond through all these years. I don’t know if y’all know this, but this whole deal came together within three weeks. Which, I thought was pretty darn special and very special for all my employees to see the car back on the track because it’s been 15 years.”
WHAT IS YOUR BEST GUESS ON WHAT WE ARE GOING TO SEE ON SUNDAY?
KURT BUSCH: “My best assessment is we are going to see a draft come into play with this new rules package. We are going to see a track that has what I believe to be a harder tire that is less forgiving than Atlanta and there is going to be consequences when cars check up and come out of the gas because they found a bad batch of dirty air. I think the dirty air is going to be magnified this weekend versus what we saw at Atlanta. From my best guess there is going to be cars that are set-up for handling, there are going to be cars set-up for raw speed and I think the engineers right now are figuring out how long they can keep me out on a set of tires because the tires just aren’t wearing out. Therefore, we need to spend less time on pit road, but then that puts the car in a venerable handling condition where you are going to be slip sliding around on tires that have multiple heat cycles. I think the level on anxiety is going to ratchet up this weekend versus what it was at Atlanta.”
THIS CAME TOGETHER QUICK; DID YOU GET SOME KIND OF FREQUENT BUYER DISCOUNT?
CRAIG KEOUGH: “Yes, we had stayed very close together. I had a really firm belief when I brought Kurt into, I guess my stable, I felt it was my opportunity to take him to the next level. I had a really strong gut feeling where he was going to go from Day 1. It was my responsibility to nurture that relationship, teach him everything I could, prepare him for the next level. And I can tell you honestly, when Jack Roush called him at the end of 1999 he didn’t want to go. He said I’m not ready. I said, you are ready, it’s time to move on.”
KURT BUSCH: “The wildest thing was running your (Craig’s) late model in September of 1999 along with my legend car and in September of 2000 was my first Cup start at Dover. So, 12 months removed from running legend cars and late models, I’m starting at Dover in a Cup car. That is how quick it went. That is why I wasn’t ready for all the big-time PR, Marketing, and the overall charisma of what it took.”
CRAIG KEOUGH: “Well, the big jump was going from the Tour car to a Truck race at Daytona.”
KURT BUSCH: “Yeah, first start Daytona. I think I wrecked 10 times and still finished second (laughs).”
WAS HE AS FEISTY BACK THEN AS HE TURNED OUT TO BE ON THE CUP SIDE?
CRAIG KEOUGH: “Oh, he has mellowed.”
DO YOU HAVE A GREEN THUMB?
KURT BUSCH: “Oh, my grandmother was definitely the one that kept our garden up and always made trips to Star Nursery. We got all of our plants for our house there and I tried for a few Palm Trees in North Carolina from Craig, but it’s just too harsh of winters. No, I don’t really have a green thumb, but I know that a lot of green that Craig put up to make the Southwest Tour car happen is what allowed me to make it to the big-time.”
HOW HAVE YOU WATCHED KURT EVOLVE?
CRAIG KEOUGH: “How he has grown and matured. In the very beginning as I guess as a spotter, is the way Kurt ran his life. Everything was full bore, wanted to exceed in anything and everything he did. He wanted to be number one. He wanted to be at the front of the pack and I think over the years, he has definitely understood that be patient, his time will come. And I think it’s a philosophy that he has finally learned and has taken advantage of it today.”