Next month sees the biggest race of the NASCAR series, the Daytona 500 and teams and drivers are preparing for the start of the new series.

During testing for the event, Kurt Busch, driver of the #97 Sharpie/Irwin Ford Taurus talked about the changes taking place in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series in 2004.

Q:
There are a number of changes taking place in 2004. How do you feel about some of the policy changes?
Kurt Busch:
It seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same. It's just a matter of adapting to the new times, whether it's the points system, whether it's provisionals or whether it's testing. I'm all for the testing changes, it's gonna be great. One day tests are gonna be fantastic, you'll roll in there and thrash right through it and then you're out of there that same day. I think the provisional change is more of a political move to have more cars participate in every event, rather than just get a few cars that come in for specific events.
Q:
How do you feel about the proposed changes to the points system?
KB:
It's difficult to change it that dramatically because you'll have sponsors that will come in and sign you up for two-thirds of the year and then if you do get into the top 10, they'll give you an additional bonus for the final third of the season. As far as the drivers are concerned, it seems as if you get locked out of the top ten - say you're eleventh - and you go and win three races and have a great finish to the year like I did in 2002, I could have won the championship. But you never know what they're gonna decide as far as the break point.
Q:
How do you see 2004?
KB:
We've come to Daytona to prepare and we have yet to have our big sit down meetings as far as what we think we need to accomplish this year. But, obviously, every year that you go in you have a fresh start, a fresh look and you're building new cars because you want to go as fast as you can each week.
Q:
Are we going to see any major changes for 2004?
KB:
None at all, really. We only changed our front tyre changer because he wasn't producing adequate pit stops. Other than that, it's 100 percent return from guys at the shop and guys that are building the cars, including engineers. It's great to see that, especially with all the turmoil we went through last year with not really living up to the expectations we thought we could have. But with four wins and finishing up in the points, we still did all right.
Q:
How do you feel the team has to improve this year?
KB:
We just try to move forward with every day methods and not try to overstep any boundary. We're building great cars already. We're gonna go and test out in Las Vegas and it's just a matter of being consistent. We had a motor failure early last year and a wreck and that knocked us back in points. It took a while to build back up, but we did achieve second place in points after California when we won there, so we just need to be a bit more consistent.
Q:
How important is the Daytona 500?
KB:
It's the most prestigious race. It's odd that our season starts with the Super Bowl, but our sport isn't like any other sport. It's not the NFL. It's not the NBA. There are 43 teams trying to vie for one victory. It's not just two teams and that's why a playoff-type system would be somewhat out of the ordinary for any type of racing series because they pay you to be consistent point-wise everywhere we go.
Q:
How big would it be for you to win the Daytona?
KB:
It's difficult to put it in perspective. I watched Dale Earnhardt so many years be the best car on the race track and go through so much turmoil, so many different things kept him away from Victory Lane. You have to go through many years of suffering to understand how important this race is.
Q:
Who do you see as favourites this year?
KB:
I almost see a carbon copy of the top 10 finishers last year in the top 10 again. Matt Kenseth isn't gonna lay down, but I think Hendrick will have a good year as well as DEI. So there are a lot of good teams and, of course, we're somewhat married with Yates. Now it's gonna be more team-mates working together, and I think that can only benefit our situation.
Q:
So is this year a fresh start?
KB:
Every year you have a fresh start whether it's been a bad year or a good year.

 

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