Kurt, first off, welcome back, and obviously this has been a trying couple of months, especially the last couple of weeks. What does it mean to get back in a race car this weekend at Phoenix?
KURT BUSCH: Well, thanks, Mike. It means the world to me to be back in the car. It's been a tough situation the last few months, and I've gone through this with confidence knowing that I know the truth and that I never did any of the things that I was accused of. It was a complete fabrication.
But it's unfortunate that my personal life crossed over and affected my business life, but I can't wait to get to the track, to see my team, to shake their hands and say thanks for the support, and to go out there and make my first lap this weekend.Q. I'm wondering if you still plan to pursue an appeal of the family court's decision, and is that important to you as other such stops are important to make sure you clear your name in every way possible?
KURT BUSCH: What's happened so far in court, there's been no winners. Everybody has lost on that portion of it.
I have my attorneys handling the pending appeals, and I'll leave that to them. My focus is with the race team, with Gene Haas and everybody at Haas Automation to get our Chevy into victory lane and to continue moving forward.Q. I'm wondering during the last few weeks what you felt you were fighting for, and maybe the answer is all of the above, if you were fighting for your reputation, your innocence, or your career?
KURT BUSCH: Well, I understand why NASCAR needed to take the action that it did. This is a very serious issue. I mean, the way that NASCAR reacted, it was different than what we had been told all along. They were more focused on the criminal side, as were we, but the commissioner's ruling was not necessarily what was the important factor here. The important factor is that what I was accused of was a complete fabrication, and I never wavered through this whole process because of the confidence in the truth, and I had the support from Gene Haas and everybody at SHR, and that's where my focus has been. It's been on the racing side of it, and I never lost that confidence and that drive, and so it's a humbling experience, but it's made me more focused and determined.
Q. Kurt, you talked about kind of regaining your reputation. Will you still keep "Outlaw" above the door to your car? Do you still kind of go with that outlaw persona? Does that have to change or is that still who you are?
KURT BUSCH: You know, my focus is the race car. My reputation has always been what I've done behind the wheel, and it's moments that I hope to battle and put out on the track like I did with Ricky Craven in the closest finish in the history of NASCAR, it's to focus on the wins at the tracks that I haven't won on or to deliver for Gene Haas on the trophies that he signed me on for that he wants in his trophy room.
My reputation will iron itself out in whichever way that it is, but my focus is the race car, and as I move forward, I'm putting my signature above the door of the car, and I'm proud to have my signature on the side of a car that Gene Haas has and to carry his name into victory lane.
Q. You've missed the first three races of the year, obviously, but you've still mathematically got a very good chance at making the Chase. What do you have to do to make that happen?
KURT BUSCH: It's working with the great group of people at Stewart‑Haas Racing. Kevin Harvick is a winner already this year. Him and Rodney Childers have gone above and beyond what we all expected them to do here, and with Tony Gibson, he has that team in place, and we proved that at the end of last year with our top finishes of the year those last three races.
I hope to start off this year in that same pattern, and my start is a little late. It's at Phoenix. So I'm looking forward to it. I believe I've got cars that are capable of winning races, now I've just got to go out there and do my job.
Q. I'm curious if you can give any details about what NASCAR and the outside expert that they summoned to put you through the paces here required of you, and secondly, what's been the hardest part about this whole thing for you?
KURT BUSCH: You know, I'm appreciative of the process, of the road to recovery. To me it's a roadmap that they laid out that I am respecting. It's created such a good foundation to utilize moving forward that I wish I would have done it sooner. And the hardest part about all of this has been sitting out watching the 41 car go around the racetrack, especially at the Daytona 500. Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks, and Las Vegas is my hometown track. It's been torture sitting out of the car.
Q. What did you learn being out of the race car, because difficult times teach everybody something. As you sat out of the car and went through all of this for a very long time, what did you learn being out of the car? What did you learn during this time period? And will it be hard to race the way that you race with all attention on you as you move forward?
KURT BUSCH: You know what I learned, the best thing is or what I have been to deal with and what's been the hardest is out of the race car. Being in that race car is a privilege, and it's a feeling that you can't describe when you go out there for practice each and every weekend. You drive down into the corner, the car sticks, you stand on the gas, and you drive out of the corner, it's an experience that not a lot of people get to do, and I get a chance to race against the best in the world in NASCAR.
Talking with Brian France and going through this road, he told me, he says, don't change. Don't be the person that's different in the car, but be a different person outside of the car, and so Brian said, go be yourself in that car. That's what we really love. We love Kurt Busch behind the wheel. Go out there, use that passion, go for those wins, and that's my focus is to be humble through this whole process but let actions speak louder than words.