Kurt Busch - NASCAR Cup Series Preview Coke Zero 400

July 1, 2008

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 1, 2008) - Entering Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch is still looking for his first Daytona win and his initial career restrictor-plate victory. But after finishing second on three occasions, including his highly-publicized runner-up finish to Penske Racing teammate Ryan Newman in the season-opening Daytona 500 this year, Busch thinks a win could come this weekend.

"Maybe this is my time at Daytona," said Busch, who found his way back to Victory Lane last Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in a race won by strategy. "I've always believed that if you put yourself in a position to win long enough, you're bound to win one sooner or later.

"We've certainly played the bridesmaid's role for our fair share of times," said Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion who possesses a remarkable career record in restrictor-plate racing despite not yet having a win. "Sooner or later, you have to be the bride. We finished third at Daytona last July and second there in February. We returned to the winner's circle last Sunday at New Hampshire. Maybe there's some kind of karma involved. We're heading in the right direction to finally win, especially if you consider the numbers."

Busch finished as runner-up to 2003 Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip and he finished second to 2005 Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon, but neither performance got near the attention of his feat back in February of this year.

"The fact that it was two teammates working so closely together on the final lap and finishing first and second was newsworthy enough," said Busch. "But the fact that it was Roger's (Penske, team owner) first victory in stock car racing's biggest race in the world sent the significance factor into orbit."

While Newman was victorious in February and able to bring home Penske Racing's first Daytona win and the team's first-ever restrictor-plate victory, Busch's story there was every bit as compelling.

Due to electrical problems in his Thursday 150-mile qualifying race, Busch was forced to use his "champion's provisional" and start dead last (43rd) on the grid.

He overcame a glut of obstacles en route to his runner-up finish. Fighting an ill-handling Miller Lite Dodge for the majority of the 200-lap, 500-mile battle, Busch bounced back from a speeding penalty and a serious overheating condition to push teammate Newman on the final lap to give car owner Roger Penske's first win in "The Great American Race."

"We started last and came back from all kinds of problems," said Busch. "Just to persevere and be up there in a position to win was pretty amazing. I honestly thought we had a shot at winning the race. But, you know, having that mindset all day of just plugging away, working our way up, and if this thing ends and we're 10th or better, that's a victory from a mental standpoint. That's what was really motivating us back in February.

"It was a great run for our Miller Lite Dodge and a very historical day for Roger and Penske Racing," said Busch. "It was an emotional occasion for all of us, that's for sure. I was certainly proud to play a role in it all."

Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 will be Busch's 31st career restrictor-plate race and no driver yet to win has better numbers.

Last year, Busch trailed only Jeff Gordon in picking up the most points in the four plate races. He led almost twice as many laps as Gordon (147 to 81), yet Gordon scored two wins. In the four plate races during the 2007 season, Busch scored two top-five finishes and three top-10s. After finishing runner-up to teammate Newman in the season-opening Daytona 500 this year, Busch's overall restrictor-plate record sports 13 top-five finishes and 18 top-10s in 30 races. At Daytona, his record to date shows seven top-five finishes in 15 starts.

"Without a doubt, Kurt is the best-ever restrictor-plate racer yet to win one of these things," crew chief Pat Tryson said. "I don't think there's anybody in the garage that would argue about that. Given an equal playing field, I'd put him up against anybody out there. Even if you come in with a slight disadvantage, Kurt is so good in these races that his talent can make up for a lot of what might be lacking elsewhere."

This weekend's action at Daytona gets under way on Thursday with practice sessions scheduled from 4:00 p.m. till 5:20 p.m. and from 6:35 p.m. till 7:45 p.m. Friday's 4:10 p.m. single round of qualifying will establish Saturday night's 43-car starting field. All cars will be impounded immediately after time trials. Saturday's Coke Zero 400 (160 laps, 400 miles) is scheduled to start just after 8:00 p.m. EDT and features live coverage by TNT-TV and MRN Radio.

--Kurt, Pat and the Miller Lite Team will be racing their PSC-522 Dodge Charger this weekend at Daytona. It is the same car that Kurt and crew raced in the season-opening Daytona 500 where he posted the now-famous runner-up finish. The "522" debuted last October at Talladega, where Kurt started 41st and finished seventh. It has not been raced since Daytona on Feb. 17. "We repackaged the car as a new Miller Lite Dodge Charger for this season and put her back through the wind tunnel several times," said Pat. "We have a lot of faith in this car and nobody out there doubts Kurt's abilities in restrictor-plate racing. We're hoping for a great weekend."

--Kurt's hitting the baseball parks this week - schedule saw him attend the Florida Marlins/Washington National games at Dolphin Stadium in Miami on Monday night and will be at the Tampa Bay Rays/Boston Red Sox game tonight (Tuesday, 7/1) at Tropicana Field in Tampa. "It's all part of my goal to hit every major league venue," said Kurt. "This is the first part of our ‘boys & baseball" tour for the summer of 2008. We've had this trip scheduled for some time now and to come off the big win at Loudon and head to Florida was cool. We still plan on doing all our media obligations that go with it all. We went to the ABC-TV affiliate studios in Miami to do the NASCAR Now interview for ESPN yesterday (Monday) and we've been doing a ton of the radio call-ins. We'll be sitting in the stands in Tampa tonight when we call in to the Eli Gold show. As for the stadium count now, knocking out these two stadiums this week means we're down to only a handful like Seattle, Washington's new stadium and a couple of other."

--Loudon race recap - Kurt's win last Sunday was his 18th win in 273 career starts. It was his third career win at New Hampshire. It was his fourth victory for Penske Racing (in 89 races). Kurt has now won at least one race a year for the last six years. Entering last Sunday, his most recent win came at Michigan in August 2007, 29 races ago.

--From the heart - Kurt's post-race comments after the win on Sunday struck home with Pat and all the members of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Team. "It's been a long year trying to get Penske Racing back to form," Kurt said in his post-victory press conference, with Pat sitting by his side. "We started off with a bang at Daytona. We feel like we have all the right people. I love Pat Tryson (Crew Chief) and all the crew guys right underneath him. I like all the guys back at the shop. We just can't quite put our finger on what we need."

"That really meant so much to all of our No. 2 team members who are working so hard," Pat said on Tuesday morning. "What's been so difficult is that there are so many people - fans, media and sponsor types - who listen in on our radio frequency during the races," said Pat. "They hear things during the thick of the battle that can be misunderstood or misconstrued. Kurt is an intense competitor and he wants to win every race - we all do or we wouldn't be here doing this. The fact is that we are playing catch-up in