Kurt Busch Searches for Restrictor-Plate Win at Talladega

April 22, 2009

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 22 2009) - The NASCAR Sprint Cup tour heads back to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend for the Aaron's 499, the second of four exciting and nerve-wracking restrictor-plate races along the 2009 schedule. It's easy to assume that many competitors are dreading the upcoming weekend and only a few are genuinely looking forward to it.

Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch is definitely among that latter group heading back to the massive 2.66-mile Alabama speed plant. For Busch, the 2004 series champ and a 19-race winner in 300 career starts, Sunday's Aaron's 499 offers him the opportunity to finally crack into the win column in restrictor-plate racing. It also offers a major step toward reaching his goal of making the "Chase" for the 2009 points title.

Sunday's battle at Talladega will be Busch's 33rd career restrictor-plate race (16 at Talladega and 17 at Daytona) and no driver yet to win has better numbers. After getting caught up in "the big one" in the season-opening Daytona 500, Busch amazingly fought back to advance 20 spots in the final 18 laps to post another top-10 finish. Entering this weekend, Busch may still be looking for his first win in "plate racing," but his record sports 14 top-five finishes and 20 top-10s in 32 races.

"It's just a brand of racing that I really took to from my very first race at Talladega," said Busch, who finished third in his first visit to the massive 2.66-mile Alabama track. "It can get really wild and it's as nerve-wracking experience as there could ever be, but I've really grown to enjoy the challenge that these races present.

"I've always looked at it as a huge strategic exercise that puts a premium on so many of your senses," offered Busch, whose 12.5 average career finish at Talladega is the best of all active drivers. "Of course, you have to have a fairly strong race car to begin with. But the key has always been to avoid the wrecks and be there in the thick of things when the laps are winding down. The way the drafting works, you don't always have to have the strongest car out there in order to win.

"I don't know what driver first called it a high-speed chess match, but that's a pretty good analogy and I've always thought of the competition that way," said Busch. "It's like you come down to the finish looking to be among the lead pack. Then it comes down to making your strategic moves out there while at the same time anticipating the next moves of all the guys around you.

"It often gets really hairy out there and you're forced to really hang it all out on the line," said Busch. "But the way I've always looked at it is what we do every race is certainly not for the weak at heart. These races just always seem to bump it up a notch or two on the stress meter - for the drivers, team members and especially the fans.

"The fans love it," said Busch, "and to tell you the truth, I do, too. I know it's hard for most people to understand, but the more I'm right in the middle of the lead pack, the more comfortable I am in the car. I feel like I learn something each time I'm in that position, especially how to survive it and get a good finish out of it.

"So that's the strategy for our Miller Lite Dodge team as we head back to Talladega for another dose of restrictor-plate racing," said Busch, currently third in the Sprint Cup point standings, trailing leader Jeff Gordon by 98 points, but enjoying a 207-point cushion over 13th-place Mark Martin. "If we can avoid all the mayhem that you can always expect in races there, it's an opportunity to possibly grab us a win or at least a good finish and use it to help toward solidifying a spot on up there with the Chase contenders."

Crew chief Pat Tryson certainly has the utmost confidence in his driver heading into the season's second restrictor-plate race.

"Without a doubt, Kurt is the best-ever plate racer yet to win one of these things," 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. Just look at where he has been starting and finishing over the years. He has the knack and ability to make up a lot we may be lacking in the strength of our cars.

"Watching Kurt maneuver our Miller Lite Dodge during the final laps of a restrictor-plate race is pretty incredible and it really is thrilling to witness," said Tryson. "It's worth the price of a radio or scanner just to listen in and watch him do his magic. With about 10 laps to go in the race, he'll come on the radio and ask me to start counting down the laps. What he does with our car is incredible.

"Our goal as always for this weekend is to give Kurt the best race car we can for these plate races," concluded Tryson. "If the strength of our car can match that of our driver, it'll definitely be a potentially winning combination this Sunday at Talladega."

This weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule at Talladega Superspeedway gets under way with Friday's opening practice from 1:00 p.m. till 2:00 p.m. The final session of Sprint Cup practice is set to run on Friday from 2:30 p.m. till 3:30 p.m. Coors Light Pole Award qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday's 43-car starting field is scheduled to begin at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday, with all cars impounded immediately after the session. Sunday's Aaron's 499 (188 laps, 500.08 miles) has a 1:00 p.m. CDT starting time and features live coverage by FOX-TV and MRN Radio.