Kurt Busch Eyeing First Darlington Win On Saturday

May 7, 2009

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 5, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has the dubious distinction of finishing second in the closest finish in the history of electronic scoring and timing along the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit. Forever a prominent clip on the sport's highlight reel, Ricky Craven beat Busch by a mere 0.002 seconds in the March 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway.

"Sure, I think about that race and the way it turned out every time we return to Darlington and I'm sure it'll be the same situation when we go back there this weekend," said Busch, who is still looking for his first career Darlington win, but has the one top-five finish and four top-10s in 12 starts there entering this weekend's return. "How can you ever forget a finish like that? I'd certainly say the exact same thing even if I was not personally involved.

"When Ricky and I staged that nail-biter at Darlington back in 2003, we were racing the smaller cars on old asphalt with softer tires," said Busch of the classic battle on the historical 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval. "The conditions are totally different now than then. We have the bigger and boxier cars. We have the newer asphalt and harder Goodyear Tires to race on.

"But with all that said, the goal remains the same as it was from the very first time I ever raced at Darlington," said Busch, who competed for the first time at Darlington on March 18, 2001. "Regardless of all the factors involved, the goal and strategy is the same as it ever was. It really is true that you race the track first and don't worry about the competition until the later stages of the race.

"That battle with Craven is a classic example of that fact about racing at Darlington," said Busch. "We started sixth in that race and didn't lead a single lap until with just a little over 20 laps to go. Our biggest concern was making it to the finish first, then putting ourselves in a position to go for it at the end. Ricky started back in the pack (31st) and battled the track all day to be in the right position there in the final laps. He never led a single lap until the final one. He was able to lead the lap that counted the most and that's what the record books will always show.

"I really want to finally beat that old track," said Busch, who has finished 12th in his last two Darlington visits. "With all the history there and with the return to the race being known as the Southern 500, it would be special, that's for sure. It would certainly be a treasured addition to get my 20th career Cup win at Darlington this weekend and have a trophy to prove we finally did come out of there on top."

While Busch and crew are focused on the immediate goal of tackling the demanding Darlington track, crew chief Pat Tryson continues to be one of the best "big picture" team leaders in the sport. "We're doing everything we possibly can in our effort to get Kurt back into Victory Lane this weekend at Darlington," said Tryson, who'll be making only his third trip to Darlington leading Busch's Penske Racing No. 2 team. "We're bringing out a brand new Miller Lite Dodge Charger (PRS-608) this weekend and are confident that we'll be able to run up front.

"You have to be running in the lead lap at the finish to have a shot at winning it and that'll be the same goal there this weekend," offered Tryson, whose team has completed an incredible 3,253 of 3,254 laps of 2009 competition entering Darlington. "We've been really consistent in giving Kurt some strong cars to race on the intermediate tracks and we'll be looking to continue that at Darlington."

When it was pointed out that Busch finished 12th at Darlington the last two years and he also finished 12th last Saturday night at Richmond, Tryson was quick to tout the importance of those finishes.

"Sure, you want the wins and the top-fives and top-10s," said Tryson, "but you take those 12th-place finishes and are happy to put them in the ‘big-picture bank' for the season on down the road. We led laps and ran in the top-five for the big majority of the race last Saturday night at Richmond. Like I told Kurt after the race, if I had the opportunity to make the call again, I would have brought him in for fresh tires there with 50 laps to go like Tony Stewart (second-place finisher) and Jeff Burton (third-place finisher) did.

"Our major goal at this point of the schedule is to make this year's Chase," said Tryson, whose teams have done so in four of the last five seasons. "Although we wanted a lot more out of the race at Richmond last weekend, that 12th-place finish wasn't too bad as far as the big picture goes. We came into the race with a 266-point buffer on 13th and we came out of there with a 275-point advantage. We're really keeping an eye on that number as we click off the races heading down to the Chase."

Tryson is referring to the fact that his team entered Richmond, the 10th race of the season, with a 266-point advantage (or "buffer") on 13th-place Ryan Newman. After finishing 12th there, the advantage grew to 275 points over David Ruetimann, now 13th in points and looking from the outside of Chase eligibility.

This weekend's Darlington action gets under way on Friday with practice scheduled from 11:30 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. and from 1:30 till 2:30 p.m. Friday's 5:10 p.m. single round of qualifying will establish Saturday's 43-car starting field, with all cars impounded immediately after the session. Saturday's Southern 500 (367 laps, 501.3 miles) has a 7:20 p.m. EDT starting time and features live coverage by FOX-TV and MRN Radio.