Busch Hoping to Get "Back in Stride" in Sharpie 500

August 18, 2009

BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 18, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch enters Saturday night's Sharpie 500 hoping to add to his remarkable Bristol Motor Speedway career record and get back on track in his goal of making this season's "Chase" for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.

"Bristol has always been like a home track to me and this weekend's race couldn't come at a better time for our Miller Lite Dodge Team," said Busch, who'll be making his 18th career start at B.M.S. in Saturday night's battle. "We always seem to get a little extra 'oomph' going every time we head back to Bristol."

With a career record that boasts five wins and nine top-10 finishes in his 17 starts to date at B.M.S., it's easy to understand Busch's affection for the high-banked concrete half-mile track.

"We had a little setback last Sunday at Michigan as far as the big picture goes and we're looking forward to having the opportunity to get back in stride again this weekend at Bristol," Busch said of his 36th-place finish in last Sunday's CARFAX 400 at Michigan, which dropped him to sixth in the Sprint Cup point standings. "Our biggest focus right now, of course, is to make this year's Chase. We got involved in the crash there at Michigan and we took a hit in the points. It wasn't so much that we dropped a couple of spots down the ladder. We're not overly concerned about that. The most disappointing thing is that our cushion over 13th decreased almost 100 points."

Busch entered last Sunday's Michigan race with a 275-point "buffer" over then 13th-place Kyle Busch. An accident while running 10th after a Lap 120 restart led to the "Blue Deuce" team

recording the 36th-place finish and their first DNF (did not finish) of the 2009 season. Busch enters Bristol with a 178-point advantage over 13th-place Brian Vickers, who was successful in employing fuel mileage strategy to win the Michigan race.

"There are three races remaining to decide this year's 12-team Chase field and we certainly are trying to do everything we can to be one of the players in that," said Busch. "The Michigan finish leaves us in an unusual spot. We'd hoped to have a big enough buffer entering Bristol that we could take chances in trying to win and score those extra bonus points when the Chase kicks in. I guess you could say that the Michigan results kicked us back into a more conservative mode coming into Bristol.

"Bristol is always so fast and furious that almost anything can happen there," said Busch. "With the situation we're in, we need to do everything possible to keep all the fenders on our Miller Lite Dodge and be running at the finish there on Saturday night."

Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing Team will be debuting a brand new Miller Lite Dodge Charger this weekend at Bristol, opting to roll out the "PRS-611" chassis. The first time this car has ever touched a race track will be in Friday's initial practice session at B.M.S.

"We're coming in there looking at it as a blast from the past," Tryson said. "Rusty (Wallace, former driver of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, who retired after 2005) was one of the first drivers who went against the grain and had his team bring brand new race cars to Bristol.

"The old school thinking was that Bristol was always such a demanding and physical race that you brought your oldest and most expendable race cars there," said Tryson. "Rusty used to make a big deal about bringing out new race cars for the Bristol races. He won there nine times and showed everyone that he knew exactly what he was doing. How many times did Rusty come in there with a brand new car and put a real whipping on the field? I dare say that half of his wins at Bristol came behind the wheel of brand new race cars.

"We're heading in there this weekend with a similar attitude," said Tryson. "Kurt has five wins at Bristol and it's easy to look at him as the modern-day Rusty Wallace on that track. It'd be really cool if we can help get Kurt his sixth career win there - this one in a brand new car - at Bristol this weekend."

Busch started 19th and finished 15th in last year's Sharpie 500. In the most recent race at Bristol - the March 22 Food City 500 - Busch started 32nd and finished 11th.

"I'm confident that we'll be much stronger at Bristol this weekend," said Tryson. "We have stronger race cars and a better handling package now than we did last August or even back in the spring. We saw a great improvement at places like Dover and think we'll be a factor at Bristol. That 11th-place finish at Bristol back in the spring doesn't really tell the whole story. We started back in the field, marched up through the pack and got caught up in a logjam that really damaged the front end of our car. We got it fixed the best we could and Kurt had to start at the rear of the field again. He took a wrecked race car and got an 11th-place finish with it. Believe me, we'll be much stronger this time around."

This weekend's action at Bristol Motor Speedway gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 12:00 noon till 1:30 p.m. The final practice for the Sprint Cup cars is set from 2:00 p.m. till 3:30 p.m. on Friday (live on SPEED). Saturday night's 43-car starting field will be determined in Friday's 5:40 p.m. single round of Cup qualifying (live on ESPN2). Saturday's Sharpie 500 (500 laps, 266.5 miles) Sprint Cup race has an 8:00 p.m. EDT starting time, with ESPN and PRN Radio presenting live coverage.