After Shootout Win, Busch Revved Up for Daytona 500

February 16, 2011

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 15, 2011) - Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Dodge out of the Penske Racing stable, claimed a breakthrough restrictor-plate victory in last Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout here at Daytona International Speedway. The 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion is now focused on getting his initial points-paying plate race win in this Sunday's 53rd Daytona 500 on the 2.5-mile tri-oval.

"We're hoping to double up with our Shell-Pennzoil ‘Double-Deuce" Dodge and make it a sweep by winning the Daytona 500," said Busch. "Winning the Shootout last weekend was certainly a thrill and was huge for our team. After coming to Daytona and trying so hard over the last 11 years, it was so special to finally be able to pull into Victory Lane.

"Daytona is a track that I've always respected and always will," said Busch, who will be making his 11th career Daytona 500 start in Sunday's edition of the "Great American Race." "Every time I come to Daytona, I always think of all the times that I've finished second - not just in the Sprint Cup cars, but in the Truck Series and in IROC, too. It was certainly a special moment to finally get into the winner's circle at Daytona.

"Steve Addington, my crew chief, and I are pretty good at knocking out those big events together," said Busch. "We won the (NASCAR Sprint) All-Star Race at Charlotte last spring and now we've won the Shootout together. A week after we won the All-Star Race, we came right back and won the Coca-Cola 600. It was not only the highlight of our season last year, those two wins rate as high points in my career.

"So we've officially won a plate race at Daytona," said Busch. "No, it wasn't a points race, but it still counts as a win - at least it does in my mind. Our goal is to come back and make it a Daytona sweep by winning the Daytona 500. Our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team is bubbling with confidence after last weekend. It would definitely be the biggest day of my career if we can pull it off."

Busch is certainly due to win a points-paying restrictor-plate race, especially here at Daytona.

Busch finished second in the 2003 edition of the Daytona 500 and backed that up with a similar impressive statistic in the 2005 edition of the race. His most current and most revered runner-up finish at Daytona came in the 2008 Daytona 500. That race saw Busch push Ryan Newman, then a teammate at Penske Racing, across the finish line to score the first Daytona 500 (and first-ever restrictor-plate race) win for Roger Penske's high-profile racing organization.

"We've finished second - as the bridesmaid - in three different 500s entering this weekend," offered Busch, who'll be making his 21st overall DIS start here on Sunday. "I finished second to Michael Waltrip back in 2003 and we were right there on winner Jeff Gordon's rear bumper in the 2005 Daytona 500. But, nothing - absolutely nothing - could come close to the runner-up finish we had here in 2008. Yes, it was another race win that got away from us, yet it was so different from the other years. I remember going into Victory Lane to congratulate (Ryan) Newman and his team and genuinely believed I wasn't infringing on anybody. I actually felt like a piece of me deserved to be in there celebrating, too.

"Because 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. You can't help but think that had we been a little greedy and not the big team player that we were, it could have very well been the ‘Blue Deuce' in Victory Lane here that day."

Busch, a 22-race winner at the premier level of stock car racing, enters Sunday's Daytona 500 hoping to pick up his first points race restrictor-plate win in his 41st career plate race start.

In his 20 Daytona races to date, Busch has posted nine top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. His average finish is 17.0 and he has been running at the finish in all but one of the races. In his 40-race overall restrictor-plate racing career (with another 20 career starts at Talladega), Busch is still looking for that first win, but he has recorded 15 top-five finishes and 24 top-10s.

"With the new package NASCAR has given us to work with since last weekend, it will certainly make for an interesting Daytona 500 race week," Busch said of rules adjustments to the size of the air inlet for the cooling system and settings on the pressure release valve. "I know they want to slow the cars down and break up the two-car tandems like we've seen so far with the new pavement. Wednesday's practice sessions will see what effect the changes make.

"If it's still the case where you race with a partner, you can be sure that you'll see Brad (Keselowksi, Penske Racing Teammate and driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) and I hook up out there," Busch said. "That won't be possible in the 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday because I'm in the first race and he's in the second. But if that's the way we race in the 500, you can expect to see the ‘Double Deuce' and the ‘Deuce' hooked up together and really getting after it out there."

The first of Thursday's "Gatorade Duels" 150-mile qualifying races gets the green flag at 2:00 p.m. EST. Live coverage of all the action will be provided by SPEED-TV and MRN Radio. Sunday's 53rd Annual Daytona 500 has a scheduled 1:00 p.m. EST starting time here at Daytona International Speedway. FOX-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.