Busch's "Finishing Power" Puts Him Points Contention

April 27, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. (April 26, 2011) -- Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch is still looking for his first victory during the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, but after eight races his "finishing power" has kept him in the thick of things in the point standings. Entering this weekend's Crown Royal presents the Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400, Busch is not getting headlines for winning the points races, but he's certainly doing some things right. After all, the 2004 series champion holds down the fifth spot in the point standings.

Perhaps never in the history of NASCAR Racing has there been a better example of the credibility of the old racing adage, "To finish first, you must first finish" (which is most-often credited to Penske Racing legend Rick Mears) than what Busch has been able to put up so far this season.

Busch does enter Richmond fifth in the Sprint Cup point standings and that is enough to have many scratching their heads and asking how that can be. After all his season-opening success in the non-points races at Daytona (winning the Budweiser Shootout and his 150-mile qualifying race), Busch is still looking for his first win of the season. His record does boast one top-five finish and five top-10s and that may be impressive enough to warrant credibility. A quick look at the statistics so far this season may not offer the answer. But a deeper analysis can provide sound reasons.

After eight races, Kurt Busch has recorded the fourth-best average finish of any of the competitors. His 11.2 is bettered only by points leader's Carl Edwards' 8.2, second-place Jimmie Johnson's 8.9 and third-place Dale Earnhardt's 10.0 average. Busch is one of six drivers in the current top-12 in the points without a DNF (did not finish) and that certainly is a plus, yet his total of five bonus points ranks only eighth among the top competitiors.

The most obscure - yet striking and of utmost importance - statistic for Busch after 22.2 percent of the races have been placed into the record book isn't found anywhere prominently. Busch has persevered during all the races so far this year with only a single unfinished lap (in April 3 Goody's 500 at Martinsville). He has amazingly completed 2,508 of the 2,509 possible laps for an unbelievable 99.960 percent lap completion average.

Compare that figure to Edward's 97.6 average (61 uncompleted laps), Kevin Harvick's (fourth in points with two wins) 92.5 average (188 uncompleted laps) and brother Kyle Busch's (sixth in points with one win and four top-fives) 91.8 average (205 uncompleted laps).

"We've been finishing the laps and that's been crucial in keeping us up there in the points," said Busch, who was ninth in points at this time last year with one win, three top-five finishes and four top-10s. "But our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team is smart enough to know that just finishing the laps won't be enough on down the road. We have to take the finishing the laps and scoring top-10s and bump it up to the next level. If we're gonna be in serious contention come September, we have to start threatening for wins and finishing in the top-five.

"Sometimes it's good to be like the ‘stealth' and fly under the radar screen," Busch said of his position in the point standings without winning a race. "The big goal is to be there in the top-10 in the points after 26 races or having some wins to get you into the Chase that way. It's way too early to even be focusing on that yet. We just have to keep as consistent as we've been in finishing the races, but we have to take it to take it up a notch and start getting wins and top-fives."

Busch's Richmond career track record entering this weekend boasts one win (September 2005), three top-five finishes and six top-10s in 20 career starts in Cup competition. His career RIR average start is 19.8 and average finish is 17.8. Busch has been running at the finish in all but one of his Cup races and has been running in the lead lap in nine of the races. He competed in one NASCAR truck series race, starting from the pole and finishing third in September 2000. In two IROC starts at Richmond, he started eighth and finished third in 2004 and started fourth and finished second in 2005.

"The thing about racing at Richmond is that it seems like the best cars always come out on top," said Busch. "You have to come in there thinking that the yellow flag will prevail like it normally does and we'll have some restarts at the end of the race. We usually have a period of long green-flag racing in the middle portion of the race, too. With that in mind, we hope to have our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge capable of running solid during that stretch and still be adjustable enough to be able to really get after it in a short sprint to the finish if it comes down to that and it usually does."

This weekend's Richmond action gets under way on Friday with the first practice scheduled from 12:00 noon till 2:00 p.m. The final practice is scheduled for Friday from 2:45 p.m. till 3:30 p.m. Friday's 5:35 p.m. single round of qualifying will establish Saturday's 43-car starting field. Saturday's Crown Royal presents the Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400 (400 laps, 300 miles) has a 7:30 p.m. EDT starting time and features live coverage by FOX-TV and MRN Radio.

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