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Kurt Busch NASCAR Cup Series Preview - Kansas

September 24, 2008

Photo courtesy of Steve Rose



KANSAS CITY, Kans. (Sept. 23, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge Driver Kurt Busch could be considered an "authority" on winning NASCAR championships under the current "Chase" format. After all, it was the hard-charging Las Vegas native who laid claim to the first such title back during the 2004 Sprint Cup season.

"The law of averages shows that you can afford one bad finish - you can take one mulligan if you will - during the Chase and still have a chance to win it," said Busch, who posted three of his 18 career wins during his "magical" 2004 season. "If you have two bad finishes, you might as well write the year off and go ahead and start planning for the next season.

"It's so competitive out there these days that even allowing one bad finish, you better come back and run up front in all the other races," Busch added. "You better be getting the top-fives and the top-10s. If you're having only a mediocre day, you better be finding some way to get your (rear end) up front to lead laps and get those bonus points."

So, is big brother (Kurt) insinuating that little brother (Kyle) has no chance of winning the 2008 Sprint Cup title?

"That's way too much of a deficit to overcome in only eight races these days," Busch said of his brother's current 210-point gap to leader Carl Edwards after two of the 10 Chase races have gone into the record book. "The problem he had this year was that they had all their good fortune during the regular season and the luck has really gone sour in the Chase.

"It's now to the point that the most important thing during the first 26 races is just making the Chase - making the cut and being in the top 12 in the standings," said Busch. "It doesn't have to be flashy and you don't even have to win. You just have to be consistent enough to be in the top 12.

"But you better be ready to bring your ‘A-game' into the playoffs - you better be in high stride for those final 10 races," Busch offered. "Just look at (Greg) Biffle and what his team has done. They were flying way under the radar screen for most of the first 26 races and very few realized that they were on an upward competitive spiral. They did what it took to make the Chase and are peaking at the right time.

"If my little brother can't win it, there's nobody I'd rather see win the Cup title than ‘Biff,' Busch said. "He's paid his dues and it'd be really cool to see him be the first driver to win championships in all three major NASCAR divisions."

A look back at Busch's successful run to the 2004 title offers support for his claims.

"I'd say that we had to be considered a dark horse in the Chase that year," said Busch, who had posted two wins, four top-fives and 12 top-10s during the first 26 races of the season. "We came into the Chase seventh in the points. We were hot right off the bat, winning the first Chase race at Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway).

"We took the lead after the third race of the Chase which was at Talladega that year. We never lost the lead from there on out. We only had one bad finish; when we blew the engine at Atlanta with four races remaining. We had nothing but top-fives and top-10s during all the races but Atlanta and it was enough to win the title by eight points over Jimmie (Johnson). Looking back, I'd say that we peaked at the right time and built a buffer that helped us deal with the blow we took at Atlanta.

"Yeah, and that miracle race we had at Homestead in the final race certainly put the icing on the cake," Busch concluded. "But the bottom line is that we really brought our ‘A-game' into the Chase that season and it paid off big-time with the championship."

The statistics show that Busch added six top-five finishes and nine top-10 finishes to his 2004 record during the 10 "Chase" races. He posted a 13.8 average finish for the first 26 races and a 12.5 average finish overall for the season. But during the "Chase," Busch recorded an incredible 8.9 average finish. Johnson had a better 12.8 average finish for the first 26 races, but he had a 10.2 average finish for the "Chase" races. Busch scored 55 bonus points during the final 10 races to Johnson's 30.

 

--Kurt, Pat and crew are testing their brand new "PRS-600" Miller Lite Dodge Charger today (Tuesday, 9/23) at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "This is the very first of our third-generation COT cars to roll off the line at Penske Racing," Pat explained. "I think we saw marked improvement with our second-generation (500 Series) cars over the first chassis we had last season. We're hoping that the new car will be another step in getting back closer to consistently running with the top teams out there." The team will also have the "PRS-557" on hand at the test, if a direct comparison is needed. It is the second-generation model last raced at Lowe's in the May 17 "All-Star" race.

--Kurt has very high praise for Tom German, Team Penske technical director and Ryan Briscoe's Penske Racing IRL team race engineer, who has recently moved over to the NASCAR operations side. "Tom's only been with us for a couple of races, but I've already seen what a tremendous asset he is," Kurt said of the long-time Penske Racing engineer who joined the team in 1997. "He brings years of experience and a ton of knowledge to the table. He's already meshed well with all the guys on the stock car side. A good example of how he works happened over the weekend at Dover. At Loudon the week before, I'd just said in passing that I wished we had a DVD of practice to review. I never thought anything else about it. We arrived at the track at Dover last Friday and he had a new DVD recording system up and running in our team transporter to review everything with. The guy is on the ball like crazy and we really appreciate and respect that kind of work ethic."

--Kurt says brother Kyle's season peaked too soon this year. "The problem he had this year was that they had all their good fortune during the regular season and the luck has really gone sour in the Chase," Kurt said. "That's (210 points) way too much of a deficit to overcome in only eight races these days." (More on this in release.)

--Greg Biffle's rise to the top in the run for the Chase is a casebook study of great overall strategy playing out, according to Kurt. "It's now to the point that the most important thing during the first 26 races is just making the Chase - making the cut and being in the top 12 in the standings," Kurt said. "It doesn't have to be flashy and you don't even have to win. You just have to be consistent enough to be in the top 12.

"But you better be ready to bring your ‘A-game' into the playoffs - you better be in high stride for those final 10 races," he offered. "Just look at (Greg) Biffle and what his team has done. They were flying way under the radar screen for most of the first 26 races, but were on an upward spiral. They did what it took to make the Chase and are peaking at the right time. If my little brother can't win it, there's nobody I'd rather see win the Cup title than ‘Biff.' He's paid his dues and it'd be really cool to see him be the first driver to win championships in all three major NASCAR divisions." (More on this in release.)

--Kurt's Loop Data Stats Highlights at Kansas (courtesy of NASCAR PR):

• Average Running Position of 15.4, ninth-best
• Driver Rating of 94.0, seventh-best
• 45 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
• Average Green Flag Speed of 162.970 mph, seventh-fastest

--Kurt, Pat and team are racing their "PRS-579" Miller Lite Dodge Charger this weekend at Kansas Speedway. This car was debuted at Michigan last month, where Kurt started 13th and was a fixture among the top-10 cars during the first half of the race. Kurt cut down a left-rear tire late in the race and fell to a 36th-place finish.

--Kurt will be making a special appearance at Wal-Mart Store