Sprint Cup
Team Penske
Subscribe    Print This Page   

Kurt Busch NASCAR Cup Series Preview - Talladega

September 30, 2008

Photo courtesy of Steve Rose



TALLADEGA, Ala. (Sept. 30, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge Driver Kurt Busch is anticipating this weekend's stop at Talladega Superspeedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup tour more than any of the final seven races remaining on the 2008 schedule. He says the reason is easy to understand.

"Just look at our record this season and you know why I just can't wait for Sunday's race at Talladega," said Busch, whose current statistics for 2008 show that two of his three top-five finishes have come in restrictor-plate races. "We've had our most consistent runs in the restrictor-plate races this year and Talladega offers us the final opportunity to get a ‘plate race' win.

"We finished second in the season-opening Daytona 500, helping push our teammate Ryan Newman to victory, and we came back to finish fourth at Daytona back in July," said Busch. "We were going for our eighth consecutive top-10 finish at Talladega back in the spring and got caught up in the ‘big one.'"

Sunday's AMP Energy 500 will be Busch's 32nd career restrictor-plate race and no driver yet to win has better numbers.

Last year, Busch trailed only Jeff Gordon in picking up the most points in the four plate races. He led almost twice as many laps as Gordon (147 to 81), yet Gordon scored two wins. In the four plate races during the 2007 season, Busch scored two top-five finishes and three top-10s. After finishing runner-up to teammate Newman in the season-opening Daytona 500 this year and scoring a fourth at Daytona in July, Busch's overall restrictor-plate record sports 14 top-five finishes and 19 top-10s in 31 races. At Talladega, his record to date shows six top-five finishes and an amazing 11 top-10s in 15 starts.

"It's just a brand of racing that I really took to from my very first race at Talladega," said Busch, who finished third in his first visit to the massive 2.66-mile Alabama track. "It can get really wild and it's as nerve-wracking experience as there could ever be, but I've really grown to enjoy the challenge that these races present.

"I've always looked at it as a huge strategic exercise that puts a premium on so many of your senses," Busch offered. "Of course, you have to have a fairly strong race car to begin with. But the key has always been to avoid the wrecks and be there in the thick of things when the laps are winding down. The way the drafting works, you don't always have to have the strongest car out there in order to win.

"I don't know what driver first called it a high-speed chess match, but that's a pretty good analogy and I've always thought of the competition that way," said Busch. "It's like you come down to the finish looking to be among the lead pack. Then it comes down to making your strategic moves out there while at the same time anticipating the next moves of all the guys around you.

"It often gets really hairy out there and you're forced to really hang it all out on the line," said Busch. "But the way I've always looked at it is what we do every race is certainly not for the weak at heart. These races just always seem to bump it up a notch or two on the stress meter - for the drivers, team members and especially the fans.

"The fans love it," said Busch, "and to tell you the truth, I do, too. I know it's hard for most people to understand, but the more I'm right in the middle of the lead pack, the more comfortable I am in the car. I feel like I learn something each time I'm in that position, especially how to survive it and get a good finish out of it."

"That's why Kurt is so great at this kind of racing," said crew chief Pat Tryson. "I have always said that he was the best ‘plate-racer' out there without a ‘plate-race' win. I said that five years ago when I was over at that other team. I am still saying that today and I'm really baffled that he hasn't won one of these things yet.

"We were in a position to go for broke in the Daytona 500 and possibly win it, but he chose to play the team strategy out to assure that we had a one-two Penske Racing finish," said Tryson. "His run at Daytona in the July race was unbelievable and I think went pretty much unnoticed.

"I mean, yeah, everyone saw that he finished fourth, but you had to look back to how he got there to really appreciate his performance," said Tryson. "It was pretty remarkable in that we crashed our primary car and he started at the rear of the field just like he did at Daytona in February.

"Somehow he had worked his way up into the top 15 after a restart with only eight laps to go and he was able to sneak on up there and get a fourth out of it when we had to go at it in a green-white-checkered finish. It was pretty magical, just sitting there on the pit box and watching it all unfold."

Kurt Busch can't wait for another opportunity to display that "magic" in Sunday's AMP Energy 500.

--Kurt is certainly hoping for an early draw in Saturday's qualifying session at Talladega, which is an "impound" race. "Yeah. it's better to qualify early when the track is cooler and faster, but we have another big reason to hope to get out there as soon as possible. Qualifying starts at 11:15 a.m. on Saturday and Eli says the Bama kickoff is at 2:30 p.m.," Kurt said of Eli Gold, noted play-by-play announcer for the University of Alabama football broadcast crew for some 20 years and a veteran broadcaster on MRN Radio. "We hope to make it down to Tuscaloosa in time to take in a little of the pre-game pageantry. Eva's going to the game with us on Saturday this time around and I want her to get to see just how much electricity there is in the air at an SEC football game, especially at Tuscaloosa. I'll have my Bama hat on and we're getting her a houndstooth fedora to wear." For the second consecutive Talladega October race weekend, Kurt is heading to Tuscaloosa to see the Crimson Tide play. "Eli was kind enough to give us his personal tickets last year and we saw the Tide take a close win in their homecoming game against Houston. Practically everyone in the country watched Alabama really take it to the Georgia Bulldogs last Saturday night. Bama is coming in there on Saturday undefeated and ranked top-five in all the polls. They're facing an undefeated Kentucky Wildcat team that will definitely be hoping to play the spoilers. Thanks to Eli, we'll again be sitting there in his seats on Saturday,
listening to his broadcast of the game and cheering the Tide on."

--Pat says that watching Kurt maneuver his Miller Lite Dodge during the final laps of a restrictor-plate race is astonishing. "It really is thrilling to witness," said Pat. "It's worth the price of a radio or scanner just to listen in and witness him do his magic. With about 10 laps to go in the race, he'll come on the radio and ask me to start counting down the laps. What he does with that car is incredible.

"His run at Daytona in the July race was unbelievable and I think went pretty much unnoticed. I mean, yeah, everyone saw that he finished fourth, but you had to look back to how he got there to really appreciate his performance. It was pretty remarkable in that we crashed our primary car and he started at the rear of the field just like he did at Daytona in February.

"Somehow he had worked his way up into the top 15 after a restart with only eight laps to go and he was able to sneak on up there and get a fourth out of it when we had to go at it in a green-white-checkered finish. It was pretty magical, just sitting there on the pit box and watching it all unfold."

--Kurt on the differences between the old car and the COT models in racing at Talladega and Daytona: "One of the biggest differences centers around the rear wing (on the COT cars) versus the rear spoilers (on the old cars). With the old cars, you had much more of a side draft and it affected the car running by you. With these new cars, the side draft doesn't slow