Busch Aims For Strong Finish Sunday at Kansas
September 29, 2010
"First of all, we certainly need a solid run like that in order to stay in the mix of the championship battle this season," said Busch, who rebounded from a mid-race speeding penalty to finish fourth at Dover, Del., last Sunday and move up to fourth in the current Sprint Cup point standings. "This is only the third race of the Chase and there is a lot of racing remaining, but the team that wins this championship is going to string together the most top-fives and top-10s. We were able to match our best finish at Dover (also finished fourth in the September 2006 race) and we need another strong run this weekend at Kansas to keep on the right track in our goal of winning the championship.
"Another reason I'd treasure a finish like that comes from the personal side," offered Busch, who trails leader Denny Hamlin by 59 points after two Chase races have been put into the record book. "If we can better the finish we had at Kansas in 2004, that'd mean we finally got a top-five finish there. That'd be really cool to knock off another track on our top-five ‘hit' list."
Busch entered the 2010 season with a career record that sported top-five finishes on 19 of the 22 current tracks along the NASCAR Sprint Cup tour. When Jimmie Johnson posted his first win at Bristol Motor Speedway back in March, Busch first spoke openly of his personal goal to score top-five finishes on all the tracks.
"I guess my goals are maybe a little less spectacular," Busch said at Bristol after dominating that race and having to settle for a third-place finish. "He's (Johnson) out there winning races on all the tracks and making it look easy. As for my career, I'm just hoping to be able to get top-five finishes on all the tracks. We have top-fives on all the tracks except Chicago, Kansas and Watkins Glen and it's a personal goal of mine to notch that top-five five finish on all the tracks."
Busch struggled to a 26th-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway back in July and he won't get another crack at that track until next year. When Busch drove his Miller Lite Dodge to a runner-up finish on the Watkins Glen road course on August 8, he whittled his "hit list" down to just Chicagoland and Kansas.
In nine career starts at Kansas, Busch has yet to record a win or top-five finish, but has two top-10s. He has a 21.7 average start and 19.7 average finish. Three of his finishes have been 30th or worse. He was recently asked about the reason he has struggled there.
"I can't figure it out -- I have these two tracks remaining where I don't have a top five finish and maybe I can blame Chicago on too many Cubs' games," Busch said with a chuckle. "I don't know what it is about Kansas. The year that I won the championship, I finished sixth and that's been the highlight so far. It's a flat mile-and-a-half that reminds me of Las Vegas when it was built and flat. It's just a tough combination when you go to tracks just once a year. You feel like you play catch-up most of the weekend and if you unload fast, you're tough to chase down."
With Kansas gaining another NASCAR Sprint Cup race date for the 2011 season, that will offer Busch two opportunities to reach his goal if he is unsuccessful in doing so on Sunday. He acknowledged that, but quickly let it be known that he was looking for that level of success there this weekend.
"That should help us, but that's next year," Busch said. "We're going to settle in and we're going there knowing that it's the home for Sprint. You can't shy away from a tougher challenge. That's where this group on this 2 car has always put up the best fight that they can. We know that we're up against a tough race track and we'll give it our best effort."
Busch started 39th and finished 11th in last year's edition of the Kansas race. He contends that it was a situation of his Miller Lite Dodge Team falling behind at the beginning of the weekend and doing all it could to make the best of it.
"We just struggled so badly there on that Friday and it really showed when we qualified at the rear of the field," Busch recalled. "We were behind the eight-ball from the time we unloaded off the trailer. In the race, we went with two tires instead of four about a quarter of the way through the race and that shot us up into the top five. We still had good track position midway through the race. We could never find the right balance between tight and loose. Our fuel mileage allowed us to stay out in green flag stops that allowed us to lead a lap and get those valuable bonus points. Overall, it was a pretty solid run for us. We just don't need to have to dig ourselves out of a hole like we had to do there last year."
This weekend's schedule at Kansas Speedway begins on Friday with practice from 12:00 noon till 1:30 p.m. CDT. Friday's 3:40 p.m. single round of qualifying will set Sunday's 43-car starting field. Saturday's schedule offers practice sessions from 11:30 a.m. till 12:15 p.m. and from 12:50 p.m. till 1:50 p.m. Sunday's Price Chopper 400 (267 Laps, 400.5 miles) has a scheduled 12:00 p.m. CDT starting time and features live coverage by ABC-TV and MRN Radio.