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Busch Heads to Phoenix Looking to Build on Momentum

November 10, 2009

Photo courtesy of Autostock



AVONDALE, Ariz. (Nov. 10, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his No. 2 Penske Racing Team finished second in last November's Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway and they backed that up with a third-place finish in April's Subway Fresh Fit 500. Busch is hoping his Pat Tryson-led team can "rise to the occasion" in Sunday's Checker O'Reilly 500 and claim his 21st career Sprint Cup victory after picking up his 20th win in dramatic fashion last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

"Our one-mile flat-track program has been one of the biggest highlights for our Miller Lite Dodge Team over the last couple of seasons," said Busch, whose career record on the "Desert Mile" sports one win, four top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 13 starts to date. "With the runner-up finish last fall and the third back in the spring, we've been knocking on the door for another Phoenix win. We've been right there racing them till the very end. We're hoping to really rise to the occasion there this weekend and earn us another trip to Victory Lane.

Busch finished second to Jimmie Johnson in a green-white-checked finish in last November's race at P.I.R. In April's battle, Mark Martin was the winner, with Tony Stewart second and Busch third.

"To win there this weekend, I expect that we'll have to beat the usual suspects," said Busch, who has completed an unbelievable 99.877 percent of the possible laps in his 13 career starts. He has only five unfinished laps (has completed 4,055 of 4,060 possible laps). "We finished second to Jimmie last fall and third to Mark there in the spring. A lot of folks may not recall, but we were racing right down to the line in holding Jimmie off for third. So you just have to figure that it will be the Hendrick cars as the guys to beat once again out there. Just like it is every week out there, we'll really have to get our ‘A-game' going to have a chance to win there on Sunday."

Busch has certainly been exercising his one-mile flat-track prowess as of late. In his four most recent races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the other flat one-mile track, he has recorded a win, a third and two sixth-place finishes.

"Kurt is as good as they get on those tracks and his record certainly shows that," said crew chief Tryson. "He's won a ton of races on the flat one-mile tracks and is always on top of his game every time we race there. When we get out to Phoenix, Kurt seems to have some extra swagger going and I'm sure that'll be the case again this weekend. He has such a strong background and connection with that track."

While the picturesque one-mile oval holds the impressive Cup success for 2004 series champ Busch, it's his many personal memories that make PIR so special.

"The Phoenix track will always be special to me as long as I live," said Busch, a badge-carrying honorary deputy for noted colorful Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. "Back when I was only 13, it was the first track that I ever saw the Cup guys run on in person. Growing up in Las Vegas and around racing like I did, it was one of the fondest memories of my life when my dad carried me down to Phoenix back in 1991. Seeing all the races for years on TV and finally getting to attend one in person made a huge impression on a 13-year-old kid, I can tell you that.

"It was at PIR where we wrapped up the 1999 NASCAR Southwest Tour Championship, too, and that will always be so memorable," said Busch, who went directly to Phoenix after celebrating his big win at Texas on Sunday. "After winning the title, we got our first big dose of media attention. I'll never forget that day and doing the first national TV interview of my career. Dick Berggren was the interviewer and I was pretty darned nervous, to tell you the truth. He did a lot to keep me calm before we went on the air and the interview went very well. I'll always remember that and be thankful to him for that.

"There are so many special memories associated with the Phoenix area and PIR that it's almost like a second hometown for me," concluded Busch, now fourth in the Sprint Cup point standings, trailing leader Johnson by 171 points but only 98 points behind second-place Martin. "We're hoping to add to the list of great memories out here this week."

The car of choice for this weekend out of the "blue deuce" stable is the "PRS-576" Miller Lite Dodge Charger. Its impressive track record includes the second at Phoenix last November and the third there in April along with a sixth at New Hampshire last September, a third there in June and sixth there in September and a 12th at Richmond on May 2. In the six races that the team has used this car, they have posted a 5.3 average finish and they led laps in five of those races.

Friday's practice from 12:00 Noon till 1:30 p.m. kicks off this weekend's action at Phoenix International Raceway. Qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday's battle is set for Friday at 3:45 p.m. local. Saturday's morning practice is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. till 12:15 p.m. and the final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled from 12:50 p.m. till 1:50 p.m. Sunday's Checker O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 (500 kilometers/312 miles/312 laps) has a scheduled 1:15 p.m. local starting time (Mountain Standard Time) here on this 1.0-mile speed plant known as the Desert Mile. ABC-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.