Kurt Busch NASCAR Cup Series Preview - Atlanta
October 21, 2008HAMPTON, Ga. (Oct. 21, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge Driver Kurt Busch should be considered an "authority" on NASCAR's "Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship." After all, it was the always-feisty Las Vegas native who claimed the first such title in 2004.
"It's over - Jimmie times three," Busch said during an interview on Tuesday morning. "If there's anyone out there who knows from experience enough to make such a statement, it's probably me. After all, we went down to the wire with those guys (Jimmie Johnson and the Chad Knaus-led No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Team) in 2004 and were so fortunate to beat them by eight points for the championship."
If Busch says Johnson is en route to his third consecutive title, you can take that to the bank.
After all, it was the Penske Racing driver who back on Sept. 23, after only two 2008 Chase races were in the record book, made the bold statement that young brother Kyle's chances for a title were over. Kurt's prediction proved prophetic as even after winning eight races during the "regular season," Kyle's season went south to the point that he is currently last (12th) among Chase drivers. He is a whopping 445 points out of first with no chance of winning his first title.
"I love my little brother and really wanted him to go on and win him a championship, but you could see the writing on the wall, even back then," Busch said when reminded of his calculation made a month ago.
"Along those same lines, it's not too difficult to see what the situation is out there right now and say it's over, that Jimmie is heading toward his third straight Sprint Cup points championship," said Busch, who has been winning races and championships since starting his career in 1993 at age 15.
"It's very impressive," Busch said of Johnson's performance in the 2008 edition of the Chase. "It looks like those guys are just now peaking. They're at the top of their game and are the strongest they have been all season.
"They have a 150-point lead over ‘Biff' with only four races to go," Busch said of Johnson's current 149-point advantage over second-place Greg Biffle. "I realize that we're coming up on the tracks where the 16 team (Biffle) and the Roush cars traditionally run really well, but the 48 team (Johnson) are no slouches there.
"Their run this year is shaping up like ours did back in 2004 where they've built up enough cushion in the points that they can afford to have an off week or a bad race," said Busch. "It was this weekend's race at Atlanta where we had our one bad race, when we blew the engine and finished 42nd. Even with Jimmie winning that particular race, we came out of there with enough of a buffer that we were able to hang on down the stretch through the incredible run we had in the final race at Homestead.
"I'll go on record saying that I think Jimmie, Chad and the 48 team are the best in the business at knowing how to win championships," said Busch. "Just think how far they've come since the 2004 season. I've always heard that you have to lose a championship in order to know how to win one. They've won two of the last three since then and seem to always be at the top of their game at the right time."
Busch entered the 2004 Atlanta race with a smaller "buffer" over second than Johnson currently enjoys, his Roush Racing Team leading by 96 points over second. After the dismal 42nd-place finish at Atlanta, Busch led Johnson by only 59 points. But a 10th-place finish at Phoenix (Johnson finished sixth), a sixth at Darlington (Johnson finished first) and a fifth at Homestead (Johnson finished second) led to an eight-point advantage for Busch in the battle for the title. Busch picked up 55 bonus points (for leading laps and leading most laps) during the Chase to Johnson's 30.
Busch's championship season saw him bring a record of two wins, four top-five finishes and 12 top-10s into the final 10-race Chase run. He added another win, six top-five finishes and nine top-10s during those 10 races. He posted a 13.8 average finish for the first 26 races, but had an incredible 8.9 average finish during the Chase. 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.
"I think this is an even stronger version of the 48 team this season than what we saw back in 2004 and that's downright remarkable," Busch added. "It's an incredible perennial powerhouse that's evolved over there and I congratulate Jimmie, Chad and team owner Rick Hendrick for what they have going."
Johnson carried a record of four wins, nine top-five finishes and 14 top-10s into this year's Chase. He had a 12.4 average finish. His incredible performance in the six Chase races thus far boasts a record of two wins, four top-five finishes and six top-10s, which add up to an unbelievable 4.0 average finish.
"Jimmie's run to his third consecutive championship this season should produce all kinds of statistical records," Busch concluded.
--On the battle for the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, Kurt says, "It's over." Read much more on this in the release that follows and is attached.
--Kurt, Pat and crew will be racing their "PRS-579" Miller Lite Dodge this weekend in the Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "The car debuted at Michigan on Aug. 17, where Kurt started 13th and finished 36th. It was raced again at Kansas on Sept. 28, where Kurt started 31st and finished 30th. "It's a car that has been strong during the beginning of the races and we're looking to having another whole race like we did at Charlotte (Lowe's Motor Speedway where the team finished third two weeks ago) with it," Pat said. "I really think that we learned some things there in that race that we can apply this weekend, at least that's the game plan."
--Kurt will be racing for a $100,000 bonus contribution to "Operation Homefront-Texas" if he can pull off the win in the Nov. 2 Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Regardless of the final race outcome, Kurt's efforts on the track will yield a minimum $10,000 donation in his honor. It's all part of an engaging statewide promotional campaign that sponsor Miller Lite launched several weeks back. The campaign recognizes, celebrates, honors and rewards military veterans, both past and present, for their commitment to serving our country. Miller Lite is teaming with Operation to support Texas troops and their families. Miller Lite has donated more than $150,000 over the last two years to support the cause. Consumers can also make donations by purchasing Miller Lite - Operation Homefront commemorative gear. Log on to the Web site, www.operationhomefront.net/texas to learn more about how you can support Texas Troops.
--Kurt's "Law of the Chase Averages" that he laid down a month ago have proven prophetic. After only two Chase races had been put into the record book, he already predicted that brother Kyle's quest for a season title was over. "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," Kurt said at the time "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," he added prior to the third Chase race. "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."
"You better be ready to bring your ‘A-game' into the playoffs - you better be in high stride for those final 10 races," Kurt said.
Current points-leader Jimmie Johnson is a perfect example of what Kurt was referring to.