Busch Ready To Break Drought at Talladega
October 26, 2010TALLADEGA, Ala. (Oct. 26, 2010) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch won the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup title during the inaugural season under the "Chase" format and is a 22-race winner at the premier level of stock car racing. But, in spite of all his fame and glory, the always-feisty-but-affable Busch enters this weekend's AMP Energy Juice 500 at Talladega Superspeedway batting zero for 39 in the restrictor-plate portion of his otherwise illustrious NASCAR Sprint Cup career. He certainly would never solicit a "sympathy vote" of any type.
"No, I'm definitely not after that level of compassion from anyone and surely not from the 42 other drivers out there - I know better than that," laughed Busch, who enters Talladega ninth in the point standings, but only 74 points behind fifth-place Jeff Gordon. "The bottom line is that every race is so hard to win, no matter where we are racing. The plate races always offer the additional demands such as coming in there with the sleekest, most aerodynamic cars and engines with the most horsepower you can have. When you do win at Talladega or Daytona, it's representative of a true team effort in preparation and execution.
"This weekend's race at Talladega will present a situation that I have come to be all so familiar with, that's for sure," said Busch, who made an impressive comeback run to finish eighth in the April Talladega race. "It's been that way for years, but I'd say the way the 2008 Daytona 500 turned out certainly worked to focus more attention on our record in the plate races."
In the 2008 edition of the Daytona 500, Busch was responsible for giving then-teammate Ryan Newman a "push from heaven" on the last lap, helping Newman score Penske Racing's first-ever restrictor-plate victory in the series' most prestigious race.
"After pushing Newman to that big win, it's really worked to magnify our record in, not only the Daytona 500, but all the plate races in general," said Busch, who has three runner-up finishes and six third-place scores on his career plate-racing resume. "The fact that it was two teammates working so closely together on the final lap and finishing first and second was newsworthy enough. But the fact that it was Roger's (Penske, team owner) first victory in stock car racing's biggest race in the world sent the significance factor into orbit.
"Every time we go back to Talladega or Daytona, it feels like this could be the race when we finally bring her home the winner and I am sure that will be the case again this weekend at Talladega," said Busch. "We're pretty accustomed to getting hammered with questions by the media and the fans. They all want to know - they all ask - if this is the race when we finally can pull it off and win our first plate race."
While Busch has yet to win a Cup race at Talladega, he did take the checkers in the April 2003 IROC race there and he finished third in his very first Talladega Cup race back on April 22, 2001.
"I'm one that doesn't take a lot of chances and more times than not plays it more defensively than on the offense," Busch said of his ability to grasp what it takes to be so competitive in plate racing. "I think that's been my mentality over the years. The times that I've been too aggressive out there and tried to make big bold moves, I wound up wrecked or getting shuffled out at the end and it didn't turn out well. Over the years, I've just been one who tried to follow suit and not make the mistakes at the end with being too aggressive. I think that the biggest thing I always have going for me is that I truly enjoy the plate races. I think for sure that I am in the minority when I say that. I know how much the fans love it. 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."
So, what's Busch's mindset for this weekend in his 20th career race at Talladega and 40th career restrictor-plate race overall?
"Every time you get out there, you have to put yourself in the position to win and it will be no different there this weekend," said Busch. "All those second-place finishes and all the top-fives show that we've certainly been able to get ourselves in the position to win, but for one reason or another we just haven't been able to pull it off yet.
"The goal this weekend is the same as it is every time we take the green flag here and that's to run a smart race and be up in the lead group of cars for the stretch run," said Busch. "In every one of these races, I'm out there trying to learn something new. That's especially true every time the rules are tweaked and we change to a different package. The goal always remains the same, though, and that's to be there at the end of the race and positioned for a shot at it."
This weekend's schedule at Talladega Superspeedway begins on Friday with practice sessions scheduled from 1:00 p.m. till 1:45 p.m. and from 2:30 p.m. till 3:30 p.m. Saturday's 11:15 a.m. single round of qualifying will establish Sunday's 43-car starting field, with all cars impounded immediately after the session. Sunday's AMP Energy Juice 500 (188 laps, 500.08 miles) has a 12:00 noon CT (1:00 p.m. ET) starting time and features live coverage by ESPN-TV and MRN Radio.
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