Plenty On The Line for Busch at Homestead
November 16, 2010HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Nov. 16, 2010) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch may not be battling it out with Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick for the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup title in Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but he is certainly faced with worthy challenges of his own in this weekend's season finale on the South Florida 1.5-mile oval.
"There are so many reasons that we need to close out the year with a great run this weekend at Homestead," said Busch, who moved back up to 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings after finishing ninth at Phoenix last Sunday. "It will be the final race for me behind the wheel of the Miller Lite Dodge. We've had a great run in the ‘Blue Deuce' over the last five seasons and would love to score another win and celebrate with some Miller Lites there in Victory Lane on Sunday."
Busch moved over to Penske Racing for the 2006 season, with the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion taking over the No. 2 Miller Lite-sponsored Dodge out of the Penske Racing stable when racing legend Rusty Wallace retired from driving at the end of 2005. Entering this weekend's race at Homestead, Busch has driven the "Blue Deuce" in 179 points-paying Cup races and all the special events along the way. He has recorded eight wins, 37 top-five finishes and 74 top-10s, along with nine Coors Light Pole Awards. Among the many highlights was Busch's "May Sweep" at Charlotte this season where he claimed the victory in the Sprint All-Star Race on May 22 and came back to win the prestigious Coca-Cola 600 on May 30.
"The Miller folks have been so great to work with," said Busch, who will move over to the new No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge for Penske Racing in 2011. "We've developed friendships that will last forever with them and have shared success and a whole lot of fun along the way. We're having a big party with all the Miller guys and the team members later on this week and it'd be great to be able to continue that party there at the track late Sunday afternoon.
"Time has really flown since climbing behind the wheel of that car and trying to continue from the legendary job that Rusty Wallace did. I know it'll be a sentimental time out there on the grid before the race starts on Sunday and we might even get a little teary-eyed along the way."
Busch realizes that there is also much on the line this weekend from a "big picture" perspective. He is quick to point to the impact a strong performance at Homestead on Sunday will have.
"We're coming in there ranked 10th in the points and really need to finish up the season in the top 10 in the standings," said Busch, who has a five-point advantage over 11th-place Clint Bowyer and a 35-point lead on 12th-place Jeff Burton entering Sunday's final race. "Only the top-10 drivers get stage time at the banquet out in Las Vegas in a couple of weeks. It would be a cool deal and very appropriate if we have the opportunity to take to the stage and publicly thank all our sponsors. We're celebrating the five great seasons with MillerCoors and starting the new chapter with Shell-Pennzoil and would love to have the opportunity to get up there and thank them all for their support.
"In addition to that, I really know from experience the importance of finishing your season off on a high note," said Busch, who trails ninth-place Tony Stewart by 41 points going into Homestead. "As much as we race and because there's so little time off during the season, the weeks tend to roll on from one track's schedule right into the next race along the tour.
"The winner celebrates on Sunday night, but the clock rolls back almost immediately because you're already busy preparing for the next race that's only a couple of days away," said Busch, who has made five of the seven Chase battles to date. "So when you look at that period in between the closing of one season till the opening of the next, that's a long time to think about it.
"Your last race out is the one that's freshest on your mind and you certainly hope it's memorable for all the right reasons," Busch continued. "Closing out your season with a competitive weekend at Homestead is just that important. If you come out of there with great results, it gives all the team members, the sponsors, the media - everyone out there - a super calling card to remember you by. It works to instill optimism and grow the level of confidence through all those cold and dreary winter days.
"It would be super if we can win it, but if we can't, we still need to have a strong showing like we had down there in last year's final race," Busch said. "That was a solid performance that kept us all pumped up and ready to get back after it when this season began at Daytona back in February."
In last November's most-recent visit to Miami-Homestead Speedway, Busch drove from a 12th-place start to a fourth-place finish. He led five times for 43 laps and was a serious threat to take the win until two-tire strategy on the final pit stop hampered the effort.
Friday's practice from 11:30 a.m. till 1:00 p.m. kicks off this weekend's action at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday's battle is set for Friday at 3:10 p.m. Saturday's first practice is scheduled from 1:30 p.m. till 2:15 p.m. and the final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled from 2:50 p.m. till 3:50 p.m. Sunday's Ford 400 (400 miles, 267 laps) has a scheduled 1:00 p.m. EST starting time here on this 1.5-mile speed plant located at the north end of the Florida Keys. ESPN-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.
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