Busch Knows Importance of Getting Off To Strong Chase Start

September 16, 2009

LOUDON, N.H. (Sept. 15, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch enters Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway hoping to get off to a good start in the 2009 "Chase" for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Busch could certainly be looked at as an "authority" when it comes to first-hand experience on that subject.

"I've definitely seen it from both ends and I know from experience how incredibly important it is to get off to a good start in the Chase," said Busch, who finished second in the race at Richmond last Saturday night and earned his fourth Chase bid in the last six seasons. "You get out there the first week after the long haul - the 26 races just to make the cut for the Chase - and you come into Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway) with the most adrenalin flowing and momentum going as you've had going for you during the entire year.

"So you feel like you've got the barrels loaded and the trigger cocked - you're one of 12 teams that made the finals and it's playoff time - and you can feel almost invincible," Busch explained. "It's like that kind of ‘hey we made it (the Chase) and we're here to kick (rear end) and take names' attitude just runs rampant within your team.

"But once that green flag falls at Loudon on Sunday to officially begin the Chase, the race really is on," said Busch, who won the 2004 title in the inaugural year of the Chase format. "I'm here to tell you that it's pretty hard to measure the importance of getting off to a good start.

"All I can say is that I know from experience that if you can get it going in the right direction at Loudon, you can keep the momentum growing and sort of build some insurance for something bad happening later on during the 10-race stretch. But, on the other end of the equation, with so much hype and such great expectations you have going into the first race of the Chase, I've definitely seen just how much of a blow it can be to get started on a bad note.

"When you look at my career, winning the first Chase in 2004 - and especially what happened in the years since then - mine is probably as good of example as any when it comes to

considering the importance of getting a good finish in that first race," said Busch. "I guess it'd be really accurate to say that I've definitely seen the good and the bad.

"During our championship season back in 2004, we were strong from the drop of the green flag and it only got better from there," said Busch. "We won the New Hampshire race and went on down the road on a big roll. We finished top-five at Dover and did the same at Talladega the next week.

"We went on a roll of nothing but top-fives and top-10s through the first six races and built up such a points lead that we were able to hang on and pull it out by eight points over Jimmie (Johnson) to win the battle for the title, even with the big setback with the blown engine at Atlanta."

After six races had been completed during the 2004 Chase, Busch enjoyed a 96-point advantage over second-place Jeff Gordon. Johnson, who would turn out to be Busch's chief nemesis was 207 points behind.

Busch blew an engine in the Atlanta race and finished 42nd, dropping his lead to only 41 points. He entered the Homestead finale with an 18-point advantage and in a "miracle run," he finished fifth to claim an eight-point advantage over Johnson to take the first points title under the current Chase format.

"That was definitely the good end of thing that we enjoyed and the other years definitely didn't turn out that way," said Busch. "We made the Chase the next year in 2005 and had such high hopes of defending the title. In the opening Chase race at New Hampshire, we hadn't even finished three laps before a guy who normally shouldn't have been up there was just too loose, got out of shape and just wiped us out.

"We went on and struggled really bad the next week at Dover and just couldn't get things straightened out," said Busch. "We struggled and didn't finish in the top-10 but three or four times during the rest of the season. Then we had the big parting of the ways with the previous car owner and that was the end of that season.

"We were lucky enough to make the Chase again in 2007, but we never had anything really going for us once the Chase started," said Busch. "It was the transitional year for the new breed of car and we just didn't have our program where it needed to be. We finished outside the top 20 in the New Hampshire race and it just seemed to get worse from there on. I think we only had one top-five finish the rest of the year."

With all his experience behind him, Busch certainly knows which direction he hopes his Pat Tryson-led team is headed.

"Hey, give me a replay of that '04 start to the Chase," said Busch. "That'd be really cool and exactly what we need to get rolling again here this year."

This weekend's action at New Hampshire Motor Speedway gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 12:00 noon till 1:30 p.m. Sunday's 43-car starting field will be determined in Friday's 3:10 p.m. single round of Cup qualifying. Saturday's action includes practice sessions from 9:00 a.m. till 9:50 a.m. and from 11:30 a.m. till 12:30 p.m. Sunday's SYLVANIA 300 (300 Laps, 317.4 Miles) has a 2:00 p.m. EDT starting time. Live coverage of the race will be provided by ABC-TV and MRN Radio.