Busch Confident Heading to California

February 16, 2010

FONTANA, Calif. (Feb. 16, 2010) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch enters this weekend's Auto Club 500 in Fontana, Calif., confident that his Steve Addington-led team can continue to show their intermediate track strength and use the next three-race stretch to establish an early-season foothold in the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings.

"When you look at the big scheme of things over the last couple of seasons, it's been the intermediate tracks that have been our bread and butter, so to speak," said Busch, who led 33 laps in last Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway before a late-race pit stop marred him back in traffic and relegated him to a 23rd-place finish. "That certainly was the case last year, with the wins at Atlanta and Texas and all the strong runs we had at California and all the other tracks. We're confident that we can continue to show that level of strength in 2010 and benefit greatly from that aspect of the overall program we have at Penske Racing.

"With Daytona Speed Weeks behind us, it is the same as it's always been," said Busch. "You spend almost two weeks focusing on restrictor plates, aerodynamics and the huge season-opening circus that is Daytona and then the real season gets under way the next weekend at California.

"When the California, Las Vegas and Atlanta races are in the record book, we can get a good gauge on where we stand for the bulk of the season," said Busch. "Many of our off-season questions and fresh ideas that we are applying will have answers and results to look at. We can take a look at where we are then and decide what we need to do - what direction we need to go in - after these next three races."

Busch and his No. 2 Penske Racing Team certainly used last year's three-race stretch to establish themselves as true contenders for the 2009 title. After a 10th-place finish at Daytona, Busch went on to post a fifth in California and climb to third in the early-season point standings. A 23rd-place finish at Las Vegas dropped him to seventh, but his victory at Atlanta shot him back up to third after four races were in the record books.

"It was a really solid run for us during the stretch last season and we're looking for even more success this time around," said Busch. "We had a fifth at California and the big win at Atlanta. In between, we started second in the Vegas race and led the race before the engine went sour on us and we finished out of the top 20 (finished 23rd). Had that not happened, no doubt we would have left Atlanta with that race win and the points lead.

"One of the biggest things we have working in our favor this season is that we've built up a strong fleet of Miller Lite Dodge Chargers for these upcoming races," said Busch. "When you can include the proven winner from Atlanta last spring and the winning car from Texas last fall into our great mix of equipment we have ready for these upcoming races, it's easy to get excited.

"We have quite a few ideas we're hoping will work going into this weekend in Fontana, with some fresh input coming from crew chief Steve Addington and the engineering side led by our team engineer Dave Winston," added Busch, who started fourth and finished fifth in last February's race on the track opened by car owner Roger Penske in 1997. "Just as it's been over the last few years out there, the tire maintenance situation will be critical and ‘Mule' (tire specialist Dave Nichols) and our guys will be all over that.

"The track has worn to the point that you can get a fresh set of tires and be Superman for the first few laps. The fall-off rate will see you lose up to four-tenths (of a second in lap times) after one lap on fresh tires. It can get pretty hairy out there under any long green-flag runs. There are guys rocketing around the track with fresh tires on trying to negotiate the traffic and others who haven't pitted yet trying to stay out of the way, but keep their momentum going.

"It's such a fast track and you carry such speed into the corners that you really have to stay on your toes," said Busch, who has one win, four top-five finishes and seven top-10s (and a 12.8 average start and 12.6 average finish) in his 15 career races on the track, but most impressively has been running at the finish of all the races and has a 99.9 percent (4,001 of 4,005) lap completion record there. "The spotter is extremely important in the races at Fontana because he has a better view of the other cars' closing rate. Our spotter, Chris Osborne, is the best in the business. He knows the cars that are approaching on fresher rubber and can give you the heads up well in advance so you can plan your moves accordingly.

"We're really looking forward to getting out to California for this weekend's race, for the two-race tour back out West and especially back to Atlanta where we won last spring" said Busch, who grew up in Las Vegas, just a three-hour drive up I-15 from Auto Club Speedway. "We're staying out there and not coming back to North Carolina until after the Vegas race. We know it'll be a fun time back out in the desert and we hope it'll be a successful stretch of races at the tracks."

This weekend's Sprint Cup schedule at Auto Club Speedway gets under way with Friday's practice from 12 noon till 1:30 p.m. Coors Light Pole Award qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday's 250-lap battle is set for Friday at 3:40 p.m. local (live on SPEED-TV and MRN Radio). Saturday's final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled from 12:45 p.m. till 1:50 p.m. Sunday's Auto Club 500 has a scheduled 12:00 p.m. local (3:00 p.m. ET) starting time at the 2.0-mile Southern California facility. FOX-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.