Busch Returns to Atlanta Looking to Recapture Magic

March 2, 2010

HAMPTON, Ga. (March 2, 2010) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch comes into Atlanta Motor Speedway for this weekend's Kobalt Tools 500 as the race's defending champion and is eager to taste more success on the lightning-fast 1.54-mile quad-oval. Last year's victory, the 19th of his storied career, was definitely a special memory he would love to duplicate this time around.

"We were doing one of our weekly top-12 media opportunities last fall and one of the media members asked me what I thought was the defining moment for our 2009 season and I almost immediately pointed to the big March win at Atlanta," said Busch, who fell to 19th in the Sprint Cup point standings after innocently getting caught up in a crash last Sunday at Las Vegas and finishing 35th. "I can look back today and say that definitely was the case for our Miller Lite Dodge Team. The way our season has gone so far this year, we sure could use another race like that this time around, too.

"When I think of a defining moment, it's like pointing to one instance or occurrence that is so strong and so important that it can set the course for the future," said Busch, who also won the fall race during the 2002 season at A.M.S. "The Atlanta race was certainly the most important occasion for getting our 2009 season solidly on track and leading to the successful run we had last year.

"Winning that race signaled to all the other competitors, the media and the fans that our team was for real and the ‘blue deuce crew' would be contenders for more race wins and could be a player later on in the points battle," Busch said. "But most important was what the Atlanta win did for our team internally and all the positive impact it had all the way around. It wasn't just a win, it was a dominating victory and it set us off on a pretty respectable path for the rest of the season. That was a special day and will always stand out as a special win."

Busch started the March 8, 2009 Kobalt Tools 500 from the outside pole and went on to post one of the most dominant wins in NASCAR history. He took the lead for the first of six times on Lap 6 and went on to lead 234 of the 330 laps in posting his 19th career Sprint Cup victory. The battle for the win was kept close only by a late-race caution flag for debris that erased Busch's healthy lead and set up a green-white-checkered flag finish.

Busch crossed the finish line to take a 0.332-second win over Jeff Gordon. His post-race winning celebration was one of the most popular and entertaining entries into the 2009 season's highlight reel. He celebrated the win by stopping at the finish line, grabbing the checkered flag, throwing his Miller Lite Dodge Charger in reverse and backing around the entire track to show his appreciation to all the fans. The Victory Lane celebration was as spirited as they get.

Busch later held a contest for fans in order to come up with a name for his special celebratory lap, drawing some 10,000 "entries" to his website. The name Busch chose was "The Unwind Lap."

The winning "PRS-594" chassis immediately became the team's favorite and that was certainly understandable. Busch and crew debuted their "PRS-594" Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the February Auto Club 500 at Fontana, Calif., where Busch started fourth and led laps en route to a solid fifth-place finish. The 234 laps that he led en route to the win at Atlanta were the most Busch has ever led in a single Cup race and were more than the 164 total laps he led during the entire 2008 season.

Busch and his Steve Addington-led No. 2 Penske Racing Team will debut their new "PRS-715" Miller Lite Dodge Charger in this weekend's Atlanta race. This is one of the latest generation race cars out of the Penske stable.

"The Atlanta win was huge last season - so big that you could definitely call it the defining moment for the year," said Busch, who went on to post two victories along with 10 top-five finishes and 21 top-10s last season. "Both wins last season were pretty monumental. The Texas win will always stand out because of it being our first Cup win there and how we went about winning that one. It's such a prestigious place to get a win.

"Our wins during the '09 season really couldn't have come at a better time, when you stop and look back at it," said Busch. "It was like the Atlanta victory was our way of starting off the season with a bang and the Texas win was like the exclamation point, helping wind down the year with more success and so much positive energy going.

"We're coming back into Atlanta as the defending champions, hoping to defend the crown and make some more special memories there," said Busch. "I said a couple of weeks ago that we'd have a pretty good gauge on where we stand for the bulk of the season when the California, Las Vegas and Atlanta leg of the 2010 schedule is in the record book. We came through with a sixth-place finish at Fontana and were going after another strong finish at Vegas before getting caught up in the other guys' crash. It would be great to come back into Atlanta and score another big win. We fell to 19th in the points after last weekend's hard luck, but another great weekend at Atlanta like we had last year can put us back up there in the thick of things. That's what we're gunning for, that's for sure. "

This weekend's Sprint Cup schedule at Atlanta Motor Speedway gets under way with Friday's practice from 2:30 p.m. till 4:00 p.m. Coors Light Pole Award qualifying to establish the starting grid for Sunday's 325-lap battle is set for Friday at 6:10 p.m. local (live on SPEED-TV and PRN Radio). Saturday's final "happy hour" practice session is scheduled from 12:20 p.m. till 1:20 p.m. Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 (500.5 miles/325 laps) has a scheduled 1:00 p.m. ET starting time at the 1.54-mile Hampton, Ga., facility. FOX-TV and PRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.