Busch Looking to Stay Hot in the Desert at Phoenix

April 8, 2010

AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 6, 2010) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Penske Racing "Blue Deuce" Team are coming into Phoenix International Raceway for Saturday night's Subway Fresh Fit 600 looking to continue their recent hot streak on the "Desert Mile." Busch is hoping the addition of Steve Addington as crew chief this time around can help lead to the Las Vegas native's second career victory on the track in this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series battle.

"Phoenix has been one of our strongest tracks through the years and we've been knocking on the door to get back into Victory Lane there in recent races," said Busch, who won the April 23, 2005 race at PIR, in the inaugural season the track played host to two NASCAR premier series events. "We've shown strength there, but we just haven't been strong enough to beat the Hendrick cars and that 48 team (Jimmie Johnson) in particular.

"We've finished second, third and sixth over the last three races at Phoenix and during that period the 48 car has won two of them," said Busch, who has a 3.7 average finish during that period (12.0 career average finish in 14 races and 12.0 average finish in eight races for Penske Racing). "We held off Jimmie for third in last year's spring race at Phoenix. But it was more of the same story as it was Mark (Martin) that we were all chasing and he notched another win there for Hendrick Motorsports.

"Those guys and especially the 48 team are always able to stay on top of the changing track conditions. While other teams' handling problems take their toll during the race, the 48 team just always seems to get stronger and stronger as the race goes on. They seem to always be their stongest during the final stages of the race and that's what it takes to win these things.

"I'm about as pumped as I've ever been heading into a Phoenix race this time around," said Busch, who is currently sixth in the point standings, trailing leader Johnson by 122 points. "We're really starting to turn the corner as a team and so much credit goes to having Steve Addington as our crew chief. He's meshed so well with everyone on our team and at the shop.

"Our team continues to get stronger every week, I feel. The communication with Steve and Dave Winston, our team engineer, is pretty impressive, especially when you consider that Phoenix will be only our seventh race working together.

"We continue to get more capable of making adjustments during the races to get the car more competitive. Where we might have seen drastic changes made to the car in races during the previous years, we're getting close enough with our setups that Steve is calling for like two-tenths (of a pound) in the air pressure changes during the race. Even if we go the wrong way on our changes, we seem to be able to rebound quickly and that hasn't been the case in the past."

The statistics certainly point to Busch as the leading candidate to provide Johnson with his stiffest competition this weekend at Phoenix. Busch is second to Johnson in practically every category in NASCAR's "loop data" statistics for the four most-recent seasons. Examples include Johnson's leading average running position of 5.066 to Busch's second-place 8.063 and Johnson's leading driver rating of 123.0 to Busch's runner-up 104.6 rating.

But perhaps most striking and easily understood is the simple traditional category of laps led. In the most recent 10 races at PIR, Johnson has led the most laps with 659 (21.1 percent). Even with one fewer race (did not compete in the November 2005 race), Busch is still second in laps led, leading 411 (14.6 percent) of the laps. Martin ranks third with 362 laps (12.9 percent), Greg Biffle fourth with 349 laps (11.2 percent) and Kevin Harvick fifth with 316 laps (10.1 percent).

"Our one-mile flat-track program has been one of the biggest highlights for our Miller Lite Dodge Team over the last couple of seasons," said Busch, whose career record on the "Desert Mile" sports one win, four top-five finishes and eight top-10s in 14 starts to date. "With the way we've been running there the last few years, we've been knocking on the door for another Phoenix win. We've been right there racing them till the very end. We're hoping to really rise to the occasion there this weekend and earn us another trip to Victory Lane.

"To win there this weekend, I expect that we'll have to beat the usual suspects and at the top of that list would certainly have to be that 48 team," said Busch, who has completed an unbelievable 99.9 percent of the possible laps in his 14 career starts. He has only five unfinished laps (has completed 4,367 of 4,372 possible laps). "You just have to figure that it will be the Hendrick cars as the guys to beat once again out there. But a lot of the teams seem to be running stronger this year. Just like it is every week out there, we'll really have to get our ‘A-game' going to have a chance to win there on Saturday."

Busch, Addington and crew will be racing their "PRS-701" Miller Lite Dodge Charger at Phoenix this weekend. This chassis has been raced only once before. Busch started 24th, led laps and finished eighth in last October's Pepsi 500 at Fontana, Calif., in the car's only other outing.

This weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule at Phoenix International Raceway gets under way with Friday's practice from 10:10 a.m. till 11:55. The final session of Sprint Cup practice is set to run from 12:35 p.m. till 2:00 p.m. Coors Light Pole Award qualifying to establish the starting grid for Saturday's 600-kilometer battle is set for Friday at 4:10 p.m. local (live on SPEED-TV and MRN Radio). Saturday's SUBWAY Fresh Fit 600 (375 laps/375 miles/600 kilometers) has a scheduled 4:30 p.m. local (MST) starting time. FOX-TV and MRN Radio will provide live coverage of all the action.