Busch Readies for Dover Chase Challenge

September 22, 2010

DOVER, Del. (Sept. 21, 2010) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch is quick to point out that this weekend's AAA 400 and the following week's battle at Kansas Speedway will be the most important races for his Steve Addington-led Penske Racing "Blue Deuce" Team to set the tone for the remainder of the season. The 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, the first titlist under the Chase format, enters the Dover action with "guarded optimism."

"I've said all along that these next two races - this weekend's race at Dover and the following week at Kansas - look to be our huge challenges during the Chase," offered Busch, who survived to finish 13th in last Sunday's Chase opener at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "Based off what we saw there in the spring race, Dover may just be the biggest hurdle that our Miller Lite Dodge Team faces.

"We finished in the top-five in both races at Dover last year, but we weren't competitive at all there back in the May race," said Busch, who is currently sixth in the point standings, trailing leader Denny Hamlin by 86 points. "It was just a super-tough day for us during the last race there.

"We started off half-decent and thought we might have us a top-five or a solid top-10 run going," Busch explained of the scenario for his Miller Lite Dodge Team during the May 16 Autism Speaks 400 on the "Monster Mile." "But, as is pretty typical for us, the track started rubbering up and our car just got tighter and tighter. We chanced it (for track position) one time by staying out after a yellow when we didn't have that many laps on our tires. The car was just that tight and we wound up shredding a right-front (tire). All we could do for the rest of the race was try to get all we could out of it and keep it out of the fence. To tell you the truth, I'm surprised we could get a top-20 finish out of that race."

Busch made his NASCAR big-league debut at Dover on Sept. 24, 2000 and 20 races later on the Delaware track his record sports four top-five finishes and six top-10s. His best career finish to date came in the September 2006 race when he finished fourth.

"Dover will always be such an extraordinary track for me that holds such significance as far as my career goes," said Busch, who won the 2004 Cup points title under the first year of the "Chase" format and finished fifth in the Chase race at Dover that season. "If you would have told me years ago that we'd be coming back into Dover after all these races without a win, I would have said, ‘Man, you've gotta be kidding me.' We've had so much success at Bristol, the other high-banked concrete track, you'd think we'd been able to win on the bigger one-mile oval.

"We've had some strong Cup runs at Dover; it just seems like we haven't been able to put together a whole race," said Busch, who won the pole and the race in the NASCAR Truck Series at Dover during the same weekend as his Cup debut. "We've led laps and been in contention for the win several times, but just haven't been able to pull it off."

"We've struggled at times and certainly had our ups and downs through the years of racing at Dover, but I can surely say that most of my memories have been so favorable of the place," Busch said. "We need to be able to come out of there with a solid run and a strong finish. That top-five we had there back in '04 really helped keep the momentum going and that's what we need to happen this time around, too.

"Several weeks ago I pinpointed the race this weekend at Dover and the following race as Kansas as the races we were most concerned about and that's definitely still the case," offered Busch, whose career average finish at Dover is 19.6 and is 19.7 at Kansas, where he has started nine races. "Naturally, we look at Martinsville as a track where we'll have to rise to the occasion and Talladega is always about surviving and missing the ‘big one' and being around at the finish.

"The other tracks - like the intermediate tracks at Texas, Charlotte and Homestead and the flat one-mile at Phoenix - we've performed well there and have a lot of confidence when we head into those races. If we can come out of Dover and Kansas in good shape, I really like our chances for being a valid challenger for the title. We're coming in there with guarded optimism.

"It's all about consistency during the entire 10-race stretch; logging those top-fives and top-10s," said Busch. "That's definitely our goal heading into Dover this weekend. We need to come out of there on Sunday with another notch added to one of those columns."

This weekend's action at Dover International Speedway gets under way with Sprint Cup practice on Friday from 11:30 a.m. till 1:00 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 on the "Monster Mile" includes practice sessions from 12:30 p.m. till 1:15 p.m. and from 1:50 p.m. till 2:50 p.m. Sunday's "AAA 400" (400 Laps/400 Miles) has a 1:00 p.m. EDT starting time. Live coverage of the race will be provided by ESPN-TV and MRN Radio.