KURT BUSCH EXPECTS "FAST, FAST, FAST" NEXTEL ALL-STAR CHALLENGE Miller Lite Dodge Driver Says New Surface, Hard Tires & Smaller Fuel Cells Spell "Wild Environment" At L.M.S.- CONCORD, N.C. (May 16, 2006) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch...
KURT BUSCH EXPECTS "FAST, FAST, FAST" NEXTEL ALL-STAR CHALLENGE
Miller Lite Dodge Driver Says New Surface, Hard Tires & Smaller Fuel Cells Spell "Wild Environment" At L.M.S.-
CONCORD, N.C. (May 16, 2006) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch says the combination of a new surface, harder compound tires and smaller fuel cells at Lowe's Motor Speedway adds up to a "wild environment" entering this weekend's NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge.
"We spent several days testing there and I can tell you this -- it's fast, fast, fast," Busch said of the new surface on the 1.5-mile quad-oval. "You have to loosen your car up and get after it. There's a limit to just how far you can go and as soon as you step over it, you're gonna' bust your tail, that's for sure. With no points on the line this weekend and with them waving a million dollar check in our faces, it'll be wild, I can guarantee you that."
Saturday night's All-Star Challenge is a special 90-lap, 135-mile non-points race that will be run in three segments -- 40 laps, 30 laps and 20 laps. The field will consist of the 16 most recent race winners, along with the most recent points champion who is not among those 16 drivers and the most recent All-Star race winner not in that group. The winner of the NEXTEL Open, a preliminary race, will be added to the field, along with another competitor voted into the field by race fans. The event carries a record total $3,250,450 purse, with a whopping $1,005,000 payout going to the winner. In addition, the winner of the first segment claims a $75,000 bonus and the second segment victor gets a $20,000 bonus.
"We'll be doing all we can to win it on Saturday night, but we're also looking at it as being additional testing for the 600," said Busch, whose runner-up finish in 2003 rates as his best performance to date in the All-Star race. "We'll be running basically the same package next week and we really need to be prepared for that race.
"The smaller fuel cell really throws a unique kink into the equation," Busch said of NASCAR's move to mandate 13-gallon tanks at L.M.S., rather than the usual 22-gallon cell. "It'll create a totally different mindset out there. Just knowing that we'll be running 35 laps on fuel instead of the normal 60 to 65, guys will be hanging it all out each and every lap.
"The plan right now is to bring our (PRS-0) 78 car to the track this weekend for the All-Star race," said Busch. "We're hoping that it proves to be a really strong car on Saturday night. If it shows to have the muscle we need and we can get it out of there still in one piece, we look to bring this same car back for the 600 next week."
Busch has competed in four editions of the All-Star race and his record boasts two top-five finishes and three top-10s. He started eighth and finished seventh in last year's race.
"We fought a really loose race car during all the practice before the All-Star race last year," Busch recalled. "But once we got into the race, it completely changed and we were just extremely tight. Hopefully, working closely with Roy (McCauley, crew chief), Derek (Stamets, team engineer) and the guys -- we'll have a better handle on it this time around."
Additional rules for Saturday's All-Star race see both green flag and yellow flag laps counted during the first 40-lap segment. All restarts will be double file and lapped cars will start at the rear. Between segment 1 and segment 2, there will be a 10-minute break during which a random drawing will determine if as few as six or as many as 12 cars will be inverted. Teams will pit and may elect to change tires, add fuel and make normal chassis adjustments. Changing of springs, shock absorbers or rear-ends will not be permitted. Only green flag laps will be counted during segment 2 and segment 3.
Between segment 2 and segment 3 there will be a yellow flag during which teams may elect to pit. They may add fuel, change tires and make normal chassis adjustments. Teams pitting will not retain their position and will restart at the rear of the field in the order they leave pit road.
This weekend's NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge schedule gets under way on Friday with pitting practice at 1:45 p.m. Final on-track practice is set from 1:50 p.m. till 3:15 p.m. The distinctive qualifying session, which features three laps around the track with a four-tire pit stop fit in, begins at 7:10 p.m. Saturday's pre-race activities feature a special 3:30 p.m. concert by Grammy Award-winning rock group Train on the Miller Lite Rock 'n' Racing stage located in the L.M.S. infield. Cable channel FX and MRN Radio will cover Saturday night's action live beginning at 7:00 p.m. EDT.