Kurt Busch Anxious For Return to Atlanta This Weekend HAMPTON, Ga. (Sept. 1, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has been waiting with bridled optimism for almost six months for Sunday night's Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Kurt Busch Anxious For Return to Atlanta This Weekend
HAMPTON, Ga. (Sept. 1, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has been waiting with bridled optimism for almost six months for Sunday night's Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He is hoping for "de ja' vu under the lights" in the 325-lap battle around the lightning-fast 1.54-mile quad-oval.
"It's definitely a race that we've had a bull's-eye on since our big win there back in the spring," said Busch, currently sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings and enjoying a 192-point "Chase buffer" with only two races remaining to determine the 12-driver playoff roster. "With just the two races remaining until the Chase kicks in, we need to go all out in trying to win at Atlanta and Richmond in order to pick up those bonus points for winning races.
"While we know we can lock up a spot in the Chase there in Atlanta on Sunday night with a good finish, we still have to be in the mode of doing what it takes to win and bank us some more bonus points to help with our seating when the Chase kicks in," said Busch, the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion under the Chase format back in 2004. "There are several guys out there with multiple wins and we need to get ourselves up there with them during these next two races.
"It will definitely be a challenge to even come close to the performance we had there at Atlanta in the spring race," said Busch, who will be attempting to become the third driver since 2005 to sweep both Sprint Cup races at Atlanta in the same season. "That was a special day and will always stand out as a special win."
Busch started the March 8 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 "PRS-594" chassis immediately became the team's favorite and that was certainly understandable. Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing crew debuted their "PRS-594" Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the Feb. 22 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.
During the post-race winner's press conference at Atlanta, Busch continued the Penske Racing tradition of naming the winning cars in an appropriate manner. Pointing out that it was Rusty Wallace, former champion driver of the "Blue Deuce" who began the ritual of naming his triumphant rides, he paid tribute to Wallace by naming the winning car "Hot Rod." "I'm thinking, we had a pretty good little hot rod out there today," Busch said at the time. "Rusty would say that. So we're going to nickname this car 'Hot Rod' in honor of Rusty."
Crew chief Tryson confirmed on Monday that the team has decided to race the same car again this weekend at Atlanta.
"We were looking at rolling out another brand new car - the first of our '700 series' chassis cars - for the return to Atlanta," said Tryson, who appears headed toward being a Chase team leader for the fifth time in six years. "We studied all the numbers with the downforce and all and decided that racing the car that we won with there in March made the most sense. If it can be only three-quarters as strong this time around, we'll have a car plenty capable of winning."
"Labor Day weekend is a special weekend because it really kicks us into our fall races," Busch said of this Sunday night's history-making first Atlanta Sprint Cup race under the lights. "It's a three-day weekend for our fans. With practice and qualifying on Friday and racing on Sunday night, they've got Monday to get home safe. Racing at night, it's much more enjoyable on the track temperature-wise and in the car temperature-wise. And of course, enjoyable for our fans as well."