Atlanta II: Kurt Busch preview

Busch Searches for More Success at Atlanta HAMPTON, Ga. - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has won two of the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He is hoping to continue that level of competitive strength ...

Busch Searches for More Success at Atlanta

HAMPTON, Ga. - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has won two of the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He is hoping to continue that level of competitive strength in this weekend's Emory Healthcare 500 at A.M.S. and head into the 10-race "Chase" with the best chances possible to claim his second series championship.

"We're definitely coming back into Atlanta hoping to enjoy the level of success we have in recent races there," said Busch, who sits 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings with only this weekend's Atlanta race and the Sept. 11 Richmond race remaining before the 10-race "Chase" for the championship. "But, when you look at the record, you'll see that we have had our good runs during the day races there and last year's first night race definitely didn't turn out like we hoped.

"So, we're coming in with a realistic level of optimism," said Busch, who has a 253-point "Chase buffer" on 13th-place Jamie McMurray heading into Atlanta. "We expect to do well and look to be really competitive this weekend, but we know it will be a challenge. Winning the two spring races-in-a-row at Atlanta definitely puts a little more confidence into our step coming back in there. But, we've seen week in and week out this season just how much things can change from the first race to the second. We understand the challenge that we're up against.

"The Atlanta race is definitely a race that we've had a bull's-eye on since our big win there back in the spring," said Busch. "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 more than two wins like we have and we need to get ourselves up there with them during these next two races."

Busch started 11th and went on to lead six times for 129 laps in winning the March 7 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta. It was his third career win here at AMS and his second consecutive victory in this race. The huge win came in only the fourth race with veteran crew chief Steve Addington calling the shots from atop Busch's pit box.

The March race, which was originally scheduled to go 325 laps around the 1.54-mile track wound up going 16 laps into overtime as the fireworks certainly broke out at the end of that one. Busch looked to be holding off Juan Pablo Montoya near the end of the scheduled distance, but a wild crash by Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski sent the race into the first overtime. The No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge driver was running sixth when Carl Edwards crashed him on Lap 323, sending the red Dodge Charger flying and tumbling down the track. Fortunately, Keselowski was not hurt and Edwards was parked for the day for his rough driving tactics.

When that mess was cleaned up, Busch had taken four fresh Goodyear Tires under the yellow and had to clear three drivers who opted for only two tires. After making the pass for the lead, Busch appeared to be headed toward the win again, only to be denied when a nine-car pileup in Turn 3 brought out the 11th caution period of the race and set up a second attempt at the green-white-checkered finish.

Busch got a great restart when the race returned to green on Lap 339 and went on to finish 0.482 seconds ahead of runner-up Matt Kenseth. Montoya finished third, with Kasey Kahne fourth and Paul Menard fifth.

"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 another special day and will always stand out as a special win.

"The bottom line is that we are coming in there looking for that extra umph that will help us big-picture-wise and give us additional momentum as we head into the Chase," Busch added.

Busch started sixth and finished 38th in last September's first battle under the lights at Atlanta. He ran as high as third and was a fixture among the top-10 drivers for the first half of the race. However, the team could never overcome a loose handling condition and that was a major contributing factor in a crash on Lap 245 (of 325) that relegated Busch to the garage early.

-source: penske racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Team Penske