DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 21, 2002) - Bolstered by a previous victory at Bristol Motor Speedway and boosted by a sponsor being showcased this week, Kurt Busch heads into Saturday night's Sharpie 500 as a race favorite and a marketing focal...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 21, 2002) - Bolstered by a previous victory at Bristol Motor Speedway and boosted by a sponsor being showcased this week, Kurt Busch heads into Saturday night's Sharpie 500 as a race favorite and a marketing focal point.
Busch won this year's spring (March 24) NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Bristol's famed .533-mile amphitheater of horsepower, for his first victory in America's premier motorsports series. Now he's out for a season sweep at Bristol.
This week takes on added importance for Busch, as the race sponsor also backs his No. 97 Roush Racing Ford, along with primary sponsor Rubbermaid.
And then, of course, there's the little matter of returning to the track that fueled a lingering feud with Jimmy Spencer (No. 41 Target Dodge). Their cars got together in the closing stages of the spring Bristol battle, on Lap 445 of 500. Spencer lost the lead to Busch and went on to finish second. That situation led to bad feelings that boiled over Aug. 4 at the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis, when contact between the two resulted in a Busch spinout and his subsequent public display of temper as Spencer rolled by during caution laps.
The two met with NASCAR officials a week later, prior to the Watkins Glen event, and things have apparently calmed down." What's past is past," Busch said.
Good thing, coming into Bristol, an old-fashioned oval with a knack for creating excitement and fraying nerves - especially during its annual late-summer night race that has become one of the NASCAR Winston Cup schedule's highlights.
Bristol also can create stars. Anybody who survives 500 laps surrounded by 42 rivals merits immediate acclaim. And so it was with the 24-year-old Busch, whose first NASCAR Winston Cup victory also was the first shot fired this season by a group that has become known as the series'"young guns."
"If I was asked a year ago about where I thought I would capture my first win, Bristol wouldn't have been too high on my list," Busch said."It's a tough race track, and there's not really another track on the circuit that you can compare it to.
"I feel honored to have captured my first win there.... We had a full team effort that day and now we know what it takes to win a race"
Busch used his Bristol victory as a springboard. In his second full NASCAR Winston Cup season, he is 12th in the series points, merely 114 points out of the elite top 10. In the 23 races thus far, he has six top-five finishes and 10 top 10s.
His spring victory at BMS was huge. A victory Saturday night, with 150,000-plus fans looking on would be immeasurable. There have been 13"season sweeps" of Bristol's two races. The names on that list are legendary: Rusty Wallace (2000), Dale Earnhardt (1987 and' 85), Darrell Waltrip ('83,' 82,' 81), Cale Yarborough ('77,' 76,' 74), Richard Petty ('75), Bobby Allison ('72), David Pearson ('68) and Fred Lorenzen ('64).
Night racing, instituted at BMS in 1978, has added a shot of prime-time glitz when a sweep has been completed.
"Always, Bristol under the lights is an exciting show," Busch said
"I'm sure this year will be no different."
NEWS OF NOTE
TV timeout... The Sirius Satellite Radio At The Glen, held Aug. 11 at Watkins Glen International, was watched by 8,210,000 viewers on NBC, making it the most-watched sporting event of that weekend according to Nielsen Media Research. That figure more than doubled the combined viewership of IRL, IROC and CART events that weekend. Also highly significant is the fact that the race had a 19% higher viewership than a PGA event, the Buick Open, televised by CBS. Adding to the significance: While cars were running at The Glen, Tiger Woods was wrapping up a Buick Open victory.
Etc.... The top-five drivers in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings are separated by 150 points. This is the narrowest margin in NASCAR Winston Cup history (under the current point system) with 13 races remaining. First and second are separated by 43 points with no position between second and 11th separated by more than 66 points.... Tony Stewart will be driving a car this weekend equipped with Chassis No. 28. The team calls it the"concrete car," as it has only competed at Bristol and Dover International Speedway - the only two concrete tracks on the circuit. The chassis has been with the No. 20 team since its inception, and it has a remarkable record in its 14 previous starts. The chassis has produced three victories, including last year's Sharpie 500, eight top fives and nine top 10s.... Ricky Rudd (No. 28 Havoline Ford) is expected to make his 50th start at Bristol. He has scored four second-place finishes, but has never won there.... Jeff Gordon's winless streak now stands at 31 races, a" modern-era" (since 1972) record. On the upside, he has been running at the finish in the last 54 consecutive races.... The Winston Leader Bonus has ascended to $190,000 for this week's event. The race winner can collect that huge amount, provided he also leads the series point standings after the race. If nobody qualifies, another $10,000 will be added on, making it $200,000 at Darlington. The largest bonus ever collected is $190,000, by Bobby Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac) in 2000 after he won the Brickyard 400.... The son of Morgan-McClure Motorsports co-owner Jerry McClure, 23-year-old Eric McClure, won his first NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Presented by Dodge Late Model race Aug. 17 at Lonesome Pine International Raceway in Coeburn, Va.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Ten of the last 15 Bud Poles at Bristol have been won by two drivers. Mark Martin (No. 6 Pfizer/Viagra Ford) and Rusty Wallace (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) each scored five Bud Poles during the 15-race period.
Rusty Wallace has nine career victories at Bristol, most among active drivers. Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) is second among active drivers with four victories.
ØTony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac) has finished in the Sharpie 500's top five in each of his first three NASCAR Winston Cup seasons. Stewart won the race last year; he finished second in 2000 and fifth in 1999.
WHAT'S THE WORD?
"Bristol is about what driver and which team does the best job and not about whose car is more aerodynamic or who has more horsepower. It's back to basics, really. We'll take a seven-year-old Pontiac body and put it up against the latest from Dodge and Ford and it won't make any difference." - Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac).
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Night racing came to Bristol Motor Speedway in 1978. The race then was called the Volunteer 500. Lenny Pond had the pole and Cale Yarborough got the win in an Oldsmobile, driving for Junior Johnson. For Yarborough it was the next-to-last of his nine Bristol victories, a total that stands second all-time to Darrell Waltrip's 12.