Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing Team will be racing their PSC-516 Dodge Charger in the Food City 500 action at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. "It's the same chassis we raced at Bristol last August,"...
Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing Team will be racing their PSC-516 Dodge Charger in the Food City 500 action at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. "It's the same chassis we raced at Bristol last August," Pat explained. "We started back in 19th and kept moving forward the entire race. We were a top-five car for four-fifths of the race and got a sixth-place finish out of it. I think we can be every bit as strong this time around." The '516' chassis debuted last May in the Dodge Avenger 500 at Darlington, where Kurt started 18th and finished 12th. The team was running third with only 30 laps to go, but a slow pit stop at the end relegated him to 12th at the checkered flag.
The pre-season agreement by Kurt, Pat and the Miller Lite Team to swap 2007 owner points with the No. 77 team saw the No. 2 team hauler parked in the far back corner of the garage area last weekend at Atlanta. The crew members were forced to operate outside the garage area under a tent on Friday. While the car was positioned on asphalt, much of the team's work area was a mixture of grass and mud. Kurt qualified 29th on Friday night, allowing the team to finally move to a space in the permanent garage area before the extreme cold weather moved in early Saturday morning. One of the busiest team members there on Friday was team transport co-driver Cindy Lewis. "We try our best to keep our transporter as clean as possible," she said. "We kept the vacuum cleaner going all day long and went through three cleaner bags. The guys kept tracking grass and dirt in all day long, but we felt so sorry about the conditions they had to work under that we never said anything about it."
"That's the great thing about our team," Pat offered. "Nobody complained at all about anything. That was a pretty tough situation and a little embarrassing to be working outside the garage, under a tent and in the mud there on Friday. This weekend at Bristol is the fifth and final race before the 2008 points kick in. It'll be interesting to see where Stump and Cindy (Lewis) have to park the transporter. Since there isn't a garage, the pit spots up and down pit road serve as the work area until race day. You might have to look hard to find us there on Friday, but I'm sure we'll be working on the car somewhere inside the track - at least I hope we're inside the track," Pat said with a chuckle.
Currently 10th in the 2008 point standings, Kurt, Pat and crew will definitely have better working conditions at the track beginning with the Martinsville race, the sixth event of the season.
With five career wins at BMS, Kurt is looked at by many as the reigning racing 'Bristol King.' That has been particularly true since nine-time Bristol winner Rusty Wallace retired after the 2005 season. Kurt has certainly come a long way since his first race on the .533-mile oval when he started 39th and finished 42nd in the 3/25/01 Food City 500. His take on why he is successful at Bristol?
"After that first race, I promised myself that day a situation like that would never happen again," Kurt said. "It became a necessity in my mind to become a good racer at Bristol. You also have to consider the fact that they announced that very weekend that my car sponsor (Sharpie) was going to also start sponsoring the August race there.
"Seriously, I think that good racing luck has had a little to do with it, too," offered Kurt, who went on to claim his first career win the following spring at Bristol and then posted three consecutive Bristol wins in 2003-2004. "I was able to develop a real positive attitude about racing at Bristol and I look forward to every Bristol race week.
"I looked at guys like Darrell (Waltrip) and Rusty (Wallace) and saw just how much they genuinely enjoyed each and every time the circuit raced at Bristol," said Kurt. "Having a positive attitude about racing there is so important at Bristol and we normally always have that going for us when we get there.
"As far as the strategy behind my success, I learned from the very first race that you have to be around at the finish to do well at Bristol. It really is a situation of surviving the first 400 laps " keeping the fenders on the thing and staying out of the wall. Then, if you're in good shape after four-fifths of the race, it's time to really get down to business during the final 100 laps."
Kurt's most memorable wins 'his favorite' and his 'coolest' have all come at Bristol. Of all 17 of Busch's career NASCAR Sprint Cup victories entering this weekend's Food City 500, the 2004 series champ points to three of his Bristol wins as most memorable, among his 'favorite' and 'coolest.' "Yeah, without a doubt, that first win at Bristol back in 2002 will always be special," Kurt said. "You only have one first win and that's mine there. It was a great feeling that I'll always treasure. The same goes for my first win for Penske Racing at Bristol back in the spring of 2006. But, that win in the night race at Bristol in 2003 probably rates as my biggest career win to date. At least it does in my eyes. It is spectacular to win at Bristol at night. There's just so much electricity and excitement in the air. The fact that we won the Sharpie race in the Sharpie car added to the importance and significance of that win. It was probably my favorite and coolest win so far."
Bristol reflections: The 2002 season saw the addition of a long-awaited infield pedestrian tunnel, allowing access into and out of the infield during on-track activity. Also in 2002, a new building was constructed in the infield to house driver meetings. That same year also witnessed the christening of a new BMS Victory Lane atop the newly constructed building. Kurt Busch won the 2002 Food City 500 on March 24 and became the first Cup winner in the new BMS winner's circle.
Once listed as being 36 degrees of banking in the turns, Bristol was long thought of as the highest-banked track on the circuit. With last year's reconfiguration and resurfacing, BMS now officially lists the degree of banking simply as 'variable' with no specific numbers listed. It is now accepted that the actual banking ranges from 24 to 30 degrees. In an interview with Stock Car Racing's Larry Cothren, Kurt's Penske Racing teammate, Ryan Newman, had a specific idea of the track's accurate banking numbers. Newman's crew measured the banking during a test session to aid with setups, and found that the turns were banked 26 degrees.
Kurt & Miller Lite Team get Vegas nod over Bud team at Bristol: After a strong 11th-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the # 2 Miller Lite Dodge and competitors head to Bristol Motor Speedway this week hoping to continue the top level of racing excitement always associated with the .533-mile oval track. The Blue Deuce has a storied history at Bristol, and will look to bring driver Kurt Busch his sixth career victory at the Tennesse track. The #2 Dodge's competitor in the Battle of the Beers, dominated the fall race leading an amazing 305 out of 500 laps last August, and will look to rebound from a disappointing 28th-place finish last Sunday at Atlanta. The Palms Casino Resort, based upon the #2 Miller Dodge's success at Bristol, has established Kurt Busch as a 4.5 position favorite over the rival Budweiser car of Kasey Kahne. For the season, the #9 car holds a slim lead of 50 points over the #2 car, sitting 7th vs. 10th in the standings.