* Chase this: Kurt Busch the driver to beat at Bristol * Short-track dos and don'ts: How to excel -- or not -- on some of NASCAR's toughest tracks * History lesson: Bristol Motor Speedway a special place for Rusty Wallace NEWS AND ...
* Chase this: Kurt Busch the driver to beat at Bristol
* Short-track dos and don'ts: How to excel -- or not -- on some of NASCAR's toughest tracks
* History lesson: Bristol Motor Speedway a special place for Rusty Wallace
NEWS AND NOTES
Bullish on Bristol: Kurt Busch The Current Specialist ... The defending NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion excels at Bristol Motor Speedway, always a difficult track for young drivers. But the high-banked half-mile never seems to have fazed Kurt Busch, who's in his fifth fulltime season. His eight career Bristol starts translate this way: Four wins, including three straight in the Food City 500, plus six top-10 finishes. His only blemish? A DNF (did not finish) in his first start there as a rookie in March 2001. Busch finished 42nd in that race. However, he doesn't zoom to the front. Busch didn't lead until after the halfway point in all four of his wins; his earliest lead came at Lap 359 in March 2003.
"Our team is definitely gassed up every time we go to Bristol," Busch said. "It's a fun racetrack for the team. Everybody that goes there, you're just in a different atmosphere at Bristol. You have to -- it's a love/hate relationship. Right now our team definitely loves going there."
Short-Track Dos and Don'ts ... Waving a magic wand isn't an option when it comes to pursuing -- and sustaining -- success at tough half-mile circuits like Bristol and Martinsville. But there are basic rules of the road, according to Kurt Busch and Tennessee native Sterling Marlin (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge), who learned his craft on area short tracks.
Busch's Do List:
Save your tires.
Keep your eyes on the track ahead of you.
Protect your car.
Be patient, but know when to go (fast).
Busch's Don't List:
Burn your brakes.
Spend too much time looking in the rear view mirror.
Go to the outside unless you know it will hold.
Put yourself in a situation to wreck.
Marlin's Do List:
Qualify up front.
Remember there are no friends on the track.
Swap places if person behind is faster (especially if it is Kurt Busch).
It's better to finish than wreck.
Marlin's Don't List:
Make a mistake that sends the car to the back -- you start a half-lap down.
Knock the radiator out of the car.
Get hung up on the outside lane.
Use the walls -- the best finishes come from cars that have no scratches on them.
Personal History In The Making ... Already the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup record-holder for modern-era consecutive starts -- at 756 races heading into Bristol -- Ricky Rudd (No. 21 Motorcraft Qualify Parts Ford) is expected to make his 55th career start Sunday. Only Richard Petty (60) started more series events at Bristol. Dave Marcis is third with 54 Bristol starts. Darrell Waltrip is fourth with 52 and Terry Labonte is fifth, also with 52 Bristol starts.
Three other drivers are expected to mark career milestones this weekend. They are:
• Rusty Wallace -- his 675th career start.
• Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) -- his 350th career start.
• Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford) -- his 550th consecutive start. Martin ranks third among active drivers behind Rusty Wallace (who expects to make his 666th consecutive start this weekend) and Rudd, the category leader who expects to make his 757th consecutive start).
Dead-Heat: Chevrolet, Ford Tied Atop Series Manufacturers Standings ... After four races in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, Chevrolet and Ford are tied for the lead in the series' Manufacturers Championship standings, with Dodge running third. Chevrolet and Ford share the lead on the strength of two victories each. ... Chevrolet has won the Manufacturers Championship 28 times while Ford has won 15 times; the other 10 years the championship has been awarded, it has been won by Hudson (3), Dodge (2), Buick (2), Oldsmobile (1), Pontiac (1) and Plymouth (1). ... Points are earned thusly: Nine points to the highest-finishing car type; six points to the second-highest finishing type; four points for the third-highest finishing type. ... Chevrolet has won the championship the last two years. ... Jimmie Johnson is currently the leading Chevrolet driver, as the series point leader. Greg Biffle, second in points, is the top Ford driver. Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) is the leading Dodge driver, standing sixth in the points.
From the Archives: Bristol always special to Rusty Wallace ... The 1989 series champion, who will retire at the end of the 2005 season, has enjoyed many career moments at Bristol Motor Speedway. The first -- and the first of Wallace's 55 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victories -- came April 6, 1986 in the Valleydale Meats 500, a race that began with Daytona 500 winner Geoff Bodine on the pole and Neil Bonnett on the outside pole. Bonnett and teammate Darrell Waltrip were favorites that day because Bonnett's team owner, Junior Johnson, had won 20 Bristol races, including eight straight from 1980 through 1984.
In his fourth fulltime season, Wallace started 14th driving a Pontiac owned by drag racing star Raymond Beadle. Prior to that Sunday, his top finish had been a second-place effort in his 1980 series debut at Atlanta, a race he drove for owner Roger Penske.
Wallace spent the first half of the Valleydale Meats 500 moving through the field. He took the lead on Lap 240 and held it for 68 laps before Bobby Allison led for two laps. Wallace again took the lead on Lap 310 for five laps. Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip then swapped the lead until Lap 400, when Wallace resurfaced and led the last 100 laps.
Wallace's first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup win also marked the first series win for his crew chief, Barry Dodson, who made this prophetic Victory Lane statement:
"Some people doubted he'd (Wallace) ever make it big," Dodson said. "Well, he made it big today. Mark this date."
Calling All Storytellers, Bristol Style ... Actually, it's only two people, but both delight in weaving tales. Three-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Darrell Waltrip and his team owner during those title seasons of 1981, 1982 and 1985, Junior Johnson, will team up again on Thursday. The occasion is a dinner at Bristol Motor Speedway that benefits the International Storytelling Center. Based in Jonesborough, Tenn., outside Johnston City, the International Storytelling Center hosts the 30-year-old National Storytelling Festival each October.
Waltrip, whose 12 Bristol victories leads all drivers, and Johnson, whose 20 Bristol victories leads all owners, will entertain with championship tales and NASCAR lore. Mike Joy, who anchors NASCAR on FOX coverage and works with Waltrip, now a NASCAR on FOX analyst, will moderate. The dinner is scheduled for the banquet room in Bristol's Bruton Smith Building. A 6:30 p.m. reception is followed by dinner at 7 p.m., and storytelling at 8 p.m.
On the Right Track
• Ford has won seven of the 10 races at Bristol since 2000. Chevrolet has two wins during that time frame and Pontiac has one. Dodge's last Bristol win was Richard Petty's victory in the 1975 Volunteer 500.
• Ryan Newman is seeking his third straight Food City 500 pole.
• Rusty Wallace has the most Food City 500 poles (five), including three straight from 1997-99. He also leads all active drivers with nine Bristol wins, including his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup win and his 50th.
On Deck: Martinsville Speedway ... Race No. 6 on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule will be Sunday, April 10 -- the Advance Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Martinsville, a .526-mile oval, has been part of the schedule since 1954 when the respective race winners were Jim Paschal and Lee Petty. ... Rusty Wallace is defending champion; Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) was last year's polesitter.
The race: Food City 500. (Race No. 5 of the 36-race NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season.)
The track: Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tenn. (.5-mile oval.)
The date/time: Sunday, April 3, 1:15 p.m. (ET).
TV: FOX, 12:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: PRN/XM Satellite.
Posted awards: $5,336,617.
Race length: 500 laps, 266.5 miles.
Track layout: .533-mile oval.
2004 winner: Kurt Busch
2004 polesitter: Ryan Newman.
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10: 1. Jimmie Johnson 680. 2. Greg Biffle 598. 3. Carl Edwards 593. 4. Kurt Busch 577. 5. Mark Martin 539. 6. Ryan Newman 515. 7. Tony Stewart 514. 8. Elliott Sadler 482. 9. Rusty Wallace 477. 10. Jamie McMurray 475.