Busch looks to earn back points at Fontana

Busch looks to earn back points at Fontana

Kurt Busch couldn't have had a worse weekend at the 2.66- mile superspeedway restrictor plate race at Talladega. As he motored around the top fifteen, trying to stay out of trouble, a swat to the bumper from Tony Stewart at lap 83 sparked the "big...

Kurt Busch couldn't have had a worse weekend at the 2.66- mile superspeedway restrictor plate race at Talladega. As he motored around the top fifteen, trying to stay out of trouble, a swat to the bumper from Tony Stewart at lap 83 sparked the "big one". The bump caused Busch to spin sideways on the track, and eventually involved 10 cars. Stewart, the culprit, managed to slide through unscathed.

Kurt Busch.
Photo by Autostock.
The wreck was a costly one for Busch and the No. 97 Roush Ford team. After strong showings in the last several events, including a win at Bristol, Busch had crept to second in series standings, and trailed leader Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by a mere five points.

"I always enjoy heading out to the west coast and the track in California," said Busch. "We've had a lot of success the past couple of trips out here to this racetrack. We were able to pull off the win here at this race last year, and finished second the season before that, so it's definitely a welcome trip after last weekend's DNF at Talladega. Hopefully we'll be able to go out and compete and make up for some of the points we lost last week."

The No. 97 team finished 36th at Talladega and dropped to 4th in rankings, 125 markers from the top spot. Busch, who is never afraid to be vocal, expressed his displeasure not only with Tony Stewart but the entire art of restrictor plate racing.

"I'm just looking forward to the next race," said Busch. "We got to a real race track where we can race side by side and not have a draft that ruins it. We just got ruined by the draft today."

Busch looks to rebound this weekend at California Speedway. Defending race winner Busch outmaneuvered Jamie McMurray and Bobby Labonte in 2003, to earn one of his four wins of the year. Busch led only 27of the races 250 laps, but when leader Jamie McMurray fell off at lap 238, Busch pounced for position.

Kurt Busch.
Photo by Autostock.
The early-season second win (he also won at Bristol 2003), helped propel Busch into fourth in series standings, this time last year. Ultimately, Busch and team Roush lacked consistency last season. Despite four victories, and 14 top-tens; Busch had a career-high eight DNF's which caused Team 97 to finish a disappointing 11th in the 2003 championship.

Busch knows he does not have the luxury of falling out of the top ten or losing position at this point in the season. The NASCAR Nextel Chase for the Championship has put the pressure on for any championship level drivers. They must be in the top ten or within 400 points of the leader by the end of the 26th race of the schedule (Richmond). It has put added stress on drivers and teams to be spot on out of the box.

Busch, the 25-year-old Las Vegas native, knows what he wants to accomplish this year. He wants to give Roush Racing back-to-back Cup series champions, and garner his first career NASCAR premium division title. He knows that is a healthy task, with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. poised comfortably at the top of the charts, but he plans on approaching the rest of the season with dogged determination and steadily chomp through Earnhardt's lead.

Right now, he'll have to jackrabbit over Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon to get back where he was just a week ago. But he's not stressing, he's learned the hard way that anything can happen in a week, the points are much like Talladega where you can go from hero to zero in just a lap by falling out of the draft. Team 97 is hoping that bringing their race winning car back to California Speedway will assist Busch in reaching his goals.

"We're brining the same chassis that Kurt took to victory lane at Fontana and Michigan last year, so we're happy about the car," said No. 97 crew chief Jimmy Fennig. "This will be our first of two trips to this track this season, but we're not really approaching anything differently for this first race. We just want to go out and try to do what we did last year."

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray