Darlington: Kurt Busch preview

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 6, 2008) - As incredible and perhaps unbelievable as it might sound, Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch says that Saturday night's Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Raceway could produce a finish even closer than that of...

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 6, 2008) - As incredible and perhaps unbelievable as it might sound, Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch says that Saturday night's Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Raceway could produce a finish even closer than that of the March 16, 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400.

In that race, Busch and Ricky Craven staged the closest finish in the history of electronic scoring and timing along the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, with Craven taking the exciting victory by a mere 0.002 seconds over Busch.

You could call it Busch's abstract racing version of the "Theory of Relativity."

"As odd as that may sound, yes it could very well happen there on Saturday night," said Busch, hoping to regroup at Darlington Raceway this weekend after enduring two consecutive disastrous races at Talladega and Richmond. "It's like taking two completely different sets of ingredients or circumstances and coming up with the same results. That has certainly been the nature of our sport, especially over the last few years.

"When Ricky and I staged that nail-biter at Darlington back in 2003, we were racing the smaller cars on old asphalt with softer tires," said Busch. "This time around, the elements are totally different. We have the bigger and boxier cars. We'll have the brand new fresh asphalt. And yeah, we'll have the rock-hard Goodyear Tires there this weekend.

"When you stop and think about it, it's very much possible that we could have another close finish like we did in 2003. I certainly don't think that we'll be running side-by-side and that close all night long; it would be absolutely absurd to think that could happen. But if we were to get a late-race caution, it really could set up another race that close to the finish.

"The new track will have a ton of grip, but the rock-hard tires will probably see us slipping and sliding all over the place," Busch explained. "If the cars are all bunched up for the finish of Saturday night's race, you'll likely see some of the brave and daring young souls out there pushing it to the limit and doing whatever it takes to win. The key to it all, however, would probably be a late caution with less than 10 laps remaining. We'd start single-file with the leaders up front and all the lapped cars completely out of the way and running behind them.

"Darlington is such a tight and narrow track all the way around and when you look back at the video from the shootout that Ricky and I had, you'd have to label it a miracle that we didn't crash each other out that day. As big and bulky as these new cars are, you could still wedge two guys running side-by-side on that narrow little strip of asphalt. It would be another mind-blowing finish, that's for sure. We'd definitely welcome the opportunity to be involved in another classic finish like that."

Busch took time out on Monday night to detail the historical finish in his battle with Craven in the racing classic, even divulging information he hasn't revealed until now.

"The fact was that my power steering went out late in that race and by the time it got down to those last couple of laps, I had no power steering at all," said Busch. "The TV and radio guys were reporting that I'd just abused my stuff so badly that I'd used everything up; I had just had burned the tires slap off the thing.

"It made for such a great story that I never bothered to mention that if I'd still had my power steering and didn't have to manhandle the car like I was, I probably could have held Ricky off. Regardless, it was a historical race and I was so proud and excited to have been part of it. Ricky has always been such a first class guy and I have had the utmost respect for him then and through today.

"Over the years, I've been privileged to have had the opportunity to do TV and radio shows with Ricky and we inevitably get around to discussing the 2003 Darlington spring race," said Busch. "In my mind, that race displayed the ultimate example of two drivers battling their hearts and guts out till the very end, yet having and maintaining so much respect for each other. Ricky and I were both in the same state of mind in that we both wanted to win, but neither of us was going to wreck the other guy. I think it was the supreme example of two guys racing as hard as they could to win a race. If that same situation played out again a hundred times, 99 of them would probably end with a big crash before they got to the finish line.

"I can remember it just like it was yesterday," said Busch of the amazing final few yards of his battle with Craven. "I went into turn three trying to give Ricky the impression that I was gonna go high, yet I cut the wheel down low. I was trying to make sure I made it as wide as I could getting in, so he couldn't commit to a line. When you commit to a line quicker, obviously, you can generate speed through the corner. So I went into (Turn) three low and there was no way I could hold it down like I needed to.

"The car pushed up a little bit and I knew he'd go low, so I didn't want to come back across his nose because I would have spun out and finished as the last car on the lead lap. So I had to just carry the momentum towards the high side and get as much throttle-on time as I could. He started rubbing the left-rear, the door, the A-post, and as soon as he got up to my front tire, it jerked the wheel out of my hand and yanked my car completely into his. That killed my momentum and then we stayed locked from there on. I grabbed as much of the wheel as I could and finally tugged it back to the right to get off of him by the time we got to the start-finish line, but my momentum had been killed after that. It was just a hard-fought battle and one that they'll probably be talking about forever."

Kurt on racing at Darlington: "I've always loved racing at Darlington. From way back in my short-track days, I can remember the place being so full of history. I always thought that it would be so cool to race there. When I got my first opportunity to race at Darlington back in the spring race of 2001, I found out that everything I'd heard about the place was absolutely true. It is such a challenging track and so demanding from a mental standpoint. You used to have to get your car setup right to deal with the unbelievably abrasive surface. Even with the brand new pavement, it will still always be the ultimate challenge. That's just part of the equation, because then you have to apply a mental focus to each and every lap. You really do race the racetrack lap after lap in hopes of being there up front to race the other competitors in the final few laps."

Let's take our weekly trip to Las Vegas to see what the Palms Casino Resort sports book representative, Fred Crespi, has to say about this week's Beer battle.

"Honestly, I am really shocked at the horrible luck this Miller Lite team is having this year, and just as surprised at the success of the Bud team. They have been steady all year long, and sitting 12th in points after the season they had last year is a testament to teamwork. Both the #2 Miller Lite Dodge and the #9 Budweiser Dodge have the drivers that are perfectly suited to finish well at such a demanding race track like Darlington, so this week's number was not an easy one to get to. However, until the Miller Lite team can shake their bad luck, I have to make the Bud team more of a favorite than I normally would or have. This week, the #9 team is a 3.5 position favorite over the #2 at The Palms, based upon current form and career success at this track. And am I the only one that wishes this race was still over Labor Day weekend? Regardless, I know we are going to see yet another amazing Darlington finish this Saturday."

--Kurt scheduled to be a featured guest next Tuesday for the Chicagoland Fan Appreciation event at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. The special event for the track's season ticketholders is set from 3:00 p.m. till 6:30 p.m. CDT. For additional information, please visit the track's site at www.chicagolandspeedway.com

--Kurt's visit to his souvenir trailer at Darlington this Saturday will mark the 256th time in the last 259 races that he has been out on race days to meet the fans and sign autographs. His continuing tradition began during his first full year on the Cup circuit back in 2001. Kurt is tentatively scheduled to be at his souvenir trailer from 4:00 p.m. till 4:30 p.m. at Darlington on Saturday. Please verify that time by visiting the trailer in advance and picking up the free tickets for the autograph line.

-credit: pr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Kurt Busch , Ricky Craven