Dover: Kurt Busch preview

--Kurt, Pat and the Miller Lite Team are racing their PSC-569 Dodge Charger this weekend at Dover. It is another brand new "second-generation" car out of Penske Racing's Mooresville, N.C., shops and will be debuting this weekend on the "Monster ...

--Kurt, Pat and the Miller Lite Team are racing their PSC-569 Dodge Charger this weekend at Dover. It is another brand new "second-generation" car out of Penske Racing's Mooresville, N.C., shops and will be debuting this weekend on the "Monster Mile."

--Kurt on the incident that occurred during last year's June Dover race that resulted in a 100-point penalty and probation: "Man, I look back now and it seems like that June Dover race last year was light-years ago," Kurt said. "It was a situation of two drivers racing extremely hard, probably too hard at that point in the race. It was a situation of no take and give like we should have been doing. After I got crashed, I just let my emotions take over and I know I shouldn't have let that happen. That was definitely a bone-head move I pulled on pit road, I'll admit that. But every time I've seen the video, the theatrics always seem to make the situation even worse than it probably was. We learned from the experience, for sure, but it's a thrill to look back and see how far our team was able to go after it happened. I look back on that race now and I have to point to it as a major turning point for our season last year. It was a perfect example of, 'We've got to get it in gear and we've got to make this Chase.' It was like a kick in the pants that put us on a pretty amazing stretch of races to make the Chase. It feels like an eternity ago that it did happen because of all the good things that happened during the remainder of the season."

--Kurt's 16th-place finish in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 was his best since his 11th in the event during his 2004 championship season. He finished 43rd in 2005, 39th in 2006 and 32nd in 2007. "The 600 has not been too kind for us over the last few years and it was great to finally finish the entire race for a change," Kurt said. "Those finishes don't represent how strong our cars have been. Just like there on Sunday when we led laps and appeared to have a solid top-five or top-10 run going, something happened like blowing a tire or having engine problems and that cost us a good finish. The 600 is a grueling race and we're definitely examples of having strong cars in the first half of the race, but not being our strongest when it counted most." Kurt started on the outside pole in last year's 600 and led two times for 107 laps before crashing out after 296 laps. In the 2006 edition, he crashed early in the race but returned. In the 2005 Coke 600, he started 35th and only completed 26 laps before an accident relegated him to the garage.

--Kurt, Pat and team are scheduled to test their new PSC-565 Miller Lite Dodge Charger again on Wednesday, June 4, at Road Atlanta, the 2.54-mile road course located in Braselton, Georgia. "We looked at several road courses to test our new road course car on and chose Road Atlanta because it offers a layout that should help us in preparing for both road course races this season. It has the 'esses' and 12 turns, including one that runs downhill," Pat explained. "We were there last week (May 21) and got in a full day of testing. We think we learned some things that will help us when we get out to Sonoma (Infineon Raceway) for the race later on in June."

--Kurt's visit to his souvenir trailer at Dover International Speedway this Sunday will mark the 258th time in the last 261 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. Please verify the exact time of his 30-minute signing session by visiting the trailer in advance and picking up the free tickets for the autograph line.

--Kurt may still be looking for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win and pole at Dover International Speedway, but the track certainly holds quite a bit of historical significance for the Miller Lite Dodge driver.

Kurt made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut during the September 2000 Dover racing weekend, a double-header adventure for the Las Vegas native that saw him post a remarkable winning performance in his only truck series start on the "Monster Mile."

"That was a pretty cool weekend for a 22-year-old kid there at Dover in 2000," Kurt recalled. "I was running for the Truck Series Rookie-of-the-Year and was third in the overall points when I got the call to drive the 97 car.

"My career was moving so fast back then," Kurt continued. "Only 11 months before that, I was just a successful young short-tracker living in Las Vegas and still holding down a job with the water department. We'd won the championship in the NASCAR Southwest Series in '99 and I was the youngest driver to ever win the title. We got the call to drive the No. 99 truck and I had run only 20 races or so (21) when I was put in the 97 Cup ride.

"I can remember reading a headline back then that said, 'Busch's Career Skyrocketing Into the Stratosphere,'" said Kurt. "That pretty much said it all. I'd gone from being a big fish in a little pond on the short tracks to a Truck Series race winner and leading rookie in only a matter of a few months. Then I was straight into the Cup ride, without ever even running a single Busch Series race.

"That was a special weekend at Dover, for sure," Kurt said. "We won the pole for the Truck Series race, but wrecked during the final practice. We had to pull the backup out and start from the rear of the field without turning a single lap of practice in it. I remember just taking it easy for the first few laps to make sure everything was cool. Then we just set sail. We'd raced up into the top five after only 50 laps. We kept up the pace and at the end it came down to a big battle between Mike Wallace and me. He was leading with only a couple of laps to go and we were right on his bumper. I made the move to pass him on the outside and he tried to block me and wound up spinning himself out. So we wound up coming from last to first and won that race in our backup truck.

"We'd already had the Cup car there testing it a week earlier and had turned in some really fast laps," recalled Kurt. "That Friday, before we won the Truck Series race, we qualified the Cup car in the 10th spot.

"I remember really looking forward to the Saturday morning practice, but it never happened because a storm came through the area. We got an extra hour of practice that afternoon after the Grand National race was over and got her dialed in the best we could. At least we thought we did. It had been overcast all during Saturday's practice and was still that way when Sunday's race started. The car started out really loose, and we adjusted to tighten it up. Then the sun broke through the clouds and we had a super tight racecar. We ran the last 125 laps under the green and I really had my hands full. We held on, kept her out of the wall and finished 18th. We accomplished all our goals there that weekend."

And who was the crew chief for Kurt's debut in Cup racing? None other than former crew chief-turned Fox Sports broadcaster Jeff Hammond.

-- Kurt's career record at Dover International Speedway sports two top-five finishes and four top-10s in 15 career starts. His best finish to date at the track came in the September 2006 race when he finished fourth after starting 10th. He started 12th and finished 42nd in last June's race after getting parked after 271 laps. In last September's race, he started fourth and finished 29th after a blown tire caused him to crash out of Turn 2 while running fourth with only 15 laps remaining.

Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch may stand 21st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings and trail 12th-place Kasey Kahne by 262 points heading into Dover, but he is still confident that he can make the 2008 "Chase" for the series championship.

"There's plenty of time left, so we're not flipping out or getting all bent out of shape," said Busch, who claimed the 2004 points title under the "Chase" format. "We've only completed 12 races as of now, so that means we have another 14 races to go before it's decided who makes it and who doesn't. We're smart enough to know that there is so much that can change between now and then.

-credit: pr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Mike Wallace , Kurt Busch
Teams Team Penske