Celebrating the End of Summer NASCAR Style
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 28, 2012) – Labor Day weekend – summer’s last hurrah. While nearly three weeks remain until the fall season begins on the calendar, the annual holiday has been the weekend that commemorates the unofficial end to summer. Whether it’s one last weekend trip to the beach, a backyard barbecue, or one more summer party – many celebrate the event in a variety of methods and styles.
Those who elect to celebrate the Labor Day weekend “NASCAR style” will be doing so this year in “Hotlanta” as the Atlanta Motor Speedway plays host to the Sprint Cup Series for Sunday night’s AdvoCare 500. The nickname “Hotlanta” is used in reference to the Atlanta nightlife and the abundance of activities in which to participate while in the city. To a lesser degree, the nickname also refers to the hot summer temperatures associated with the area. Both references apply when discussing the NASCAR weekend on the forthcoming Labor Day weekend.
All three of NASCAR’s top touring series will be in town with the Camping World Truck Series kicking off three nights of intense racing action Friday night with the headline attraction being the AdvoCare 500 Sprint Cup Series race Sunday night. A lot will be on the line in the latter event with a number of drivers still trying to clinch or gain positions in the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship that begins Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. It’s certainly stacking up to be a weekend to be remembered.
Right in the thick of things during two of the three race nights at Atlanta is driver Kurt Busch. The 2004 Sprint Cup champion enters the weekend as a three-time Atlanta winner with his most recent Sprint Cup victory at the 1.5-mile track occurring in March 2010. It’s a track for which the driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing has a great affinity and, with his stats at Atlanta, it’s easy to see why he bestows such favor on the facility.
In addition to three Sprint Cup wins at Atlanta, Busch has scored four top-fives and nine top-10 finishes. He finished fourth in this race one year ago after starting 10th. That fourth-place finish marked four consecutive finishes of sixth place or better. More impressive is the fact that in all of his 21 starts at Atlanta, Busch has finished outside the top-15 only seven times, three of which were the result of an accident or engine failures. Busch has also led a minimum of 10 laps in seven of the last 10 races to have taken place at Atlanta.
Busch will be looking for more success at Atlanta and he is doubling his chances to do just that by competing in Friday night’s Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 200 Truck Series race, driving the No. 51 Chevrolet racetruck for Billy Ballew Motorsports. It will be the second time in three weeks Busch is competing in the series that launched him to NASCAR success more than 10 years ago. Busch goes into Friday night’s Truck Series race having earned four wins, 14 top-fives and 18 top-10 finishes in 26 career starts in the series.
So, whether celebrating Labor Day weekend NASCAR style or any other way, one thing is certain – three nights of scintillating racing action will unfold in “Hotlanta” as the summer season draws to its unofficial close.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing:
You have often said that Atlanta is one of your favorite tracks. Why is that? “It’s just because of the tire management element the track brings into the equation. If you take a look at them, most of the tracks that are in the southeastern part of the United States really chew up the tires. Charlotte used to be that way before the track was repaved, and it’s starting to come back to that. You have Darlington, which has that reputation and, even though we don’t race there anymore, Rockingham is another track that was like that. And then you have Atlanta. It’s just one of those tracks. It’s fast. It chews up tires and you have to run up by the wall to manage your tires the best.”
So this is a place where the driver may play a bigger role than the aerodynamics typically needed at most intermediate tracks? “I think so. It’s an intermediate track because of its size and the banking, but it really is more of a driver’s track because you have a lot to balance there – aerodynamics, pit strategy and tire management.”
What’s the most difficult thing about Atlanta? “I think one of the biggest things that can be tough at Atlanta is getting your car to handle in turns three and four. It’s very specific. You really need the car to hook at the bottom of three and four, particularly when you’re on fresh tires. If you have a car that can run the bottom close to wide open in three and four, then that’s when you can do to separate yourself to be a race-winning contender.”
You raced in the Truck Series a couple of weeks ago at Michigan and you are doing so again this weekend at Atlanta. How has it been being back in that series after a decade of not competing in it? “The chance to drive Kyle’s truck was a unique opportunity to help with the team and evaluate his program and the fun factor was definitely through the roof. We led the most laps and it just came down to fuel mileage. At Atlanta, it’s all about saving your tires, so it’s going to be more of a tire-management race. Just looking at everything from the broader perspective, these two races I will have done so far in trucks, we are talking about two polar opposite kinds of tracks. With the race at Michigan and the race at Atlanta this weekend, it’s just two different kinds of tracks as far as the strategy used or needed to be successful. The deal for this weekend came about when (Phoenix Racing team owner) James Finch and the group asked me to run Atlanta for Billy Ballew and his gang, and it’s just another element of going out there and having fun. I believe, at the end of the day, Billy Ballew just wants to go out there and see how good his equipment still is.”
Source: Phoenix Racing