KURT BUSCH LOOKING FOR CONSISTENT STRENGTH IN “CORE” RACES
FONTANA, Calif. (March 22, 2011) - Kurt Busch and his Steve Addington-led Penske Racing "Double Deuce" Dodge team enter this weekend's Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in sole possession of the NASCAR Sprint Cup points lead. Busch is the only driver to record top-10 finishes in all four races completed this season, but he's quick to point out that there is no room for complacency in this sport.
"We've had a solid start to our 2011 season and I'm so proud of the great job everyone on our ‘Double Deuce' Dodge team has done," said Busch, who will be sporting the Auto Club colors for the first time this season in this weekend's action on the 2.0-mile D-shaped oval. "Four races and four top-10 finishes - that's laying a pretty good foundation - but there's never any time in our sport to rest on your laurels. It's always a ‘you snooze and you lose' situation out there.
"When we finished seventh last Sunday at Bristol, that's pretty much what was going through my head is that yes, it was another top-10 finish, but it should have been better," said Busch, who now leads Carl Edwards by one point (150 to 149) for the top spot. "Like I told them after the race, it was a point-leader type effort and finish. We just have to keep pushing hard and find the ‘mojo' we need to run up front and compete for the win."
Busch looks at this next stretch of races, beginning with the 400-mile battle at Auto Club Speedway this weekend and extending through the April 17 race at Talladega, Ala., as a great reference point to what the remainder of the season could hold for his team.
"It's a stretch of races that give a little preview of what to expect when we get into what I call the ‘core' part of our series," said Busch, who has 22 career Cup wins to date with 16 of those victories coming on tracks that are one-mile and larger in length. "We have the two-mile Fontana track and the 1.5-mile Texas track, with the Martinsville short track and Talladega big speedway thrown into the mix. I've always thought that you can take a look back after the Talladega race in the spring and see where you stand. You can get a good reading on where you are strong and where you need to focus more effort in getting better overall.
"When we get on to Darlington and Charlotte, I think we'll know much better of how we stack up to everybody else out there when it comes to the intermediate tracks that make up such a huge part of our schedule," said Busch. "It's the mile-and-a-half tracks that are the meat and potatoes of our sport. We have to really get our consistency cranked up on those intermediate tracks if we want to play a factor later on into the season.
"With the tracks like Texas and Charlotte already on that list, we now have to put Kentucky in there, too. When you run the numbers and see what a great percentage of our races are held on those tracks, you can understand just how important those races are in the big picture.
"We've been around long enough to know that you have to take it one race at a time," said Busch. "Right now, the most important race we're facing is this weekend's Auto Club 400 at Fontana. It's especially big on our radar screen because we're bringing out the blue, red and white Auto Club colors for our Penske Racing Dodge Charger for the first time this season. With the track and the race carrying their name, the expectations for the Auto Club Dodge will certainly be high.
"We've had some success there through the years, but have struggled there a bit recently," said Busch, who has recorded one win (April 2003), four top-five finishes, eight top-10s and three pole positions in 17 races to date at Auto Club Speedway. "We certainly know what we're up against this weekend. Just as it's been over the last few years there, the tire maintenance situation will be critical.
"The track has worn to the point that you can get a fresh set of tires and be Superman for the first few laps. The fall-off rate will see you lose up to four-tenths (of a second in lap times) after one lap on fresh tires. It can get pretty hairy out there under any long green-flag runs. There are guys rocketing around the track with fresh tires on trying to negotiate the traffic and others who haven't pitted yet trying to stay out of the way, but keep their momentum going.
"It's such a fast track and you carry such speed into the corners that you really have to stay on your toes," said Busch, who has a 14.2 average start and 12.7 average finish in Cup competition at Fontana. "The spotter is extremely important in the races at Fontana because he has a better view of the other cars' closing rate. Our spotter, Chris Osborne, is the best in the business. He knows the cars that are approaching on fresher rubber and can give you the heads up well in advance so you can plan your moves accordingly.
"We hope to have a super-competitive Auto Club Dodge Charger at Fontana this weekend and keep our momentum building with another solid performance," said Busch. "It'd be really cool to see our Auto Club Dodge in Victory Lane after winning the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. It couldn't get any better than that."
Busch has been running at the finish in all 17 of his races on the demanding Fontana track. He has an incredible 99.9 percent lap completion percentage, finishing all but four (4,201 of 4,205) of the possible laps.
-source: penske racing