Kurt Busch preview

Talladega

Kurt Busch and his Steve Addington-led Penske Racing "Double-Deuce" team will be racing their "PRS-640" Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge Charger this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. This is the same car that Busch debuted in winning fashion during the Feb. 12 Budweiser Shootout. In that race, Busch started 17th and led three times for three laps, hooking up with Jamie McMurray to take the checkered flag for the first time in Sprint Cup competition at Daytona International Speedway.

It's the Shootout winner that we'll be running after all this weekend and I'm sure our driver will be pleased about that.

Dave Winston

"There was some confusion earlier in the week about which car we'd be running and that stemmed from the dissemination of the wind tunnel results," offered team engineer Dave Winston. "It's the Shootout winner that we'll be running after all this weekend and I'm sure our driver will be pleased about that." By the way, this car does have a name. Busch was almost clairvoyant when he named his winning ride back in February. "We decided to name the car ‘Pecten' in honor of our sponsor Shell's logo," said Busch. "To some it may be a funny sounding name, but to us it's a winning sign that we're proud to carry on our Shell-Pennzoil ‘Double-Deuce' Dodges, on our uniforms and elsewhere. We're hoping to take ‘Pecten' back to Victory Lane again at Talladega and maybe in the July Daytona race." The "PRS-641" will serve as the backup car for this weekend. Busch has yet to race this car.

Shell-Pennzoil/AAA Dodge driver Kurt Busch has been counting down the days for this weekend's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway ever since Feb. 20. That was the day he was in the hunt to win the 53rd annual Daytona 500 until the final lap. In the final race of what was a super successful Speed Weeks 2011, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champ had to settle for a fifth-place finish and leave Daytona still in quest of his first points-paying restrictor-plate race win.

"We had won the Budweiser Shootout and won our Thursday qualifying race so we had so much confidence and momentum rolling into the Daytona 500," said Busch, who will start his 42nd Sprint Cup plate race at Talladega on Sunday still looking for that elusive victory. "The 500 is our Super Bowl and all the hype was crazy around our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team. No team had ever claimed all three Cup race winner's trophies in a single Speed Weeks.

"What a race," Busch said of this year's Daytona 500. "On that last lap, I just needed to stay on the bottom of the track and it just didn't seem like (Juan Pablo) Montoya could stay together and get enough steam built up on the run. I was in perfect position to win the race; running third and just made a mistake. It was tough. We came all that way and couldn't finish it off. We had to settle for a fifth-place finish, put it behind us and realize what the day meant from a big-picture perspective.

"When the dust had settled back on that day, I almost immediately looked at the schedule and circled April 17 - the date of this weekend's race at Talladega Superspeedway - and my next opportunity to win a plate race," said Busch, who is zero for 20 in Talladega Cup competition entering this weekend. "I mean, yes, we did win a plate race at Daytona; two of them as a matter of fact. So they can't say that we've never won the Bud Shootout and they can't say that we've never won a 150-mile qualifying race. But what they can say is that we still haven't been able to come home the winner in a points-paying Cup plate race.

Kurt Busch, Penske Racing Dodge
Kurt Busch, Penske Racing Dodge

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

"This could be our weekend to finally get that elusive win; I really have a great feeling about our chances," said Busch. "I've been asked so many times since Daytona about what I expect to see at Talladega this weekend. We're going to see that same style draft. The two-car draft is just so potent. I mean, anytime you can tell a race car driver he can go four seconds faster a lap and give him the recipe on how to do it, he's going to go and put it into play, that's that two-car draft.

"We worked real well with Regan Smith at Daytona and that could be a strong option that we look at and consider this weekend. We'll certainly be looking for more opportunities with Brad Keselowski, my Dodge teammate and anyone else. You want to learn how their car drafts with yours, vice versa, that way you're best prepared for Sunday's event.

"So, that's our plan of attack for this weekend," said Busch. "We'll get out there on Friday and see who we can hook up with and run well with. If you remember, there were several other guys out there who we'd planned to try to partner with, but the various circumstances prevented it.

"Yes, we have high expectations for this weekend at Talladega, that's for sure. Hopefully we can get down there and get the ball rolling on Friday, get us a good spot on pit road with a respectable qualifying run on Saturday and finally close the deal there on Sunday afternoon."

While Busch has yet to win a Cup race at Talladega, he did take the checkers in the April 2003 IROC race there and he finished third in his very first Talladega Cup race back on April 22, 2001. In his 20 prior Cup races at Talladega, Busch has recorded six top-five finishes and 13 top-10s. He has a 20.7 average start and a 13.7 average finish. He has been running at the finish in 17 races and has finished on the lead lap in 14 of those races.

Busch, fifth in points, has the best average finish (13.7) of any of the drivers currently among the top-12 in the Sprint Cup standings. Points-leader Carl Edwards has a 22.1 average finish in 13 races; second-place Kyle Busch has a 23.3 average in 12 races; third-place Matt Kenseth has an 18.6 average in 22 races and fourth-place Jimmie Johnson has a 17.2 average in 18 races. Sixth-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a 15.1 average (in 22 races), seventh-place Ryan Newman has a 20.6 (in 18 races); eighth-place Juan Pablo Montoya has a 14.8 (in eight races); ninth-place Kevin Harvick has a 14.8 (in 20 races); 10th-place Tony Stewart has a 15.5 (in 24 races); 11th-place Paul Menard has a 24.9 (in nine races) and 12th-place Clint Bowyer has a 19.4 (in 10 races).

What is Busch's "secret" to being such a consistent frontrunner in the restrictor-plate races?

"I'm one that doesn't take a lot of chances and more times than not plays it more defensively than on the offense," Busch said. "I think that's been my mentality over the years. The times that I've been too aggressive out there and tried to make big bold moves, I wound up wrecked or getting shuffled out at the end and it didn't turn out well. Over the years, I've just been one who tried to follow suit and not make the mistakes at the end with being too aggressive. I think that the biggest thing I always have going for me is that I truly enjoy the plate races. I think for sure that I am in the minority when I say that. I know how much the fans love it. I know it's hard for most people to understand, but the more I'm right in the middle of the lead pack, the more comfortable I am in the car. I feel like I learn something each time I'm in that position, especially how to survive it and get a good finish out of it."

-source: penske racing

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags dodge, penske, shell oil, sprint cup, talladega