LOUDON, N.H. (Sept. 11, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing team were impressive in their near-miraculous comeback to claim a spot in this year's "Chase for the NASCAR Championship." With that ...
LOUDON, N.H. (Sept. 11, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing team were impressive in their near-miraculous comeback to claim a spot in this year's "Chase for the NASCAR Championship." With that accomplishment now in the record books, racing's latest dynamic duo turn their focus to the upcoming 10-race stretch to determine the 2007 NEXTEL Cup champion.
"It has been quite an amazing last couple of months and so much credit is due to Pat and the unbelievable leadership he has brought to our team," said Busch, who finished the "regular season" 10th in the point standings and is now fifth in the adjusted points entering this weekend's race at New Hampshire, the opening race in the Chase. "As incredible as our run to make the Chase may seem, it's equally remarkable to see how quickly our team has meshed into a true championship contender.
"I've been there [winning the inaugural Chase for the 2004 championship] before and Pat hasn't missed one [a Chase] yet, so we're both experienced as to what we're facing. The strongest teams in the sport make up the top 12 and we're looking to be a powerful force all the way down the stretch to the end," Busch said.
Tryson, the 43-year-old Malvern, Pa., native, guided Mark Martin to Chase eligibility the last three seasons before joining Busch and his Miller Lite Dodge team at Penske Racing on June 19. The addition of Tryson as the team leader sparked an astonishing comeback that will be remembered for many years to come.
Busch was back as far as 16th in the point standings in June and trailed Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 236 points for the 12th and final Chase-eligible spot entering the July 8 Pepsi 400 at Daytona. With Tryson at the helm of the No. 2 Dodge team, Busch responded with a strong third-place finish in that race and then went on a competitive tear that produced two wins and seven top-10 finishes during the nine-race stretch to make the Chase. Busch finished no worse than 11th during that period and had a 6.2 average finish. He came back from the 236-point deficit to hold a 206-point advantage over the 13th spot after last Saturday night's race at Richmond.
"When Roger [Penske, team owner] hired me back in June, he knew that my goal was to get Kurt and our Miller Lite Dodge team in the Chase," said Tryson, whose first career Cup win as a crew chief came at Bristol in March 2001 with the Wood Brothers and driver Elliott Sadler. "It feels really good to have accomplished that goal and I'm really proud of Kurt and everybody on our team.
"Making the Chase was a big hurdle that we cleared and now we're focused on the big mission ahead -- giving Penske Racing its first Cup championship," continued Tryson, who was enjoying some much-deserved R&R late Sunday afternoon. "So I guess you could look at it like we've won the battle and now we're out to win the war."
NASCAR's 10-race Chase for the NEXTEL Cup Championship playoff begins with this weekend's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.
Busch and Tryson hope to be in the championship mix when the tour winds down at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Nov. 18 season finale, but they know what they'll be challenged with during the final 10 races.
"It used to be that you could look at it as if every team could manage to have one bad race and still wind up in the thick of things at the end," Tryson said. "I'm not so sure that will be the case this time around. There are so many rock-solid teams in the top 12 as we head to New Hampshire that it wouldn't surprise me at all if one or more get through the whole 10-race stretch without any major problems.
"But if you're looking for strategy, I can give you our team's in a nutshell," Tryson said matter-of-factly. "We'll be out there each and every race trying to get a better finish than we really deserve. If the best we have on a given day is a 10th-place car, we'll be aiming to somehow get us a seventh- or eighth-place finish out of it. If it's a sixth-place car that we have, we'll use strategy or whatever it takes to get us a third or fourth at the end of the day. I really feel that it will take a team consistently doing that kind of strategy successfully to win the championship this year. I just hope it's Kurt and our Miller Lite Dodge team that can pull it off."
"The approach we've been on since the first of July is the philosophy we're going to take during the Chase," Busch said. "That is to be consistent and if we have the opportunity to win and lead the most laps, we better make sure that we do that.
"With five of the final 10 races being COT races, you can't just ride around and finish seventh at these COT races and expect to be up at the top of the points. I think we fit right in there about third, as far as team ability to get these cars handling right now. You have to go for it. You have to be fast and usually fast cars are easier to drive and the weekend just goes smoother. It's those tough days when you have a 12th-place car, sliding around and you have three guys on top of you and now you're racing side-by-side with guys you don't normally do that with. They feel nervous because they don't want to hurt a Chase contender. So those are the situations you want to stay away from.
"Like I said, though, we pretty much have to stick with the strategy that has gotten us this far along in the first place. We have to attack each race one at a time and get all we can out of each of the 10 opportunities that lie ahead."