Busch Hoping to Extend Stronghold at New Hampshire LOUDON, N.H. - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has found somewhat of a competitive stronghold on the flat 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway in recent years, recording a win and posting...
Busch Hoping to Extend Stronghold at New Hampshire
LOUDON, N.H. - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has found somewhat of a competitive stronghold on the flat 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway in recent years, recording a win and posting a 4.0 average finish during the last four races there. The 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion and three-time winner at NHMS is focused on keeping that successful streak going in this weekend's LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at the "Magic Mile." "We have had some really good races at Loudon the last couple of years, but the statistics don't really tell the whole story of what happened there for our Miller Lite Dodge Team," said Busch, who has a 14.0 average start and 14.3 average finish in his 18 total starts at NHMS. "We used good pit strategy and won a rain-shortened race there in (June) 2008 and finished third in the rain-shortened race there last June.
"That race last June looked like it was going to come down to a battle between us and the 24 car (Jeff Gordon), but the rain came and the 20 car (Joey Logano) snookered them a win," said Busch, now sixth in the Sprint Cup point standings after a late-race run-in with Gordon on Sunday at Infineon Raceway left him with a flat tire and relegated him to a 32nd-place finish. "We've had really strong Miller Lite Dodge Chargers there the last two years and we're hoping to be as strong or even stronger this time around."
Busch thoroughly enjoys racing on the one-mile oval and is quick to compare it to the other flat one-mile venue on the circuit.
"I think New Hampshire reminds me a little bit of Phoenix," Busch said of Phoenix International Raceway, where he saw his first big-league race as a fan while growing up in Las Vegas. "I've always liked Phoenix and the racing there a lot and have had quite a few miles around that track. The way that you have to slide a car around on a flat track like that requires a loose setup and that's the way I like to set my cars up.
"We know that we'll really have our work cut out for us this weekend," said Busch, who now trails points leader Kevin Harvick by 216 points, but has a 243-point "buffer" over 13th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. when looking at the current "Race to the Chase" scenario. "There's always so much slipping and sliding and getting the forward bite we need is always so critical. Track position is really key and being up front on the restarts is so important.
"The track has always been slick on restarts and with double-file restarts; you have to keep in the back of your mind that you seem to always need several laps to get going. It can be horrendous if you're stuck back in the pack on the restarts. The demands are such that you need your car to be strong on the long runs, but with the late-race restarts, you might need to focus on short runs as well.
"It's a pretty tight pit road and you can get yourself in trouble in a hurry like we saw there in last fall's race," said Busch of his fate during last September's Sylvania 300 at NHMS. "With all the varying pit strategies - two tires, four tires, and no tires - we did a fuel-only stop in that race. We got our car messed up when another car got into us when we were driving out of our box. That put us in the catch-up mode. We had a solid top-five car, but had to settle for a sixth-place finish."
Busch is very much aware of the fact that the return to NHMS for the September race officially kicks off the 10-race Chase that determines which of 12 drivers wins the Sprint Cup title.
"The summer stretch is here and we run all these tracks and none of them are in the Chase with the exception of New Hampshire," said Busch, who did the "Loudon Sweep" in claiming both NHMS wins during his successful run to the 2004 championship, the initial year of the Chase format. "So yes, New Hampshire is really important in that respect in that we'll be coming back there for the first race of the Chase. I don't think that you really pinpoint any of those races as a time when you just completely start focusing in on the points. It just sort of all blends in to where you hope that you've built up a cushion when it comes down to two or three (races) to go where you're comfortable heading into the Chase."
Busch and his Steve Paddington-led "Blue Deuce" team will be racing their "PRS-701" Miller Lite "Vortex" Dodge this weekend at New Hampshire. The car has been raced only once - in last October's battle at Fontana, Calif. Busch started 24th and finished eighth in that race. Busch, Addington and crew tested with the car at the Milwaukee Mile on June 9 in preparation for this weekend's battle at NHMS.
-source: penske racing