Kurt Busch's Two Big Concerns Heading to Michigan
BROOKLYN, Mich. (August 16, 2011) - Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch enters this weekend's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway convinced of two factors his Steve Addington-led "Double-Deuce" team will face. He is hoping that his team's preparation will help in dealing with one and he has confidence that his team's strategy and execution will help conquer the other.
"We're heading back into Michigan hoping that we learned a lot that we can apply from the June race," said Busch, who won the Coors Light Pole Award in the June battle at MIS, but had to settle for an 11th-place finish in the race. "We won the pole and found out just how tough it is when you can't take advantage of it during the race. Our Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger was just too inconsistent in that race to contend for a race win. We were a solid top-10 race car, but just couldn't get it dialed in enough to run with the leaders when we had to. We ran 198 laps inside the top 10, but finished 11th after getting nudged out on the last restart.
"It was such a seesaw day for us there at Michigan in June," added Busch, whose career record at MIS boasts two wins, three top-five finishes and eight top-10s in 21 races. "It seemed like our car would be good for the first five laps of a green flag run, and then once the track would rubber-in, we just couldn't get the grip we needed. Our first lap was awesome; the last 199 were a challenge. You have to be rock-solid on these two-mile race tracks and we weren't nearly close to having what we needed at the end. You need a good race car, solid pit stops and good changes to keep up with the track and we just were too inconsistent there in the June race.
"I am confident that Steve Addington (crew chief), engineers Steve Reis and Jonathan Hassler and the rest of the "double-deuce" crew have done their homework and will have the chassis situation in better shape than what we had there in June," said Busch, who enters this weekend sixth in the Sprint Cup point standings, trailing leader Kyle Busch by 40 points. "I'm also counting on them to continue to prove that our guys are some of the best fuel strategists in the business.
"When it comes to strategy and execution for fuel mileage races, Steve and the guys have proven that they can get the job done," said Busch. "I'll be the first to tell you that we have been in the conservative mode much of the time out there because we had to always keep a look on the big picture and the points situation.
"The great thing is that we're coming into Michigan with a 78-point buffer on 11th (points difference between sixth-place Busch and 11th-place Clint Bowyer) and that gives us so much wiggle room when it come down to crunch time. We can afford to take chances that most of the other teams can't. If it comes down to Steve telling me to conserve fuel after the last pit stop and we look to be a little bit short in the calculations, you can bet that the ‘double deuce' will be rolling the dice trying to pick up another race win."
What makes Michigan International Speedway perhaps the most glaring track on the circuit where fingers are pointed at fuel mileage when it comes to race wins?
"Michigan is one track where you always come in there planning on it to have fuel mileage involved in the equation, said Busch, who would cherish another victory on Sunday regardless of how it comes. "It's always been a track where there aren't many cautions and that works to push the fuel mileage aspect to the top of the list as far as strategy goes. But there's a lot more to it these days than it being just the nature of that track.
"Really, the fuel mileage importance has become the nature of our sport, like it or not," said Busch. "With NASCAR changing the points system around and throwing the ‘wild card' entry into the Chase by race wins, it's sent the importance of winning through the roof. Teams are willing to take more chances than ever. They'll roll the dice and throw caution to the wind.
"We've seen it in so many races this season - it really has been incredible as to how many races we've had where fuel mileage has come into play. At Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600, there were all the cars trying to go the distance stretching their fuel and running out at the end. At Kansas, it was my Penske Racing teammate, Brad Keselowski, able to score a huge win for his Miller Lite Dodge Team by stretching his fuel mileage. Even at Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway), where (Ryan) Newman won the race, it was fuel mileage that made the difference. It is just that important to score the wins these days.
"It's not quite to the point where the crew chief's pit strategy sees them really run the race backwards with the pitting strategy like it is on the road courses, but it'd definitely be a key part of the strategy to know what the final fuel window is," said Busch. "If you get a caution flag and you're remotely close to being able to make the distance, you have to consider it seriously. You can start rolling off the throttle early, cutting off the engine...whatever it takes to conserve fuel. I'd say that you'll likely see all those things come into play there at Michigan this Sunday."
Busch and his Steve Addington-led Penske Racing team will be racing their "PR-744" Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at Michigan. This chassis debuted in the March 6 Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas. Busch started 22nd and led the race en route to a ninth-place finish in that race. In its last outing, the team raced the car from a 10th-place start to a 10th-place finish in the April 9 Samsung 500 at Texas. "This was a pretty consistent Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger in its first two races," offered crew chief Addington. "Kurt was comfortable with the car and it responded well with our adjustments. We have done our standard updating tweaks since the last race with the car. We're confident that it'll be a piece that Kurt can use to get the job done."