Phoenix: Kurt Busch preview

AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 8, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led team enter Saturday's Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway 15th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings and hoping to advance up the ...

AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 8, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led team enter Saturday's Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway 15th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings and hoping to advance up the ladder.

"We're coming into Phoenix with some pretty realistic expectations," said Busch, who currently trails 12th-place Kasey Kahne by 111 points for the final "Chase-eligible" points position. "We certainly hope to show our best out West, but we know it won't be wise to get our hopes up too high.

"I've been saying for the last month or so that we're probably an 11th through 15th-place team and I think the statistics even back that up," said Busch, who has finished in the top-15 in four of the seven races completed thus far this season. "We've been struggling with the new car and the setups lately, but I am looking forward to getting back to Phoenix. It's a track that has been pretty kind to us through the years.

"I've liked the Phoenix track ever since the very first time I saw it," said Busch. "I was 13 years old and it was such a really big deal when my dad carried me to see my very first big NASCAR Cup race at Phoenix. When I started driving, it quickly became one of my favorite tracks.

"Being from Las Vegas, Phoenix became like another home track for me," Busch added. "By the time I got the opportunity to run my first Cup race at Phoenix back in 2000, there was a huge comfort factor I had there. As many laps as I had logged in the Southwest Tour cars and then in the trucks, it certainly helped in my adapting to the track driving a Cup car.

"We ran the COT cars in both races at Phoenix last year and we had a good test there after the Vegas race," said Busch. "Who knows - we may even surprise ourselves with this new car out there this weekend."

"We had a pretty stout test at Phoenix back last month (March 3-4) with this brand new Miller Lite Dodge Charger," said crew chief Tryson. "Unlike what has occurred most of the time lately, we're actually able to be bringing the exact same car we tested with back to the track to race this weekend.

"The Phoenix track really suits Kurt's driving style and that should help out a lot," said Tryson. "We're in the same shape as just about every team out there in trying to get a handle on what we need setup-wise with this new-generation race car.

"Unlike the last few weeks where we've come in there with pretty much a blank page to work off of, we have a good baseline to go on after testing at Phoenix for a couple of days. We know that test time is extremely important in our effort to get better with this car and we're committed to doing what it takes to be competing up front," said Tryson. "We've already scheduled a test at Nashville (Nashville Superspeedway, the 1.33-mile D-shaped concrete track near Lebanon, Tenn.) next Tuesday (March 15) and are set to test for Goodyear at Indy (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) on April 22nd and 23rd.

"So, while many of the teams will be kicking back during the week off on the schedule, Kurt and our team will be hard at it at the race track, determined to get a handle on it," Tryson added. "After the break, we have Talladega, Richmond and Darlington all back-to-back and we want to be as prepared as possible for that stretch. We're determined to put together some strong finishes and get back up there in the top 10 in the points when we head back into Charlotte (Lowe's Motor Speedway) for the two big race weekends there."

In 10 career starts on the "Desert Mile," Busch has recorded one win (April 2005), two top-five finishes and five top-10s. He has a 14.9 average start and a 13.4 average finish. Of 3,123 possible career laps around PIR, Busch has completed all but three (99.9 percent completion average). He started sixth and finished 18th in last April's race, while he started ninth and finished 12th at PIR last November.

Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing Team will be racing their brand new PSC-551 Dodge Charger in the Subway Fresh 500 this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. "We had a pretty stout test at Phoenix back last month (March 3-4) with this brand new Miller Lite Dodge Charger," said Pat "Unlike what has occurred most of the time lately, we're actually able to be bringing the exact same car we tested with back to the track to race this weekend.

Kurt, Pat and team will be busy testing during the next few weeks. "We know that test time is extremely important in our effort to get better with this car and we're committed to doing what it takes to be competing up front," said Pat. "We've already scheduled a test at Nashville (Nashville Superspeedway, the 1.33-mile D-shaped concrete track near Lebanon, Tenn.) next Tuesday (March 15) and are set to test for Goodyear at Indy (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) on April 22nd and 23rd. So, while many of the teams will be kicking back during the week off on the schedule, Kurt and our team will be hard at it at the race track determined to get a handle on it. After the break, we have Talladega, Richmond and Darlington all back-to-back and we want to be as prepared as possible for that stretch. We're determined to put together some strong finishes and get back up there in the top 10 in the points when we head back into Charlotte (Lowe's Motor Speedway) for the two big race weekends there."

The 1.0-mile Phoenix International Raceway will always be a special track for Kurt. "It was the first track that I ever saw the Cup guys run on in person," he said. The date was November 3, 1991. "I was 13 years old and it was such a really big deal when my dad carried me to see my very first big NASCAR Cup race at Phoenix," he recalled. "Growing up in racing like I did and having my parents take me to the short tracks when I was just a toddler really helped put racing in my blood so early in life.

"Watching all the big races on TV back then just added to the desire to get to see one live. NASCAR added a new date at Phoenix for the Cup cars on the schedule back in 1988. It automatically became the big hot ticket event for all the racers out West. Growing up in (Las) Vegas like we did and without the big track there not getting a Cup date until 1998, Phoenix was where it was at back then.

"They came in there and made it such a tremendous racing weekend," Kurt said. "Not only did they have all the big guys - the Cup teams - racing there, they ran the final race of the NASCAR Southwest Tour there, too.

"My dad didn't get to go to that first race back in '88, but he went to the races in '89 and '90," Kurt said. "Then in 1991, he told me pretty far in advance that he was taking me to the Phoenix Cup race that November. It was like a kid anticipating Christmas for me back then. I just couldn't wait.

"We got to go down into the pits before the race and I thought that was so cool," Kurt recalled. "When they fired up the engines for the race, it was something like I'd never heard or seen before.

My mom and dad still have a picture of me there at the race and when I look back at it now, it's really neat," Kurt said. (Image available by request.) "There I am, way back then as a skinny little kid, standing in front of Rusty's (Wallace) pit area before the start of the race and posing in front of the Miller Genuine Draft pit box. My dad was a Mac Tools dealer and they sponsored Dale Earnhardt. We had our Mac Tools/Dale Earnhardt tee-shirts on and were having more fun than we'd ever had. We're standing there holding up Rusty's No. 2 pit sign. That's pretty cool to think about that day way back then and see how far we've been able to come."

-credit: pr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Kurt Busch , Kasey Kahne
Teams Team Penske