Pocono II: Kurt Busch preview

LONG POND, Pa. (July 31, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing team return to Pocono Raceway for this weekend's Pennsylvania 500 with a full head of steam. They are looking to continue their march...

LONG POND, Pa. (July 31, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing team return to Pocono Raceway for this weekend's Pennsylvania 500 with a full head of steam.

They are looking to continue their march back into Chase eligibility and add to the success they've already enjoyed on the tricky, triangular-shaped, 2.5-mile track.

"We're coming in there looking to get our 'Pocono mojo' working again," said Tryson, who has led Busch's effort back into serious contention for a spot in the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup "Chase for the Championship." "Kurt won at Pocono two summers ago and finished second in both races last year. They just had pretty much an off weekend in June, but we'll get back in the mix there this weekend.

"Kurt is one of the best flat-track racers in our sport and we're super excited to be headed back to another flat track this weekend."

Since joining Penske Racing, Tryson has seen Busch climb three positions and make up 223 points during his five-race stint as crew chief for the Miller Lite Dodge team.

"Kurt's dominated races at Loudon [New Hampshire International Speedway]," Tryson continued. "He's won at Phoenix. He probably could have won another four or five races at Pocono already. He has such great finesse on these tracks when he has good cars under him.

"We're determined to give him what he needs to win again at Pocono this weekend. We're coming back in there looking to rock and roll."

Tryson may be starting only his sixth race weekend as Busch's team leader, but he appears to know his driver as if they had been working together for many years. Of Busch's 15 career wins, a third of them have come on flat tracks, with the Las Vegas native and 2004 series champion claiming two wins at New Hampshire and single wins at Phoenix, Martinsville and Pocono. Entering this weekend's race, Busch has recorded four second-place finishes at Pocono.

"We crashed our primary car in practice at Pocono back in June, got behind the eight ball and never could catch up," Busch said of the June 10 Pocono 500 that saw him start 27th and finish 16th. "Our backup car was brand new and had never been out on the race track. I jokingly told them that we had to shake the car down in qualifying, because we didn't get a single lap of practice with it before we headed out to make our run.

"We were pretty decent in the June race and had a better car than that 16th-place finish showed. It was just a strange day all the way around. They were calling for only a 20 percent chance of rain and it came a torrential downpour an hour before the race was supposed to start. We didn't even start the race until after five o'clock. Then another storm blew in and we only got in just over half the race before NASCAR had to call it official.

"During the [June] race, we were working our way up through there. At times we were as fast as the leader. At other times we weren't quite as quick. Track position was so important and we kept getting a little bit at a time. We ended up 16th. We were a little tight in the tunnel turn. I think that's what hurt some of our momentum; otherwise, we were maintaining our pace."

Busch started seventh and finished second to Denny Hamlin in last year's Pennsylvania 500. He had a car strong enough to lead and was Hamlin's chief competition throughout the race.

"That was another great total team effort for our Miller Lite Dodge team," Busch said of last July's Pocono race. "The guys were great in the pits all day long. All of their stops were in the 12- or 13-second bracket and that helped keep us up front.

"The pit strategy paid off for us in that we were able to follow the lead of the 11 car and go from there. It bit us early on in the race when we took four tires like they did and got mired on back in the pack when most of the teams went with two. But we had a really strong hot rod and we kept on tuning on it. With the changes we made and the great pit stops, we were back up there battling the 11 again for the win. We were able to stay out a few laps longer than they did during the final green-flag stops and picked up the bonus points for leading some laps.

"They pitted and went with fuel and right-side tires and we did the same a couple of laps later. I really thought we might have had a shot at catching Denny there after the last restart [after the race's seventh caution on lap 179] and we closed the gap down to about half a second, but the car got really tight when we turned up the wick like that. With about seven laps to go, I just had to come to grips with settling for second unless something happened to him."

Tryson noted the car the Miller Lite team was taking to Pocono was PSC-078.

"We have a lot of faith in this car and Kurt has already proven it can get the job done," Tryson continued. "It's the car that Kurt dominated the first third of the Coke 600 with. We've gone back and completely redone it for this race and we're confident it'll be a perfect fit for him this weekend. If we can give him the Penske horsepower that he always brags about and execute like we've been doing on pit road, we can have a very strong combination at Pocono this weekend."

This weekend's NEXTEL Cup action at Pocono Raceway begins with practice on Friday at noon. Friday's 3:40 p.m. single round of qualifying will allocate all starting spots for Sunday's battle. Saturday's action features practice sessions at 9 a.m. and 10:50 a.m. Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 [200 laps, 500 miles] has a 2 p.m. starting time with live coverage provided by ESPN and MRN Radio beginning at 1 p.m. EDT.

-credit: pr

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Series NASCAR-CUP