Fresh Off Win, Busch Ready for Pocono's "Tricky Triangle" LONG POND, Pa. (June 1, 2010) - After two impressive successful weekends of racing on the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway quad-oval, Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch is ready for...
Fresh Off Win, Busch Ready for Pocono's "Tricky Triangle"
LONG POND, Pa. (June 1, 2010) - After two impressive successful weekends of racing on the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway quad-oval, Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch is ready for this weekend's return to Pocono and the challenge of tackling the 2.0-mile tricky triangular track. He says Sunday's Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500 is the first of five of the most pivotal races of the season for his Steve Addington-led Penske Racing "Blue Deuce" Team. "Starting with Pocono this weekend, we have a pretty diverse run of races with the intermediate tracks, road courses, one-mile flat tracks and restrictor-plate tracks all represented during that period and it's important to get some consistency going," said Busch, who won Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in convincing fashion and is now up to sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings. "There's not just one of those races that stands out, but rather this whole upcoming segment of the season. We race at Pocono and Michigan in June and then again later on in the summer and neither are Chase races, but those are four races where the consistency can gain you points.
"When you look back at our record over the last month or so, it shows that we struggled at some tracks and really prospered at others," said Busch. "It truly was up and down and all over the map. We didn't hit it right at Richmond and had an 18th-place finish, came through with a third at Darlington, struggled at Dover with a 19th and then had two incredible weekends at Charlotte. We just really need to get more consistent and that's what we'll be trying to do in this next stretch of races.
"There's not really a single event during that stretch where it hits you and it's like, 'hey, yeah, now the points are really that important," said Busch, who climbed from ninth to sixth in the standings with his win at CMS on Sunday night. "Each race pays the same amount of points and you just sort of press on through this stretch and see where you stack up. It's a series of races when you can get on a roll, put some big numbers on the board and start solidifying your Chase position without freaking out about the points and where you are in the standings. With the next free weekend on the schedule not coming until after the Chicago race during the middle of July, it's a period that can separate the real Chase candidates from the 'wannabes.' When you look at the way the schedule is laid out, it's easy to look at the upcoming stretch of races as a good blueprint for what the Chase lineup will likely be."
Busch's "Blueprint theory" checks out when looking at the NASCAR record book. Of the 66 former Chase drivers (12 each in 2007-2009 seasons; 10 each in 2004-2006 seasons), 56 were "Chase eligible" at the conclusion of the July Daytona race. (Here is the breakdown: 10 of 12 in 2009; 11 of 12 in 2008; 11 of 12 in 2007; 9 of 10 in 2006; 7 of 10 in 2005 and 8 of 10 in 2004.)
Even though Busch's successful Pocono career record boasts two wins, seven top-five finishes and nine top-10s in 18 races, the 2004 series champ has also endured three DNFs and five finishes of 35th or worse.
"It's been a good track for us, that's for sure," said Busch, who has an average start of 12.8 and an average finish of 16.5 in his 18 Pocono races to date. "I've struggled with the new car to get those wins, but (we've had) some solid finishes. To get around all those different corners, each one of them has different bumps and with this new car, bumps are hard to navigate. Turn 1 used to be my best corner, but with this new car it's now my worse. The way that the bumps are and the high speed entry into Turn 1, you have to change your game a little bit. Turns 2 and 3 are very important corners as well. You can't shift there anymore. With the big bumps on the track, these cars are definitely tougher to get around.
"We got on a pretty good streak there several years back with the old-style car, winning like two out of five races and finishing second in two of the other," Busch said of the five-race stretch from July 2005 through August 2007. "But last year's races were pretty typical of how it's been for us the last few years there. In the June race, we started fourth and had a strong top-five or at least a top-10 run going when we had a water pump problem. We had a car capable of winning there in the August race with about 40 laps to go, but there were a lot of restarts at the end of the race and we were only able to get a ninth-place finish out of it."
As always, the drivers and teams enter Pocono realizing fuel mileage can play a big factor in the outcome of the race. It's certainly on Busch's mind heading into this weekend's Pocono battle.
"At Pocono you can pit and not lose a lap and that's rare on a race track," said Busch. "That's where you'll see some of the guys and the (pit) window that they're trying to stretch. With this green-white checkered situation now, fuel (mileage) is more of an issue because you never know when the race is going to end; they're so many extra laps. You just have to play the strategy right and just feel comfortable and confident in the decision that you make on the final time that you pit."
Busch, Addington and the "Blue Deuce" crew are racing their "PRS-704" Miller Lite Dodge in this weekend's action at Pocono Raceway. This car debuted in the Auto Club 500 at Fontana, Calif., on Feb. 21. Busch started 12th and finished sixth in that race, which is its only race to date. "We led in that race and the car was its strongest there at the end of the race," said Addington. "That'll be the goal at Pocono this weekend - leading laps, showing our strength and putting our Miller Lite Dodge in Victory Lane there on Sunday."