Kurt Busch and Miller Lite Team Ready for Texas Challenge FORT WORTH, Tex. - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led No. 2 Penske Racing Team head into this weekend's action at Texas Motor Speedway hoping to continue the level...
Kurt Busch and Miller Lite Team Ready for Texas Challenge
FORT WORTH, Tex. - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led No. 2 Penske Racing Team head into this weekend's action at Texas Motor Speedway hoping to continue the level of competitiveness they've shown on all the other intermediate tracks so far this season. "We've really shown the spark we need on the intermediate tracks so far this season and we hope to continue that at Texas this weekend," said Busch, currently third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings, trailing leader Jeff Gordon by 132 points after six races. "The intermediate tracks make up half of the Chase races, so it's imperative that we really have our program where it needs to be on that tracks.
"Just like I was telling someone last weekend, we're currently in the most important stretch of races during the season," said Busch, the 2004 series champ who'll be making his 115th start driving for legendary owner Roger Penske in Sunday's Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. "Including Martinsville, six of the next eight races will be tracks where we'll return for Chase races this fall.
"I honestly feel like we have a good handle on our intermediate track program, but we have to look at the Texas race this weekend as another big challenge in proving that," said Busch, who won in the series' most recent intermediate track race, the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 8. "Pat (Tryson, crew chief) and the guys have been putting some great race cars out there, Dave Winston and the engineering department have made so much progress and the new Dodge engines have had plenty of power in those races.
"We're still playing catch-up to the Hendrick teams and the Gibbs teams on the short tracks, but our organization is committed to doing whatever it takes to get that end of the program up to where it needs to be," said Busch. "Martinsville is the only short track race during the Chase, so we know the importance of improving before we get back there in October."
While Busch points to his team's need for improvement on the short tracks, the statistics show their efforts are already on a positive trend. Their finishes of 11th at Bristol and 18th at Martinsville this season are the best during that two-race stretch since the introduction of the COT model. Busch and crew finished 29th and 12th in the 2007 season and 12th and 33rd last year.
"I'll say this about the short tracks we've been on recently and that's the fact that we were stronger than what the numbers show and that's promising," Tryson said on Tuesday morning from the team's Mooresville, N.C., headquarters. "Remember that we got in a crash early in the Bristol race and tore up the front end of the car. We'll never know how strong that car was. With the rain we had at Martinsville, we had to take a stab at the race setup and think we could have been better at getting a car Kurt could drive when the track got rubbered up.
"Anyhow, that's all behind us now and we're putting the total focus on getting prepared the best we can for Texas this weekend," continued Tryson, who'll be serving as Busch's crew chief for the 64th race this weekend during the Texas race. "We'll be looking back at our notes from California, Las Vegas and Atlanta heading into this weekend. We'll have good baseline qualifying and race setups ready to massage when practice begins on Friday.
"We'll be bringing a brand new car out there, our (PRS-) 605 Miller Lite Dodge Charger," continued Tryson. "It's another one of the new-generation chassis that we started producing earlier this year. We had the first of the new '600 Series' cars at Bristol and we'll never know just how strong that car was. After getting her damaged pretty bad early on in the race, Kurt was still able to finish 11th with it. If we don't roll out another new car for Dover, we'll probably race the '600' again there.
"A lot of people were asking if we were going to run the Atlanta race-winning car (PRS-594 named "Hot Rod") this weekend at Texas," said Tryson. "We've convinced that it'll be a better fit for Charlotte (Lowes Motor Speedway), so the next time we'll bring that car out will be for the 600 (Coca-Cola 600 on May 24 at LMS).
"We're hoping we can be equally as strong at Texas as we were at Atlanta," Tryson concluded. "But dominant days like that are so rare in our sport today. If we can be just 90 percent as competitive out there this weekend, we'll be contending for the win."