Bristol II: Kurt Busch preview

BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 19, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch is batting a .333 winning average at Bristol Motor Speedway entering this weekend's Sharpie 500, taking the checkered flag in five of his 15 career starts. Even with the track ...

BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 19, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch is batting a .333 winning average at Bristol Motor Speedway entering this weekend's Sharpie 500, taking the checkered flag in five of his 15 career starts. Even with the track reconfiguration done prior to the 2007 Sharpie 500 and the introduction of the COT cars, Busch is as keen on the .533-mile oval as ever.

"I just love Bristol, make no bones about it," said Busch, whose first career NASCAR Sprint Cup win came at the track on March 24, 2002, in only his third career BMS start and 48th start overall. "There's only one Bristol and everybody knows that.

"I get asked the question several times every week as to what is my very favorite track of them all," said Busch, who will likely do well over 100 sponsor-related race day hospitality visits at race tracks this year, including three scheduled for this Saturday at BMS. "At the hospitality functions, we always try to do a little question and answer session and that question about my favorite track will inevitably come up. It always does.

"I'll always answer first by going with the home-track angle, saying that it has to be whatever the particular track where we're racing that week," said Busch. "That always works to soften up the crowd and get everyone really interested. But I'm always quick on the draw to tell them the entire story shortly after that, telling them emphatically that Bristol Motor Speedway is my absolute favorite track.

"With all the success we've had there over the years, the track is like a second home to me," added Busch. "With the track configuration done last season, I think it's made it even better than ever for the competitors and fans alike.

"There may be an element of fans who may disagree, particularly if they came just to see the crashes and pileups. But with the new layout, it's not a necessity to tap the guy in front of you to make a pass. There are multiple lanes now and it's so conducive to providing more competitive side-by-side racing."

If Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, comes off sounding like the "ultimate pitchman" for BMS, he certainly does not mind. In fact, he welcomes any opportunity to bestow merit on the facility.

"Man, what can you say? Bristol is Bristol and there's nothing else like it," said Busch. "This weekend's night race there is the hottest ticket in all of motorsports. Where else can you see 160,000 screaming fans all sitting around a track that looks more like a huge stadium or arena with the grandstands and sky boxes that circle the place? It's a place that carries so much electricity in the air. You never get tired of racing there and always look forward to coming back. I've often said that I wish we ran five races a year there and not just the two. I just truly love the place."

Busch's overall career BMS record also sports nine total top-10 finishes in those 15 starts. He won both races there in 2003. He also has one pole position, being the top qualifier for the 2006 Sharpie 500. Busch started 19th and finished sixth in last year's Sharpie 500. After qualifying was rained out in the circuit's most recent visit to the track back in March for the Food City 500, he started 36th and drove to a 12th-place finish.

"I scored my first career win at Bristol," Busch said. "Four of my five Bristol wins have come in the day race and the win at Bristol in the night race of 2003 will always stand out in my mind as a favorite race win.

"But that first win back in 2002 was special because it was my first career win," Busch said. "Of course, the spring race win in 2006 will always be memorable because it was my first win as a driver for Penske Racing. I guess you can say that Bristol is a track that holds so many special moments for my career and we hope to have quite a few more in store in the years to come."

While the Bristol track has been the scene for so much positive results through Busch's career, he certainly endured a learning curve before winning on the track known as the "World's Fastest Half-Mile."

During his first-ever visit to the track for the March 25, 2001 Food City 500, the Las Vegas native experienced an unbelievably difficult weekend that he can humorously reflect on today. The official race report shows that Busch started 39th and finished 42nd. He completed only 118 of the 500 laps and exited the race due to an accident.

"There was definitely a learning curve for me at Bristol," Busch recalled with a grin recently. "All you have to do is go back and look at my first Cup race at Bristol back in 2001. It wasn't pretty. As a matter of fact, it was downright ugly. The first time I crashed that day, it was on my on. The second time I wrecked, I was in a big pileup. I guess you could say that the third time was the charm, in that we punctured the radiator in that crash.

"That put us out for good," Busch continued, now laughing as he recalled his first Bristol race. "They just kept on fixing it and putting me back out there to get track time. When we were finally done for the day, I looked up on the board and there were still about 400 laps of racing left. They didn't have the tunnel down in the third turn at the time, so I was forced to sit there and watch all the others go at it for another three hours.

"I promised myself that day a situation like that would never happen again. It became a necessity in my mind to become a good racer at Bristol. I guess I've done a pretty decent job at accomplishing that goal."

--Kurt, Pat and crew will be racing their "PSC-560" Miller Lite Dodge Charger in this weekend's Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The team debuted this chassis at Martinsville back in the spring (in March 30 Goody's Cool Orange 500 where Kurt started 20th and finished 33rd due to overheating problems). "We've gone back and completely reworked the entire car, so it'll be almost like rolling a brand new car off the trailer there at Bristol on Friday morning."

--Bristol is Eva's favorite track, too! "It was the very first track I ever visited and that trip to Bristol will always stand out as being so special," Eva explained. "Kurt and I hadn't been dating that long back in 2003 when he invited me to come to Bristol for the night race (on Aug. 23, 2003). I took him up on the offer, but really didn't know what to expect. Having the Bristol night race as a first-race experience was impressive enough, but to be there and see Kurt win in my first time to the track was extra-special. There's always something special about coming to Bristol and I think there will always be. The night race there is just unbelievable. You have to experience it to believe it. As exciting and impressive as it is on TV, there's just no way to do it justice. You really have to be there to witness it live. I guess you could say that I got spoiled pretty fast at Bristol. Kurt won the night race in 2003 and we came back for the spring race of 2004 and he won that one, too. I know just how much Kurt loves the track and that affection for Bristol has certainly rubbed off on me through the years, that's for sure."

--Kurt, Pat and crew have already let it be known that, without a shot of being in the "Chase" this season, their plan is to utilize the final 10 races this season in getting better prepared for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup campaign. "I guess you could say that we've already started that process earlier than what might be expected," said Pat. "There are still another three races before the Chase kicks in, but we already started making the races learning experiences at Michigan on Sunday. We had a totally different setup in the car from the June race that we were trying. If it had been a 200-miler instead of a 400-miler, we would have come out of there just fine. Hopefully, we can chalk it up as a big learning day, even with the way it all turned out (finished 36th after late-race skirmish forced Kurt to pit twice under the green).

"The final 10 races will be a glorified test session for us and we'll be gambling on fuel, gambling on tires...whatever it takes to win," Pat said last week of what lies ahead for the remainder of the season. "Some times it pays off big and sometimes it doesn't. I'm confident that you're going so see some pretty wild things happening from here on out as far as race strategies go. There will be some really outlandish stuff happening that'll have others asking, 'why in heck did they do that?' Well the answer is simple. They did it because they thought they might sneak in there and win one by going the unconventional route."

--With five career wins at BMS, Kurt is looked at by many as the reigning racing "Bristol King." That has been particularly true since nine-time Bristol winner Rusty Wallace retired after the 2005 season. Kurt has certainly come a long way since his first race on the .533-mile oval when he started 39th and finished 42nd in the 3/25/01 Food City 500. His take on why he is successful at Bristol?

"After that first race, I promised myself that day a situation like that would never happen again," Kurt said. "It became a necessity in my mind to become a good racer at Bristol. You also have to consider the fact that they announced that very weekend that my car sponsor (Sharpie) was going to also start sponsoring the August race there.

"Seriously, I think that good racing luck has had a little to do with it, too," offered Kurt, who went on to claim his first career win the following spring at Bristol and then posted three consecutive Bristol wins in 2003-2004. "I was able to develop a real positive attitude about racing at Bristol and I look forward to every Bristol race week.

"I looked at guys like Darrell (Waltrip) and Rusty (Wallace) and saw just how much they genuinely enjoyed each and every time the circuit raced at Bristol," said Kurt. "Having a positive attitude about racing there is so important at Bristol and we normally always have that going for us when we get there.

"As far as the strategy behind my success, I learned from the very first race that you have to be around at the finish to do well at Bristol. It really is a situation of surviving the first 400 laps - keeping the fenders on the thing and staying out of the wall. Then, if you're in good shape after four-fifths of the race, it's time to really get down to business during the final 100 laps."

-credit: pr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Kurt Busch
Teams Team Penske