NASCAR Sprint Cup Series News & Notes - Bristol Kurt Seeks To Bring Busch Winning Ways Back To Bristol DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Based on his five wins at Bristol Motor Speedway, one would assume that the track is a favorite for Kurt Busch (No....
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series News & Notes - Bristol
Kurt Seeks To Bring Busch Winning Ways Back To Bristol
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Based on his five wins at Bristol Motor Speedway, one would assume that the track is a favorite for Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge). It is in fact his "absolute favorite" track and one at which he always looks forward to racing.
The fact that Busch is off to his best start in his nine-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career has only added to his excitement to return to the .533-mile oval, dubbed "The World's Fastest Half Mile."
"I'm probably looking forward to this trip back to Bristol as much as any of my career," Busch said. "I could even say that I'm anticipating this Bristol race weekend more than any visit I've ever made to the track."
Strong statement from Busch. Not as strong as his statement two weeks ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway, when he dominated the field in a fashion unseen from the 2004 series champion since Pocono in August 2007. Busch led 234 of the race's 330 laps, or 70 more laps than he led in all of 2008, had an Average Running Position of 1.5 and ran in the top 15 on every lap. At Pocono, Busch led 175 of 200 laps, had an Average Running Position of 1.4 and ran in the top 15 on every lap. Appropriately enough, Busch earned a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 in both events.
"Coming off the big win two Sundays ago at Atlanta, the off weekend only added to the energy and oomph we're bringing (to Bristol)," Busch said. "We have the momentum growing and the excitement building within and around our team."
Despite having five Bristol wins, Busch hasn't won at the track since March 2006, his fifth start with Penske Racing. It was a bit of dej?-vu for team owner Roger Penske who saw Rusty Wallace pilot the No. 2 Dodge to Victory Lane seven times at Bristol.
"Kurt Busch obviously found what he needed also and got that same feel and accomplished that same thing that I was able to do," Wallace said. "It makes me feel really good that he was able to pick up on it." Busch, in fact, picked up on it immediately, grabbing his first Bristol win in just his third trip to the track. He plans to add win number six this weekend.
"We feel that the timing is right this weekend to come back in there and add to our success," Busch said.
Back-To-Back Short-Track Racing Is Indeed Back To Basics
For competitors and fans alike, short tracks are the sparks that ignite a deep passion for racing. Whether behind the wheel, or in the stands, for many the love of racing was bred on local short tracks across America. Which makes the next two weekends special.
For the fifth consecutive season, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to both half-mile tracks on the circuit -- Bristol Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway -- in back-to-back weeks. The excitement and high-charged emotions that come with short-track races energize all who watch.
"The upcoming two-race short track stretch of the schedule offers the drivers a greater set of challenges, both from a mental and physical standpoint," said NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby. "If the average lap time for a speedway is around 30 seconds and the average lap time at Bristol is let's say 15 seconds, then the driver has half the time to think and react on the race track. They are seeing the corners twice as fast as they've seen them so far this season. Things happen quicker and the drivers must react quicker. That reduction of reaction time lends itself to creating a new element of excitement for our fans and for our race teams."
Busch Brothers Cementing Legacy Among NASCAR Siblings
Families have played an important role in NASCAR's history with names like Petty, Earnhardt and Allison peppering the NASCAR record books. Many of the most famous combinations are father-son duos, including four generations of Pettys (Lee, Richard, Kyle and Adam) and three generations of Earnhardts (Ralph, Dale and Dale Jr.)
Just as strong is the legacy of brothers, starting with the Flocks (Tim, Fonty and Bob) and Thomases (Herb and Donald) who helped establish NASCAR to the Allisons (Bobby and Donnie) and Waltrips (Darrell and Michael), who claim two of the top drivers in the sports' history.
All indications, however, are that Kurt and Kyle Busch (No. 18 Snickers Toyota) will be considered the greatest brother combo by the time their careers end. Kurt, 30, is a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and is tied for 33rd on the all-time wins list with 19.
Kyle, 23, already has 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins (Kurt's first win came when he was 23.) In addition, he has 22 NASCAR Nationwide Series wins, putting him just outside the top five in all-time series wins, and 11 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins.
Currently Terry and Bobby Labonte are the only brothers to each win a championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Kyle was on his way to adding the Busch name to that list in 2008 before his title hopes were derailed in the Chase.
The Buschs have also added two other feats to their resume this season -- they started 1-2 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and won consecutive races for the second consecutive year.
TRG Motorsports Is Newest David Poised To Knock Off Goliath
By habit, most eyes will turn to the top of the driver standings following Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The intrigue, however, lies further down in the battle for 35th place in the owner standings. Next week will be the first time in 2009 the current owner standings will determine which 35 cars are locked into each race.
The top 35 cars in the owner standings are guaranteed a starting spot in that week's race. For the first five races of the season, the previous year's standings are used. That makes Bristol (race five) make-or-break for teams such as Hendrick Motorsports' No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg's Chevrolet, driven by un-retired superstar Mark Martin. All four cars in the Hendrick Motorsports' stable were predicted to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by the media.
On the other side of the spectrum is TRG Motorsports' No. 71 Capital Window Chevrolet, driven by David Gilliland. The team was put together 14 days before the Daytona 500 and missed the cut for the season opener, making its first start at Auto Club Speedway. It is comprised of 10 members, five of which work on the car. And currently leads entries from heavyweights such as Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Red Bull Racing and Yates Racing.
"When we didn't make it (into the Daytona 500), we quickly revamped our team and went to California with a renewed spirit to succeed in this sport," said team owner Kevin Buckler. "We wanted it bad."
The team made a move -- two moves to be exact. Buckler hired Gilliland and veteran crew chief Richard "Slugger" Labbe, who in turn brought several crew members.
"We have two guys from DEI and we stole two others from the TRG Motorsports truck team," Labbe said. "A crew this small is easy to take care of."
Gilliland is quick to point to the team work for the team's success.
"Everyone is giving 100% and that is the only reason we are getting the results that we have had so far," said Gilliland. "There are teams running out there now with a lot more people but I doubt they are working this hard or being this efficient or having this much fun."
Buckler echoed Gilliland's sentiments.
"This team has jelled faster than any I have been associated with," Buckler said. "We have the same atmosphere around our sports car team, we have fun and we win. There is a low-key fun factor that is happening here that is unique in the garage. We enjoy going into the track and being together."
Loop Data Dissects Kenseth's Bristol Statistical Dominance
It's been a tale of two seasons for Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford).
The 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion began the year with his -- and team owner Jack Roush's -- first Daytona 500 victory. That week, Kenseth embarked on a whirlwind media tour that might have induced a hangover in the following race at Auto Club Speedway.
But all he did there was win, impressively.
Kenseth led 84 laps and scored a Driver Rating of 131.4 at Auto Club Speedway, becoming the first driver since Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) in 1997 to win the first two races of the season.
Over the first two races, Kenseth had a series-high Driver Rating of 122.7, a series-high 91 Laps Led and a series high Pass Differential (passes minus times passed) of plus-57. Additionally, he had solid numbers in Average Running Position (7.1), Fastest Laps Run (33) and Laps in the Top 15 percentage (87.3%).
But then all the success ended as quickly as it started. It took six laps for his luck to end. On lap six at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kenseth's engine blew, ending his bid for three wins in a row.
A week later, at Atlanta, Kenseth again finished outside the top 10. He finished 12th at Atlanta and failed to lead a lap.
Over the last two races, Kenseth has a Driver Rating of 55.3, an Average Running Position of 28.0, a Pass Differential of plus-8 and three Fastest Laps Run.
Expect yet another Kenseth turnaround this weekend -- at least that's what the statistics suggest. Kenseth is solid at Bristol, winning twice and scoring top 10s in each of the last two races. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Kenseth has a series-best Driver Rating of 105.5, a second-best Average Running Position of 8.4, a second-most Fastest Laps Run of 223 and a series-best Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 88.1%.
Hamlin Can Build On Car Number History At Bristol
Ned Jarrett drove the No. 11 car to a third-place finish in the first race at Bristol in July 1961. He also drove the car to its first victory at Bristol in July 1965. Since then, the 11 car has been synonymous with Victory Lane at the track. In 86 NASCAR Sprint Cup races since Jarrett's victory, the No. 11 car has won the race 17 times.
Credit team owner Junior Johnson, who fielded the No. 11 car for those 17 victories. Three-time champion Cale Yarborough drove for Johnson in the 1970s and made Bristol his personal playground, winning nine of 16 races from 1973-1980. Two that he lost were won by a flashy young driver named Darrell Waltrip.
"The 11 number and Bristol certainly go together," said Darrell Waltrip, who leads all drivers with 12 wins at the track. "With all of the wins Junior has been a car owner for, that makes that number special when you go to Bristol."
When Yarborough decided to scale back his career after the 1980 season, Waltrip gladly moved over to take the ride.
"When I got out of the 88 and into the 11, I had my credentials and I was prepared, at the top of my game, and then they gave me that race car to drive ... I couldn't lose," Waltrip said.
On The Right Track: Jack Roush Looking To Extend Record For Consecutive Years With Bristol Victory
Roush Second to Johnson in Bristol Wins
Junior Johnson has won more races at Bristol as an owner than any other car owner at any single track in the history of NASCAR. He has 21 Bristol wins, including nine with Cale Yarborough and seven with Darrell Waltrip. That impressive number is bolstered by seven season sweeps and a streak of eight straight wins from 1980-1984. Yet, for all he has accomplished in "Thunder Valley", Johnson never matched Jack Roush's current record-streak of seven straight seasons with a Bristol victory. Between Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford), Roush has at least one victory at Bristol every year since 2002, including a sweep by Busch in 2003.
"I credit our success to three things," Roush said. "The driver's judgment and natural ability to negotiate the tracks unique challenges, terrific engineering support for our chassis configuration, engine combinations and race day set ups from the Ford Motor Co. and timely and able crew chief strategies regarding stopping for four tires or two tires or no tires, or gas only, etc.
"I can only hope that the magic from our combination of these three contributing factors continues to give us the same results going forward."
Top 12 Reflects Entire Garage
Although early in the season, the top of the standings includes non-traditional teams that aren't usually listed among the title contenders. Brian Vickers (No. 83 Red Bull Toyota) and David Reuitmann (No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota), representing Team Red Bull and Michael Waltrip Racing, are among the nine different organizations currently represented in the top 12. Roush Fenway Racing (three) and Richard Childress Racing (two) are the only teams with multiple cars in the top 12.
In addition, all four of the manufacturers are currently represented by atleast two teams.
Where To Next? A Fan's Guide to Off-Track NASCAR Happenings
BMS Hosts Friday Night Fan Fest
Race fans in the Bristol area will have the chance to get up close and personal with the biggest stars in NASCAR at Friday night's Food City Race Night at Bristol Motor Speedway. And best of all, the price is right -- free.
Activities kick off at 6 p.m. when several drivers, including defending Food City 500 champion Jeff Burton (No. 31 CATERPILLAR Chevrolet), Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth take part in a fan question and answer session.
At 7 p.m., Clint Bowyer (No. 33 BB&T Chevrolet), Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Budweiser Dodge), Elliott Sadler (No. 19 Best Buy Dodge), and AJ Allmendinger (No. 44 Petty Motorsports Dodge) are scheduled to square off in a Wii boxing tournament. Bowyer and Sadler will battle in one semifinal followed by Kahne and Allmendinger in the other. The two winners will then meet for the Bristol Wii Boxing Championship.
Activities will wrap up at 7:45 p.m. when Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet) and Tony Stewart (No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet) take to the stage to compete in Rock Band. Two lucky fans will be selected to join the stars on stage.
Legends Ready for Charity Race
Fans that are old enough can remember David Pearson and Cale Yarborough battling at Bristol in the late 1960s and early '70s. Those that aren't will have the chance to relive history Saturday following the NASCAR Nationwide Series race when Bristol will host the Saturday Night Special, a 50-lap charity race pairing NASCAR legends with celebrities.
"We made a decision over the winter to take what we believe is the best fan experience in racing and make it even better," said Jeff Byrd, president and general manager of BMS. "We believe having these celebrated drivers back on a track where they all have won in a stock car does that. These guys helped make Bristol."
Nine-time Bristol winner Rusty Wallace and Junior Johnson, who leads all car owners with 21 career wins at the half-mile track, will be among the drivers joining Pearson, who has five Bristol wins and Yarborough, who has nine. Other drivers expected to participate include Harry Gant, Terry Labonte and Jimmy Spencer.
LMS Opens its Doors for Tire Test
Lowe's Motor Speedway's frontstretch grandstands will be open Tuesday and Wednesday allowing fans to watch the Goodyear tire test which will feature four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers. Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), Marcos Ambrose (No. 47 Little Debbie/Clorox/Kingsford Toyota) and Paul Menard (No. 98 Johns Manville/Menards Ford) will be representing the four manufacturers.
Ticket holders for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 will have an added privilege of watching Wednesday's events from a pit road grandstand near Victory Lane. The four drivers will participate in a fan Q&A session during the lunch break.
Name Kurt Busch's Victory Lap
Kurt Busch celebrated his Atlanta victory in a most unusual way -- piloting his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge around the 1.5-mile track in reverse. Now fans have the opportunity to give his celebration a name.
"It's amazing to see the attention it has gotten," Busch said. "We've done hundreds of media interviews since Sunday and every time it's inevitable that they'll get around to wanting to discuss our unusual victory lap.
"So we've decided to ask the fans to log on to our site (www.kurtbusch.com), follow the story to the link, click on it and give us your suggestions. We're urging fans to participate and I can't wait to review their suggested names for the lap.
"We'll send the winner a nice gift basket and that one lucky fan will always have the bragging rights for naming the lap," Busch said.
Busch will announce the name that has been chosen this weekend at Bristol.
Up Next: Martinsville Speedway
The beating and banging continue next Sunday when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Martinsville, Va. for the Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota), from Chesterfield, Va., led 88 laps in last year's event en route to winning for the first time in his home state. Jeff Gordon was the pole sitter and finished second.
The race will air on FOX starting at 1:30 p.m. ET. The green flag will drop at approximately 2 p.m.
The Race: Food City 500
The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway (.533-mile concrete oval)
The Date: Sunday, March 22
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
Race Distance: 500 laps/266.50 miles
TV: FOX , 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN and Sirius Satellite.
2008 Polesitter: Jimmie Johnson (via points; qualifying was rained out)
2008 Winner: Jeff Burton
Schedule: (All times local ET)
Friday -- Practice, 12-1:30 p.m., Qualifying, 3:40 p.m.
Saturday --Practice, 11-11:45 a.m., 12:20-1:20 p.m.