Dale Earnhardt Jr. may be looking for his fifth straight win at Talladega, but don't tell Kurt Busch that the victory is a sure thing. Busch has three top-5 finishes in five career starts at Talladega and is one of five Roush Racing Fords...
Dale Earnhardt Jr. may be looking for his fifth straight win at Talladega, but don't tell Kurt Busch that the victory is a sure thing.
Busch has three top-5 finishes in five career starts at Talladega and is one of five Roush Racing Fords that have finished near the front in the restrictor plate races over the past couple of seasons. Busch finished second at the Daytona 500 in February followed by Mark Martin, who was fifth. Greg Biffle won the July race at Daytona with Jeff Burton finishing second and Winston Cup point's leader Matt Kenseth sixth.
"I'm looking forward to racing on Sunday and seeing if we can't get us a plate win," says Busch, who's #97 Ford will feature a special paint scheme honoring Irwin Industrial Tools this weekend. "We've come close on a couple of occasions, but we just haven't closed the deal."
Busch, Kenseth, Burton and Biffle will all start near the back of the pack for the EA Sports 500 (Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC) after using provisionals to make the field on Friday. Martin was the only Roush driver to qualify on time and will start 15th.
Busch is confident that despite starting near the back he can move his car through the field on Sunday. "We've had this chassis at all three restrictor plate tracks this year and it's quite a performer once it gets in the draft," he says. "It's a stable car from the driver's seat, anyway.
"There are so many inputs to consider when you are plate racing, working the draft is thrilling but you have to trust your fellow drivers more than anywhere else. In a way, it comes down to a lot of luck and a lot of smart driving."
NASCAR has implemented two new rules for Talladega this weekend, including slightly larger openings in the restrictor plates and raised rear spoilers. The changes are expected to help the cars pass in traffic and will ideally break apart the large pack of cars.
"I hope the changes they've implemented give us the added tools to race in a safer environment," Busch says. "Hopefully, the added horsepower will give us a chance to break into smaller packs - like the smaller fuel cells did, but hopefully for more laps at a time. Just like any other rule change, we'll have to wait and see how it plays out on the track."
Busch has four wins this season, but has struggled of late, finishing outside of the top-10 in each of the past four races. Crew chief Jimmy Fennig is comfortable that he has brought a car that Busch can pilot to the front.
"Kurt seems to get along with it okay and it has a decent body on it aero-wise," says Fennig, who has a series-high 24 career wins. "The strong point seems to be how it handles in the draft. We want it to be as comfortable as possible out on the track and that's all we can really do. That and hope for the best if something happens."