Kurt Busch and "Hot Road" Ready For Coca-Cola 600 CONCORD, N.C. - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch will have been patiently waiting for 77 days when the green flag is unfurled on the Coca-Cola 600 starting field Sunday at approximately 5:35...
Kurt Busch and "Hot Road" Ready For Coca-Cola 600
CONCORD, N.C. - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch will have been patiently waiting for 77 days when the green flag is unfurled on the Coca-Cola 600 starting field Sunday at approximately 5:35 p.m. at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"It's finally time to bring 'Hot Rod' back out and it seems like we've been waiting forever for this weekend to arrive," said Busch, who stands third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings entering this weekend's LMS action, trailing leader Jeff Gordon by 55 points. "If the car can be only half as strong as she was last time out, we can still be in the hunt out there on Sunday."
Busch and his Pat Tryson-led No. 2 Penske Racing Team last raced their "PRS-594" chassis in the March 8 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In the last video footage recorded of the car in action, Busch was seen doing his now-famous "Unwind Lap" victory celebration.
Busch started the Atlanta race from the outside pole and went on to post one of the most dominant wins in NASCAR history. He took the lead for the first of six times on Lap 6 and went on to lead 234 of the 330 laps in posting his 19th career Sprint Cup victory. The battle for the win was kept close only by a late-race caution flag for debris that erased Busch's healthy lead and set up a green-white-checkered flag finish.
When Busch crossed the finish line to take a 0.332-second win over Jeff Gordon, the 2004 series champion stopped at the finish line, grabbed the checkered flag, threw his Miller Lite Dodge Charger in reverse and backed around the entire track to show his appreciation to all the fans.
"It's been our team's strategy since that day to put 'Hot Rod' up in the mothballs and save her for the 600 and that's exactly what we've been able to do," said Busch, whose best finish in the Coca-Cola 600 to date is the 11th-place finish he recorded in the 2004 edition. "We've made great strides in our intermediate track program and it's really paid off this season.
"We've built some really strong Miller Lite Dodge Chargers for those tracks, but none have shown the muscle like 'Hot Rod' did at Atlanta," said Busch. "Our strategy has gone just like clockwork and our car rotation plans couldn't have worked out any better so far this season.
"We ran a brand new car at Texas ("PRS-605") and got an eighth-place finish out of it," Busch offered. "Then we ran the Vegas car ("PRS-579") in last weekend's All-Star Race and finished a very strong third with it. We learned an awful lot last weekend and that was really important, especially considering that we didn't have the test days at the track like we've had in previous years.
"It's a great feeling to have a good confidence level in our cars like we do now," said Busch. "We know that we have to continue to work to make our cars even stronger, though. The competition gets tougher every week out there and we have to keep our progress going in our effort to make the Chase this season."
Busch, Tryson and crew debuted their "PRS-594" Miller Lite Dodge Charger in the Feb. 22 Auto Club 500 at Fontana, Calif., where Busch started fourth and led laps en route to a solid fifth-place finish. The only other time it has been raced was in the dominant Atlanta win, meaning it enters this weekend with an impressive 3.0 average start and 3.0 average finish.
During the post-race press conference at Atlanta, Busch continued the Penske Racing tradition of naming the winning cars in an appropriate manner. Pointing out that it was Rusty Wallace, former champion driver of the "Blue Deuce" who began the ritual of naming his triumphant rides, he paid tribute to Wallace by naming the winning car "Hot Rod." "I'm thinking, we had a pretty good little hot rod out there today," Busch said at the time. "Rusty would say that. So we're going to nickname this car 'Hot Rod' in honor of Rusty."
"It's a strong piece and we all have a ton of confidence that it can get the job done again this weekend just like it did at Atlanta," Tryson added. "We were particularly stout on the long runs in the Atlanta race and that's what we'll be looking for again here at Charlotte (LMS) on Sunday. Our biggest challenge will be the same as it always is in the 600. With the race starting late afternoon and finishing under the lights at night, you have to stay on top of the changing race track and put the necessary adjustability into your car. That's what we'll really be focusing on in the practice sessions there on Saturday."