Darlington: Kurt Busch preview

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 8, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has the highest regard for the historical and demanding 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway, but entering Saturday's Dodge Avenger 500 on the weathered, old egg-shaped oval, Busch is...

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 8, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has the highest regard for the historical and demanding 1.366-mile Darlington Raceway, but entering Saturday's Dodge Avenger 500 on the weathered, old egg-shaped oval, Busch is taking it one step further.

"With us running the new Car of Tomorrow there this weekend and considering how worn the surface is, you better come in there with the ultimate respect for the place," said Busch, now up to ninth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup point standings after his fifth-place finish Sunday at Richmond. "She'll (the track) definitely earn all those nicknames this weekend, I'll guarantee you that. They call the place the 'Lady in Black' and the 'Track Too Tough To Tame' and I imagine there might even be a few more choice names tossed around after Saturday night's race.

"Darlington has always had the reputation for being so demanding that you're on your toes every lap. That mental focus factor will be at an all-time high for Darlington this weekend."

Busch collected his first career NEXTEL Cup pole position in qualifying for the September 2001 Darlington race.

"Everyone has heard of the famous 'Darlington stripe' and they will be on everybody out there," said Busch, whose best finish on the track, a second-place tally, came in the March 2003 battle, a race won by Ricky Craven by only 0.002 second, the closest finish in the history of electronic timing.

"You won't see that side-by-side, nose-to-tail action that you've been seeing elsewhere with these cars, just because you don't see that at Darlington. Just the way the asphalt is so old and it's so rough and there's virtually no grip in that asphalt, it's really going to be a one off race. It'll be a big, big test. There's going to be a lot of right-side damage, I can tell you that."

Busch and his Troy Raker-led Miller Lite team prepared for this weekend's Darlington race by testing last Tuesday [May 1] at Rockingham, N.C., on North Carolina Motor Speedway, now used solely for testing and by the Buck Baker Driving School.

"The Rockingham surface is old and just as abrasive as the Darlington surface, so we went there to see how our car would react with stiff springs, soft springs and so forth," Busch explained. "There are just so many unknowns with the COT. We had to at least go there with our checklist and cut it in half. If we had 10 questions, we probably still have five of them left, but it was good to go there and test. Does it want a big sway bar? Does it want a little sway bar? You never know. The COT still continues to be able to accept any setup, but we're trying to narrow it down so it can give us the best overall speed."

Raker, the team's interim crew chief while Roy McCauley spends time with wife Amy who's ill, noted everyone was "very realistic" about the information that could be gained for Darlington in testing at Rockingham.

"When you're testing with Hoosiers (racing tires) and racing Goodyears at Darlington, you have to keep that in mind," Raker said. "We tested with the second oldest COT car we have in the fleet [PSC-502] during the test and we'll have a brand new car [PSC-516] ready to race at Darlington this weekend.

"The major aspect that we focused on during the test was the spring and bar combinations. We were able to weed out the extremes and narrow the box in which we'll be working with this weekend at Darlington."

-credit: pr

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kurt Busch