KURT BUSCH READY FOR DOVER "DOUBLE-DUTY" RETURN -Miller Lite Dodge Driver Recalls First Career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Start At "Monster Mile" In September 2000- DOVER, Del. (May 30, 2006) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch made his first career...
KURT BUSCH READY FOR DOVER "DOUBLE-DUTY" RETURN
-Miller Lite Dodge Driver Recalls First Career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Start At "Monster Mile" In September 2000-
DOVER, Del. (May 30, 2006) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch made his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start 196 races ago on the high-banked Dover International Speedway "Monster Mile." He was pulling "double-duty" that weekend, racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Friday, before making his Cup debut that Sunday.
Now, more than five years and eight months later, Busch returns to Dover to once again pull "double duty" this weekend. Busch will be making his 12th career Cup start at Dover when he takes the wheel of his Miller Lite Dodge in Sunday's Neighborhood Excellence 400 presented by Bank of America. But the day before, Busch will be making his Dover NBS debut, piloting his Penske Truck Rental Dodge in Saturday's StonebridgeRacing.com 200.
"That was a pretty cool weekend for a 22-year-old kid there at Dover in 2000," Busch recalled. "I was running for the Truck Series Rookie-of-the-Year and was third in the overall points when I got the call to drive the 97 car.
"My career was moving so fast back then," Busch continued. "Only 11 months before that, I was just a successful young short-tracker living in Las Vegas and still holding down a job with the water department. We'd won the championship in the NASCAR Southwest Series in '99 and I was the youngest driver to ever win the title. We got the call to drive the No. 99 truck and I had run only 20 races or so (21) when I was put in the 97 Cup ride.
"I can remember reading a headline back then that said, "Busch's Career Skyrocketing Into the Stratosphere," said Busch. "That pretty much said it all. I'd gone from being a big fish in a little pond on the short tracks to a Truck Series race winner and leading rookie in only a matter of a few months. Then I was straight into the Cup ride, without ever even running a single Busch Series race.
"That was a special weekend there at Dover, for sure," Busch said. "We won the pole for the Truck Series race, but wrecked during the final practice. We had to pull the backup out and start from the rear of the field without turning a single lap of practice in it. I remember just taking it easy for the first few laps to make sure everything was cool. Then we just set sail. We'd raced up into the top five after only 50 laps. We kept up the pace and at the end it came down to a big battle between Mike Wallace and me. He was leading with only a couple of laps to go and we were right on his bumper. I made the move to pass him on the outside and he tried to block me and wound up spinning himself out. So we wound up coming from last to first and won that race in our backup truck.
"We'd already had the Cup car there testing it a week earlier and had turned in some really fast laps," recalled Busch. "That Friday, before we won the Truck Series race, we qualified the Cup car in the 10th spot.
"I remember really looking forward to the Saturday morning practice, but it never happened because a storm came through the area. We got an extra hour of practice that afternoon after the Grand National race was over and got her dialed in the best we could. At least we thought we did. It had been overcast all during Saturday's practice and was still that way when Sunday's race started. The car started out really loose, and we adjusted to tighten it up. Then the sun broke through the clouds and we had a super tight racecar. We ran the last 125 laps under the green and I really had my hands full. We held on, kept her out of the wall and finished 18th. We accomplished all our goals there that weekend."
This weekend's return to Dover sees Busch behind the wheel of the Matt Gimbel-prepared No. 39 Penske Truck Rental Dodge for Saturday's StonebridgeRacing.com 200. The team will be racing their PBC-08 Dodge in Busch's Dover NBS debut.
"It's the same car we raced last Saturday night," said Busch, who started seventh and finished second in the CARQUEST 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, leading 32 laps along the way. "That was the car's very first race and we almost pulled out another win with it. The boys at the shop went over it on Sunday afternoon and were already polishing her up, getting her ready for Dover. It'd be another super weekend for us if we can we can win on Saturday for the first time at Dover, just like we did in our very first NBS race at Texas and like we did in the Truck Series at Dover back in 200."
The Roy McCauley-led Penske Racing South team will be bringing their PRS-080 Miller Lite Dodge to Dover to race in Sunday's Neighborhood Excellence 400 presented by Bank of America.
Busch's Dover NEXTEL Cup record sports one top-five finish and three top-10s in 11 races. His best career start to date was fifth for the June 2002 race and his best finishing entering this weekend was the fifth he scored in the September 2004 race. He has a 12.9 average start and 19.9 average finish on the "Monster Mile." Busch started 10th and finished ninth in last June's Dover race.
"We're really looking to get our Cup season turned around this weekend at Dover," Busch offered. "Hopefully we can continue the Saturday success we've been enjoying and have some of that rub off on Sunday's race for us."