The ‘Summer Swing’ Begins at Dover
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (May 29, 2012) – While the first day of summer is still a few weeks away, the unofficial start to the summer season always kicks off with Memorial Day. Ice cold coolers, straw hats, pool parties – all are highlights of summer. And, as Faith Hill described in her 2006 hit, the season is about good times, “Sunshine and Summertime.”
Summer, however, takes on a completely different meaning for anyone associated with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The imagery of backyard barbecues and sandcastles are replaced with images of tracks with the names of Dover, Pocono and Michigan – to name a few. The first 12 races of the season are in the books and the second third of the schedule, the “Summer Swing,” begins with this Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
The upcoming series of races can be a brutal stretch with extensive travel to locations up and down the Eastern Seaboard to the road race on the West Coast and back to the beaches of Daytona for the annual Fourth of July weekend event. In addition to the travel schedule, summer means rising temperatures and the need to prepare for the increased heat. While the upcoming portion of the NASCAR schedule is tough, some drivers find comfort in getting down to business at a series of tracks for which they have an affinity. Kurt Busch is one such driver.
Busch has visited victory lane at four of the next five race locations, including this weekend’s race at Dover, where he won the fall race in 2011. Aside from going into this weekend’s race as its most recent winner, Busch enters the weekend having scored six top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 23 career starts. He hasn’t earned a pole at Dover but his qualifying record has earned him an average starting position of 10th. In addition to having a win in Sprint Cup Series competition, Busch has also visited victory lane at Dover in the Camping World Truck Series – during his rookie season in 2000.
Adding to the optimism for this weekend’s race at Dover is that the No. 51 Phoenix Racing team was one that participated in the Goodyear tire test in mid-April and was pleased with the speed it found during that session. The team will be using the same car it ran at the test for this weekend’s race. This particular car was used most recently at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, where the team competed in the top-10 for the majority of the race before a late accident relegated Busch to a 21st-place finish.
The heat will be on for the upcoming summer portion of the NASCAR schedule. While the temperatures and the racing action is heating up, Busch and the No. 51 Phoenix Racing team will be looking to take advantage of extra test time and past experience to create a new batch of summer memories.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing:
What are your thoughts about the next stretch of races?
“I didn’t even realize that we are coming up on this stretch of races. But, yeah, we’re heading to a series of tracks that have been good for me. I’ve won at Charlotte, Dover, Pocono, Michigan, Sonoma – wow that’s a pretty good stretch. Yes, we have all of this extra test time, as well, with Pocono’s repave and Michigan’s repave, and so we’ll get a lot of homework done and any extra questions we thought we had we’ll hopefully get them sorted out with all of the extra track time coming up. And we’ve run well at the faster tracks, so this is a good time for us to try to get those solid runs in.”
Talk about the intermediate track program at Phoenix Racing so far in 2012.
“Our mile-and-a-half program has been better than expected and we’ve struggled a little bit on the short tracks, which has been a little opposite of what we expected when the season started. I know we will be building a different car for New Hampshire, but that’s all the way into July. Our finishes don’t show it, but our better performances have been at the intermediate tracks like Texas, Kansas, Darlington and at Charlotte. Fortunately, we have a few of those races coming up.”
What are your thoughts on racing at Dover this weekend?
“Dover, I think, is our best chance at really doing well. It’s not a mile- and-a-half track but it races much faster than the mile that it is. We had a Goodyear tire test there earlier this year. They actually changed the left-side tire, so we’re one of the few teams that have had that opportunity to drive on it. Our car had a lot of speed there during the test, so I’m pumped up about it.”
Talk about going into the race at Dover as the most recent winner at the mile oval.
“That was a good race where we were very consistent all race long. We didn’t lead a lot of laps but we led around 100 or so. We had to beat one of the best. We had to beat Jimmie Johnson and we got him pinned down on restarts. I could just get him on a restart and hold that lead and then he would chisel away at it, but he couldn’t quite get to us at the end. So, restarts are important at Dover, and also making sure you don’t wear out that right-front tire.”