Kurt Busch won the inaugural NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship today and the second straight for car owner Jack Roush and Ford Racing. As a result, Busch is now the third-youngest driver to win the championship at 26 years, 3 months, 17 days.
Kurt Busch won the inaugural NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship today and the second straight for car owner Jack Roush and Ford Racing.
As a result, Busch is now the third-youngest driver to win the championship at 26 years, 3 months, 17 days. Bill Rexford holds the record at 23 years, 8 months and 17 days while Jeff Gordon holds down the second spot after claiming his first championship at 24 years, 3 months and 27 days. Ironically, Busch and Gordon share the same birthday, August 4.
The driver's championship is the seventh all-time for Ford in NASCAR's top division and marks the second time that the manufacturer has won back-to-back titles.
PAST FORD CHAMPIONS
* Ned Jarrett, who is Ford's all-time race winner with 43, won his second series championship in 1965 and the first driver's title for Ford.
* Pearson is the manufacturer's only multiple champion as he won 27 races and captured 26 poles en route to back-to-back titles in 1968 and '69.
* Bill Elliott registered the first driver's championship for Ford in the modern era, which started in 1972, by 24 points over Rusty Wallace in 1988.
* The late Alan Kulwicki edged Elliott by the narrowest margin in NASCAR Winston Cup history when he led one more lap than Elliott and clinched the five-point bonus to win the title by 10 points in 1992.
* Dale Jarrett clinched his championship one race before the season-ending event in 1999 and eventually won by 201 points. As a result, the Jarretts joined the Pettys as the only father-son duo to win the NASCAR Winston Cup championship.
* Like Jarrett, Kenseth claimed the final NASCAR Winston Cup championship early after a xx finish at Rockingham sealed the deal. Kenseth gave car owner Jack Roush his first series title by posting one win, 11 top-five and a series-best 25 top-10 finishes. He took the points lead after a fourth-place finish at Atlanta in March and held that advantage for the final 32 weeks.
* Busch joins John Force (NHRA Funny Car) and Sebastien Bourdais (CART Champ car) as Ford's other major series champions in 2004.
* Since debuting in 1998, Taurus has won 83 NASCAR Nextel Cup races, three driver's championships (1999, 2003 and 2004) and three manufacturer's championships (1999, 2000 and 2002).
* This is Jack Roush's second NASCAR Nextel Cup championship, in addition to one NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (2000 with Greg Biffle) and one NASCAR Busch Series title (2002 with Biffle).
<pre> FORD'S NASCAR NEXTEL CUP CHAMPIONS Year Driver Car Owner Wins Poles 1965 Ned Jarrett Bondy Long 13 9 1968 David Pearson Holman-Moody 16 12 1969 David Pearson Holman-Moody 11 14 1988 Bill Elliott Harry Melling 6 6 1992 Alan Kulwicki Alan Kulwicki 2 6 1999 Dale Jarrett Robert Yates 4 0 2003 Matt Kenseth Roush Racing 1 0 2004 Kurt Busch Roush Racing 3 1
KURT BUSCH - No. 97 Sharpie/IRWIN Taurus - CHAMPIONSHIP STAGE INTERVIEWS -- CONGRATULATIONS.
"Thank you, so much. It's unbelievable to be able to put such an effort into what it takes to make a championship caliber team. Many things have to fall into place. Jimmy Fennig is a true leader and he really helped me understand what I needed to do with the race car to make it go fast. I have to thank my team and my sponsors, Sharpie and Irwin, and all of our associates. It's wonderful."
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE WHEEL BROKE? "It was an odd problem that hasn't come up all year. We feel like we dodged a huge, huge, devasting proposition that would have taken us out of this championship and we pulled through."
YOU'RE THE CHAMP. "It's an unbelievable deal. This is what a team does to win a championship - they persevere on a day such as this. All year long we've done things like this, whether we put ourselves in a hole or whether we had a small problem, I just can't believe we were able to overcome all of that turmoil today."
WHAT ABOUT THE RIGHT-FRONT WHEEL? "Again, it had a big vibration those last 50 laps and it held on, but I'd like to put a cap on today and move on in what we did this year as a team, which was unbelievable. This championship is for Jimmy Fennig. I can't believe it for our team, for everybody that has put work into this car, Jimmy has done the deal. That's why I'm choked up is because there are heavy hearts in the NASCAR community with what we had to go through a few weeks ago with Hendrick and the problem they had. I love them truly and I want to donate anything that I can from this championship to them. My little brother was affected by this, so it hit home for us. It's unbelievable."
YOU'LL GET TO CELEBRATE IN NYC. "It's unbelievable for our sponsors and everybody that gets a chance to come to New York."
AND JACK? "Jack is just a true, true competitor. He's a racer from the word go and that's who I modeled myself after when I got to this point and he's helped me get to this point. I was so far behind in 2001 and made so many mistakes, but my sponsors stuck with me. We've got some great associate sponsors and we pulled through."
MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus
"It was a great effort by the Viagra team. We had a pretty good car. We put ourselves in a position to be a contender there and then we had a flat tire under caution, so I'm not gonna say it was bad luck. If it was bad luck, we would have had it under green. With the way things turned out, the best we could have done was fourth and we did that. I'm real proud and honored to work with these guys and I'm also honored just to be racing with these great young drivers out here. I'm gonna be watching them for a long time."
THOUGHTS ON JIMMY FENNIG WINNING THE TITLE? "It's the greatest. Jimmy and I won an ASA championship in 1986 - it was that long ago. Both of us were racing the short tracks in the Midwest and dreaming of coming back NASCAR racing and I'm really, really happy for him."
A GOOD DAY. "It was a great run. We had a little bit of adversity, but not too bad. It turned out really good."
YOU'VE GOT A GOOD TEAM. "The team fought hard all year. We came out 43rd in points leaving Daytona with our hearts broken and battled our way all the way back to fourth. I'm proud of them for that."
YOUR THOUGHTS NOW? "I'm glad it's over. The guys did a great job. I'm proud of them and I look forward to next year. I'm gonna try to keep all of these guys together and we're gonna make a real effort to be in first place at the end of this deal next year."
GREG BIFFLE - No. 16 National Guard/Subway Taurus - VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW
"This just goes to show everybody what this 16 team is capable of doing. We had an awesome car all day long. We just lost the track position because of fuel mileage and we just fought back and fought back. These guys had great pit stops and I just want to take a chance to thank everybody who has supported us this year. Subway, Coca-Cola, and Kraft foods - everybody. Then, of course, the National Guard standing beside us the whole year and all the soldiers, everything they do for our program. I'm just excited to be in Victory Lane here."
TALK ABOUT WHEN STEWART WENT OFF THE PACE? "I really thought we had a car to beat him. I was really good off the restarts. I thought I was gonna be able to pass him and I almost ran into him down there when his car ran out of gas on the restart. It was really close for us. That happened to me once before - we ran into a guy and, fortunately, that didn't happen this time."
MATT KENSETH - No. 17 DEWALT Taurus
"It was a good day for Roush. The 16 won the race and that was awesome and the 97 won the championship, so that's awesome for the whole team. We didn't run very well again, but it's good for the team. We just have to figure out how to get our stuff running like that."
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE OFF SEASON? "Yeah, I'm looking forward to a little time off and I'm looking forward to getting to work this winter and figure out what we're doing wrong, so we can get running back up front again."
RICKY RUDD - No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus
"Most of the year we would have taken that finish and been tickled to death and I still am, but in practice the day before I thought we had something that maybe could have challenged for a win and definitely didn't have that today. But the guys were really smart on pit strategy there at the end. We ended up ninth. I don't think we had a ninth-place car, but they were really smart on the strategy. I can't really say that. We had a set of tires at the end of the race that really ran good. There seemed to be some big inconsistencies for us all day. We got one set of tires and just stayed on them and that was the best our car had run all day."
WHAT ABOUT THE FUEL STRATEGY? "That's a heads-up call in the pits. Our car just wouldn't work back there in that dirty air. In practice we didn't really practice in all that dirty air and, evidently, when you get back there the car just doesn't handle anywhere near the same, so we gambled on the strategy and the fuel. We knew we could make the fuel. We knew it would be tight, but the gamble was could you run that long on tires. We didn't really know that, but we found out we could."
CARL EDWARDS - No. 99 Roush Racing Taurus
"It was an excellent day for Roush Racing. The 99 team didn't have as good a day as we wanted to, but we still ended up 14th, which was pretty awesome for how we ran. I just can't say enough for how happy I am for Jack Roush and for Kurt Busch and for Greg Biffle. Mark Martin and everybody had such a great year and I'm excited. Hopefully, we get to run full-time with them next year and we can be up there fighting for that win."
YOU MUST BE READY FOR NEXT YEAR ALREADY. "Yeah, I'm really excited. Bob Osborne and I are really getting along well and I think that next year is gonna be awesome."
HOW HAS YOUR LEARNING CURVE BEEN? "It's been 13 or 14 races and I feel like I belong running up there. I feel more comfortable racing with these guys and I feel like the learned curve has leveled out enough that we can start out next season expecting some great results."