CONCORD, N.C. (October 8, 2000) - Kurt Busch experienced his first epic-long week that comprises a Winston Cup event at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and for the 22-year-old rookie it was probably a good thing it wasn't the typical three-day show. The...
CONCORD, N.C. (October 8, 2000) - Kurt Busch experienced his first epic-long week that comprises a Winston Cup event at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and for the 22-year-old rookie it was probably a good thing it wasn't the typical three-day show. The additional practice time allowed Busch to gain a feel for 1.5-mile oval, making great strides with each practice session, and in the end he brought the John Deere Taurus home in the top 15, his highest finish in three races.
Busch and the John Deere team struggled on Wednesday going into the nighttime qualifying session, and posted the 42nd fastest time during their one-lap run. Opting to focus the rest of their time on race setup, Busch would be forced to take a provisional and start the 334-lap race in 42nd position. That was the least of his worries after Wednesday's qualifying run, however, as Busch was looking to make up ground to the leaders before the start Sunday's main event. Busch and the crew worked tirelessly over the course of the next four days, each day making gains on the track that included quicker lap times and a better handling car.
With an imminent cold front approaching the Carolinas the team knew that the track conditions would change with the weather, and put a setup underneath the car that could be adjusted during the 500-mile race. The early morning temperatures on Sunday reached only into the 30s, but warmed into the mid-50s by the start of the race, still 30 degrees cooler from earlier in the week.
The race had nine caution flags for 51 laps and the John Deere crew took advantage of each slowdown to improve the handling of Busch's No. 97 Ford. Busch experienced a tight-handling condition most of the afternoon as the cooler weather caused the track to tighten up considerably. Only late in the race did the sun begin to break through the dark clouds, and that was when Busch had his best runs of the afternoon.
Busch caught a few timely caution flags early in the race, once barely missing the No. 55 car as it had a tire let go on lap 87, and over the first 167 laps climbed 21 spots to 21st place. Each caution period allowed the John Deere crew to put a better-handling car on the track, and each time Busch would close to the leaders on the restart, continuing to pick his way through the field. Busch spent most of the day avoiding the on-track incidents and methodically stalked his competitors on the race track passing them one-by-one.
As the final caution flag was thrown on lap 306, Busch had managed to race his way to 16th, battling all afternoon to stay on the lead lap. With only 19 of the 43 cars still racing on the lead lap, Busch entered the pits one last time for a slight air pressure and wedge adjustment. Busch returned to the track in 18th place with the final 24-lap shootout ready to begin. Busch passed the likes of Joe Nemechek, Elliott Sadler and John Andretti over the course of the last 36 miles to make his way into the top 15, ultimately bringing the John Deere Ford across the finish line in 13th place. The slice-and-dice finish showed that by the end of 500 miles Busch was right at home racing on one of NASCAR's most prestigious tracks.
Busch's first top-15 finish allowed the John Deere team to remain in 21st place in the Winston Cup owner point standings, and they head to Talladega Superspeedway 72 points out of the top 20. Chad Little will qualify and race the John Deere Taurus next weekend, his final race behind the wheel of the No. 97 Ford, as Kurt Busch will focus on the Craftsman Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
"This was a good day for the John Deere team, but it was great day for Roush Racing. We were the last of the Roush cars across the finish line today, but with all five teams finishing in the top 13, I don't think Jack (Roush) will mind. I can't say enough about the John Deere crew; they did a great job of helping to get this car dialed in to the track today. We had our struggles early in the week but that was simply due to a lack of experience. Once we started logging some laps and getting feedback off of this car we were a lot better. We just need to carry this momentum into the final races.
"We tried to race everyone clean out there today and apart from some incidental contact with the No. 31 car, I think we accomplished that today. There was a lot of give and take on the track, especially when we were racing lapped cars, and that's a sign of professionalism. We are out here gaining experience this year, and when we get a finish like we did today, that's just icing on the cake. We still have four races to go, but we will have tested at each venue before we go there and race, so I think it should help us unload quicker and we should hopefully see some better qualifying efforts."