KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Sept. 25, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch is admittedly frustrated as he enters this weekend's LifeLock 400 at Kansas Speedway, but he is convinced his Pat Tryson-led team is doing everything possible in its effort...
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (Sept. 25, 2007) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch is admittedly frustrated as he enters this weekend's LifeLock 400 at Kansas Speedway, but he is convinced his Pat Tryson-led team is doing everything possible in its effort to win the 2007 Chase for the NEXTEL Cup Championship.
"We're all into it with an absolute 100 percent effort, but you can't change things that are beyond your control," Busch said on Monday afternoon as he studied the first two races of this year's Chase, which have relegated him to 11th in the point standings, trailing leader Jeff Gordon by 151 points. "It's certainly frustrating, but just like Pat [Tryson, crew chief] has been saying, 'We have to take them one race at a time.'"
Busch finished 25th in the Chase's opening race at New Hampshire after experiencing carburetor problems in his Dodge Avenger. Last Sunday, a flat tire initiated a crash in the closing laps at Dover, sending Busch to a 29th-place finish.
"Kansas is next and that means we are focusing again on our intermediate track program with the old-style car," Busch said. "It would have sounded pretty ludicrous just a year ago, but our program on those tracks has advanced so far that we're coming into Kansas more confident than ever, especially considering that we'll be racing the Pocono winning car again there.
"The 'PT Special' is racing again this weekend at Kansas. Mark that one down on your lineups, sports fans, and we'll see what happens. It's definitely a case of a team going into a race with the ultimate confidence in their car. Now it's just a matter of the driver getting in there and making all the right things happen. Seriously, I am really looking forward to this weekend and think we can again contend for the win."
Busch's comment about his Penske Racing team's progress on the intermediate-sized race tracks certainly holds merit. When the 2004 NEXTEL Cup champion joined the team for the 2006 season, Busch experienced a myriad of handling woes on the 1.5-mile tracks, finishing no better than 16th in the first five races on those tracks and posting three finishes of 34th or worse during that period.
"It was certainly a difficult learning curve that we finally hurdled, if you want to call it that," said Busch, who averaged a 28.4 finish during his first five intermediate track races as the driver of the Roger Penske-owned No. 2 Dodge. "We were still learning and, in the process, it was a situation of just hoping we could finish somewhere between 15th and 20th.
"We continued to make progress and ramped up our potential to be a top-15 car toward the end of last season. I can remember saying something like, '11th to 15th, 11th to 15th, we're stuck right there.' That was indeed the case.
"But when Pat came on board back in June, that was the spark we needed to get our immediate program up to the top like it is today. He wasn't working in the most positive environment before he joined our team and he took that aspect of our racing program by the horns and manhandled it on up to where it should be, where it is now."
Busch appreciated his crew chief's hard work and it was certainly justified. Just look back at the successful Pocono race weekend back in August. Tryson came in and proved he had earned his reputation as among the best team leaders in NASCAR racing.
The PSC-078 chassis was Tryson's first project when he joined Penske Racing. Tryson, who is considered a guru in working on his drivers' psyche, chose the same car in which Busch dominated the first third of the May race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"We have a lot of faith in this car and Kurt has already proven it can get the job done," Tryson said as he entered the August Pocono race weekend. "It's the car that Kurt dominated the first third of the Coke 600 with. We've gone back and completely redone it for this race and we're confident it'll be a perfect fit for him this weekend. If we can give him the Penske horsepower that he always brags about and execute like we've been doing on pit road, we can have a very strong combination at Pocono this weekend."
Busch, Tryson and crew brought the refurbished PSC-078 Dodge to Pocono for the Aug. 5 Pennsylvania 500. After an unusual weather situation on Friday cost the team its first pole position of the year, Busch started second in the 200-lap grind around the tricky triangular 2.5-mile track.
Busch grabbed the lead from pole-winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the first lap and dominated the race, losing the lead only during green-flag pit stop segments and after a slow pit stop on lap 139 under the race's fifth yellow-flag period. He went on to lead 175 of the 200 laps and establish a record for laps led in races at Pocono.
Carrying on the Penske Racing stock car tradition of naming the cars after their first win, Busch named his winning Pocono ride the "Pat Tryson Special" or the "PT Special" for short.
"There's a lot of Miller Lites enjoyed on a daily basis out at the PT's Pubs in Vegas and it was so appropriate to name it that because Pat put so much time and energy in getting that car ready to go back to Pocono with it," Busch recalled of his Pocono winner's circle celebration. "It was a lot of his blood, sweat and tears that got us to victory lane again."
Busch, Tryson and crew won again on the intermediate tracks only two weeks later, as they used a new car to win the rain-plagued 3M Performance 400 at Michigan. The race was finally run on a Tuesday afternoon, with Busch posting another dominant win and naming his winning ride "Roger" in honor of team owner Roger Penske.
"Racing on this type of track and in these cars will be a treat for Kurt, I'll guarantee you that," Tryson said. "The handling and the horsepower will again be the major issues we face. I'm the luckiest crew chief out there in that I have Kurt Busch behind the wheel of our Miller Lite Dodge."
This weekend's schedule at Kansas begins Friday with practice from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday's 3:10 p.m. single round of qualifying will set Sunday's 43-car starting field. Saturday's schedule offers practice sessions from 9-9:50 a.m. and from 12:50-1:50 p.m. Sunday's LifeLock 400 [267 laps, 400.5 miles] has a scheduled 1 p.m. CDT starting time and features live coverage by ABC and MRN Radio.