Penalties levied give defending champion Kurt Busch lead in NEXTEL Cup standings heading into Atlanta Concord, N.C. (March 15, 2005) -- Defending NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Kurt Busch assumed the lead in the 2005 NEXTEL Cup ...
Penalties levied give defending champion Kurt Busch lead in NEXTEL Cup standings heading into Atlanta
Concord, N.C. (March 15, 2005) -- Defending NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Kurt Busch assumed the lead in the 2005 NEXTEL Cup point standings Tuesday afternoon when NASCAR announced penalties for rule infractions at Sunday's UAW DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Busch led the series heading into Las Vegas by five points over race winner Jimmie Johnson, and trailed Johnson by 15 points after finishing third in the event before penalties were handed down.
Busch downplayed the significance of swapping places with Johnson as a result of the penalty.
"Even though we're only three races into the season it seems as if Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Racing have separated themselves from the field as the teams to beat," said Busch. "They've won two races and we've won one. This penalty certainly won't affect the way we have to race against these guys in the future, because right now it looks like they'll be the ones to beat further down the road, so the penalty is nothing we're focusing on. They've been fast in all three races this year, and I don't see any sign of that changing."
"We're only three races in to the deal, and March is way too early to talk about where you are in the points. Obviously we want to go out and earn as many points as we possibly can -- that's what is important right now. Not necessarily whether we're in first, second, third or whatever."
The driver of the Sharpie Ford found himself in a similar situation last year following a penalty against Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"It's a familiar scenario," Busch noted. "Last year we picked up the point's lead off of a penalty during the 'Chase' when points were even more crucial, but at the end of the season we saw that the difference didn't come into play. We're even earlier in the season this time, so it's really too early to contemplate how and if this will affect us."
With his third place finish at Las Vegas, Busch has now finished sixth or better in 11 of his last 13 starts (with 12 top-10 finishes) dating back to his win at Loudon on Sept. 19, 2004.
"We've done a terrific job in the off-season to carry over our momentum from last year. With three top-three in three events this year we're defending our championship in the fashion that we wanted to."
Busch and the Sharpie team now turn their sites to Atlanta Motor Speedway, the site of Busch's only non-top 10 finish during last year's "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup." The No. 97 ran 11th when a mechanical failure on lap 53 forced them out of contention. In eight starts at the track Busch has one victory and three top-10's.
Roush Racing is a subsidiary of Livonia, Mich.-based Roush Industries that operates nine motorsports teams; five in NASCAR Nextel Cup with drivers Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, two in the Busch Series with Martin, Kenseth and Edwards, and two in the Craftsman Truck Series with drivers Ricky Craven and Todd Kluever.