Kurt Busch Champions Week preview

-- After finishing the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup tour seventh in points and recording two victories, six top-five finishes, 14 top-10s and one pole, Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch labeled it a "successful transitional season." "With wins, a...

-- After finishing the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup tour seventh in points and recording two victories, six top-five finishes, 14 top-10s and one pole, Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch labeled it a "successful transitional season." "With wins, a pole and a seventh-place finish in the points, we definitely covered all the basics to say that 2007 was a great year for our Miller Lite Dodge team," Busch said. "When you look back on the year and take into consideration that we accomplished all that we did with three different crew chiefs, you certainly have to label it a successful transitional season for our team. When we were able to add Pat Tryson as our team leader back in June, it gave us the solid and consistent leadership that our team needed to overcome the obstacles and make the big drive to get into the Chase. That's the big reason for referring to 2007 as a transitional season as we advanced to the point we are now, with a championship-caliber team under leadership from a championship-caliber crew chief."

-- By finishing seventh in the points, Busch will join the other top-10 drivers for Champions Week festivities in New York City this week.

-- Busch and champion Jimmie Johnson ended the 2007 season tied for second in total bonus points - earned 130 each to leader Jeff Gordon's 150. "That indicates a couple of things," Busch said. "It shows that our team had unbelievable strength and potential. It shows that we were a threat in so many races and had a very respectable competitive level. But, on the other hand, it also demonstrates what I'd have to consider as lost opportunity. When you look at it that we were in the same league as the series' champion in leading laps, that's quite impressive. When you consider that we led the most laps in five races to the 48 car's (Johnson) only two races, you have to scratch your head and ask why. Those guys definitely must have led all the right laps. Seriously, it shows that we were strong at the start of a lot of races and faded. It shows that we had a lot of great runs that were cut short by many problems, a lot of our own doing with mistakes made on pit road."

-- Busch considered his two 2007 NEXTEL Cup wins as special victories. "Pat (Tryson) came aboard as our leader in late June and the car we won at Pocono with was the first Dodge that he massaged and nurtured to the track," Busch said. "We dominated there in that race, leading a record number of laps for the Pocono track. It was our first win together as driver and crew chief and it had to be another record set for the amount of beer and champagne used in a victory celebration. We named the winning car the 'PT Special' in honor of Pat and the great job he had done. The win at Michigan is one we'll always remember. The car we had there was brand new and the final old-style car to come through the shop. Pat had worked his magic on it like he did with the Pocono winning car. What made the Michigan win so special was that Roger (Penske, team owner) was there and was able to celebrate the win with us. He couldn't be at Bristol for the win last year and had to miss the earlier win at Pocono. It was so cool to have him there celebrating with us in victory lane. Roger had owned the Michigan track and was responsible for building it up to the super facility it is today. The race was the final one for the old-style cars there and it came in the backyard of all the auto manufacturers. It was very appropriate that we named that car 'Roger' in honor of 'The Captain.'

-- Busch posted a 15.343 average finish over the 36-race season and ranked ninth among the top-10 drivers. Gordon's 7.3 ranked as the best of all the drivers. Johnson was second with a 10.8 average. Only 10th-place Harvick [15.5] posted a lower average finish than Busch in the top-10. Busch 13.457 average starting spot ranked third overall. Only Johnson's 9.8 and Gordon's 11.3 were better.

-- "This has been a great year for me personally and I've found a real home here at Penske Racing, working with Kurt and the Miller Lite Dodge team," Tryson said when asked to reflect on the 2007 season. "Joining the team when I did, with such a deficit to overcome with the 100-point penalty and all [received for actions deemed overly aggressive during the June 4 Dover race], it was one of the biggest challenges I've ever faced in my career. But when I took the job, I pledged to Roger Penske that we would be a team on a mission and that we would do everything possible to get his team into the Chase. We have a great team and the chemistry clicked immediately with Kurt and me. We had a successful season in 2007 and I think we'll get stronger the more time we spend working together. We have a major challenge ahead in getting the COT program -- what was the Car of Tomorrow and is now officially the Car of Today -- up to par on a consistent basis with the top teams out there. We need to be more consistent all the way around and that definitely includes our performance on pit road. Rest assured, there'll be no team out there working any harder than ours in preparing for the 2008 season."

The incredible run by Tryson, Busch and team to make this year's Chase is certainly a story worth recounting.

Busch was back as far as 16th in the point standings in June and trailed Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 236 points for the 12th and final Chase-eligible spot entering the July 8 Pepsi 400 at Daytona. With Tryson now at the helm of the No. 2 Dodge team, Busch responded with a strong third-place finish in that race. He then went on a competitive tear that produced two wins and seven top-10 finishes during the nine-race stretch to make the Chase. Busch finished no worse than 11th during that period and had a 6.2 average finish. He came back from the 236-point deficit to hold a 206-point advantage over the 13th spot at the conclusion of the 26th race in September at Richmond. That was a 442-point swing in only nine races, meaning that Busch, Tryson and crew gained an amazing average of 49 points per race on their points' foe during that period.

-- Busch was quick to note that the 2007 season left him with a good feeling of overall accomplishment. "As if our charge back to make the Chase wasn't impressive enough, the fact is that we climbed all the way back to 10th in the point standings after 26 races," Busch said. "We would have made the Chase even if it had still been just the top-10 and not the expanded top-12 format. That was extremely gratifying. When you look at how much ground we made up in the final race of the season at Homestead that was pretty incredible. We came in there in 10th, with only a little cushion over 11th. With our great run and finish there, we shot all the way up to seventh in the final point standings and it certainly was a tremendous way to close out the year."

-- Congratulations to Busch, Tryson and the entire No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team for picking up the season-long Mobil 1 Command Performance Award. Busch will accept the award during Thursday's NASCAR/NMPA Myers Brothers Awards luncheon, which begins at 11 a.m. EST at Cipriani, 110 E. 42nd St.

-credit: pr

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Roger Penske
Teams Team Penske