Busch Believes Pocono Really is the "Tricky Triangle"
Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch heads into this weekend's Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway looking for more success on the unique three-turn 2.5-mile layout nestled in the scenic Pocono Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania. He says that he always enjoys his visits and certainly knows exactly what to expect.
"Pocono has always been a good track for me and I really enjoy heading up that way," said Busch, who remained sixth in the Sprint Cup point standings after finishing ninth at Kansas on Sunday. "It's a fun part of our season and how it kicks off the summer stretch - the first part of June and then we come back in August. They call it the ‘tricky triangle' and it truly has always been that way.
"Sometimes you think Turn 1 is more important," said Busch. "Sometimes you think that Turn 2 is where you can make up some time. Since we haven't shifted there in quite a while now, Turn 3 seems to be important because it leads to the longest straightaway. It just depends. You have to be good in all three corners if you want to have success; you can't favor one versus the other. Then, there are the guys who say that you are really looking at a six-turn track with the entry and exit to each leg. Regardless, it's a challenge and we really enjoy trying to tackle it every time we get in there to race."
Busch says that the complexity of the racing and the way he attacks the track has changed in recent visits to Pocono. "When they took the wing off the car and we went back there with the spoiler on the rear, I was surprised on how much drag it produces. A lot of the focus was worrying about how to get that spoiler out of the air going down the straightaway. It worked to actually change all the braking zones we had gotten accustomed to. I feel like we can drive it a lot deeper in all three corners now because we have that much more drag in the car to help slow it down when we do let off the gas. That was a big adjustment there.
"Just like we've seen at a lot of these intermediate-sized tracks, it seems to add to the concern about fuel mileage," said Busch. "With green-white-checker finishes and the double-file restarts, you certainly can have ample excitement there. Then you have to throw in the fact that we have six-, seven -wide down the front stretch on restarts there. The track gets really exciting near the end of the race. As always, that's what we have to fight hard for again this Sunday. We have to work to get in position during the first 400 miles and really be able to shake it down at the end in those final 100 miles."
In 20 career races at Pocono, Busch has recorded two wins, seven top-five finishes and 10 top-10s. Entering this weekend's race, he has a 12.4 average start and a 16.8 average finish. He has led a total of 371 laps at Pocono and has a 94.394 percent lap completion average (3,671 of 3,889 laps). Busch has been running at the finish in 16 races (four DNFs) and has finished on the lead lap in 12 of the races.
Busch started fourth and finished sixth in last June's Pocono battle. He started 13th and finished 33rd in the most recent visit to the track last August.
"It was a mixed bag for us last season at Pocono," said Busch. "We started fourth in the June race and we were really off chassis-wise from the start. I'd already bounced the right-rear off the wall before they had a competition yellow. Then, they said we had a missing valve stem cap and brought us back down pit road. We were at the tail of the field after only 20 laps.
"We got a lap down early, but kept on working on getting the handling better. We did the wave-around once and got the ‘lucky dog' late in the race to get back on the lead lap. We were running about 10th when (Kevin) Harvick crashed (Joey) Logano to set up a green-white-checkered. We were able to dodge a big crash in the Tunnel Turn on the final lap and squeeze a sixth-place finish out of it.
We've massaged on it quite a bit ...
"We were just way tight in practice and overcompensated for that in qualifying for last August's race there," said Busch. "We started 13th and fought the car being tight for much of the race. We were running 10th and looked to be headed toward a solid top-10 finish. With about 40 laps remaining, we just got drilled from behind and crashed. It was an early end to our day."
Busch was 12th on the Lap 162 restart. Things got physical in a hurry, with three and four-wide racing into every corner. Busch was in the middle, between Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson heading into the Tunnel Turn working Lap 165. Johnson rolled out of the throttle briefly and moved directly behind Busch. Instead of continuing to feather the throttle, Johnson got back on the gas hard and impacted Busch's rear bumper, sending the No. 2 Penske Dodge shooting straight across into the outside wall and triggering a melee that eventually created another horrendous crash by Elliott Sadler. Johnson later communicated on his team radio that his intention was to "bump draft" Busch out of the turn.
Busch and his Steve Addington-led Shell-Pennzoil "Double-Deuce" Dodge Team will be racing their "PRS-744" Dodge Charger this weekend at Pocono. "This is the car that we debuted at Vegas back in March and ran again in April at Texas," said team engineer Dave Winston. "We led laps and finished in the top-10 in both races. We've massaged on it quite a bit the last month in getting it ready for Pocono." Busch first ran the car in the March 6 Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where he started 22nd and finished ninth. The team ran the car again in the April 9 Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway where Busch started 10th and finished 10th, leading the race on five occasions for a total of 50 laps. The "PRS-738" (Phoenix car) will serve as the backup Dodge Charger at Pocono.
-source: penske racing