KURT BUSCH FINDS INSPIRATION FROM FORMER TEAMMATE KENSETH Miller Lite Dodge Driver Hoping To "Kick It Into Overdrive" With Strong Pocono Performance LONG POND, Pa. (June 6, 2006) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch is quick to say that he is...
KURT BUSCH FINDS INSPIRATION FROM FORMER TEAMMATE KENSETH
Miller Lite Dodge Driver Hoping To "Kick It Into Overdrive" With Strong Pocono Performance
LONG POND, Pa. (June 6, 2006) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch is quick to say that he is far from throwing in the towel as for his chances of making the 2006 "Chase for the Championship."
After 13 races completed this season, Busch is mired back in 18th position in the standings. He is currently 265 points out of making the cut, the 10th spot that is held by his brother, Kyle. There are 13 races remaining in the determining process for the Chase contenders.
"We have 13 races left to work our way back into the top 10," said Busch, after finishing 16th at Dover, Del., on Sunday, his best finish in the last five races. "We're at the halfway point and we're not that far out of 10th place. We'll have to work hard and start getting top fives and top 10s, but we've got some good tracks coming up. It'll be a challenge, but it'll be fun trying."
It may come as a surprise to some when it comes to his major source for inspiration at this point.
"We'll never give up and it's really way too early to discount the top 20 or so guys," Busch said. "All you have to do is look back to see what Matt did last year and you know that if you can get things going in the right direction, hold on buddy...because it's not over till it's over."
Busch is referring, of course, to his former teammate when he was at Roush Racing, Matt Kenseth. Kenseth's charge to make the Chase last year is certainly reason for encouragement.
"I'll always remember last year after the June Pocono race," Busch said. "Matt had another disappointing finish there (32nd), after having a really dismal season up to that point. He'd had engine problems, gotten crashed out of races...just about everything bad that could go wrong. He was over 300 points out of 10th and folks were already writing him and Robbie (Reiser, crew chief) off for the year. They never gave up. They got their act together and put on the full-court press. What they did last year was pretty incredible, but they proved that it could be done.
"If you look at all the statistics, we're nowhere near the bad shape those guys were in at this point last season," said Busch, who is the most recent Pocono race winner, taking the victory in last July's Pennsylvania 500 after starting second. "Yeah, if you want to call that my inspiration right now, go ahead and do that."
The record book shows that Kenseth was 24th in the 2005 NEXTEL Cup point standings after Pocono, the 14th race last year. He trailed 10th-place Tony Stewart by a whopping 320 points.
Busch was accurate in his assessment that Kenseth had experienced a dismal season up to that point. In those first 14 races, he had posted no top-five finishes, only two top-10s and a heartbreaking three DNFs (did not finishes). His average finish for that period was 22.8, with two 42nd-place finishes at the bottom of his performance chart and only a seventh-place finish at the top.
Kenseth's charge to make the Chase last year was impressive indeed. During the final 12 races which culminated with the September Richmond race cutoff point, Kenseth recorded a win, six top-five finishes, nine top-10s and most importantly, no additional DNFs. He only had two finishes out of the top 10 and managed an 8.3 average finish.
The end result earned Kenseth the ninth position in the point standings after Richmond, with a 59-point buffer over 10th-place Ryan Newman.
"Like I said, we're only halfway there to the Chase and there's still plenty of time to get the job done," said Busch, who claimed the points title during the inaugural Chase format in 2004. "But, the bottom line is that now is the time that we have to rise up and get after it. We're going to have to really kick it into overdrive and start logging those top-fives and top-10s from here on out.
"Pocono is a great place for us to rise to the occasion because it's been a really good track for us," said Busch, the only driver to lead more than one lap in both races at Pocono in 2005. "We've had a lot of good fortune there over the years and the Penske teams have historically been strong there. We're hoping for big things this weekend at Pocono.
"Qualifying has been very important at Pocono and I'm sure that'll be the same story this time around," said Busch, offering a personal confirmation to the fact that only four races at Pocono have been won from a starting position below 16th. "I guess outside of our win at Bristol, our overall qualifying effort has been the big bright spot for the season."
Busch has qualified out of the top 10 in only three races this season and his worse start in the first 13 races was 20th at Lowe's. He has an 8.7 average start for the year.
Busch's career Pocono record holds one win and four top-five finishes in 10 races, including two runner-up tallies. He started second and finished 22nd in last year's Pocono 500, denied another top-five finish by a flat left-front tire with only 13 laps remaining in the race.