Concord, N.H. (September 15, 2000)--Roush Racing announced today that NASCAR Craftsman Truck phenomenon Kurt Busch has been selected by team owner Jack Roush to assume driving duties of the No. 97 Winston Cup entry beginning next weekend in the ...
Concord, N.H. (September 15, 2000)--Roush Racing announced today that NASCAR Craftsman Truck phenomenon Kurt Busch has been selected by team owner Jack Roush to assume driving duties of the No. 97 Winston Cup entry beginning next weekend in the MBNA.com 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway. Busch, the 22-year-old native of Las Vegas, is currently leading the Rookie-of-the-Year battle in the Truck Series and sits third in the overall point standings, 80 points behind second place with three races remaining. Already in 2000, Busch has captured two victories (The Milwaukee Mile, New Hampshire International Speedway) and two poles (The Milwaukee Mile, Richmond International Raceway) in just 21 starts on the Craftsman Truck Series.
Jack Roush announced that Busch will drive the No. 97 Ford in seven of the last eight races of the season and will compete on the Winston Cup circuit full time in 2001. Although John Deere will remain the primary sponsor of the No. 97 Ford for the remainder of the 2000 season, the company has announced that it will be leaving the sport in 2001 opening a sponsorship opportunity on the Roush Racing entry for next year. An active search has been initiated to find a replacement for John Deere, but no sponsor has been signed at this time.
"An active search for a sponsor is currently underway with Geoff Smith leading the charge," Jack Roush said. "We have committed to running Kurt and the No. 97 team in 2001 with or without sponsorship. We have a state-of-the-art facility in Concord (N.C.) and the personnel in place to put a winning team on the track; right now all we lack is a sponsor. While we are disappointed to see John Deere leave the sport, there is now an opportunity for a sponsor to be part of the next generation of NASCAR superstars not only on the track, but off the track as well. We know that we have something special with Kurt Busch and that's why we're committed to running this team in 2001.
"We have a solid team in place, but in order to maximize Kurt's chances for Rookie-of-the-Year honors, we needed to get him some time behind the wheel of a Winston Cup car this year. Kurt has demonstrated in the Truck Series that he has the ability to compete with the best the series has to offer, and it will be our responsibility to get him to that next level. It's like having a two-year-old thoroughbred that's about to turn three (years old), but you already know he's ready to compete in the Kentucky Derby, the crown jewel of the sport. I feel that we have a thoroughbred in Kurt. He's learned a tremendous amount this year on the Truck Series, and has demonstrated the maturity that it takes to be successful on the Winston Cup circuit. I'm sure he'll be the focus of a lot of attention in Dover and that's to be expected. He's got a busy few months ahead of him with testing, finishing out the Truck season and running seven Winston Cup races. We wouldn't put him through this unless we felt he was ready."
Busch tested for two days at Dover (Del.) Downs International Speedway this week and to call the test a success would be an understatement. Busch, visiting Dover's one-mile speedway for the first time, turned three laps fast enough to qualify in the top 10 at the last race held at Dover, and his last run would have been quick enough to capture the outside pole.
Busch is scheduled to drive in seven of the last eight Winston Cup races, but will also finish out the season driving the No. 99 Craftsman Truck entry, where he is all but assured the Rookie-of-the-Year title. However, due to schedule conflicts between the two series Busch will not run in the October 15 Winston Cup event at Talladega Superspeedway to instead focus on the Craftsman Truck season final at California Speedway. Busch will retain his Winston Cup rookie status for 2001 by limiting this season's competition to seven events, and has hopes of following teammate Matt Kenseth's quest to take home those honors in 2000.
Despite his age, Busch has an extensive driving resume that began at 14 years of age and includes 199 starts in the Winston West Series, Southwest Series, Late Models, Grand American Modified, American Race Truck Series, Limited Late Models, Legends Cars and Dwarf Cars. Busch has recorded an astounding 44 percent winning percentage in all of the races he has entered, and logged finishes in the top five 73 percent of the time. Prior to competition on the Craftsman Truck Series, Busch was the 1999 Featherlite Southwest Series champion after amassing six wins that included a record-setting four-in-a-row winning streak.
Roush Racing is the largest motorsports team in the world with nine teams in NASCAR's three major series: Mark Martin, Jeff Burton (based in Mooresville, N.C.), Kevin Lepage, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch (Concord, N.C.) in the Winston Cup Series; Martin and Burton in the Busch Series; and Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch (Livonia, Mich.) in the Craftsman Truck Series.