KURT BUSCH HAS GROWN MUCH SINCE 2005 FALL NEW HAMPSHIRE RACE Miller Lite Dodge Driver Hoping His Team Gets Back On Track In Sunday's Sylvania 500 At N.H.I.S. LOUDON, N.H. (Sept. 12, 2006) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has come a long...
KURT BUSCH HAS GROWN MUCH SINCE 2005 FALL NEW HAMPSHIRE RACE
Miller Lite Dodge Driver Hoping His Team Gets Back On Track In Sunday's Sylvania 500 At N.H.I.S.
LOUDON, N.H. (Sept. 12, 2006) -- Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has come a long way since September 18, 2005. That was the date of last year's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, a race in which Busch now admits he made a "spectacle" of himself.
In that race, the first Chase event last year, Busch started 12th and was headed toward the front from the drop of the green flag. Scott Riggs had started fifth and it took Busch only two laps to get up to the bumper of Riggs' No. 10 Chevrolet. On just the third lap of the race, Busch got an outside run on Riggs entering the first turn of the 1.058-mile oval. Riggs' car got loose and swung wide, clipping Busch and sending him nose-first into the outside wall.
After getting his mangled car back to the garage and parking it, Busch climbed out and briskly made his way down the pedestrian side of pit road to Riggs' pit. A multitude of reporters, cameramen and live TV and radio audiences followed Busch's every move. He climbed the ladder on the No. 10 team pit box and had a brief conversation with crew chief Rodney Childers. He then marched back to his team hauler in the garage area, with the massive throng of media members still in tow. He later returned to the race to finish 35th, completing 233 of the 300 laps.
"I just wanted to make sure that the crew chief knew that he'd put an extremely loose race car under his driver and had caused a crash that likely ended my chances to win the Chase," Busch said with a slight chuckle as he recently recalled the incident. "I guess I made a pretty big spectacle of myself there that day."
So, what would happen if Busch was faced with the exact scenario again today?
"Oh, that would never happen today, I guarantee you that," said Busch, the 28-year-old Las Vegas native who claimed the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series title. "I'm in a situation now where there's way too much respect for everybody involved for something like that to happen. There's no way I would do anything that could possibly embarrass Roger (Penske, team owner) and all my friends at Miller (Brewing, sponsor) and with all the other sponsors.
"Besides, I have a support crew behind me now that would prevent anything like that ever occurring, maybe even tackling me if they had to," Busch continued with a snigger. "Seriously, I've learned that there's a right way to handle things like that. That was the old Kurt Busch, not the calmer married guy here driving the Miller Lite Dodge for Roger Penske."
Yes, it's true that Busch's on-track performance was much better at this time last season and he had the statistics to back it up. He had made the Chase for the second year in a row. He was 10th in the points and had won three races.
"But, that was pretty much the beginning of the end for me during the 2005 season," Busch said as he looked back on last year's Sylvania 500. "We just kinda' went downhill from there on.
"It's better to be with this team that's on its way up," Busch said of his Roy McCauley-led Penske Racing South unit, which was assembled just last December to work with Busch during his initial season driving for Penske Racing. "We've accomplished a lot already and our future is so promising.
"The way we've been running lately has been frustrating and that's easy to understand," said Busch, who hasn't finished in the top 10 since the July 23rd race at Pocono, but has claimed three pole positions during that period to lead the battle for the most poles this season. "Roger has been so supportive and so have all our sponsors and everyone involved. This is a long-term project and we're in it for the long haul."
After two days of testing their "Car of Tomorrow" at the Milwaukee Mile, Busch and crew head back to New Hampshire hoping to get their season turned around."
"We have 10 races remaining to get back on track and hopefully get back to Victory Lane," said Busch, whose career record at N.H.I.S. boasts two wins, four top-five finishes and five top 10s in 11 races. He also won a Craftsman Truck Series race there in 2000.