KURT BUSCH HAS "GROWN TO LOVE RACING AT MARTINSVILLE" -Miller Lite Dodge Driver Says Martinsville Speedway Reminds Him Of "A Small Version Of Cajon Speedway"- MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 28, 2006) - Miller Lite Dodge driver...
KURT BUSCH HAS "GROWN TO LOVE RACING AT MARTINSVILLE"
-Miller Lite Dodge Driver Says Martinsville Speedway Reminds Him Of "A Small Version Of Cajon Speedway"-
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 28, 2006) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch says he'll never forget the first time he laid eyes on Martinsville Speedway.
"I looked all around the place and said, 'Wow, what a unique and fun place for us to race!" said Busch, who will be making his 11th career Martinsville NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start in this weekend's DIRECTV 500.
"By the time we were finished, though," Busch continued with a chuckle, "I said to myself, 'Man, this is about the most pathetic excuse for a race track that I've ever seen.
"That was what went through my head the very first time I raced at Martinsville - back in the truck racing days in 2000 - back before I knew any better. Through the years, I've grown to really love racing at Martinsville."
Busch made his sixth career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start on April 10, 2000. The record book shows that he started 22nd and finished 23rd, completing 245 of the 250 laps.
"I guess it's gone full circle for me now, because it's back to feeling that it truly is such a unique and fun track to race on," said Busch, who drove his Miller Lite Dodge to victory at Bristol on Sunday. The accomplishment marked his first win for Penske Racing South, his fifth Bristol victory and his 15th career win overall. "I've really grown to appreciate the place and enjoy going there to race. Winning the fall race at Martinsville in 2002 will always be a special memory. It was my second career win and really helped me like the place even more.
"To tell you the truth, Martinsville reminds me quite a bit of a track that we ran on years ago along the NASCAR Southwest Tour - Cajon Speedway in El Cajon, California," offered Busch, who climbed from 27th to 16th in the points with his Bristol win and is now only 62 points out of 10th. "That place was a really tight little three-eighths-mile paper-clip- shaped track. I look at Martinsville as being just like a smaller version of Cajon. It's a snug little half-mile paper-clip-shaped track."
While the venue for this weekend's Cup action may be little in build, Busch is quick to note that the Martinsville track is definitely huge in its demands.
"For it being the smallest track that we go to, it presents about the biggest challenge all around. It's about endurance, durability, patience and teamwork all wrapped up in one package. It's a tough and challenging race and it'll be the same thing again there this weekend."
Miller Lite Dodge crew chief Roy McCauley is swift to point out Martinsville Speedway as his favorite track of them all, but the major reason may not be what most would expect.
"Martinsville is my favorite track because of all the great history behind the place," explained McCauley. "It used to be as big as the Daytona 500 for the old Modified Division 30 years ago or so. The tradition and history is big. It's so much fun to remember the days when Richie Evans, Charlie J. (Jarzombek), Ray Hendrick and all of those guys battled it out there. In the old late model days - when guys like Butch Lindley and Geoff Bodine were driving for Emanuel Zervakis - there are just so many golden memories.
"And it wasn't just confined to the track," McCauley continued. "Mr. Earles (former track owner, the late H. Clay Earles) took such great pride in keeping the place beautiful. The big pond out front with the ducks.all the beautiful azaleas.the famous hotdogs - the place has had such tremendous character through the years.
"It probably helps, too, that Martinsville was the track where we won our first Cup race," McCauley concluded, referring to the October 2001 Old Dominion 500, when he was working for PPI Motorsports.
Busch claimed his second career Cup win at Martinsville on Oct. 20, 2002. He recalled the details of that race:
"It was the biggest comeback in the history of the place, when you consider that we started way back in the 36th spot," Busch said. "We took the green and set sail. We'd passed half the field after the first 150 laps. We got spun by the 24 car, but didn't hit anything and kept going.
"I remember that we had great pit stops and that really helped out. We worked our way up into the top five and just kept going forward. We were up to second with about 100 laps to go. Johnny Benson was leading and we got by him and never looked back. It was a great day and a huge team effort.
"That's exactly what we're hoping for this time around - another great day and a super team effort," Busch said. "We definitely plan on starting up closer to the front than we did there that day."
Busch started ninth and finished 19th in last year's spring Martinsville race. He bounced back last fall to post his fourth career top- 10 finish on the track, after starting 14th and finishing sixth.
"Yeah, that was a pretty good race we had there last fall," Busch recalled. "We started out really tight and fell back through the pack. We kept adjusting on it and moved on back up through the field. We had a little skirmish with the 15 car (Michael Waltrip) and had to start from the rear again with 300 laps to go. Pit strategy, track position - we made all the right calls there that day - and we were able to motor on back up through there to finish sixth."