Kurt Busch Strives To Create More Michigan Memories BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 9, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has two wins and many monumental memories in his 16 career races at Michigan International Speedway entering Sunday's...
Kurt Busch Strives To Create More Michigan Memories
BROOKLYN, Mich. (June 9, 2009) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has two wins and many monumental memories in his 16 career races at Michigan International Speedway entering Sunday's LifeLock 400. He is confident that his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing unit is poised for additional success this weekend on the two-mile high-banked track.
"It's another challenge for our intermediate track program and we're really looking forward to it," said Busch, who fell to fifth in the Sprint Cup point standings after a broken water pump relegated him to a 37th-place finish at Pocono last Sunday. "When you look back and see our record so far this season on those tracks, it's easy to understand why we're eager to get back to Michigan.
"We had the fifth-place finish at California, the big win at Atlanta and another solid top-10 at Texas (finished eighth), so we're bringing plenty of confidence with our program back into Michigan this season," offered Busch, who trails points leader Tony Stewart by 224 points heading into this weekend. "The only blip on the record this season was in the (Coca-Cola) 600 last month. We ran in the top-10 all day in that race. We had the vibration and had to pit under the green and never had a chance to make up the lost ground because the rain came (race called just after halfway, with Busch finishing 34th).
"Michigan has been the site of a lot of special memories through my career, that's for sure," said Busch, who enters this weekend with a 141-point buffer over 13th-place Mark Martin. "Of course, our two wins rank up there at the top of our memory list. I think the fact that they were so different - the way we won those two races - really makes them so distinctive in my mind.
"That win back in 2003 was a big thrill because we were able to pass Jeff Gordon for the lead late in the race and then hold off Bobby Labonte at the end to win it," Busch recalled of the June 15, 2003 Sirius 400 at MIS. "We never led a lap until about 25 laps to go. We had a great car that day for the short haul and it paid big dividends.
"I remember getting around Jeff for the lead and thinking, 'Oh boy, we've got it made now,'" said Busch. "But we had three cautions during the final laps that kept it close. The final yellow came out with 10 laps to go and it bunched us all back together again. It all came down to holding off Bobby Labonte, one of my biggest heroes through the years. He tried to make a run on the high side and I had a car strong enough to hold him off."
The win was Busch's seventh career victory and third (of what would be four) of the 2003 season. The victory behind the wheel of the No. 97 Roush Racing Ford came on the same weekend that the Dearborn, Mich.-based manufacturer celebrated its 100th anniversary.
"Our win in the 2007 August race at Michigan was one of my very favorites and for so many reasons," Busch said of his most recent victory at the track in the Aug. 21, 2007 3M Performance 400. "We started back in 15th and I didn't know if we had a car that was strong enough to run up front until after a competition yellow early in the race. It was just a matter of getting through the traffic and up there.
"We were up into the top-10 about 40 laps into the race and in the top-five about 20 laps later. Our car was set up where we were getting off Turn 2 so well. We had a long period of green and moved up to second. When a round of pit stops cycled around, we were running second to (Matt) Kenseth. We caught him and got around for the lead just after the race was half-way. We went on to dominate the remainder of the race and really put a whipping on them.
"It was a great win for Penske Racing, for Miller Lite, for Dodge - for everyone involved," Busch said. "Pat Tryson had joined out team as the crew chief only a handful of races earlier and we were on a huge competitive run to make the Chase. We had won a couple of weeks earlier at Pocono and were really on a roll.
"We raced another new car that day," Busch said of the "PRS-111" Miller Lite Dodge. "Just like at Pocono, it was a new Dodge that Pat had been following all the way from the ground up. It was a real rocket ship there at Michigan. It was only appropriate that we named the winning car 'Roger' in honor of our team owner.
"You know, as easy as it is for us to remember that great day we had at Michigan, others will probably tell you that it was hard to forget," Busch said with a chuckle. "Some called it the '72 Hours of Michigan.' We got rained out on Sunday and came back on Monday, only to get rained out again. We finally caught a break on Tuesday. We ran under green and yellow until the fog lifted.
"The most incredible thing that'll always stick out in my mind was standing there in Victory Lane and looking up in the stands to see the huge crowd," said Busch. "It was a tremendous outpouring of fans that came out for a race held on Tuesday. It really was incredible."
Crew chief Tryson is certainly looking forward to this weekend's return to Michigan International Speedway. "It's another intermediate track and we're looking to continue the strength we've been showing on all those other tracks this season," said Tryson, who'll mark his 72nd race as Busch's team leader in Sunday's Michigan battle. "We're racing the Texas car ("PRS-605" that started 28th and finished eighth at Texas Motor Speedway on April 5) and we know it'll be capable of getting the job done there."