THE "SNOWMAN" COULD STRIKE AGAIN AT PHOENIX -Miller Lite Dodge Driver Kurt Busch Again Competing In Both Races This Weekend At P.I.R - AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 18, 2006) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has been getting almost as much ...
THE "SNOWMAN" COULD STRIKE AGAIN AT PHOENIX
-Miller Lite Dodge Driver Kurt Busch Again Competing In Both Races This Weekend At P.I.R -
AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 18, 2006) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch has been getting almost as much attention lately for his post-race-win celebratory antics as he has for those driving feats themselves.
After winning the March 26 Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Busch celebrated his 15th career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victory and first with Penske Racing South in memorable fashion. Among his repertoire were burnouts, flag-wavings, reverse victory laps.and his version of making "Snow Angels" on the finish line.
Busch won the O'Reilly 300 on April 8 at Texas Motor Speedway, claiming his first career NBS victory in his only series start. After taking the checkered flag, the 2004 Cup champ was at it again, rousing the 160,000 fans on hand and a live national TV audience. Busch's playful actions included burnouts, a seemingly painful headfirst baseball slide into the infield grass and another round of making "Snow Angels" on the colorful race sponsor's logo, which was painted on the grass. Under sunny skies and with the temperature in the low 80s, he completed the front-stretch celebration by appearing to kiss the hood of his winning No. 39 Penske Truck Rental/Miller Lite Dodge.
So, what are these "extra performances" all about? Where did the idea start? Does Busch plan to continue celebrating victories in this manner?
"I know that this may sound a little confusing, but the way we celebrated the Bristol win happened spontaneously, but the basis for doing it was premeditated," Busch offered. "What we did wasn't really planned out, but we knew we were going to do something different when we won to celebrate the win.
"It all came about due to a conversation I had with Humpy Wheeler a few weeks before we raced at Bristol," Busch said of his talk with H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, President and General Manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway. "Everyone knows by now that I have been trying to improve the image I have out there. Yes, I've probably slipped a few times here and there. But, I have reached out to several people in our business that I admire and respect. Humpy is surely at the top of that list.
"In the one-to-one I had with Humpy, he was so helpful, so positive and so eager to give me good advice," Busch continued. "Among the things he told me was that I should feel so fortunate to be where I am and doing what I'm doing now. He pointed out that there are probably hundreds of talented young drivers out there who can win races, but will never have the opportunity. I feel so blessed to be racing for Roger Penske and Miller Lite. He told me that I should make the best of my situation. I need to express my gratitude openly and display it to the fans. He noted that we're all participating in one of the greatest sports ever. But at the end of the day, the bottom line is that what we do is still all about the entertainment business. He advised me to be myself and enjoy what I do, but to be unique and to let my personality shine. He told me to be exciting to watch and dazzling on and off the track.
"So, when we were able to come back from a lap down and win the race at Bristol like we did, the emotions were running sky high," Busch explained. "Our team had discussed and decided as early as in Daytona to keep the "Polish Victory Lap" alive. We agreed that we would continue doing what was started by Alan Kulwicki and made a tradition by Rusty (Wallace) and the No. 2 guys after they won races. It was Roy (crew chief Roy McCauley) who even personally put together the flag setup we use.
"When we took the checkered flag, I couldn't help but think about what all Humpy had said to me and just how big the win was. It had been snowing the entire weekend at Bristol. They even had to stop the Saturday race because of the weather. The teams had a blast with snowball fights all up and down pit road. With all of that in mind, that's why I did what I did. I just came up with the idea on the spur of the moment. The fans seemed to love it and there were photos and video footage of it everywhere afterwards.
"At Texas, it was another monumental win," Busch continued. "I recalled what a kick the fans had gotten out of the Bristol celebration and I wanted to give them all something to remember our win with. There was a movie out about 10 years ago named 'Angels in the Outfield.' I really loved that movie. I don't know -- what I did there at Texas was kind of spontaneous, too. The idea was like my version of angels in the infield. I saw all that beautiful green grass, so I decided to act like I was sliding headfirst in to home plate. I never thought that my helmet would get caught up and get augered down in the grass like that. The idea was to then do the Snow Angels and hopefully have all those different colors on the logo on the grass just totally saturate into the bright yellow uniform I was wearing. It didn't exactly come out like I had anticipated, but it did surely give everybody something to talk about.
"I told them in the winner's press conference at Texas that I didn't mind if the fans picked up on it and started calling me 'The Snowman,'" said Busch. "Will I do it again? I don't know. I guess only time will tell."
Wheeler has long been known for taking new racing talent under his wings and serving as an advisor and confidant. It was some 20 years ago that he served in that role to Kulwicki, the 1992 Cup champion who was killed in a plane crash in April of the following year.
When the Wisconsin native won his first career race at Phoenix on Nov. 6, 1988, he celebrated his initial big-league win by turning his Zerex Ford around and touring the one-mile desert oval in the opposite direction.
"Humpy's advice to me was to be spectacular," Kulwicki later said of his post-race antic that he proclaimed to be a "Polish Victory Lap," in honor of his family heritage. "By going in the opposite direction, it allowed me to get closer to the fans. They could actually see me driving the car and waving at them." Kulwicki performed his patented celebratory lap only one additional time, after claiming the 1992 NASCAR points title at Atlanta on Nov. 15, 1992.
Busch is the defending champion of Saturday's Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. In his six Phoenix Cup races, he has an enviable record of the one win, two top-five finishes and four consecutive top-10 finishes. Most impressive is that he has completed all but one of the possible laps (1,874/1,875 99.9%). He will also be competing in Friday's Bashas' Supermarkets 200 NBS race.