Sonoma: Kurt Busch preview

Busch Focused On Earning First Road Course Win at Sonoma SONOMA, Calif. - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch enters this weekend's Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Infineon Raceway still in quest of his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup road course victory...

Busch Focused On Earning First Road Course Win at Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch enters this weekend's Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Infineon Raceway still in quest of his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup road course victory after 18 starts in road course competition to date. Busch says that even if he may not be considered the sentimental favorite in Sunday's battle, he's likely at the top of the list among curiosity seekers watching the race live at the track or on TNT. "They all ask everywhere I go if I'll do the backwards victory lap if we can win on the road course," Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup Champion, said with a chuckle. "Every week while out visiting with the fans at the merchandising trailer, the hospitality tents or at all the other appearances we do, I'm constantly asked that question. My answer every time is to just stay tuned and watch.

"We even had the media asking about it last weekend at Michigan," said Busch, now up to fourth in the Sprint Cup point standings after winning the Coors Light Pole and finishing a solid third at Michigan International Speedway last weekend. "Like I told them then, if the race goes with a lot of green flag runs and there's enough TV time left, I'm thinking seriously about it. I realize that there are lot of blind corners going forward, so I'm not sure what we can do going backwards."

Busch debuted his special race-winning celebratory "Unwind Lap" after taking the victory in the March 2009 Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Since then, Busch has performed his trademark lap after three other points-paying race wins and the special Sprint All-Star Race win.

"We won last fall's race at Texas and put another mile-and-a-half track on our backwards driving list, did it at Atlanta again back in March and then two weeks in a row at Charlotte Motor Speedway," Busch said with a mischievous grin. "Now doing it on a road course - that would really be challenging and everybody knows how much I like challenges. We certainly would welcome the opportunity to do it. Like I said, just stay tuned to see what happens."

But before Busch can experience the challenge of taking a reverse drive around the twisting 1.99-mile layout, he must achieve something he hasn't been able to accomplish during his nine prior seasons as a full-time competitor on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour - taking the checkered flag in a Cup race at Infineon Raceway or at Watkins Glen International in New York.

"We won a Southwest Tour race on the Sonoma track many years ago and it was a big stepping stone for advancing my career," Busch said of his 1999 win in the minor league race that scored him major league attention and led to a ride in the NASCAR truck series competition. "We won a Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen back in '06 in a wild finish battling it out with Robby Gordon.

"We've definitely had a chance or two of winning in the Cup cars through the years," said Busch, whose best career road course finish to date was the third he posted in the 2005 Infineon Raceway battle. "We sat on some poles at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. We've had some top-five runs. Probably the closest we've ever come to winning one of these things so far was the '06 race at Watkins Glen. We had the pole for that one and had a huge lead. We were going to make our final stop under the green and could go the distance. When I veered right and turned down the pit lane, the caution flag came out. They said we had not made it to the commitment line in time and we had to go to the rear of the field for the restart. That was a real heartbreaker.

"I still think that I can improve on the road course," Busch offered. "Right now, the way that the game has changed, everybody is really competitive on road courses. You have to be on your game. You have to show up and make sure that you don't lose a lot of points. It just seems like the fuel mileage is such a big, big issue when you get to the road courses. You race the races from backwards to front on when you have to pit for the final time. You stretch your fuel for as long as you can go and that's what we have to work on this time around."

In Busch's 18 career road course starts, he has three top-five finishes and six top-10s. He has led laps in seven races and has led a total of 11 times for 123 laps. He has an average start of 10.8 and average finish of 19.2 in those 18 races. In his nine races at Infineon Raceway, Busch has three top-five finishes and three top-10s. He has an 11.3 average start and an 18.7 average finish.

"The most important thing is leading the right lap - the final lap that awards the big paycheck," offered crew chief Steve Addington, who helped lead Kyle Busch to a sweep in the road course races during the 2008 season. "We're heading into the weekend with the goal of helping Kurt get his first road course win."

-source: penske racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kurt Busch , Kyle Busch