Talladega: Kurt Busch preview

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 22, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch may still be looking for his first career Talladega Superspeedway win and initial restrictor-plate race victory, but rest assured he will be considered among the favorites to...

TALLADEGA, Ala. (April 22, 2008) - Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch may still be looking for his first career Talladega Superspeedway win and initial restrictor-plate race victory, but rest assured he will be considered among the favorites to win in this weekend's Aaron's 499 at the massive 2.66-mile Alabama speed plant.

"I guess the law of averages comes into play and they have to include us among the favorites to win Sunday's race," said Busch, who finished an impressive third in his first-ever Sprint Cup race at Talladega and although winless, has recorded six top-five finishes and 11 top-10s in 14 career starts at the largest track on the series. "Our runner-up finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 probably adds some credibility to the way we're viewed entering this weekend."

Busch is almost too modest about his remarkable statistical record at Talladega. Just take a look at NASCAR's impressive loop-data numbers for the 2004 series champion:

*Series-best Average Running Position of 11.3
*Driver Rating of 95.0, second-best only to six-time Talladega winner Jeff Gordon
*Series-high 36 "Closer" positions improved (positions improved in the last 10% of races)
*2,253 Green Flag Passes, second-most only to current Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Burton
*Series-high 890 (78.1%) Laps in the Top 15
*Series-high 1,794 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green)

"It's an impressive bunch of numbers, that's for sure, but until you have the winner's trophy, that's all it really is, some impressive figures to look at," said the humble Busch, who has an overall 10.0 average career finish at Talladega and an incredible 5.7 average finish there during the last seven races. "I mean it's really good stuff to help get everyone in our camp all pumped up and looking forward to this weekend's race at Talladega and I'm certainly proud of our record there. But until we put our Miller Lite Dodge into Victory Lane, we'll be there just like so many of the other teams, still looking for that very first win."

Busch finished third in last April's Aaron's 499 and he finished seventh there last fall.

One could look back on last fall's Talladega race perhaps as "previews of coming attractions" as to what occurred during the circuit's most-recent restrictor-plate race, the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

In the Feb. 17 Daytona 500, Busch was responsible for giving teammate Ryan Newman a "push from heaven" on the last lap, helping Newman score Penske Racing's first restrictor-plate victory in the series' most prestigious race.

"Because it wasn't a situation of us racing to a win at Talladega last fall, I think a lot of people didn't take notice of how well our two Penske teams worked together there during that race," said Busch, whose overall restrictor-plate record now sports 13 top-five finishes and 18 top-10s in 29 races. "We hooked up and were running in tandem all during the final stages of that race. It was a typical three-wide and four-deep Talladega finish. We finished seventh and the 12 car (Newman) was just in front in fifth.

"We're hoping to be able to be as strong this weekend as we were at Daytona in February and as we have been at Talladega in recent years," said Busch. "If we can put ourselves in a position to win in the closing laps there on Sunday, maybe we will finally be able to pull it off. I'll guarantee you that there will be plenty of Miller Lite used in the Victory Lane celebration if we're able to pull it off. That's a promise."

This weekend's Talladega action gets under way on Friday with practice sessions scheduled from 1:30 p.m. till 2:30 p.m. and from 3:05 p.m. till 3:55 p.m. Saturday's 10:15 a.m. single round of qualifying will establish Sunday's 43-car starting field, will all cars impounded immediately after the session. Sunday's Aaron's 499 (188 laps, 500.08 miles) has a 1:00 p.m. CDT starting time and features live coverage by FOX-TV and MRN Radio.

--After testing last Tuesday (April 15) at the 1.33-mile Nashville Speedway, Kurt, Pat and the Miller Lite Dodge Team are busy testing for Goodyear at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today and tomorrow (Apr. 22-23). "We used the Texas & Atlanta cars last week at Nashville and we feel it was worthwhile and we made some progress," Pat said of the one-day test where they used their PSC-554 and PSC-557 Dodge Chargers. "We know it'll be very beneficial to help Goodyear with the tire test at Indy. We're taking the same two cars that we tested with at Nashville. We think using the same cars at these different tracks makes sense. We continue to add to our notes every time we hit the track. It's a continuous learning process."

--Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Penske Racing Team will be racing their PSC-510 Miller Lite Dodge Charger in this weekend's Aaron's 499 action at Talladega Superspeedway. "It was the original car we were going to use in the Bud Shootout back in February, but we had the little altercation in practice and had to roll out the backup car," Pat explained. "This car showed some really good numbers in the wind tunnel and we're confident it can be a winner at Talladega this weekend."

--Pat certainly doesn't lack for confidence in his driver's capabilities entering this weekend's Aaron's 499. "Without a doubt, Kurt is the best-ever restrictor-plate racer yet to win one of these things," Pat said. "I don't think there's anybody in the garage that would argue about that. Given an equal playing field, I'd put him up against anybody out there. Even if you come in with a slight disadvantage, Kurt is so good in these races that his talent can make up for a lot of what might be lacking elsewhere." The statistics certainly back Pat's bold statement. Last year, Kurt trailed only Jeff Gordon in picking up the most points in the four plate races. He led almost twice as many laps as Gordon (147 to 81), yet Gordon scored two wins. In the four plate races during the 2007 season, Kurt scored two top-five finishes and three top-10s. After finishing runner-up to Penske Racing teammate Ryan Newman in the season-opening Daytona 500, Kurt's overall restrictor-plate record sports 13 top-fives and 18 top-10s in 29 races.

--Kurt's career Talladega record is extremely impressive. Although he is still looking for his initial Talladega victory, the 2004 series champion has posted six top-five finishes and 11 top-10s in 14 races. He finished third in his first Cup race at Talladega on April 22, 2001. In the most recent seven races, Kurt has three top-five finishes and seven top-10s. During that span, he has an impressive 5.714 average finish. Overall at Talladega entering this weekend, he has a 22.286 average start and a 10.000 average finish.

--Perhaps what makes Kurt among the top competitors in restrictor-plate racing is his true love for the white-knuckled, three and four-wide by 10-deep, nerve-racking type of competition always associated with the four races staged every season on the mammoth tracks at Talladega and Daytona.

"The truth is that I really enjoy plate racing," said Kurt, who was responsible for giving teammate Ryan Newman a "push from heaven" on the last lap of February's Daytona 500, helping Newman score Penske Racing's first restrictor-plate victory in the series' most prestigious race. "It's a different kind of challenge than what we do during the other 32 races of the season. There's a big mental demand and it'll wear you out, but the biggest thing about that type of racing is it truly is a total team effort.

"I've heard plate racing referred to as a high-speed chess match on wheels and that's a pretty good description, I think," Kurt offered. "But at the same time, I have enough experience at the track and respect for the other competitors that I realize it can also turn into a scene that could be depicted as 190-mile-per-hour Russian roulette."

--Kurt is the special guest on tonight's edition of "NASCAR Live" on MRN Radio.  Mike Bagley will be filling in for regular
host Eli Gold.  The weekly show airs on most of the stations along the MRN Radio network and also on Sirius NASCAR Channel 128
beginning at 7:00 p.m. EDT.  Fans can participate by calling 1-800-2NASCAR.

--Pat is the special featured guest on Thursday night's edition of "Late Shift" on Sirius NASCAR Channel 128. Hosted by Rick Benjamin and racing legend Buddy Baker, the show will air from 7:00 p.m. till 10 p.m. EDT. Pat is set for the 8:00 p.m. EDT (7:00 p.m. Talladega CDT time) slot.

--For the third consecutive year, Kurt will be among the special guests participating in the Friday night "Race Fever" at Talladega Superspeedway. The annual event, which benefits the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB) Foundation, is set for this Friday night beginning at 5:00 p.m. local (CDT) time at the Speed Channel Dome, adjacent to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. "It's always a nice gathering there for a great cause," Kurt said. "We enjoy going over and spending time with the students and the fans. As usual, we'll have an autographed hood or quarter-panel to donate for the big auction." The 2007 event raised more than $204,000 for the AIDB Foundation.

--Expect an announcement regarding the Grand Opening of the Kurt Busch "Superdome" at the Victory Junction Gang Camp to come within the next week to 10 days.

--Kurt's visit to his souvenir trailer at Talladega this Sunday will mark the 254th time in the last 257 races that he has been out on race days to meet the fans and sign autographs. His continuing tradition began during his first full year on the Cup circuit back in 2001. Kurt is tentatively scheduled to be at his souvenir trailer from 9:00 a.m. till 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. Please verify that time by visiting the trailer in advance and picking up the free tickets for the autograph line.

--Vegas odds in...Miller Lite car favored by 7½ spots over Bud car on Sunday at Talladega - If this year's Daytona 500 is any indication of what Penske Racing fans can expect to see this Sunday at Talladega, Alabama, then not one single person should leave unhappy. The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge of Kurt Busch propelled his teammate to victory that February day, and will look to be on the receiving end of that favor this weekend at Talladega. As we usually do, let's head out to The Palms Casino Resort and hear what sports book representative Fred Crespi has to say about this weekend's "Battle of the Beers"."I can tell you this...as much as the drivers and teams need weekends off, I can't stand it! All kidding aside, I can only see Daytona and the power Penske brought under the hood. The No. 9 Budweiser Dodge was very strong as well, actually covering the 8½ position spread against the No. 2 that day, but combined with the car and Kurt's incredible plate racing consistency, I had to favor the Miller Lite Dodge by 7½ positions this Sunday. That Blue Deuce has a great look at bringing home the hardware in my opinion, and I've seen 20-1 odds on the Miller Lite Dodge which is an incredible overlay."

-credit: penske racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Buddy Baker
Teams Team Penske