Kurt Busch's Dover aim? A nice, smooth day
Kurt Busch is setting his sights only medium high for this weekend's Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway. Of course, the 2004 series champion would love to win the AAA 400 on Sunday, but for a couple of reasons, it sounds like he is w...
Kurt Busch is setting his sights only medium high for this weekend's Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway. Of course, the 2004 series champion would love to win the AAA 400 on Sunday, but for a couple of reasons, it sounds like he is willing to accept a bit less.
His battle cry for Dover seems to be: Just avoid trouble, baby.
"We're just looking for a nice, smooth day," Busch said earlier this week when asked about his Penske Racing team's prospects in Sunday's race at the Monster Mile.
Considering Busch's place in the standings (ninth), and what took place last weekend and the location of Sunday's race, a desire for a nice, smooth day at Dover is understandable.
Busch had a very nice regular season in 2011. He started by finishing fifth in the Daytona 500 and never fell out of the top 10 in points afterward. He had one very satisfying victory--at the Infineon road course--and 14 top-10s in the first 26 races.
He easily clinched a Chase berth and then started the playoffs off with a sixth-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway.
"We started out (the season) strong and there is no reason why" (he can't finish that way), Busch said after grilling up lunch for fans and media at a Kansas City barbeque joint this week.
Well, there might be a couple reasons why.
Busch ran into a bit of trouble in last weekend's Race No. 2 of the Chase, which was held at the New Hampshire "Magic Mile."
His car failed to make it through prerace inspection because it was found to be out of spec. His team had to go furiously to work on the car and then get it back through inspection.
"NASCAR wasn't 100 percent happy with what they saw on one of their gauges that kind of checks where the rear end is in the car, so we had to do a little work on it," Travis Geisler, director of competition at Penske, said. "It's a 'go' or 'no-go' type of gauge and it didn't go."
Busch's No. 22 Dodge apparently did not like the reworking it underwent, because after the race started, Busch fell backward in the field.
"The front tires felt like they were on skids," Busch said post-race, "and the car was plowing through the corners. We were late going through inspection, and that set the tone for our day."
Busch finished 22nd--his worst finish since wrecking in back-to-back races at Watkins Glen and Michigan in August--and he arrives in Dover ninth in points and 28 behind leader Tony Stewart.
Busch has never won at Dover in a Cup car. Never has had a podium. And he has five DNFs.
Hence those hopes for smooth day on Sunday.
Buoying hope are good showings Busch has had this year at other problem tracks for him.
"When you look at the most success we've had this season compared to all the previous years, it is a good feeling to see the (non-points) wins we had back in Daytona during Speedweeks," Busch said. "And who would ever think that our big win so far this year would come on the road course out in Sonoma. It's cool to see that our strength has grown at Penske Racing to be able to be that competitive in those races.
"Who knows? This might just be our time to shine at Dover, too."
What Busch does know is that he cannot afford another Loudon-like outing.
"We just really need another solid performance there this weekend," he said, "that's for sure."
What: AAA 400
Where: Dover (Del.) International Speedway
When: Sunday, 1:15 p.m.
TV: ESPN, noon
Radio: MRN/Sirius Satellite Ch. 90
Track layout: 1-mile oval
Race distance: 400 laps/400 miles
Qualifying: Saturday, 12:40 p.m.
2010 winner: Jimmie Johnson
2010 polesitter: Jimmie Johnson
Points leaders: 1. Tony Stewart, 2,094; 2. Kevin Harvick, 2,087; 3. Brad Keselowski, 2,083; 4. Carl Edwards, 2,080; 5. Jeff Gordon, 2,071; 6. Kyle Busch, 2,068; 7. Matt Kenseth, 2,068; 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2,068; 9. Kurt Busch, 2,066; 10. Jimmie Johnson, 2,065; 11. Ryan Newman, 2,060; 12. Denny Hamlin, 2,028.