Busch Ready To Start Building For 2010 At Shootout

By Auto News Log • February 4th, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — It is easy to look back on the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and proclaim that it was the best year for Miller Lite Dodge driver Kurt Busch other than his successful run to the series points title in 2004. Busch is quick to acknowledge that assessment, but is equally swift in pointing out that he plans to be even stronger during his team’s 2010 campaign.

“We had a great season in 2009 and we’re very proud of what we were able to accomplish, especially under what could have been trying circumstances,” said Busch, who will be behind the wheel of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge out of the Penske Racing stable for his fifth consecutive season during the 2010 schedule. “But the fact is that we’re driven to do even better this year. We finished fourth in the points behind the three Hendrick Motorsports teams, so we took great pride in being the best in our class. But finishing fourth was like a moral victory and we know there’s much more out there to accomplish.

“When I joined Penske Racing as the driver of the ‘Blue Deuce’ for the 2006 season, the immediate goal was to win races and challenge for the championship,” said Busch, who has been a fulltime competitor in the top level of NASCAR competition since the 2001 season. “The ultimate goal is to bring that first championship trophy home to Penske Racing. Until we do that, we can never look back on a season and say it was an absolute success.

“We’re looking back at the 2009 season as the primer that will lead us on up the ladder this season. We struggled with the current model race car when it was introduced a few years back and it was a definite learning curve that our team endured. We started making progress toward the end of the 2008 season, but you’d never known it from looking at where we finished in the points.

“We had a basic building block to grow on entering last season and with the addition of new ideas and energy from about every aspect of our program, we were able to get back to where our team needed to be. Our engineering department continued to get stronger and our fleet of Dodge Chargers became more and more consistently competitive. We were able to add Dave Winston to our team as our traveling engineer and we put Jeff Thousand back on the road as our car chief. In short, we just really gelled as a total team effort out there and the guys back at the shop continued to burn the midnight oil in making our cars more competitive and our engines stronger and more durable.

“So we come into the 2010 season with the goal of looking to build on what our team already has going for it,” said Busch. “And that’s really a lot when you stop to think about it. It was quite remarkable to have accomplished what we did considering the situation with Pat Tryson last season. He announced he would be leaving our team and the timing couldn’t have been worse. It got out that he’d be leaving at the September Richmond race and it was made official heading into the first race of the Chase at New Hampshire.

“We faced a lame-duck situation from the beginning of the Chase all the way throughout the 10-race stretch and made a pact to hang together and do our absolute best,” Busch said. “The naysayers came out from every direction in saying that we were doomed and that our season was as good as over. During those final 10 races, we were able to win another race and post enough top-five finishes and top-10s to finish fourth in the points. I was so proud and pleased that we were able to stay together and face the challenge like we did.

“We were able to get Steve Addington to join our team as our new crew chief during the off-season and we really had no turnover to speak of from the personnel standpoint. We added a savvy new shock guy that Steve was able to secure, so we’re really solid from our personnel side. Tom German and the engineering department carry on in getting stronger and stronger and that’ll continue to be a major asset. Better cars and stronger and more durable engines; it all adds up to the commitment Penske Racing has in getting to the next level and bringing home that elusive NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.

“I’m a long-term guy here and Steve is long-term,” said Busch. “We’re all operating on the same page and are devoted to making the 2010 season the most successful yet for Penske Racing, Miller Lite and Dodge.”

Busch’s 2009 season produced two wins, 10 top-five finishes and 21 top-10s. He had a 13.4 average start and a 12.8 average finish. With only three DNFs (did not finish), he led 738 laps and finished on the lead lap in 29 of the 36 races. That record almost replicated his 2004 championship season scorecard when Busch won three races and posted 10 top-five finishes and 21 top-10s. That season he had a 15.0 average start and a 12.5 average finish. With three DNFs, he led 746 laps and finished on the lead lap in 25 of the 36 races.

“Those statistics are eerily parallel, aren’t they?” Busch said as he viewed the numbers from the two different seasons. “I’d like to look at it and say, ‘hey, we’re getting back up there to be in championship caliber form.’ But at the same time, we’re realistic and know that the numbers we laid down last season were good enough only for the fourth finishing spot in the Chase battle.

“It shows just how competitive NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing is these days,” Busch said. “The consistency will always be key and those numbers give us something to shoot at and try to beat this season. It’s definitely the target we’ve placed in front of us and plan to be gunning at the whole year long. Now we just have to get out there and do it.”

Source: Penske Racing

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