Busch Cant Wait For 2001

Kurt Busch is more than a bit anxious these days, and it has nothing to do with the holidays.

The soon-to-be rookie-of-the-year candidate in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series can’t wait until January when he and his No. 97 Roush Racing team can get to Daytona to begin testing for the 2001 season.

Not that it’s anything new for a rookie, but Busch has some extra incentive considering how he performed in the first seven races of his Winston Cup career in 2000.

Busch wound up with three top-20 finishes, including a 13th-place run at Charlotte in October, and that’s got him excited about getting back in the car at the beginning of the year.

“When you’ve had your first taste of Winston Cup racing, and it’s been as short as its been so far, you just can’t wait to get back at it,” says Busch, coming off a year in which he finished second in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points standings and won rookie-of-the-year honors. “We had some highs and lows over the seven-race stretch, but each time we went out there we learned something, and that’s something that will translate into success next year.

“Sure, I’m looking forward to taking a breather and enjoying the holidays, but I’m also looking forward to getting back to work and doing what we can to continue to make this 97 Roush Racing team better and better each week.”

Busch said he’ll take a little time off and enjoy the holiday season with his family. He certainly deserves a respite considering his success during the 2000 campaign.

The 22-year-old phenom won four races and finished runner-up to Roush Racing teammate Greg Biffle for the NCTS championship. His exploits prompted team owner Jack Roush to put him behind the wheel of the 97 Taurus for seven races (the maximum allowed for a driver vying for the Rookie of the Year Award the following year) this season, and for the full season in 2001.

Busch finished in the 18th position and on the lead lap in hist Winston Cup debut at Dover Downs International Raceway in June. He went on to finish 37th at Martinsville, 13th at Charlotte, 24th at Rockingham, 29th at Phoenix, 19th at Homestead and 36th at Atlanta. He didn’t have a DNF in any of the seven events he entered.

“It’s been such a tremendous year for me with all we were able to accomplish in the truck series and then being named to drive this No. 97 Ford for Jack,” Busch says. “You could say Christmas came a little early for me this year, so hopefully I can start paying Jack back for his confidence in me by trying to get this team running up front.”

The 97 team will have a couple of hurdles to overcome next season. At the end of the 2000 season, crew chief Jeff Hammond left Roush Racing to take on a new career in broadcasting, leaving a huge hole. Busch will have to mesh with a new crew chief, as well as try to jell with his new team.

In addition, Roush is still diligently searching for a sponsor for the car. After several seasons with the team, John Deere will no longer back them financially.

“If I know Jack, he’ll have something ready or something brewing for us on the sponsorship front before Daytona,” Busch says. “That’s something I don’t worry about because I know Jack’s got a knack for things like that. He handles that, and we handle the racing part.

“Jelling as a team will be one of the big things. I’ll spend a lot of time in the shop in the offseason trying to help make that happen, and then we’ll see what happens when we get to Daytona and start testing. I can’t wait to get there. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2000

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