Busch Up About Dover Downs

Dover Downs International Speedway isn’t exactly high up on a lot of NASCAR drivers’ list of favorite places to race.

The high-banked “Monster Mile” has been known to chew up a few cars through the years, not to mention frustrate the drivers who have to navigate the concrete oval.

Kurt Busch may be either naïve or just too young to have discovered that. The driver of the No. 97 Sharpie/Rubbermaid Ford has actually become quite fond of the place.

Last fall, Busch made his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut at Dover, where he qualified 10th and finished a respectable 20th. A couple of days earlier, Busch came from behind and won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event in his first race at Dover.

The track simply hasn’t given him any reason to dislike it… yet.

“I really enjoyed racing at Dover last year,” said Busch, who sits in 20th position in the Winston Cup points standings and is 11 points behind Kevin Harvick in the chase for the Rookie of the Year Award. “It was a pretty wild experience. I went from winning the pole and the race in the Craftsman Truck Series to making my Winston Cup debut.

“I had heard from other drivers what to expect from my first race in Winston Cup, and I was excited to experience it first-hand. I was also fortunate enough to have come off a great win, which helped my confidence level for the track immensely.”

Busch will be one of the drivers to watch when the Winston Cup Series returns to Dover this weekend for Sunday’s MBNA Platinum 400.

In last September’s NCTS event, Busch started from the pole but didn’t actually lead until he grabbed the point for two circuits at Lap 147. Mike Wallace led until Lap 197 when he was involved in an accident, handing the lead over to Busch who eventually took the checkered flag by .0210 seconds over Greg Biffle.

Busch was undaunted by the track when he earned a top-10 starting position for the Winston Cup event. He finished two laps down to winner Tony Stewart, but said he had a lot of fun racing with the “big boys” for the first time in his career.

Busch now has 20 Winston Cup starts to his credit, including two top-five and three top-10 finishes.

His early-season exploits have drawn the praise of his Roush Racing teammates, including Jeff Burton, the winner of Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

“I have trouble pulling in the garage area and looking at (crew chief) Frank (Stoddard) and saying, ‘Frank, this is exactly what’s wrong with the car. If we fix this, we will run up front,’” Burton said. “I haven’t been able to do that, Mark Martin hasn’t been able to do that and Matt Kenseth hasn’t been able to do that.

“Kurt Busch has done a better job at that than any of us have, and he’s still a rookie. That’s why he’s running pretty decently, and he’ll continue to learn and pick up things. He and that team will keep improving as the year goes on.”

Busch is coming off a solid 12th-place finish in his first 600-mile Winston Cup race and hopes to carry that momentum into Dover.

“I’m definitely looking forward to hitting the track at Dover again,” Busch said. “It’s a pretty unique place for me. Making my Winston Cup debut there last year was a big deal, and I’m not quick to forget that. I just hope we can have another round of success there this year. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.”

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