Busch Ends Season On High Note

Former NASCAR NEXTEL Champion Kurt Busch once again has a seat at the season-ending championship banquet, and although it's not going to be onstage as the champion, it's still a sweet victory for the Penske Racing driver.

Busch failed to make the Chase last season in his first year driving the No. 2 for Penske Racing. He joined the team from Roush Racing, with whom he won the 2004 championship.

"To make the Chase this year and head back up to New York before New Hampshire, that made me realize how bad I missed it the year before not making the Chase," Busch said. "NASCAR spoils you and takes care of you and lets you know that you've achieved something special.

"To be able to go up on stage in New York and represent Dodge, and represent Miller Lite, and all of our associate sponsors is a big celebration."

Last year, Busch struggled in his first season with Penske, posting only one win en route to a 16th-place finish in the final standings.

With a strong second-place finish this past weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Busch jumped three spots in the final standings to finish the year in seventh, tied in points with Jeff Burton. He won two races this year, both in the month of August, which helped secure a spot in the Chase.

"We felt like this was a successful season for us at Penske Racing. We definitely had what we needed at some of the races, then at some of the race tracks where we led laps we just didn't seal the deal to finish off the race," Busch said of the season. "The great teamwork that it took to put together a very successful summer stretch to get into the Chase was fantastic. We put together a good effort during the Chase."

But Busch knows that in order to maintain this success next year, the team has some work ahead of them in the off-season.

"We need to work on our COT program if we want to compete for next year's championship. That's the bottom line. We got a little taste of it this year, and the teams that ran well with the COT finished up front in the points. Next season that is what Penske Racing is all about."

Busch and his teammate Ryan Newman had marginal success with the COT this year. Busch posted an average finish of 18.2 in 16 COT starts, while Newman's average finish was 13.3 in 16 COT starts. Additionally, Newman led 229 laps in COT competition while Busch led 69.

Both of the Penske teammate's COT stats pale in comparison to those of Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing. Hendrick's domination this season is in large part due to their success with the COT, which is being run at every race from here on out.

For now though, the season is over and Busch can take some time to enjoy his and his team's 2007 success before worrying about next year.

To start with, Busch will return to New York next week for the Series' Championship Week activities culminating in the banquet on Nov. 30. He'll join the other top 10 finishers at the banquet at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York City.

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