Team Preview: Phoenix Racing

Kurt Busch

Kurt Busch will make his debut behind the wheel of the No. 51 Chevrolet in the Budweiser Shootout. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)

MotorRacingNetwork.com counts down to the start of Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway with a series of team previews. Next up is a look at Phoenix Racing. 

Phoenix Racing has high hopes heading into the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season when 2004 champion Kurt Busch takes over behind the wheel of the No. 51 Chevrolet for the Spartanburg, S.C.-based team.

The James Finch-owned organization has seen its share of success in the past, most notably in 2009 when Brad Keselowski went to Victory Lane at Talladega Superspeedway. But even after running all 36 races last season, the team has not posted a top-10 finish since April 2010. Now, Finch will turn to Busch to help build the operation into a contender on a weekly basis when the season kicks off at Daytona International Speedway.

Kurt Busch"It's all about Daytona and winning right now," Busch said. "And then it's just one week at a time. It's going to be hard to look too far down the road because we just have to get to the track at Phoenix and take it one week at a time."

With Phoenix Racing being a one-car Sprint Cup team, that limits them to the number of chassis and available resources.

“It’s about racing smart and old-school racing,” Busch said. “It’s like when I raced my dad’s Legend car. If I wrecked it one weekend, I couldn’t race the next. It’s a balance of understanding how to get the best out of the car and protect it.”

Last week, Phoenix Racing took three downforce cars to the wind tunnel to prepare for the upcoming season.

"The one that's the best will go to Vegas, and second-best goes to Phoenix and third-best goes to Bristol," Busch said about the cars. "Then, we will cycle them all around again."

Phoenix Racing is able to lean on Hendrick Motorsports, which provides the engines, for some assistance throughout the season.

"There's one guy that has a Hendrick shirt on and he's a fabricator," Busch said. "He's there doing the crush panels in the cars and some of the detail fab work. When the motors show up, Howard, the main engine tuner comes down from Hendrick, especially with all the new fuel injection things as well. Behind the scenes, there are all types of support. I just haven't been shown exactly what's going on just yet."

Along with the test at Daytona International Speedway last month, Busch has been getting to know and work with his new team, including crew chief Nick Harrison, by making the trek from his home in Mooresville, N.C., to the race shop.

"I spent a ton of time at the shop down in Spartanburg," Busch said. "It's about an hour and a half from my house, so it's almost therapeutic driving there and driving back, with the time you get to think about things as well as create checklists. I'm technologically challenged, so I finally hooked up Bluetooth in my truck so I can talk going down the road."

This season, Busch will not have much free time as he will also race in up to 20 Nationwide races for not only Phoenix Racing, but for his brother at Kyle Busch Motorsports.

"That's going to keep me busy,” Busch said. “That's going to be a good work load to have and I might not be visiting as many baseball parks this year."

Busch’s competitive debut with Phoenix Racing will come in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona where he is the defending race winner. The team has already secured sponsorship for that race with Tag Heuer, which will move to an associate roll in the Daytona 500 and at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Currently, Busch is in a one-year deal to race for Finch.

“There is no contract," he said. "It was just a handshake deal. It reminds me of old school racing and fun.”

Following the turmoil that left him without a ride at Penske Racing at the end of the 2011 season, Busch was quick to thank another team owner that helped him land with a ride for 2012.

"Felix Sabates stuck his neck out for me and helped," Busch said last week on the Sprint Media Tour. "This sport is so tightly connected in all directions that a guy like Felix Sabates can help me get another chance."

Tomorrow, MotorRacingNetwork.com will take a look at Tommy Baldwin Racing.

Previous Team Previews

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, Kurt Busch

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