Bristol Still a Busch Favorite
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on August 22, 2014 | 10:01 A.M. EST
Kurt Busch is hoping to return to his Bristol Motor Speedway winning ways in Saturday's IRWIN Tools Night Race. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kurt Busch is hoping to return to his Bristol Motor Speedway winning ways in Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has five career Sprint Cup wins at the Tennessee half-mile including three straight a decade ago. Although his last trip to Victory Lane came back in 2006, Busch still calls Bristol one of his favorites and believes he can add to his career victory total come Saturday night.
"Bristol is one of those tracks that I get a little extra pumped up for," said Busch. "That feeling gets a little stronger when you’re talking about the night race at Bristol. There’s something special about that. I knew it before I ever made it to the big-league level of the Sprint Cup Series. The first time I was able to experience the night race as a competitor is almost indescribable.
"It’s a place that gives you a big adrenaline rush. You can feel the energy around the track from the competitors and the fans. There’s nothing quite like it."
While it took some time for Busch to find the handle around the 0.533-mile track, once he did he was nearly unbeatable. He made his Sprint Cup Series Bristol debut in 2001 with finishes of 25th and 42nd but started a run of success the following season that led to seven straight top-10 finishes - including four victories.
Busch believes he and the track are a perfect fit.
"Ever since they polished the outside groove, you have to wait for it to come in," he said. "When it does, it’s fast up there. So I expect a lot of the fast cars to be up there on the high side. One of the important tasks of the weekend is getting the splitter control set properly if we want to be better than we were in the spring."
That spring outing Busch refers too was a frustrating day that ended with a 35th-place finish. So while his overall performance at Bristol has been good, Busch – like most drivers – is not immune to challenges, especially in recent years after the track went through a series of reconfigurations.
"The most challenging aspect is getting into those long, green-flag runs," Busch explained. "It's about being able to settle into a steady groove and making the best lap times you can. It's tough because that place is so fast for a short track and you can get dizzy pretty quickly. It’s a physical track, but it’s also mentally taxing and you have to be on your game when it comes to the concentration required to run well."
Busch won at Martinsville Speedway back in the spring and has already locked up a spot in the post-season Chase field. But with four spots still remaining to be filled, he's convinced that those drivers trying to find their way in will add spice to Saturday night’s race.
"The short tracks - Richmond, Martinsville and Bristol - lead to opportunities for others that haven’t been on the cutting edge of the setups this year," Busch said. "So you could easily see a surprise winner coming out of Bristol."