Kurt Busch set to make 500th Cup start
Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway will mark an important milestone for Kurt Busch for two reasons – he’ll be making the 500th start in the Cup series and hoping to advance to the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Busch began his Cup career in 2000 when he ran a limited schedule for Roush Racing and made his first start, coincidentally, in Dover, Del. He started 10th and finished 18th.
“It’s a fun track to drive,” he said. “You’re always on edge and, when you’re fast there, it feels extra fast because of how close you have to cut it on corner exit and not hit the wall.”
Busch, 35, has 25 wins in the series and won the 2004championship. He earned his first win with his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team this season at Martinsville, Va. He is 15th in the standings – the top 12 will advance after Sunday – and he trails 12th-place Kasey Kahne by eight points.
The 25-lap charity race in U.S. Legend Cars International bandoleros will take place before Cup series qualifying.
Among those participating will be Amy Reimann, girlfriend of driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Jordan Fish, girlfriend of driver Denny Hamlin; Ashton Bayne, wife of driver Trevor Bayne; and Adrienne Pattie, wife of crew chief Brian Pattie.
Ben Rhodes clinched the series championship Sept. 6 in Greenville, S.C., and earned rookie of the year honors. He finished 15th Friday.
Three things to watch
1 This is the first elimination race of the Chase. The bottom four in points after Sunday’s race will be eliminated from title contention.
2 Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have won the two Chase races. Can they sweep the first round?
3 Jimmie Johnson has won a NASCAR-record nine times at Dover, including the spring race this year.
• The revelation that sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. had marijuana in his system the night he was killed on a dirt track in upstate New York should serve as a stark reminder of the differences between NASCAR and the smaller racing series across the country. Regardless of whether Ward’s use of marijuana played any role in his death, most would agree race car drivers should not be under the influence of any drugs or alcohol while racing. However, when drivers like Tony Stewart take part in events at small tracks across the country, they do so without the protection offered by NASCAR’s rules and regulations. Most tracks and series don’t have drug testing. While rules might prohibit drug and alcohol use, without testing there is no assurance the other drivers on the track are ‘clean.’ That’s an awfully big risk to take.
• The last time an elimination format was used in NASCAR racing was a brief stint in the Sprint All-Star Race several years ago and it didn’t seem to go over well with fans. It will be interesting to gauge the reaction after the first group of four drivers is removed from championship contention.
Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin