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Sprint Cup - Kurt Busch Expects Another Fuel Mileage Battle At Michigan

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BROOKLYN, June 14, 2011: Benjamin Franklin is credited with the old saying that the only thing certain in life is death and taxes. Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch says it would appropriate to add another entry to Ben’s list. The 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champ says it’s a sure thing that this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup battle at Michigan International Speedway will be a fuel-mileage battle.

“Sunday’s race at MIS a fuel-mileage race? That’s a no-brainer…of course it will,” Busch said of this weekend’s Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 on the 2.0-mile Irish Hills Area of Michigan. “Michigan is one track where you always come in there planning on it to have fuel mileage involved in the equation.

“It’s always been a track where there aren’t many cautions and that works to push the fuel mileage aspect to the top of the list as far as strategy goes,” said Busch, who finished second at Pocono last Sunday and remains sixth in the Sprint Cup point standings. “But there’s a lot more to it these days than it being just the nature of that track.

“Really, the fuel mileage importance has become the nature of our sport, like it or not,” said Busch. “With NASCAR changing the points system around and throwing the ‘wild card’ entry into the Chase by race wins, it’s sent the importance of winning through the roof. Teams are willing to take more chances than ever. They’ll roll the dice and throw caution to the wind.

“We’ve seen it in almost all the races recently. At Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600, there were all the cars trying to go the distance stretching their fuel and running out at the end. At Kansas, it was my Penske Racing teammate, Brad Keselowski, able to score a huge win for his Miller Lite Dodge Team by stretching his fuel mileage. It’s just that important to score the wins these days.

“It’s not quite to the point where the crew chief’s pit strategy sees them really run the race backwards with the pitting strategy like it is on the road courses, but it’d definitely a key part of the strategy to know what the final fuel window is,” said Busch. “If you get a caution flag and you’re remotely close to being able to make the distance, you have to consider it seriously. You can start rolling off the throttle early, cutting off the engine…whatever it takes to conserve fuel. I’d say that you’ll likely see all those things come into play there at Michigan this Sunday.”

“It’s just the norm – it’s to be expected – especially these days,” said crew chief Steve Addington. “I’ll bet if you look back at the record book, you’ll see that a huge proportion of the Michigan races were won because of fuel mileage. The reason for that is simple – there are always so few cautions on that track. It’s so wide and there is so much racing room, you don’t see guys running into each other like you do on most of the other tracks. But with the importance of getting the race wins and probably 20 or more teams out there truly capable of winning, you can bet on it being a fuel-mileage deal at Michigan.”

In 20 career races at Michigan, Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Kurt Busch has recorded two wins, three top-five finishes and 8 top-10s. Entering this weekend’s race, he has a 12.0 average start and a 20.4 average finish. He has led a total of 350 laps at Michigan and has a 83.346 percent lap completion average (3,248 of 3,897 laps). Busch has been running at the finish in 14 races (six DNFs) and has finished on the lead lap in 12 of the races.

“When you look back on the races there over the last several years, our win there back in 2007 was one of the most dominant wins and stands as perhaps the major exception to the rule,” said Busch. “We were able to win that race on sheer strength and performance of the car. We led half the laps and survived late cautions that took fuel mileage totally out of the equation. Even with a green-white-checkered finish, we still won by half a second over the second-place guy. I really don’t think that can happen again this weekend, but if it does, we hope it happens to the ‘double deuce’ team.”

Busch enters this weekend looking for his third consecutive Coors Light Pole Awards along the Sprint Cup tour, after claiming the poles for the two most-recent races at Kansas and Pocono. Perhaps there’s no better track for Busch to pull it off as he won the pole for last June’s race at Michigan (with a lap of 37.898 seconds/189.984 mph).

“That was a super solid weekend for our Steve Addington-led Penske Racing team at Michigan last June,” offered Busch. “We’re definitely coming in there this weekend looking for more of the same. We won the pole, led a ton of laps, ran in the top-three or four all day long and finished third. Those are the kind of weekends that championships are built on. We certainly could use another one just like that this weekend at Michigan.”

Busch, Addington and the “Double-Deuce” team will be racing their “PRS-749” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at Michigan. This car was debuted in the April 30 Crown Royal 400 at Richmond where Busch started 36th and finished 22nd. That is the only race so far for this chassis and it has been totally reworked in preparation for this weekend’s battle at MIS.