Kurt Busch captures pole at Michigan
Kurt Busch spent Thursday hanging out at Dodge headquarters in the Detroit suburbs, chatting up the employees and shaking hands.
As the star of the only major NASCAR Sprint Cup team still driving Dodges, there's a special kinship between Penske Racing and the manufacturer, which is still trying to find its way through the rubble left by the economic downturn.
``With the odds stacked up against you, you always feel like you're running an uphill battle,'' Busch said.
Funny, it doesn't seem that way these days for Busch.
The surging NASCAR veteran took the pole for Sunday's 400-mile race at Michigan International Speedway with an average speed of 189.984 mph, his second pole of the season. Jamie McMurray will start second and Jimmie Johnson third.
``I give all the credit to the crew and Steve Addington for making the sharp decision that it takes to set a car on the pole and stay on top of changing track conditions.''
Busch enters Sunday's race fifth in the points standings and is possibly the hottest driver on the circuit not driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. He swept the All-Star event and the 600-mile race at Charlotte last month then backed it up with a sixth-place finish at Pocono last week on a day when he didn't have a great car.
Picking up his third career victory at the two-mile oval would further stamp Busch as a legitimate contender for a Cup championship to bookend the one he captured in 2004. Busch won at Michigan in 2003 and 2007, the second triumph coming at the end of one of the longest weekends in NASCAR history after rain pushed the race back to Tuesday.
Busch spent most of that weekend camped out in the motor home and joked the event should have been renamed ``the 72 hours of MIS.''
It could be a repeat this weekend. The forecast for Sunday is iffy at best, with showers likely at any time.
Not that Busch would mind the delay if the weekend ends with him back in Victory Lane. He's been among the tops in the series over the past month and he appears to be getting stronger as the weather gets warmer.
``You've got to have the horsepower, you've got to have the aerodynamics, you've got to have the handling,'' he said.
Busch had it all on Friday, with McMurray's run for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing giving the front row a decidedly IndyCar feel. Penske and Ganassi teams dominate the open wheel series, and it doesn't go unnoticed by the bosses when one team gets the better of the other on the Cup side.
Whenever Busch finds himself in front of a Ganassi car, owner Roger Penske is quick with a text or a pat on the back.
``(He'll say) 'Way to bring it home for the good guys,''' Busch said. ``It makes you feel like the rivalry is there for sure.''
Current points leader Kevin Harvick qualified 31st. Kyle Busch, second in points, will start 15th. Denny Hamlin, a winner last week at Pocono, will start seventh.
Travis Kvapil qualified 34th for the No. 38 team two days after NASCAR docked Kvapil and owner Doug Yates 150 points for using illegal valve stems last week at Pocono. The penalty bumped the No. 38 car out of the top 35 in owner points, meaning Kvapil had to get in the race on his qualifying time.
Rookie Landon Cassill will make his Cup debut driving the No. 09 car. He qualified 35th.
Michael Waltrip, Johnny Sauter and Dave Blaney failed to make the 43-car field.