Kurt Busch is considered one of the top restrictor-plate racers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. However, his racing resume was void a victory at either of the two high-speed superspeedways (Daytona and Talladega) where NASCAR mandates a restrictor plate, that is until Saturday night. Busch drove the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger to victory in the 33rd running of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway.
It was Dodges first Bud Shootout victory. Busch was at the helm of the lone Dodge in the 24-car field that included 12 Chevrolets, eight Toyotas and three Fords. He needed help as two-car tandems were 10-20 miles per hour faster than a single car.
The new asphalt surface changed the racing strategy drastically at the 2.5-mile, high-banked oval. Instead of two lines of cars nose-to-tail that has been the norm, the race quickly evolved into two-car drafts that reached speeds in excess of 200 mph. The key was finding a quality drafting partner, someone to push. Busch had that in good friend and defending Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray. The combination worked with McMurray pushing Busch much of the 50-lap that made up the second segment of the race. Mark Martin had been Buschs drafting partner in the first 25-lap segment, but was involved in a mishap 12 laps into the final segment.
Busch led three times in the 75-lap, 187.5-mile event, but only for one lap each time. He was the leader on lap 46, 58 and at the finish line on the final circuit. Busch and McMurray were running third and fourth, respectively, as they followed Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin off turn four for the final time. Busch and McMurray pulled out of line, going to the outside of Newman and Hamlin less than a quarter-mile from the finish. Hamlin violated NASCAR rules by going below the yellow line on the inside while Busch and McMurray edged Newman at the stripe.
What an amazing win, said Busch. To get to victory lane for Shell/Pennzoil and Dodge is incredible. This Dodge Charger was fast. What an unbelievable experience this two-car draft. I had no idea what to expect going in. I was just going to take it one lap at a time and see how it plays out. I wanted to learn as the race went on how this
Shell/Pennzoil Dodge raced. McMurray was the man tonight. He stayed with us. He stayed true. I cant thank him enough for doing that tonight. It worked out in our favor at the end because McMurray stayed with us. For Shell/Pennzoil to believe in Penske Racing and me, this is unbelievable to deliver them a victory in this 22 car.
It was the third straight Bud Shootout victory for the Shell/Pennzoil sponsorship. Kevin Harvick won back-to-back titles carrying the colors the previous two years.
This is a special day, said Busch. Ive tried very hard over the last 11 years to break through in a restrictor-plate race. To pull into victory lane at Daytona, I knew this was a special moment and I sucked it all in. You never know when that chance will come again.
Busch will have more Dodge help in the Daytona 500 as teammate Brad Keselowski and new-addition Robby Gordon are assured berths in the 43-car starting field. Keselowski will be in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge from Penske Racing while Gordon will be at the wheel of his No. 7 SPEED Energy Dodge Charger.