Kurt Busch made all the headlines after Atlanta. While most remember that he won the KOBALT Tools 500, many more remember his unique celebration after the race.
After grabbing the checkered flag, Busch proceeded around the track for his victory lap...only he did it in reverse.
While you may think this was not that hard a feat, Busch told reporters on a conference call Tuesday afternoon that it was.
"It was a challenge," Busch said. "I was looking for the white line, making sure I kept the wall lined up with the mirror. Then, when the dogleg changes on the front straightaway, I was losing track of where I was again."
One would think the straightaways would be the easier part of the track. But not for Busch.
"I think the corners were the easiest," he said. "It was the straightaways that were the tough part."
So did he practice the hot-lap around 'Hot'-lanta?
"No, I didn't practice it," Busch said. "Because I thought it would tear up the transmission or the motor, having to turn the engine."
Speaking of the engine, Penske was running the new version of the Dodge engine this year, and it appears to be paying off.
When asked if the new engine helps get the car out of the gate faster, Busch said, "Absolutely. I think that's what the new R6 engine from Dodge has provided for us. The biggest thing has been durability that we focused on. Also, to gain more power low end and top end. You can definitely see the low-end torque on restarts.
"When you go to do the restarts through the gear, tracks where you're full throttle, not flipping the tires, you really get to put your power down."
Getting back to the victory lap, Busch announced last week that he was looking for fans to name the lap.
To date, over 10,000 e-mails, letters, and phone calls have been received regarding the contest.
"It's been fantastic," he said. "The results, we're going to be able to reveal them this Friday. I hope that it fits and everybody enjoys what's come up with. Just the sheer excitement of going to Victory Lane is one thing, but creating a new style of celebration, that was the fun part. Hopefully we'll be able to do it again at Bristol this week."
Other than whether it was practiced, the question on everyone's mind has been if the lap was planned.
"The victory lap going backwards was definitely thought about beforehand," Busch said. "Me and my buddies might have had too many Miller Lites one night and said, 'Let's do it, let's see if the reverse gear will make it all the way around the racetrack.' It did."
Naming it to become an instant classic as suggestions took off like wildfire. Busch said results came in from Nevada, Virginia, all the race teams, North Carolina, Chicago, and even folks that work at Miller Lite.
"[The workers] are really heavily involved in this, trying to make it fun," Busch said. "We're having a grand old time with it. Hopefully there's going to be plenty of time for it this year."
Traditionally, Bristol has been a strong track for Busch; Martinsville is not, which comes the next week.
While the two tracks are both half-mile short-tracks, they are completely opposite and drive as different as night and day.
"I would say there's a huge difference between Martinsville and Bristol, just with the banking, and then just the car's ability to gain the grip into the corner and off the corner at Martinsville," Busch said. "That's where I've struggled tremendously. That's probably one of my weakest racetracks, Martinsville, but it's turned out OK with the results."
Busch is tied with Jeff Gordon for the most wins at Bristol, and is looking to surpass him this weekend.
"Anytime that you're mentioned with a four-time champion, it makes you feel good about things, and that you've done some of those specific areas right," Busch said. "But you never do the same amount of things as good as Gordon. So if we can beat him on this front, that's going to be great. It's a head-to-head battle. Right now, he hasn't won this year. We're third in points right behind him.
"I think whoever does better out of the two of us will definitely come away with a win or the points lead leaving Bristol. It's definitely a fun week to challenge ourselves towards that. And at the same time, if we can't come out of Bristol and Martinsville with two good runs, then we're going to be running right with him for the championship down the line."
In 16 career starts at Bristol, Busch has five wins, five top-fives, and nine top-10 finishes. He averages a starting position of 19.8 and a finish of 14.4.
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