Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 9/22/14

LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR driver Kurt Busch arrives at Las Vegas Motorspeedway for the Roast of four time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson during Day 1 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champions Week on December 2, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)


"Roads? Where we’'re going, we don’'t need roads."” That’'s just one of the many lines made famous in the 1985 cult-classic film “Back to the Future.” The quote is attributed to fictional inventor Doc Brown as he is addressing young Marty McFly’'s concerns for the amount of road needed for the time-traveling DeLorean to get up to 88 mph to make the jump to the future.

The competitors of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series won'’t be time-traveling anytime soon, but a time warp will be felt as the series turns its attention to the place where the 2012 season started for the next race on the schedule. But roads will be needed, as it’'s time to go back to the beach for the Coke Zero 400 on Saturday night at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The Coke Zero 400 has annually commemorated the Fourth of July holiday weekend. It also has come to be known as the halfway point of the Sprint Cup season. This weekend’'s race is the 18th on the 36-race schedule.

Given the significance of this weekend’'s race, it’s appropriate to go back to where it all began several months ago. Kurt Busch and the No. 51 Phoenix Racing team set out for 2012 with high hopes at the season-opening Daytona 500. Phoenix Racing team owner James Finch puts great effort into the organization'’s superspeedway program, and the handling of the team'’s car in practice throughout preseason testing and Speedweeks generated much optimism in the Phoenix Racing camp. But a lap-one accident that sent the No. 51 Chevrolet to the garage for several laps relegated Busch to a 39th-place finish. The team once again flashed its superspeedway strength a couple of months later at Daytona’'s sister track – Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Busch ran among the leaders throughout that race before getting taken out of contention in a late-race accident that resulted in a 20th-place finish.

To say Busch and the team go into the Coke Zero 400 looking for redemption is an understatement, and they'’ll arm themselves with their handiest speedway car. It’s the same car they ran at the Daytona 500, which is also the same car driver Brad Keselowski drove to the team'’s lone win in April 2009 at Talladega. Adding to Phoenix Racing’'s confidence is the guy sitting behind the wheel again this time around. Although Busch has yet to score a points-paying win on one of NASCAR’s two superspeedway tracks, his prowess on the superspeedways has grown considerably since making his debut on the big tracks during his rookie season in 2001.

2004 Sprint Cup champion Busch enters this race with the third-highest driver rating among current drivers at Daytona. His stats at the 2.5-mile superspeedway oval include 10 top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 23 career Sprint Cup points-paying starts. He has three runner-up finishes in the Daytona 500 – 2003, 2005 and 2008 – and has led at least one lap in nine of the last 12 races there. He goes into the weekend having led 223 laps over the last 15 races at Daytona,– third among active drivers.

With Fourth of July celebrations Wednesday spilling into the Daytona race weekend, fireworks are sure to be flying both on and off the track. Speeds this weekend will be significantly more than double that 88-mph threshold from “Back to the Future,” but fans can expect to see some serious action when the series heads back to the beach.

KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing:

What are your thoughts heading into this weekend’'s race at Daytona?

“It'’s pretty much the same as it is for every superspeedway race. This is a race anybody can win. This is one of those races where no one team or individual has an advantage because anything can happen. Everything else kind of goes out the window. We'’ve said the same thing before every one of these restrictor-plate races – we know going in our chance of getting the win is as good as anybody’s. The biggest thing is just getting to the end of the race, which, if you look back to February, can be tough.”

What’'s the toughest part of Daytona?

“To me, it’'s the patience that’s required to run 400 or 500 miles at those tracks. As a racer, you want to be up front the whole race. At tracks like Daytona and Talladega, you have to be a little more calculating in how you run those races and where you position yourself for the early part of the race. It’'s one of those days where ‘to finish first you must first finish.’ So you end up driving a little defensively for the first 350 miles of the race, just kind of feeling out your car. Maybe you will test it a little bit by going to the front to see how you stack up against the other cars, but after that, you are in defensive mode and just trying to take care of your equipment for that final dash. It'’s all about patience.”

How excited is everyone at Phoenix Racing about getting ready for a superspeedway race?

“This is what it’'s all about when you work for James Finch. We want to win every weekend and that’'s certainly the goal, but there’'s just something extra special when we go to Daytona and Talladega. Finch is full-tilt when it comes to these tracks and what it takes to win. It'’s really kind of what they'’ve specialized in, so at this weekend’s race, there is just a little extra spring in everyone’s step because of the anticipation that goes along with getting ready to race at Daytona.”

Is it hard to believe we are at the point of the season when the series returns to Daytona?

“It’'s been a long season, but it seems to be flying by. It feels like it was just yesterday we were at preseason testing. There'’s been a lot that has happened, and there'’s still a lot that will happen. There have been quite a few races that just haven'’t gone our way, and a lot of that has just been plain, old bad luck. But those tough days have made the good days that much better , much like the day we had at Sonoma a couple of weeks ago. A lot goes on between our Daytona trips but, with 18 races left on the schedule, even more will happen.”

Phoenix Racing PR


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