DENVER, Colo. – The first thought for Kurt Busch when asked about this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway wasn’t about the longest race of the year, nor was it about his chances of winning one of NASCAR’s crown jewels after a dominating performance Saturday night in the Sprint All-Star Race.
Busch said his initial thoughts were on Memorial Day weekend and what it means to him as a result of his passionate involvement with the Armed Forces Foundation.
“First and foremost the Coca-Cola 600 is a weekend when the NASCAR community comes together to honor our fallen heroes who have fought to preserve freedom and paid the ultimate price in the process,” said Busch. “I urge all NASCAR fans to keep these great American patriots in their thoughts on this Memorial Day weekend.”
While Busch will be meeting with military members prior to Sunday’s race, he will also be focusing on the 400-lap, 600-miler at Charlotte’s 1.5-mile track.
“The Coca-Cola 600 is a marathon and it’s a pace that you have to be mentally prepared for,” said Busch, who won the 2010 Coke 600.
With the lengthy and grueling race starting in daylight and ending under-the-lights, Busch feels there’s a game plan for success in his No. 78 Furniture Row/Sealy Chevrolet SS.
“The daytime run is important but it’s not as important as nightfall when you get into the final 200 miles of the race,” noted Busch. “I’ve always broken down the race into thirds – the first 200, then the next 200 miles and then the final stretch run to the end. That’s when it really pays to have the car dialed in.”
He added, “The daytime portion of the race – it’s ok if you want to lead laps and be up front. But it’s at the end of the day when the track cools down and the mileage is taking its toll on some of the other teams. And now you’re messing with the best of best and you have to go beat them at night.”
Though the mental task of racing 600 miles in both daytime and nighttime conditions might appear to be daunting, the reward for success far outweighs the challenge according to the 34-year-old Busch.
“It’s a long day and that’s the mentality you have to have,” explained Busch. “It’s a big celebration to win the Coke 600. It would be a great day for our Furniture Row Racing/Sealy Chevy team to be able to hoist up the trophy in the longest race of the year and also at one of the most prestigious races.”
One more reason Busch is upbeat about his chances in Sunday’s race is his strong performance in Saturday’s Sprint All-Star race where he won two of the first four segments, before finishing fifth in the final 10-lap shootout. He also tied for most laps led (29).
“During All-Star weekend we were solid in qualifying (claimed outside pole) and ran strong during the race,” said Busch. “We definitely built up our notebook for the 600. Now we have to go out there and deliver.”