FONTANA, Calif. (Aug. 31, 2007) Kurt Busch snared his first pole of the 2007 season Friday during qualifying for this weekend's Sharp AQUOS 500 at California Speedway, while Ryan Newman collected the fourth starting position.
Busch's Miller Lite Dodge Charger posted a lap of 39.474 seconds, 182.399 mph, on the 2-mile track to claim the top starting spot by a mere 0.001 second.
It was a really good lap for the Miller Lite Dodge," Busch said after earning his third pole and sixth top-10 in 11 races at the track built by Roger Penske. "I didn't really think that we'd have a shot at the pole. I was just looking for a nice, consistent run."
Busch has now walked off with the pole for the track's Labor Day weekend race two consecutive years.
"It's really interesting how today worked with all of the heat and how hot it was just trying to get a read on the race track," Busch said after earning his 10th career NEXTEL Cup pole. "I'll go back to just thanking the race track because it¿s been kind to me with the poles that I have here. I think it¿s just a tribute to being in contention for the pole, and that¿s just due to the team giving me good cars to go out there and do it. It feels great with the Miller Lite Dodge to lead the field on Sunday and get those five bonus points. We¿ll start moving on from there.¿
With only two races remaining before the Chase for the Championship begins, Busch possesses the 12th position in the standings, the final Chase-eligible spot. He trails the 11th position by eight points and 10th by nine. The 13th-place driver is 158 points in arrears to Busch.
Newman, who posted a 39.688-second, 181.415-mph lap in his Kodak Dodge Charger, is 14th in the standings, 175 points behind his teammate.
We have a good car for Sunday and we picked up some time during our qualifying lap, Newman said after climbing from his Dodge. The car felt pretty good in practice and I'm looking forward to driving it on Sunday. The guys in the shop and in the garage have done a really good job of getting this car ready, so we'll see what happens on Sunday.¿
For Sunday's race, Busch and his Pat Tryson-led Miller Lite team elected to use the car with which they dominated and won Pocono in August. Named "PT Special", the decision veered from most teams, which elected to bring their Michigan car.
"It [California] has a little less banking than most tracks," Busch said in explaining the team's decision. "I guess drivers would consider this a flat track. It prompted us to use our Pocono race winning car that has more of a flat-track style setup with the way that the downforce is balanced on the car.
"At Michigan, we had a great car there and won the race, but that car is geared up more for tracks with banking where the rear end is pushed into the race track different with the banking, so you need different downforce balances. Even though Michigan and California have more similarities in looks, as far as the new wave of setting cars up and how you build them with downforce, the flat tracks seem to want a different package than the banked race tracks. So that was our decision."
In addition to the "heat" to make the Chase for the Championship, the teams are enduring a sweltering heat wave. The track's temperature exceeded 140 degrees on Friday, while the ambient temperature soared past 100 degrees at California Speedway. Busch said it reminded him of when he raced in Las Vegas when it was 110 degrees outside.
"When I had a Late Model it was tough racing it, but I loved hopping in my Modified because it didn't have a windshield in it," Busch explained. "It just had a barbecue grate up front. You have open air and open cockpit in that Modified. We don't have that. We have a tough race ahead of us and we'll be looking forward to when the sun drops down around 7 or 8 o'clock. I know the race starts and more than half of it is in the sun, so we're looking forward to when the shade comes.
Busch noted that eating the proper foods and staying hydrated were critical to being able to perform well in the intense heat.