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NASCAR

Kurt Busch to drag race at Gatornationals

Kurt Busch will return to his drag racing roots during the 41st running of the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals March 11-14 at historic Gainesville Raceway.

The 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion is set to get behind the wheel of his rebuilt 1970 Dodge Challenger next weekend to compete against a field of between 70 and 90 veteran "Super Gas" racers who no doubt will be champing at the bit to line up against one of the biggest names in motorsports.

Busch will make a minimum of three "time trial" passes on Thursday March 11 and the field will return Friday morning, pair off, and begin eliminations.

"Gainesville is one of the marquee events on the NHRA calendar and it's a privilege to compete against the best Sportsman racers out there," Busch said.

Super Gas is one of seven different Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series classes that will be contested at the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals. The LODRS is NHRA's "sportsman" series that is home to a wide variety of racers from hobbyists to highly-competitive, highly-invested teams to young drivers with aspirations to move up to the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

Busch bought the Dodge Challenger in 2008 and began the process of getting it into race shape in March of 2009. The car is powered by a stroked 6.1 liter Hemi, weighs 3000 pounds and puts out an incredible 1167 horsepower.

While Busch feels at home behind the wheel of No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge, he is aware that this will be a new and exciting environment for him.

"Sportsman racing is no different than any other type of racing, you need seat time. I spent over 30 hours at Roy Hill's drag racing school, and have had two tests in my own Challenger, but that's nowhere compared to the seat time many of these guys have in their own cars. We are going to go out there and do our best competing against these talented Sportsman racers," Busch said.

Busch's love affair with drag racing began back in the early 1990's when he met a pair of Las Vegas based NHRA racers - George Marnell, a Pro Stock racer, and Dave Bush, a Super Comp competitor. And when Kurt began driving in the Sprint Cup Series for Penske Racing, he got to know NHRA Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon as they were both sponsored by Miller Lite.

He got the idea to compete in an NHRA event after taking part in the opening night of zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. in September of 2008 and one of the rare off-weekends in the NASCAR schedule coincided with next weekend's 41st running of the prestigious Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals.