The celebration of Busch’s two-week run of success at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May began late Sunday evening and is likely to be the centerpiece of Monday for Busch, family members and friends who gather to observe the holiday today.
The Penske Racing driver capped a wildly successful nine-day run at CMS with a commanding victory Sunday night in the Coca-Cola 600, a grueling marathon of a race that Busch and his teammates turned into a virtual runaway. Busch led 252 of the 400 laps. No one else led more than 36.
On the previous weekend, Busch won the Sprint All-Star Race at CMS. The back-to-back victories gave Busch winnings of about $1.5 million and clearly established the No. 2 Dodge team as one to be reckoned with as the championship chase moves into the summer months.
Busch is now sixth in the Sprint Cup standings halfway through the 26-race run leading to the final 10 Chase for the Sprint Cup events.
Can Busch continue to be a serious title contender?
“I don’t see why not,” said Kyle Busch, his younger brother (and the second-place driver in points). “He’s been running well all year long. They’ve had a lot of successes so far. They swept here. The team’s doing well. Steve [crew chief Steve Addington] is going a good job. Kurt is, too.”
Busch, Addington and the Penske storm troopers appear to be putting together a season that can challenge the Hendrick and Gibbs juggernauts and create a bigger crowd in the race for the championship.
“As long as we’re getting better, that’s the big key,” Addington said. “Giving him what he needs in a race car is the only reason that I do this, come to work here. We’ve got to evaluate where we’re going to go to Pocono [next weekend] and start.
“This is big. We came here and accomplished what we needed to accomplish. We made gains.”
Although he won the Cup championship in 2004, Busch could be racing toward his best season. He certainly is a much more serious, mature racer than the kid who ruffled feathers and engaged in an infamous feud with Jimmy Spencer in the early days.
“I’m not one to go out there with a big flash and a big flair,” Busch said. “I used to early on. I’d run my head up against the wall. I’d run my race car up against the wall. Reviews came in negative.
“For me, that’s not how I wanted to be remembered, how I wanted to be looked at, sitting there on the porch talking with my grandkids about things.
“A weekend like this – walking in here today I looked at this ring. I’ve got the ring from last weekend. We’re going to make a big team ring on the Charlotte sweep weekend and give it to all the Penske employees and commemorate what this means to be able to dominate on two weekends like this in Charlotte. It ranks right up there with the championship emotions I had in 2004.”
The No. 2 shop employees can look forward to another beer-and-pizza party this week.
Then, Busch said, “It’s a week of some more hard work.”
The championship race is heating up.
LINK> UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: COCA-COLA 600 - CHARLOTTE
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEEDtv.com and has been covering motorsports for 28 years. He has written several books on NASCAR, including "NASCAR: The Definitive History of America's Sport" and "Then Tony Said To Junior: The Best NASCAR Stories Ever Told". He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.