The man who wore the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup crown will be part of another kingdom in 2006. Kurt Busch will move from Roush Racing to Roger Penske’s organization.
But as the season wound down and the 2005 Chase for the Championship got serious, all that concerned Busch was supporting the Roush Dynasty.
Busch says there was no dissention among his teammates in that final hectic 10-race stretch.
“I believe they’re more behind me now than we were this time last year, knowing that this is a unique opportunity,” says Busch, who had three checkered flags in 2005. “I can just feel the team at a stronger intensity level.”
Bush was the first Nextel Cup champion when NASCAR implemented its Chase for the Championship last season. He says winning the crown under the fledgling system helped him deal with the pressures of being one of NASCAR’s top guns.
“Each of the races are different,” he says. “We hope to be able to run consistent and then to not get too far ahead of ourselves. If there’s a bad finish, we can’t stretch ourselves thin the next week trying to go for a win and trying to gain points.”
There are plenty of perks to being the champion, but some drawbacks as well. Busch says one byproduct of being champion is media obligations that can quickly become distractions.
“The media stuff that we’ll do and the sponsor things we’ll do, we try to keep around the racetrack and keep it to a limited number so that we’re not stretched thin during the week,” Busch says. “Things like, let’s just say going to Denver, Colo., doing an appearance. We have to keep things in perspective and we know we can’t be running around the country. We have to stay focused on the racecar because that will ultimately win the championship.
“But it’s been great (as the defending champion). Each of the racetracks in 2005, parking our hauler first, getting to go through tech first, it gives you a nice feeling when you show up at the racetrack. I love the hat of wearing this championship role, and then to be able to go out on the track and race the other competitors.”
Still, as the ’05 Chase wound down, more and more questions were asked about Busch’s impending move to Roger Penske’s organization. Yet Busch says answers to those questions can wait.
“Well, right now is a time for this team to shine,” Busch says. “Because we don’t know what 2006 has in store.”
Regardless of what the future at Penske holds, Busch hopes to be a regular in the Chase for the Championship, year in and year out.
“There’s a 26-race regular season where you can bring the intensity of the final 10 into every week, and that will burn you out pretty quick,” Busch says. “That’s something that I tried to do in 2004 and modeled that pattern again in 2005, just to run each of the regular-season races as if they were important, and they are definitely.”
The final 10 puts on the pressure and tires you out, Busch says.
“But you always want to be in the hunt.”