Kurt Busch, driver of the Shell Dodge for Penske Racing on NASCAR's Spring Cup Series, is on a path taken by few. In a few short months, he'll be able to addhis name to an elite list of drivers who have competed on both the NASCAR and NHRA professional circuits.
Two of the most famous names in NASCAR history have also etched their names in the annuals of the NHRA – Richard Petty and John Andretti. Busch is one step closer to adding his name to the list even though he's the first to say he's not quite ready to go NHRA Pro Stock racing.
However, Busch is a lot closer to the reality of firing up a Pro Stock in competition at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida this coming March 10-13th in the Tire Kingdom Gatornationals then he was six months ago -- a lot closer.
“It's a blast,” said Busch of his recent testing and licensing experience at Bradenton Motorsports Park on Jan 3rd and 4th. “It's more fun than I thought it would be and it's also more of a challenge.”
Technically, Busch met the criteria for an NHRA Pro Stock license last November with Roy Hill at Rockingham Dragway, but because Rockingham Dragway is an IHRA sanctioned facility he couldn't submit for his NHRA license at that time. Now, having completed the necessary runs at Bradenton, an NHRA sanctioned facility, Busch is awaiting a call from the NHRA concerning his NHRA license.
“I thought this was the NHRA calling,” Busch said when he returned this reporter's phone call.
Busch is fresh off a two-day session at Bradenton in which he ran a 6.57 at 210 mph; good enough for the top half of any Pro Stock field in the NHRA.
“It was definitely exciting,” said Busch of the run. “Little things were wrong with the run, but we're getting closer and closer to the goal. It's like any other form of racing, you have to follow a natural progression in order to improve and compete.”
Busch has two more test sessions on his schedule to further acclimate himself with the demands and skills required to not just compete but to win in a Pro Stock.
“I need to continue to get more comfortable inside the car and with the routine of driving one of these cars,” explained Busch.
For Busch, the natural progression has included obtaining the blessing of Dodge, his new Sprint Cup Series sponsor – Shell – the fraternity of drag racers he is attempting to join, and the public. All while maintaining a commitment to Roger Penske, Penske Racing and Sprint Cup Series racing.
“My focus has to remain committed to NASCAR,” explained Busch. “I still have 10-15 years in NASCAR.”
For now, racing in the NHRA will remain a do it when you can proposition. However, Busch intends to make the best of every opportunity to run down the quarter mile. But, will he ever compete full time in drag racing?
“I can't say never,” he admitted. “We'll just have to see what the future brings.”
And the future for now, at least in drag racing, is Gainesville.
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