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2010 NASCAR Driver Review: Kurt Busch

Kurt Busch

2010 Ride: No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge
2010 Primary Sponsor: Miller Lite
2010 Owner: Roger Penske
2010 Crew Chief: Steve Addington
2010 Stats: 36 starts, 2 wins, 9 top fives, 17 top 10s, 2 poles, 2 DNFs, 11th in points

High Point: Though it wasn’t the first time he visited victory lane in 2010, two weeks at Charlotte in May stand out as the shining moment for Kurt Busch’s season. Following a win in the All-Star Race, the driver of the No. 2 Dodge dominated the main event Memorial Day Weekend, leading 252 of 400 laps (63%) en route to Busch’s first career 600-mile victory at the 1.5-mile oval.

Low Point: The Chase. Busch scored just two top-10 finishes – a fourth at Dover and a ninth at Phoenix – in the final 10 races of the season. Really, the problems had started before the Chase began, but it became quite dismal for the No. 2 team as they moved deeper into the 10-race stretch to close it out. As it turned out, the team had already begun testing new chassis setups in preparation for the 2011 season long before they were out of Chase contention.

Summary: The 2010 season had flashes of brilliance, times where it looked like the Steve Addington/Kurt Busch duo might have something for the rest of the field. But unfortunately, the two still have quite a bit of work to do when it comes to adjusting the car during the race. It’s imperative for any successful driver/crew chief combo to have the ability to adjust the always-changing track conditions, especially when it’s a day to night race.

Having said that, the elder Busch brother still managed to at least match the number of wins scored by seven of the other Chasers, and the No. 2 pit crew certainly showed major improvement over their slow stops of the 2009 season.

Team Ranking: First. Compared to Sam Hornish Jr. and Brad Keselowski, it’s easy to see why the driver of the Blue Deuce ranks on top. Hornish has never really set the NASCAR world afire and that was no different this season. Though the IRL standout did lead a few laps, a single top-10 finish is hardly enough to compete with the 17 racked up by the No. 2 team. And Busch’s other teammate Keselowski didn’t run much better, scoring just two top-10 finishes – back-to-back during the Chase – and one pole.

Off-Track News: Busch is usually pretty tight-lipped about his life outside the track, so there isn’t a whole lot out there in the way of “extracurricular” activity from this season. However, Busch was on hand to run the Polar Bear 150 at Rockingham Speedway over Thanksgiving weekend.

The race, held Saturday afternoon, was moved forward from its usual Jan. 1 date since quite a few drivers would have been unable to make the New Year’s day race. Will Kimmel led 148 laps, but the elder Busch brother managed to hold the lead for the final two after a four-wide move. Despite later contact with Kimmel that forced a pit stop to pull sheetmetal away from the left-front tire, Busch still managed to bring home his No. 22 in second.

2011 Outlook: With a brand new sponsor and car number, Busch and crew chief Addington look to put their abysmal 17.8 average finish during the Chase behind them. Back in April, it was announced that Shell/Pennzoil would not be returning to Richard Childress Racing for the 2011 season, and just a day later, Penske Racing announced the new partnership and a contract extension for Busch.

Because of Miller Lite’s longstanding partnership with the No. 2 Dodge, Busch will now pilot the No. 22 with teammate Keselowski moving into the Blue Deuce. However, Addington will be taking the pit crew with him over to the No. 22, so the driver won’t have to mesh with new crew members before they can really get to work together.

Quote of the Year: “He shoved me in there and I shoved him back in turn 4. Didn’t mean to get into him that hard, but over the years with [Jeff] Gordon here wrecking the [No.] 97 (Busch’s old car) and wrecking the [No.] 2 car (with Rusty Wallace), whether you’re a current Kurt fan or an ex-Rusty fan, he’s wrecked the [No.] 2 car a lot here.

“His chicken move afterward wasn’t called for, but that just shows the game we’re going to play. One bump versus another bump, it still seems like the scorecard isn’t even.” – Kurt Busch after tangling with Jeff Gordon at Martinsville during the Chase

Honorable Mention: “It was a blast. It was just as much fun as I thought it would be. It was old-school racing – toss it in sideways and drive the hell out of it.” – Kurt Busch on racing in the Polar Bear 150 at Rockingham Speedway (finished second)

2006 Frontstretch Grade: C
2007 Grade: B+
2008 Grade: D
2009 Grade: A-
2010 Grade: B-

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