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Keeping Pace

NASCAR Champion Kurt Busch Racing NHRA Event This Weekend

Kurt Busch (Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images for NASCAR) (Sam Greenwood / The Spokesman-Review)
Kurt Busch (Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images for NASCAR) (Sam Greenwood / The Spokesman-Review)

Kurt Busch will not be idle this weekend while his fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitors enjoy some time off. The driver of the Miller Lite Dodge and winner of the most recent stop on the series is heading to Florida to race in the NHRA Full Throttle Gatornationals-his first career start on the drag racing series.

Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations

GLENDORA, Calif.–  2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion 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 (Fla.) Raceway.

The driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing 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 (LODRS) 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 his Sprint Cup car 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 (no relation), 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.

The Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals has been the site of many of NHRA’s most compelling moments and the track where some of the most important performance barriers in the history of NHRA were broken, including most importantly Kenny Bernstein’s legendary first 300 mph pass which took place in 1992.

Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.