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Keeping Pace

NASCAR’s Kurt Busch to make NHRA Pro Stock debut at Gatornationals

Kurt Busch, who has run in the NHRA ranks during his off-weekends will take a major step towards becoming a two-series star at the Gatornationals in March. Busch will attempt to qualify for the NHRA Full Throttle Pro Stock portion of the long-running series stop.

Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations

GLENDORA, Calif. –  Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has announced that he will be making his NHRA Full Throttle Series debut at the 41st annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals, March 11-13, at historic Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway. 

The 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion will be competing for one of the 16 qualifying spots in the ultra-competitive Pro Stock class in the Shell Dodge Avenger for Allen Johnson and J & J Racing. 

“Pro Stock is the tightest pro category as far as the elapsed time is concerned and it’s not going to be an easy task,’ Busch said.  “I feel me teaming up with Allen Johnson and the Mopar folks, we’ve given ourselves the best opportunity to make the show.”

Busch spent a good part of his busy offseason testing with Allen Johnson and he earned his NHRA Pro Stock license with an impressive best-pass of 6.576 seconds at 210.43 mph at Bradenton, Fla.

As a matter of reference (understanding conditions are not identical), Mike Edwards was the No. 1 qualifier at the 2010 Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals with a 6.537 at 211.53 and Rickie Jones was on the bump with a 6.601 at 209.10. Busch’s 6.576 would have qualified him 11th.

When Busch arrives in Gainesville for the 41st running of the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals, he will get a total of four qualifying passes – two on Friday and two on Saturday – at which point the 16-car fields will be set for Sunday’s race.

Pro Stock cars have similar appearance to their showroom counterparts but feature extensive engine modifications, sophisticated chassis and suspension with a maximum 500 cubic-inch engine displacement.  On average a Pro Stock car will cover the quarter-mile in six and a half seconds with a speed of more than 200 mph.  
            “It’s a whole different world than NASCAR.  The toughest part is staging the car and of course cutting a good light, the thrill of the launch and the speed at the top-end is why I’m so fascinated with drag racing.  But I do know that heading to the Gatornationals and running with the pros, I will get a full dose of ‘humble pie.’”

At the 2010 Tire Kingdom Gatornationals, Busch competed in the Super Gas category, which is part of the NHRA Lucas Oil Series, in a rebuilt 1970 Dodge Charger.  Weather plagued the event which limited his time on the track and contributed to his first round loss in the category.

“The 2010 event was an experience of a lifetime, the camaraderie with the sportsman guys was a truly fun experience,” Busch said.  “Although it was tough to watch it rain for four days, the grassroots effort of the sportsman guys is what makes the true heart of NHRA racing.”

Busch, a native of Las Vegas, was introduced to drag racing in the early 1990s when he met two Las Vegas based NHRA racers – George Marnell, a Pro Stock racer, and Dave Bush (no relation), a Super Comp competitor.  He also became friends with three-time NHRA Top Fuel Champion Larry Dixon when both were sponsored by the same company. 

The Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals have long been a ‘must-see’ destination event for race fans across the world as they make the pilgrimage to the track based in north-central Florida.  Fans are always treated to tremendous racing at the track that has hosted NHRA events since 1970.

Keeping Pace

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