Kurt Busch made start number 500 with the drop of the green flag for the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway today, Sept 28. Busch becomes the 35th driver with 500 starts. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the only full time active drivers with more starts.
Busch made his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now known as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series) start at Dover, driving the #97 John Deere Roush Racing Ford (now known as Roush-Fenway Racing), Busch was 22 years of age and finished his first race in 18th just ahead of racing legends Dale Jarrett and one position behind Dale Earnhardt
“I was so blown away by the speed and intensity of it,” Busch said. “I knew I wasn’t ready, Jack Roush told me, ‘Let’s go make mistakes at the Cup level.’”
Busch’s career would go forward from there; he would go on to start in the final seven races of the 2000 season and started his first full time season in 2001. Busch would gain his first victory at Bristol in 2002, having used the bump-and-run approach on Jimmy Spencer, leading the final 56 laps after starting the race in 27th position.
Busch would continue to drive for Roush-Fenway Racing until 2005 (2000-2005) winning 14 races and the 2004 Sprint Cup championship (then known as the Nextel Cup). Busch would leave Roush-Fenway Racing to drive for Penske Racing.
At Penske Racing (now known as Team Penske) Busch drove the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford for 2006-2011, Busch had 10 victories in the #22, and Busch’s highest finished in the standings was fourth in 2009. Busch would start 2012 with Phoenix Racing, driving the #51 with his final race at Talladega in October 2012; Charlotte would make his start driving the #78 Furniture Row Racing for the remainder of 2012 and the 2013 season.
Busch started the 2014 season with Stewart-Haas Racing and after remaining winless in 2012 and 2013, Busch locked himself into the Chase with a victory at Martinsville. And nothing would make Busch’s 500th start better than a victory at the Monster Mile, to keep his Chase hopes alive.
“It’s the 500th start, I’m emotional,” said Busch. “But win, lose or draw, we’ve still got a lot of good things going on the 41.”
Today’s race is the first elimination race, and Busch has a victory at Dover that came in the Sept. 2011 race and is hoping to gain another victory at the mile track. Busch said Dover was ‘a fun track to drive’
Four drivers are going to be eliminated after every third race, and a win guarantees a driver an automatic berth into the next round. The first cutoff race is after the AAA 400 at Dover and the bottom four from the 16-driver field will be eliminated from the Chase contention the four in danger are: Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola.