What is in a number? By definition, a number is a mathematical object used to count, label and measure. A number's use, however, can extend beyond mathematical purposes and is oftentimes used for ordering or for codes.
NASCAR is a sport that is all about numbers and their mathematical measures. Speed is reported by numbers in both miles per hour and time. Mathematical equations are used to determine the proper amount of fuel needed for a specific run. Pit stops are timed down to the thousandth of a second. Even drivers are identified by the number that appears on the side of their respective cars.
Kurt Busch is identified by the number 51 as he serves as the driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet. That number, however, is only one of several by which he is identified. Busch's driving career is filled with numbers. Numbers such as 12, 24 and 417 are just a few that identify Busch with 24 being the number of Sprint Cup Series wins he owns in 417 career starts as a 12-year veteran of NASCARs top series. The list goes on to include the number 33, which is the number of wins he has in NASCARs top three touring series since making his debut in the Camping World Truck Series in 2000, as well as the number 26, which is where he ranks on NASCARs all-time win list in Sprint Cup Series competition.
It's always about the numbers in auto racing. This weekend, the series turns its attention to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, a track where the numbers have been very good for Busch.
The first number to note for Busch at New Hampshire is 22. That's the number of Sprint Cup starts Busch has made at the Magic Mile. In those 22 starts, Busch has scored 11 top-10 finishes for a 50 percent top-10 finish rate. Additionally, he has scored seven top-five finishes, which has helped to give him an average finishing position of 13.9.
The most notable number for Busch at New Hampshire, however, is three. Three is the number of wins scored by the 2004 Sprint Cup champion at the mile oval. Busch earned his first win at New Hampshire in the July 2004 race en route to the championship despite having to overcome a 32nd-place qualifying result. At a tight, narrow track like New Hampshire, track position is everything and he overcame the deficit quickly, taking over the top spot on lap 171 and leading the next 42 circuits around the track. Busch would lead the final 68 laps of the event before going on to score the win.
Busch quickly followed his first New Hampshire win with a second less than two months later to complete a sweep of the track's 2004 races. In the September race, Busch scored the W in dominating fashion, leading a race-high 155 laps after starting seventh. Additionally, the win catapulted Busch into the lead in the championship standings in the inaugural Chase for the Championship. Busch earned his third New Hampshire Sprint Cup win in the July 2008 race. It was a rain-shortened event and Busch led only 10 laps, but they were the most important laps as the final 10 of the 284 laps run that day.
In addition to the three Sprint Cup wins, Busch has a win in Truck Series competition at New Hampshire, earning the victory during his rookie season in the series in 2000. Other numbers that apply when discussing Busch's record at New Hampshire include one and 95, in that he's only failed to finish one of the 22 races in which he's competed, and he has a lap completion rate of 95 percent.
Busch's New Hampshire record features a lot of numbers, and numbers with significant implications when considering the 33-year-olds Sprint Cup career. When it's all added up, it equates to a positive outlook when considering the New England-based track. And at the end of the day, it's all about the numbers.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing:
What are your thoughts heading into this weekend's race at New Hampshire?
New Hampshire is a track that has been pretty good to me since I started racing in the top series of this sport. I raced there for the first time in the Truck Series and won that race. Then it's a track where I have three wins in the Cup cars and, when you're able to go to a track where you've had that kind of success, it just gives you that confidence. Because of the wins and everything, its a place we go to where I feel like I especially know what it takes from the car and the driver to be successful.
What does it take to be successful at New Hampshire?
The biggest thing is getting your car to turn through the corners. The track has corners that are very long and your car really needs to handle in the center. Then, the straightaways are pretty long, especially when you consider the fact its only a 1-mile track, so that means you need to have good drive coming off the turns so you can take advantage of the engine getting down the front and back stretches of the track. If youre able to get good speed on those straightaways, then the next thing you need to be able to take advantage of is your brakes and for them to last to the end of the race.
How does New Hampshire compare to other tracks you visit?
It's a track thats fairly different than anywhere else we race, I think. If you had to make a comparison, I guess you would have to compare it to a Martinsville for how the turns are. Plus, if you have to, you can use the bumper to pick up positions. But aerodynamics come into play more at New Hampshire than they do at Martinsville. That's about where the similarities end, though.
Do you have big plans for the off week after New Hampshire?
I'm looking forward to the week off. It's our last one before the end of the season and it's been a fairly grueling stretch with running both the Nationwide and Cup car just about every weekend. So we're going to have a little getaway and then get ready for that last 17-race run to the end of the season.