Over the weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway Kurt Busch announced that he will venture into his first attempt at drag racing, this week, an off week for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, at the Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville, Florida. The car he will enter in Super Gas Sportsman class, is a 1970 Dodge Challenger.
Kurt spoke of his first real exposure to drag racing was in the 1990’s when he met a pair of Las Vegas based NHRA racers, George Marnell, a pro Stock racer and Dave Bush, a Super Stock competitor. While driving for Penske Kurt also got to know NHRA Top Fuel champion Larry Dixon, as both were sponsored by Miller Lite.
He got the idea to compete in an NHRA event after he took part in the opening of the Z Max Dragway at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in September of 2008. He let a friend run his Dodge Viper down the strip and burned out the clutch before the run was finished. “That was when I got the bug.” said Kurt, “ I made the decision to try it, so I attended the Roy Hill drag racing school. I learned a lot about saving hundreds and thousands of a second. That experience actually had an impact on my Cup driving as I found a new appreciation for those hundreds of a second and was able to apply that on the track.”
The drag racing project has been about a year and a half in the making. The project began with the purchase of a 1970 Dodge Challenger off an eBay auction, from a party in Nebraska. “The guy we bought the car from didn’t know that I bought the car, because we did nit all in the name of my new Drag crew chief, Jessie Walker. Jessie has been with me for a long time, he worked with me when I ran the old Southwest Tour Series.” Kurt remarked “We had to cut out the floor pans because they were rusted too bad.”
The car had the original 340 cu in engine when they got the car, but that has been replaced with a Mopar 427 Crate motor. The car is fuel injected and a turbo has been installed, giving the car about 1200 HP and about 1000 foot pounds of torque. At 3200 lbs the car has run 138 mph in the 1/8 mile in testing.
When asked about who would be racing this car Kurt responded “ I will be the only person to race this car” when Danica Patrick’s name was mentioned as a driver his response laughingly was “ This car doesn’t have enough down force for Danica, and like I said, only I will drive it.”
The Tire Kingdom NHRA Gator Nationals 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 300 mph pass which took place in 1992.