NASCAR: Kurt Busch recalls stellar Sonoma run in 2012

By The Sports Xchange  |  June 24, 2017 at 9:59 PM
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By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

Distributed by The Sports Xchange

SONOMA, Calif. -- Driving for Team Penske in 2011, Kurt Busch led 76 of 110 laps and beat Jeff Gordon to the checkered flag by 2.685 seconds to win the 2011 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

But that dominating drive was no more impressive than Busch's third-place finish a year later in a car fielded by owner James Finch. Remarkably, the Las Vegas driver nailed down that podium finish with a broken track bar mount in his Chevrolet.

"The track bar mount kept getting worse and worse and worse," Busch told the NASCAR Wire Service at a track-sponsored luncheon on Thursday in San Francisco. "I was trying to pass (eventual race winner Clint) Bowyer, but I felt something coming apart in the back end. I said to myself, 'It's going to look stupid if I move him out of the way, and then the part breaks. What good would that do?"

So Busch settled for third, but some of the insights he gained with respect to racing at Sonoma still hold true.

"The setup I had with Penske when we won in 2011, I remembered as much as I could and told the team, and they put it in the best that they could," Busch said. "We qualified eighth, and that car just came alive, just like the Penske car did around Lap 5, running better lap times than on stickers (new tires).

"That's when you have good cars here. You run good from Lap 5 to Lap 20. That's how you win at Sonoma."

SHRINERS HOSPITAL VISITS STILL SPECIAL TO RAGAN

As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tours the United States, Front Row Motorsports driver David Ragan makes a point of visiting nearby Shriners Hospitals for Children, whose logo he carries on his No. 38 Ford.

Ragan's pre-Sonoma weekend visit to the Shriners Hospital in Sacramento, which specializes in both orthopedics and burn treatment, was no exception.

"Every time you get there, you think you've heard the good stories, and you've heard the success stories over the years, and you don't really think that you're going to hear something new, but I always leave with a good heartwarming story that I didn't expect," Ragan told the NASCAR Wire Service.

"With me having kids now, it definitely puts things in perspective when you see that 3- or 4-year-old who is missing a leg or missing an arm or who is involved in an accident and is severely burned all around. The Shriners have world-class medical care and they do a lot of research to try to prevent some of the accidents from happening and genetic research to prevent some of these issues that these young kids are born with."

RETIRED TEACHER COMPLETES BUCKET LIST WITH TRIP TO SONOMA

Bill Silvester got hooked on racing when the North Carolina legislature banned dog tracks in the state, and the track in Currituck County transitioned from greyhounds to stock cars.

The 71-year-old retired middle school teacher attended his first race in 1964. On Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, he will have seen a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race on every active track on the schedule.

As he completes his bucket list, it's hard for Silvester to pick a favorite.

"Every track has some differences, some uniqueness," he said. "I absolutely love Bristol. People in Las Vegas are just unbelievable. We were sitting in Fontana last year. I got looking around and I have a tendency to say, 'I wish we were sitting here or here or here'--and we looked around and said, 'There's not a better seat at this track than what we're in right now.'"

Silvester's wife usually accompanies him on his journeys to race tracks--if she doesn't have to fly.

"For the most part, it's been a family thing. My wife--she became my wife--went to the first race with me in Currituck. As a family, we have been to probably 20 race tracks.

"She will not fly. In 2008, we went cross-country to California to visit with her college roommate, and I said, 'OK, I'll go, on one condition--we stop by Indy.' So that was the Brickyard."

Silvester remembers his first trip to Charlotte Motor Speedway and how impressed he was at the 1.5-mile track.

"The first time we went to Charlotte, that was an absolute palace," he said.

Now that Charlotte will be hosting a road course race instead of an oval event in the 2018 playoff, will Silvester have to make a return visit.

"We'll see," he said with a smile. "We'll see."

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