Driver-sponsor alliances are often blamed for preventing driver crossovers into different categories of racing, as was common in past eras, but Kurt Busch and his new NASCAR primary sponsor Shell-Pennzoil are countering that trend. Busch, driver of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger in the Sprint Cup Series, announced Tuesday that he will be making his NHRA Full Throttle Series debut this March 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 off-season testing with Johnson and he earned his NHRA Pro Stock license with an impressive best-pass of 6.576 seconds at 210.43mph 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 Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals, March 11-13, 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 200mph.
“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," said Busch. "But I do know that heading to the Gatornationals and running with the pros, I will get a full dose of ‘humble pie.'”