Busch Joins Castroneves in Dream-Team Pairing For Rolex 24
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kurt Busch, 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves are racing stars who share at least three common aspects in their lives:
Each has a need for speed; each drive race cars owned by Roger Penske; and, in this weekend's Rolex 24 At Daytona sports car race, each will share a Daytona Prototype with yet another Penske racing-family member, Ryan Briscoe.
It's just about at this point where the similarities between Busch and Castroneves end, though.
Busch was born in Las Vegas, Nev.; Castroneves in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
One usually drives a fender-free, open-cockpit, needle-nosed Dallara-Honda that only rarely wears a "rubber doughnut" by the end of any race; the other expects that badge of honor to be found on his No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge -- especially after a night of short-track racing.
"It's funny to listen to Helio and Ryan talk about this car being 'heavy' and that it doesn't turn well," Busch chuckled over his teammates' comparisons of their open-wheel cars to the Daytona Prototype they'll share.
"I'd really like them to drive my Miller Lite Dodge stock car and see how heavy it is."
On the one side is a guy who goes Dancing With The Stars while the other guy, for the most part, has already shown an ability to dance, of sorts, with just about anyone . . . on the race track.
"Well, the (Dancing With The Stars) trophy I've already got," Castroneves said of his winning dance style. "It was a great experience, obviously but (racing) is what I like, I enjoy and it's been my whole life. I'm going for the Rolex watch," awarded to each of the Rolex 24's first-place finishers.
"Hey, I want one of those, too," Busch quickly added.
Thus, the two must come together with Briscoe to team in the No. 9 Toshiba Pontiac Riley Daytona Prototype for the 46th Rolex 24 At Daytona, which takes the green flag at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Fielded by Penske-Taylor Racing, it's a one-off race partnership formed for the Rolex 24 by Roger Penske and sports car veteran team owner Wayne Taylor, who has twice won the Rolex 24 as a driver and who will attempt a third win by driving a sister car in the race, the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley DP.
Though driving as teammates for the first time, both Busch and Castroneves have previously competed in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
In 2005 Busch partnered for the twice-around-the-clock race with 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Matt Kenseth, NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Greg Biffle and sports car racing's Scott Maxwell. The four drove the No. 49 Crown Royal Special Reserve Ford-powered Multimatic DP to a 27th-place finish after the car suffered a string of mechanical difficulties as the sun arose on Sunday morning -- roughly 18 hours into the 24-hour race.
"The last time I drove in the Rolex was three years ago and my only claim to fame was that I didn't get towed back in," Busch said. "The rest of my teammates were towed back in. So, if I can still stick with that and not end up on the hook, that'll be a job well done."
Driving the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Riley DP, Castroneves finished the 2007 Rolex 24 in ninth place with teammates Mark Patterson, Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. (who this year will compete in a fulltime NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule) and fellow Brazilian Oswaldo Negri Jr.
"Last year with Mike Shank was a great experience," Castroneves said. "Everybody (told) me a lot of information and I learned even more during the race. There's no question, it's a survivor race. The good thing is Roger Penske has a lot of experience in these kinds of races."
"I have to echo Helio in the fact that Penske Racing has quite a bit of experience in these types of races and I'm grateful for that," Busch added. "But I've got a lot to learn. This is a 24-hour race and that's the lure that draws me here." NASCAR PR