KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – This time last year, Kurt Busch was deep into his attempt at “The Double” – racing in both the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. While he won’t be travelling back-and-forth from Charlotte to Indianapolis this May, he will be attempting to complete a different kind of double for the second time in his Sprint Cup career.
A sweep of NASCAR’s May feature races at Charlotte – winning both the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 – has been accomplished only seven times. The last driver to score the Charlotte sweep was Busch, now driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), back in 2010.
In the All-Star Race, Busch started from the pole and brushed the wall early but was able to get back to the front of the field after the final mandatory pit stop before the ten-lap shootout to the finish. He went on to avoid a multicar accident late in the race en route to his first All-Star Race victory.
While he celebrated the victory with his team, he quickly set his sights on pursuing the win in the following week’s 600-mile race and adding his name to the impressive, short list of drivers who were able to sweep the two events.
Busch started second in the 600 and turned in a dominant performance, leading a race-high 252 of 400 laps. He beat Jamie McMurray off pit road on his last stop and led the final 19 laps under green for the Coca-Cola 600 win. In doing so, he became the first driver since Kasey Kahne in 2008 to sweep the Charlotte events.
Busch is one of only three drivers who are locked in for Saturday night’s All-Star event by virtue of not one but the following three of the six qualifying criteria – having won a Sprint Cup Series race in 2014 and 2015; being an All-Star Race winner; and being a past series champion. His race win in 2014 came at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway while this year’s win came last month at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. His 2010 All-Star win and 2004 Sprint Cup championship put him in an elite group with Jimmie Johnson and SHR teammate Kevin Harvick as the three drivers able to check each of those three entry requirements.
While Busch still entertains the thought of another attempt at the Charlotte-Indianapolis version of “The Double” someday, his focus this season will be solely on completing another Charlotte sweep.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about racing in the Sprint All-Star Race.
“There’s always something exciting about racing for $1 million. There’s a unique element about having that kind of money on the line in one night. It’s the prestige, it’s the intensity of it. I like coming onto pit road with no speed limit. I like that the pit crew is part of qualifying. The format itself is unique with 25 laps at a time. It’s a fun environment for a novice fan to enjoy his or her first taste of NASCAR. It’s an even better environment for a longtime fan to see the energy of 25 laps of racing at a time and his or her favorite driver laying it all on the line for $1 million while there are no points at stake.”
What does it mean to you to be in the Sprint All-Star Race?
“It’s a who’s who of the Sprint Cup Series. It’s a big honor to be included in that race. Those are the winners, the top percent of our sport. To win that race in 2010 was a special moment. To beat the best of the best, and then to receive a check from Sprint for $1 million, that’s a great feeling.”
Talk about winning the event in 2010. What do you remember about that race? And what would it mean to you to win another one?
“The weekend was perfect. The car unloaded fast, we had an excellent pit stop during our run. We won the pole and it seemed like, in the race, we were the ones dictating what everyone else had to do because of the pace we set. That all starts with the trends that you’ve learned in the beginning of the season. That’s what is different about the Sprint All-Star Race and the Sprint Unlimited in Daytona. At Daytona, you’re coming off the offseason, there’s the buildup and excitement for another season and seeing what you’ve got. The All-Star Race is taking what you’ve learned in the first part of the year, applying that and trying to cash in on a big payday.”
What advice would you give a driver in the Sprint Showdown?
“The Showdown comes down to letting the rough edges drag. You’re not going to have a perfect setup and you have to gamble on whether you pit for tires or stay out. It all comes down to a Saturday-night, Late Model-type feel, where you have 40 laps to get it done.”
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