Haas Automation Racing: Kurt Busch Kentucky Advance

July 07, 2015

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – The hobby of collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining whatever items are of interest to the individual collector. The broad scope of collecting is virtually unlimited.

It can be any object regarded as being of value or interest to a collector, and not necessarily monetarily valuable or antique. It can be something that is old, it can be something manufactured specifically for the purpose of collecting or, in this case, it can be an intangible item that serves as little more than bragging rights.

There is no official statistical category for drivers who have amassed top-five or top-10 finishes at each racetrack that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competes at, but there is one that certainly exists for drivers of the most competitive nature. Among those who would like nothing more than to complete his set of top-five finishes at each of the active tracks the series visits is Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).

When Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, finished second to now teammate Kevin Harvick in October 2013 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, it left Kentucky Speedway in Sparta as the only remaining racetrack where Busch had yet to score a top-five finish in Sprint Cup competition. Kentucky plays host to the Sprint Cup Series Saturday night for just the fifth time since joining the schedule in 2011.

Busch is one of the more experienced drivers who will compete at Kentucky Saturday night. In fact, he participated in the track’s inaugural event – a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in June 2000. Busch, then a rookie in the series, started 32nd and, as he recalls, overdrove every turn before eventually wrecking his truck on lap 111 of the scheduled 150-lap event. He also competed in a pair of NASCAR Xfinity Series races there in 2012 while driving for his brother’s team, Kyle Busch Motorsports. He finished second in his first outing and was credited with a 28th-place finish after a rear-end failure in the other.

It wasn’t until 2011 that the Sprint Cup Series made its first visit to the Bluegrass State. In the years between 2000 and 2011, since the track was not used by NASCAR’s premier series, race teams could use the track liberally for testing. Busch claims that his former team, Roush Racing, would visit the track almost every other Tuesday to test new setups for upcoming races. 

While Busch is still looking for his first Sprint Cup top-five at the track, he has been able to record two top-10s and has never finished outside the top-20. He has completed all 1,068 laps of Sprint Cup competition since 2011, has an average start of 13.2 and average finish of 11.5. He also has led 41 laps.

A top-five finish Saturday night in the Kentucky 400 would place Busch in rather elite company as one of only a handful of drivers with top-five finishes at all racetracks visited by the Sprint Cup Series. A victory not only completes the criteria for membership, but does so with some serious bravado.

KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What is the first thing that comes to mind when people talk about racing at Kentucky?

“Kentucky is a tough, 1.5-mile circuit that’s relatively new to the Sprint Cup schedule. The track has a unique set of bumps that makes it different from a lot of the typical 1.5-mile tracks we see. It’s kind of a one-off race with its own setup issues. You can overthink Kentucky a little bit because there’s nothing similar to it.”

Talk about those bumps and why they make Kentucky such a difficult racetrack.

“The bumps – they aren’t the sharp, quick, abrupt bumps. They are the big, wavy movements and the car is always moving around. You are trying to keep the car with an aggressive setup to get the speed but, at the same time, you have to allow the tires to breathe and go over the bumps to absorb the energy. The car is constantly moving around and you never find that perfect setup.”

What was the first thing you thought of when you came to Kentucky for the first time?

“I went there for the first time when I was racing trucks. It was an inaugural race for the trucks. I thought that, since it was the first time anyone went there, that rookies had just as good of a shot to win as veterans. I overdrove that race every ounce I could and ended up wrecking with about 15 laps to go while running in the lead pack. I hit pretty hard. I think that was one of the hardest hits I’ve taken. Kentucky stood up and bit me the first time I was there. And, up until recently, we never ran a Cup race there, so we used it as a test facility. So, my time when I was at Roush, I think we were there every other Tuesday making laps. So, I have plenty of laps at Kentucky, but not in race configuration.”

How much does all that early testing help you now when the Sprint Cup Series visits Kentucky?

“It’s a track that you have to work on the bumps – flat out. And then the race ends at night. It starts at dusk and ends at night, so the pace keeps getting faster and faster as the race goes on. I haven’t been able to find that winning balance, yet, but I’ve had some good runs with a couple of top-10s. To be able to break through for the wins, I’ll have to get the front of the car to absorb the bumps and be able to keep my foot on the floor.”

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