KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – If there truly are races that Kurt Busch circles on his calendar at the beginning of each season as races where he and his Haas Automation team should be the class of the field, there’s no doubt one of those is this weekend.
After all, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon has been the site of three of Busch’s 27 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins – a sweep of the 2004 spring and fall Sprint Cup events, and a victory in June 2008. It is one of his best tracks, statistically – his average New Hampshire finish is 16.1 – so it’s difficult to overlook Busch as a threat to potentially earn his fourth Sprint Cup win at the “Magic Mile.”
Busch overcame a 32nd-place qualifying result to earn his first win at New Hampshire in July 2004. At a tight, narrow layout like New Hampshire, track position is everything. And in that July 2004 win, he overcame the deficit quickly, taking over the top spot on lap 171 and leading the next 42 circuits around the track. Busch would lead the final 68 laps of the event before going on to score the win.
Busch quickly followed his first New Hampshire win with a second one less than two months later to complete that year’s sweep. In the September event, Busch led a race-high 155 laps en route to a historic win. It was the first race in the first-ever Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. The win catapulted him into the championship lead.
Busch’s third New Hampshire Sprint Cup win in July 2008 was a rain-shortened event during which he led only 10 laps, but they turned out to be the most important laps as they were the final 10 of the 284 run that day.
In addition to his three Sprint Cup wins, Busch has a win in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition at New Hampshire, coming in his rookie season in the series in 2000. Busch held off Mike Wallace and Randy Tolsma in a furious last-lap scramble to win his second-consecutive race.
While Busch hasn’t had the finishes he’s desired at the flat, 1.058-mile oval the last few years, he does have reason to believe this weekend may bring an end to that streak. Busch has only finished outside the top-15 once since being paired with crew chief Tony Gibson in late 2014, and has found himself enjoying one of the most successful seasons of his career.
With two victories this season, Busch and his No. 41 team have little to worry about in terms of making the Chase. They can head to New Hampshire feeling less pressure and welcome the opportunity to race aggressively for additional wins. He’ll look to earn additional points for the postseason as the 16 drivers who qualify for the Chase will have their point totals reset to 2,000 and will be seeded based on bonus points – three per win – earned prior to the start of the Chase.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your thoughts heading into this weekend’s race at New Hampshire?
“New Hampshire is a track that has been pretty good to me since I started racing in the top series of this sport. I raced there for the first time in the Truck Series and won that race. Then it’s a track where I have three wins in the Cup cars and, when you’re able to go to a track where you’ve had that kind of success, it just gives you that confidence. Because of the wins and everything, it’s a place we go to where I feel like I especially know what it takes from the car and the driver to be successful.”
What does it take to be successful at New Hampshire?
“The biggest thing is getting your car to turn through the corners. The track has corners that are very long and your car really needs to handle in the center. Then, the straightaways are pretty long, especially when you consider the fact it’s only a 1-mile track, so that means you need to have good drive coming off the turns so you can take advantage of the engine getting down the front and back stretches of the track. If you’re able to get good speed on those straightaways, then the next thing you need to be able to take advantage of is your brakes and for them to last to the end of the race.”
How does New Hampshire compare to other tracks you visit?
“It’s a track that’s fairly different than anywhere else we race, I think. If you had to make a comparison, I guess you would have to compare it to a Martinsville for how the turns are. Plus, if you have to, you can use the bumper to pick up positions. But aerodynamics come into play more at New Hampshire than they do at Martinsville. That’s about where the similarities end, though.”
New Hampshire has a tradition of giving the race winner a lobster to go along with the winner’s trophy. Do you recall what you did with yours when you won in 2008?
“I tried to donate it back to the Boston Aquarium. I didn’t want to eat the poor guy. But I learned that, when you are on the bottom of the ocean for 80 years and you are dragged up to the surface, you are not all that happy. The stress and turmoil for the lobster, he wasn’t going to make it anyway. We probably should have cooked him up, dipped him in butter and celebrated.”
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