Striving for Five at Bristol
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Aug. 19, 2015) – Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has been looking forward to Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for weeks.
Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, has a history of success at the .533-mile bullring, starting with his first-career Sprint Cup win in the Food City 500 in March 2002. It came in only his third start at Bristol, making him the driver with the fewest starts at Thunder Valley ever to record his first win there.
But his successes didn’t stop there. He went on to win in three of his next four visits by sweeping both the March and August Sprint Cup races in 2003, and winning again in March 2004.
His incredible three-race win streak makes him one of just four drivers to have accomplished the feat at the half-mile, high-banked oval. Fred Lorenzen was the first, winning the fall race in 1963 and following that with a season sweep in 1964. Cale Yarborough is the second driver to record three straight wins – and he added a fourth for good measure – sweeping both the 1976 and 1977 seasons. Darrell Waltrip became the third to win three or more races in a row when he reeled off seven consecutive wins by sweeping the 1981, 1982 and 1983 seasons, as well as the spring race in 1984.
Busch’s most recent win at Bristol came in March 2006 and also put him on another elite list.
His five career victories at Bristol place him in a four-way tie for third on the all-time winner’s list at the track. The group of drivers ahead of Busch on that list is an elite group featuring former champions and drivers who already have been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Former champion and Hall of Famer Waltrip tops the all-time list with 12 career Bristol wins. Hall of Famer Yarborough is in a three-way tie for second with nine wins, along with former Sprint Cup champions and Hall of Famers Rusty Wallace and the late Dale Earnhardt. Busch, his brother Kyle Busch, Hall of Famer David Pearson and Jeff Gordon share third-place honors on the list. The five wins each by the Busch brothers and Gordon top all active drivers.
While the Las Vegas native hasn’t visited victory lane at Bristol in nine years, his success at the track continues to speak for itself. He continues to be a favorite for a Bristol win with each visit to the track that is famously dominated by fast-paced, door-to-door action. He’d like nothing more than to become the winningest active driver this weekend, reaching Bristol’s victory lane for a sixth time.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Is there a sense of excitement for you when you think about Bristol?
“Yes. Bristol is one of those tracks that I get a little extra pumped up for. For me, I think that feeling gets a little stronger when you’re talking about the night race at Bristol. There’s just something special about that race. I knew it before I ever made it to the big-league level of the Sprint Cup Series but, the first time I was able to experience the night race as a competitor, it’s almost indescribable. It’s a place that gives you a big adrenaline rush. You can literally feel the energy around the track from the competitors and the fans who are just excited for 500 laps of racing at Bristol. There’s really nothing quite like it.”
With the way Bristol has been the last few years, what has been the most difficult part?
“For me, the most challenging aspect is getting into those long, green-flag runs. It’s about being able to settle into a steady groove and making the best lap times you can. It’s tough at that place because it’s so fast for a short track and you can get dizzy there pretty quickly. It’s a physical track but it’s also mentally taxing, and you really have to be on your game when it comes to the concentration that is required to run well at Bristol.”
Bristol is one of your best racetracks. Talk a little bit about the night race and what makes it so special?
“The Bristol night race – it’s the electricity, the excitement, the hot summer evening at a short track. All of us grew up on short tracks and, that atmosphere there, it really brings us right back to where we started. That energy and electricity from a Saturday-night Bristol race, I think, everybody looks forward to it. It’s almost like the official stamp of summer when we have to go back to that short track on Saturday night.”
What do you think it is about Bristol that suits you so well? What makes you so good there?
“I think it’s my driving style, trying to roll the car through the center of the corner with speed and that feel of the front tires sliding versus the rear tires sliding. It’s that short-track feel. I love the short tracks. Bristol just seems to fit my driving style and how I like to turn, go back to throttle. And, that track, you have to be aggressive with it at certain times and get all you can out of the track. Then, as soon as you step over that line, you are paying a penalty.”
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