KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Sept. 8, 2015) – For Kurt Busch and the No. 41 Haas Automation Racing team, their goal for Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway is pretty simple.
Having all-but clinched a berth in the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship thanks to their wins at Richmond in April and in June at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Richmond won’t be the pressure-filled, high-stakes race that it will be for other teams still fighting to make their way into the 10-race playoff that will crown the 2015 champion. There’s no win-to-get-in or Chase-clinching scenario for Busch’s No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team to study, plan for or worry about heading into the weekend.
Busch will make his ninth career and third consecutive appearance in The Chase once he attempts to qualify for Saturday night’s race. Knowing that once this formality has been completed, the Haas Automation team will formally become part of the championship picture. That leaves them with just one goal for Saturday night. Win.
A win at Richmond would move Busch ahead of the three other two-time race winners of the 2015 season thus far. 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 regular-season win. That would enable Busch, currently seeded seventh, to jump to fifth.
So, it’s all about the three bonus points for Busch this weekend. In 29 Sprint Cup starts at Richmond, Busch has a pair of victories. The first came in September 2005, when Busch started fifth and led 185 laps en route to the win. Busch scored his second Richmond victory when the Sprint Cup Series last visited the .75-mile short track in April. He turned in a dominating performance, leading six times for a race-high 291 laps, to score his first win of the 2015 Sprint Cup season. Busch also has a NASCAR Xfinity Series win there, which came in April 2012.
There’s no doubt Busch has the know-how and the determination needed to put his No. 41 Haas Automation Chevy in victory lane at the .75-mile oval known as “The Action Track” and collect the valuable bonus points in advance of the Chase.
This weekend, Busch hopes to repeat his April performance, collecting another win and adding some more bonus points to his tally in preparation for the playoffs. After all, winning is what it is all about.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What’s the toughest part about racing at Richmond?
“All of it has been pretty tough for me, but the toughest part of that track has always seemed to be the exit of turn four. It’s really hard to get the traction put down just right to not be just flat-out dead sideways all the way to the start-finish line. It’s really hard to get the speed through three and four and carry the traction off of turn four. So, going into this weekend, that’s something I know I’ll be looking for right from the start of practice on Friday.”
Richmond used to be known for side-by-side racing, a lot of beating and banging. We haven’t seen much of that lately.
“I think for that style of racing to return at Richmond, you have to make the handling a little worse, which means less downforce and a different tire to allow the racecars to slide around. Right now, the preferred groove is right on the bottom of the racetrack, and what we need are options to be able to go to the high lane and produce the same lap times. That way, we could run high or low, allowing us to get side-by-side. So we need to find the aerodynamic package along with the tire package to balance things out a little better to allow that side-by-side racing.”
Practice sessions at Richmond are held during the afternoon while the race goes green at night. Track conditions are obviously quite different. Talk a little bit about that.
“It’s very different from inside the cockpit. The way you drive the car during the day, the racetrack is much slicker. It’s harder to apply the brakes. It’s harder to get on the throttle. Tire wear is more excessive. So, it’s very difficult practicing during the day and racing at night because of the temperature change and the grip level that the racetrack has. It’s a cooler racetrack at night, so you can be more aggressive on the brakes and harder on the throttle, so it requires more finesse during the daytime practice sessions while you can kind of throw it all on the line at night and go for it under race conditions.”
When you won the race in the spring, it was a scheduled Saturday-night race that was moved to Sunday afternoon. Talk about some of the challenges that presented for you and your team.
“The way everything turned out with the rain delay and everyone’s enthusiasm for the race to be run the following day rather than at night, it just seemed different. It seemed exciting. I think people kind of thought, ‘We haven’t seen a race in the daytime at Richmond in years” went through people’s minds. The atmosphere on Sunday, I felt like everyone looked forward to seeing what challenges it would bring. From my standpoint, whatever was thrown our way, we needed to adapt to it. Throwing in that different twist made it fun. And I felt our Haas Automation team adapted the best that day in April.”
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