Survive and Advance
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Sept. 28, 2015) – Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has fairly simple goals heading into this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover (Del.) International Raceway – score a solid finish and be one of the 12 drivers who will transfer from the Challenger Round to the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
It sounds fairly simple, but one of the most complicating factors is the venue at which the first of three elimination races is contested. Dover is a high-banked concrete oval with a penchant for chewing up racecars and veteran drivers alike. It can be one of the more taxing racetracks on drivers and equipment alike with its abrasive surface and high banking. The “Monster Mile,” as it is affectionately known, is an appropriate nickname considering the speeds carried through its high banks and short straightaways that allow little to no room for error.
Busch has conquered Dover just once in his career, in October 2011. He pulled away from Jimmie Johnson on a pair of late-race restarts to earn his 24th Sprint Cup victory. While he’s had a rough go of it at the concrete Dover oval since his win – his best finish since is 12th in June 2013 – Busch does have reason to believe this weekend may bring an end to that trend. As Busch and the Haas Automation team focus on advancing to the next round of the Chase, they will look to build on their most recent race at Dover.
Well on his way to scoring a top-10 finish in June, contact between Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin with just 14 laps remaining proved unavoidable for Busch. The No. 41 was clipped by the spinning car of Hamlin and sent hard into the outside retaining wall, resulting in a 31st-place finish. While the result was nowhere near indicative of the performance, the Las Vegas native knows he will need to have a racecar every bit as strong as he had in June and some better fortune to be comfortably among the 12 drivers who clinch a berth in the Contender Round.
Busch enters the weekend having scored six top-five finishes and eight top-10s in 30 career Dover starts. He hasn’t earned a pole at Dover but his qualifying record has earned him an average starting position of 12th. In addition to having a win in Sprint Cup competition, Busch has also visited victory lane at Dover in the Camping World Truck Series – during his rookie season in 2000.
There’s nothing Busch would like more than to be a contender during Sunday’s race, but also in the Contender Round following the always eventful 400-mile race.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What is it about Dover that makes it such a challenging racetrack, and what do you have to do be successful there?
“The tough thing about Dover is things happen so quickly. At any moment at any time, somebody can spin in front of you or you can lose control off the corners, and you are going to wreck. There is no real forgiveness about Dover. That is what makes it tough. To be good there, you have to be good on corner exit. The track really rubbers in so you can see the concrete change to black as the weekend progresses. On corner exit, you get really tight or really loose. The time I won there, I could almost hold it wide open on corner exit. That is what you’ve got to have.”
Does this weekend’s race being an elimination race make it even more treacherous?
“Yeah, I mean cutoff races are always going to be that way now with the way the Chase is set up. You’re going to have Dover, Talladega and Phoenix. That is just the way the Chase is going to be shaped up.”
Describe how the pressure changes when you get to an elimination race knowing you haven’t yet advanced.
“You hope you have an advantage and you have points to give. But, with this new system, three races at a time you’re trying to more or less just stay out of trouble. You can have a whole season, 26 races like we’ve had on the Haas Automation Chevy, where we’ve been fantastic. We’ve led laps, we’ve won races, we’ve sat on poles, and then you can go into the Chase and have one bad race in those first three weeks and your season is over. I think that’s why most drivers are still questioning how the system is, but it is what it is. You have to survive it. The best way to survive, and the way I won the Chase back in 2004, is with consistency.”
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