‘We Are Down but We Are Not Out’
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Nov. 2, 2015) – When Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) spoke to reporters following Sunday’s race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, he seemed more focused on looking forward than dwelling on what might have been.
“We are down but we are not out,” Busch said. “We can go to Texas and win, we can win at Phoenix. We want to get an invite to Homestead.”
Busch’s No. 41 Chevrolet was running third after a late-race restart when Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski made contact in front of him, turning Kenseth’s car sideways. Busch ducked to the inside but was unable to avoid hard contact with Kenseth that momentarily sent his No. 41 Chevrolet airborne then into the inside wall.
After being in contention for a strong finish, if not a win, in Sunday’s 500-lap race at Martinsville, Busch now heads to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth ranked seventh among the eight remaining Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers. He is 36 points behind Chase leader Jeff Gordon and likely needs to win one of the next two races if he is to continue his quest for the 2015 championship.
Under the previous Chase format, drivers looked at the postseason as a 10-race stretch. Now, it’s taken three races at a time, which leaves little room for error. While the current Eliminator Round did not open the way the 2004 Sprint Cup champion hoped, he feels confident that his No. 41 Haas Automation team can rise to the challenge and earn a victory either this weekend at Texas or the following week at Phoenix International Raceway. A win in either of those races would essentially delete his 34th-place finish at Martinsville and earn him an invite to the winner-take-all Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch saw this very scenario play out last season, when his SHR teammate Kevin Harvick appeared to be on his way to a top-five finish at Martinsville only to have his solid run derailed when he was involved in an on-track incident, ironically enough, with Kenseth. Harvick was able to limp his battered racecar home and was credited with a 33rd-place finish when the checkered flag waved. He found himself in a must-win scenario to advance to the Championship Round and did just that at Phoenix. That set the stage for Harvick and the No. 4 team to secure the 2014 Sprint Cup championship the following week at Homestead.
So, while Busch may be down, it would be difficult to count him out. He’s in championship contention during the month of November for the first time since winning his first title in 2004 and has every intention of keeping his drive for a second series championship alive in 2015.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Where do you feel like you have the best shot to win in the Eliminator Round?
“I want it to be Texas because that is a sister track to Homestead. Do well at Texas and that means you will do well at Homestead. I think that is our best chance to win. We sat on the pole there earlier this year. If you want to win this title, you have to win at Homestead, you’ve got to win at Texas. I feel like at Phoenix we can go out there and mirror our teammate Kevin Harvick for a good, successful finish.”
How is Texas a sister racetrack to Homestead?
“I believe that Texas and Homestead are sister tracks because they are both 1.5 miles and they have worn-out asphalt. I believe the tire codes might even be the same.”
What are the challenges of racing at Texas?
“It’s a tough mile-and-a-half racetrack. The tire wear is getting greater every year. The speed that you carry at the beginning of a run is very different than the speed at the end of the run. Then, that race, since it’s in November, the sun drops quicker this time of year. It starts in the day and then quickly goes to nightfall and cools off really quickly and then the track changes again.”
Will past performance help you at Texas?
“I think the way Texas is going to play out is from the results at Chicago a few weeks ago. We almost won the race there. The Chicago-style track is similar to Texas.”
Where do you need to be near the end of the race at Texas, and what do you have to have at Texas to win?
“You’ve got to be running top-six. Top-four is preferred. Obviously, starting on the front row is the best with 25 laps to go because I believe the tires there are going to come into play on how much they wear out. Trying to make sure you get the tire wear properly and, once you go into nightfall, your setup comes forward and runs more aggressively instead of falling off. That’s what it’s going to take to win at Texas.”
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