Looking for a Texas Turnaround
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (April 4, 2016) – As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500, Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is hoping to return to form in the Lone Star State.
Busch arrives at the 1.5-mile Texas oval as a former winner, having visited victory lane during the track’s November race in 2009. He started that race third and led 89 laps en route to the win. In 26 career starts at Texas, Busch has finished in the top-10 a total of 14 times, including a seventh-place finish when the series last visited there in November. Busch hopes this is the weekend he’ll be able to bring home his second Texas win in NASCAR’s top series.
While the 2009 win was his first there in Sprint Cup competition, Busch was no stranger to victory lane at Texas. In the April 2006 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas, Busch led the final 70 laps to secure the victory in his first-ever start in NASCAR’s second-tier division, becoming the fifth driver to win the race in his first start. He also earned the distinction of becoming the 16th driver to record a victory in all three of NASCAR’s top-tier series – Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck.
Busch and his Monster Energy/Haas Automation team hope they’ll be able to turn around their recent fortunes this weekend, get back on track and continue their quest for the 2016 Sprint Cup championship. After scoring top-10 finishes in the final three races of 2015, the No. 41 team continued to show the strength of SHR’s Chevrolets by scoring a top-five and four top-10s in the first four races of 2016.
Busch and his team appeared to be at the top of their game as, each week, the No. 41 was a contender. But the last two races haven’t been so kind to Busch and company. At Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Busch was forced to a backup car and to the rear of the starting grid after an accident during Saturday’s first practice. Then, on lap eight of the race, he made contact with the No. 88 Chevrolet, resulting in heavy right-rear damage to his Chevrolet. While Busch was able to rally from two laps down to finish on the lead lap, his 30th-place finish was well below personal expectations.
Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Busch was able to climb from his 23rd-place starting position to run as high as fourth on the final restart. Stuck in the challenging outside lane at the small track, Busch spent six laps trying to dive back into the preferred bottom groove, losing positions each lap. When he finally was able to dive back in line on the low side, he was 13th in line. He held that spot through the final six laps to earn his fifth top-15 finish of the season, but it was again a finish that wasn’t nearly indicative of the effort given by Busch and the No. 41 team.
Busch heads to Texas looking to stop the skid of the last two races and return to the form to which he and his team are so accustomed. Despite the recent run of bad luck, Busch and his No. 41 team’s goals remain the same – score an early season victory, lock him and the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation team into the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the third consecutive year, and continue their quest for the 2016 championship.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You scored a top-five finish in your first Sprint Cup start at Texas and have 14 top-10s in 26 starts there. Why has it been such a, as you call it, “bread-and-butter” racetrack for you?
“I think it’s the way the banking transitions into the straightaway, into the corners. It’s a very smooth racetrack but, at the same time, it’s a driver’s racetrack because of the way the asphalt is worn out. You have to manage the tires. You can’t just go all out for the whole fuel run. Making sure that the car uses all four tires is an important trait to finding success at racetracks that are worn out.”
You have one Sprint Cup victory at Texas. What would it take for you to win there again?
“It’s being able to get that throttle-on time through the center of the corner and being able to leave it on the floor. You have to be able to jump on the gas early at Texas and make sure you’re able to leave it on the floor all the way around the corners.”
What makes Texas Motor Speedway unique?
“I just love the speeds at Texas Motor Speedway. They say that bigger is better, and everything is that way in Texas. That racetrack has that mentality. It’s big, it’s fast and it’s a fun track when you are dialed in.”
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 to 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.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine