KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (April 11, 2016) – Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has five NASCAR Sprint Cup series victories at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, tying him with his younger brother Kyle as the winningest active drivers at the .533-mile bullring heading into Sunday’s Food City 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Kurt, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion, earned his first-career series win at Bristol in March 2002. It came in only his third outing there, making him the driver with the fewest starts at Thunder Valley to record his first win at the high-banked, concrete oval.
But the older Busch’s Bristol success 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 “Thunder Valley.” 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, sweeping the 1981, 1982 and 1983 seasons, and also winning the spring race in 1984.
Busch’s most recent win at Bristol came in this race 10 year ago, in March 2006. It’s not to say he hasn’t had the runs that could have given him his sixth victory there, it’s just that circumstances have prevented him from sealing the deal. As recently as the 2015 running of the Food City 500, Busch led six times for 98 laps. But when the caution flag flew for a five-car incident on lap 482, Busch headed for pit road while most of the others up front at that point in the race did not. Busch restarted the race sixth but, barely a dozen laps later, was collected in an accident when Carl Edwards slipped while running side-by-side with Jeff Gordon. Busch, trailing the two, was unable to avoid contact with Edwards and the result was heavy damage to the right front of his Chevrolet. Busch would be credited with a 15th-place finish but believed his No. 41 Chevrolet was a race-winning car.
Things may be looking up for Busch. Two of his three Sprint Cup victories since joining SHR have come on short tracks – Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
A win in Sunday’s Food City 500 would certainly help Busch’s 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff chances. It also would bring his win total at Bristol to six, making him the winningest active driver at the track. Perhaps the sweetest part of all, Busch could then once again regain ownership of the “Mr. Bristol” moniker.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy 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 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.”
You earned your first Sprint Cup win at Bristol. You’ve got four wins in the spring race there and one in the night race. Talk about heading to Bristol.
“Bristol really seems to fit my driving style. Ever since they polished the outside groove, you have to wait for it to come in. But, when it comes in, it’s fast up there. So, I expect a lot of the fast cars to be up there on the high side.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine