One Trophy Missing from the Shelf
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (April 26, 2016) – Kurt Busch’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories have come at an array of venues across the circuit. From its shortest racetrack – Martinsville (Va.) Speedway – to a road-course victory at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, it seems Busch has won at every type of track.
The driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has won on racetracks ranging in length from .526 of a mile, .533 of a mile, .75 of a mile, 1 mile, 1.5 miles, 1.99 miles and 2 miles. He’s celebrated in victory lane at the high-banked ovals and flat tracks. He’s even has had a seat at the head table at the year-end banquet.
But, there’s one trophy missing from Busch’s shelf. With 27 Sprint Cup wins and the 2004 championship on his list of credits, a points-paying win at either of the two restrictor-plate tracks – Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway – is the one thing that has eluded Busch in his 17-year Sprint Cup career.
While the Las Vegas native hasn’t won a Sprint Cup points-paying race at either restrictor-plate track, he has come painfully close many times. He has four top-three finishes at Talladega and six top-threes at Daytona, including runner-up results in the Daytona 500 in 2003, 2005 and 2008.
Busch has won in both the Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duel non-points races at Daytona – both in 2011. He also has a 2012 NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Daytona and a 2003 IROC victory at Talladega, the site of Sunday’s GEICO 500. Still, he has fallen short of grabbing the checkered flag in a points-paying Sprint Cup race at either track.
With a victory at Talladega this weekend, Busch would join an elite list of drivers who have won at every type of track on the Sprint Cup circuit: superspeedway, speedway, intermediate, short track and road course.
This weekend, Busch would like nothing more than to add another win to his already impressive resume. Not only would a victory finally give him that restrictor-plate win he so desperately desires, it would also virtually lock Busch and his No. 41 team into the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. With the 16-driver Sprint Cup championship format, scoring a win most certainly guarantees a driver and his team a berth in the Chase, provided he is among the top-30 in driver points.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk a little bit about racing at Talladega.
“It’s so difficult to predict Talladega. You can ride around in the back or charge up front all day and, either way, your day can end with your car on the hook. You just hope to have Lady Luck guide you to a good finish. Restrictor-plate races have turned into this pattern that it’s hard to have any type of advantage over any other team. It just comes down to being in the right place at the right time. I have never won a restrictor-plate race that paid points. I won the Shootout (Sprint Unlimited) before, I’ve won a qualifying race in Daytona, but I’ve never won a points-paying race.”
What will it take for you to score your first win at Talladega this weekend and finally get a Superspeedway victory?
“Restrictor-plate races turn into more of a crapshoot. You see if your number is going to come up and be the lucky guy at the end of the day. The way you have to stay patient all day, stay out of trouble and be on the lucky side of things, it’s a tough combination to line up and get exactly right. Over the years, I’ve had good finishes. I just haven’t been able to break through for a Sprint Cup win at a superspeedway. But, you really can’t expect to win. You have to find little things that will help you have an advantage at the end of the race.”
There have been so many rule changes over the years. With that being said, has the style of racing at Talladega ever changed? Or has it always kind of been the same?
“Talladega has been the same for me the last 15 years. Not much with handling, it’s full throttle all the way around. Pit road is an easy place to get in a fender-bender. The racetrack itself, when you are in the draft, it’s so easy to get caught up in somebody else’s mistake or your mistake. It takes out a lot of cars when you have that big wreck. Hopefully, things will be smooth.”
Talladega is probably the least physically demanding track you go to, but mentally from all that you have to do all day long, are you kind of drained after that race?
“Yeah, that is one of the toughest. It’s a chess game at 200 miles per hour. You’re trying to survive and not run into things or have somebody run into you. Points can be taken away from you so quickly at Talladega. That’s what everybody is stressed about.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine