Kansas Victory Would Be Meaningful on Multiple Levels
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (May 2, 2016) – Looking at Kurt Busch’s stats on mile-and-a-half racetracks, it’s easy to see why the driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is looking forward to the Go Bowling 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
Busch’s record shows he has a knack for success at the eight mile-and-half venues where the Sprint Cup Series competes. Six of his 27 career victories have come at four of those tracks – three at Atlanta Motor Speedway and one apiece at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Busch is still searching for victory lane at the remaining four – Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois; Kentucky Speedway in Sparta; Las Vegas Motor Speedway; and Kansas.
In 20 career Sprint Cup starts at Kansas, Busch earned a pole in June 2011 and has scored one top-five and six top-10 finishes. While the D-shaped oval hasn’t been one of his best tracks, he turned in a pair of top-10 results in the Sprint Cup Series’ two trips to Kansas last year. Busch is optimistic about his chances of improving on those finishes this weekend.
While his average finish at Kansas is 17.8, he won the pole and led 62 laps at en route to a fourth-place finish earlier this season at Atlanta, then followed that up by winning his second consecutive pole the following week at Las Vegas and leading 31 laps before finishing ninth. At Texas, the most recent mile-and-a-half track that the Sprint Cup Series visited, Busch earned another ninth-place finish. His Haas Automation/Monster Energy team has shown strength at the racetracks they’ve visited thus far with characteristics similar to what they’ll see this weekend in Kansas.
A win for Busch at Kansas would not only be big for the 37-year-old driver and his 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup aspirations, it would also be special for Haas Automation. It was at Kansas in September 2002 that Haas Automation – the largest CNC machine tool builder in the western world – made its debut as a primary sponsor in the Sprint Cup Series. Haas Automation and its red, power “H” logo adorned the hood and quarter panels of the No. 60 Haas-CNC Racing machine driven by Jack Sprague and owned by Gene Haas. And while the sponsor’s first outing ended early with a 35th-place finish, it didn’t keep the team or the sponsor from being a regular competitor on the Sprint Cup circuit.
Fast forward to now and there’s no doubt sponsor Haas Automation and the race team then called Haas-CNC Racing have come a long way. Today, founder Haas shares ownership of what is now known as Stewart-Haas Racing with three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart. The merger, which took effect in 2009, has resulted in 31 Sprint Cup points paying wins and a pair of Sprint Cup championships.
Busch would like nothing more than to score his 28th Sprint Cup victory in Saturday night’s Go Bowling 400 and lock himself into the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup. He also knows the added significance of Kansas being the site of Gene Haas’ ownership debut and wants more than ever to find his way to victory lane this weekend to bring it all full circle.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What do you think we’ll see at Kansas this weekend with the low-downforce package?
“I don’t know if we will see much difference because the track is so high-grip and the tires are going to be that much softer this time. We should see a lot of the similarities to Las Vegas because of the amount of grip level in the track. It won’t be like Texas, it won’t be like Atlanta, it will be more like Vegas. We are going to go with a slightly different type of setup and not roll the dice, but just try to do as much research as we can heading into the All-Star (race) and the (Coca-Cola) 600 at Charlotte.”
What makes Kansas Speedway unique?
“As far as intermediate tracks go, it’s been one of the tougher tracks for me. It’s very smooth and it’s fast, so you can be aggressive with shock control, sway bars and other things. Kansas is definitely its own animal, but it compares more to a Michigan and the smoother racetracks that we run on versus the rough ones like Chicago and Atlanta. Kansas is unique in terms of how the wind changes direction from day to day. So, turn two might be a problem one day and turn four might be a problem the next day.”
You don’t race much in this part of the country. What’s it like when you visit a track like Kansas?
“We get a lot of fans from the Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa – a lot of great Midwestern folks there – and it’s a nice atmosphere. Kansas seems to always have a great crowd.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine