Consistency is Key
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (May 24, 2016) – It’s a general belief that, in any sport, consistency is the key to success. It is also one of the most difficult things to master as elements constantly develop and evolve, whether on the football field, the basketball court, the baseball diamond or the racetrack. Teams constantly strive to be the best and work tirelessly to find a competitive advantage that will give them what they need to be at the top of their game.
Kurt Busch and his No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) have proven to be one of the most consistent when it comes to racing at mile-and-a-half racetracks. Busch is the only driver to have scored top-10 finishes in the last 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races held at such facilities, dating back to May 9, 2015 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
From Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, the site of this Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, to Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, from Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth to Homestead-Miami Speedway, Busch has proven to be a model of consistency with an average start of ninth and an average finish of 6.8. But he’s not quick to take all the credit for the team’s success. He’s quick to point out that crew chief Tony Gibson, lead engineer Johnny Klausmeier and everyone on the No. 41 team works hard to bring relatively fail-safe, fast racecars to the track each week.
Busch enters Charlotte ranked third in Sprint Cup points, riding a string of six consecutive top-10 finishes. While earning another top-10 finish isn’t his ultimate goal this weekend, scoring his first win of the 2016 season and his second in the Coca-Cola 600, the longest race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule, would add a huge mark to the tally. And, more importantly, it would also virtually lock Busch and his No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation team into the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. With the 16-driver Sprint Cup championship format, scoring a win virtually guarantees a driver and his team a berth in the Chase, provided they are among the top-30 in driver points.
So, if you’re looking to make a bet on Sunday night’s race, it would be difficult to look past Busch to finish in the top-10. With Charlotte being the 13th of 26 regular-season races this year, Busch knows he has time to score that first win of the season. He has shown the focus needed to contend for races early on and, now, it’s seemingly only a matter of time before he breaks through and secures his spot in the 10-race Chase.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about heading into the Coca-Cola 600 this weekend.
“You always hope for a good run in the All-Star Race that bleeds over into the 600. The different designs and shapes of all the rule changes, it can still translate into success in the 600. The way I try to divide that race is by the sun. You race the first half in the day and usually, around lap 200, the sun is gone and you have 200 laps at night. That is the easiest way to digest the longest, most grueling, toughest race of the year. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to chase the racetrack early by making adjustments that you won’t need for later in the race. Hopefully, it will all pan out. Last year, we had a really good car in that race. It’s just crazy how all these races are coming down to restarts at the end. This weekend’s race is a big one and, being that it’s here in our backyard, it’s almost like a hometown race for everybody. All of the guys who work at the shop and don’t get to go to the track on a weekly basis usually get to come out and see all of their hard work on display. You want to really put the banner up for your team.”
You come into the weekend having scored 12 consecutive top-10 finishes at mile-and-a-half racetracks. What do you think has contributed to your success at racetracks like Charlotte?
“I think it’s the chemistry between Tony Gibson (crew chief), myself, Johnny Klausmeier, our lead engineer, also all the equipment that is being prepared. It’s been, knock on wood, fail-safe and that allows us to go out there with peace of mind to not have to worry about mechanical things that jump up and bite you. We’ve been able to stay out of trouble, have had good, consistent pit stops, and we are just doing everything right at the ‘A’ level. We just need to find that ‘A-plus’ level on a couple of items.”
What’s the toughest part about Charlotte?
“The toughest part is always that turn three. If you can get your car to cut properly into turn three, it seems like the racetrack just gives you extra speed. If you struggle in turn three, then that makes for a longer day.”
Talk about the 2010 Coca-Cola 600, when you had such a dominant car.
“Well, to start, we just missed out on the pole. That’s one thing that sticks in my mind. You know how racers are – we want to win them all. That race, we were so good in the daytime that I was scared of what was going to happen when the sun went down and the track started to change and how the race would play out. I mean, you never really have a good car at the beginning and have it stay underneath you for the nighttime. It’s just the way you’ve always seen that race play out. But that car was that good. It was what we saw with it in the All-Star Race the week before. It was fast during both of those weekends. So it’s amazing how you can stumble across little things that make all of the difference in the world. Again, I was leading the beginning of the race just pacing myself. The car was so good in the daytime and I literally thought we would end up a lap down at night because cars never stay the same as the race goes on. But it worked out and we got the win in the 600.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine