KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn as both the defending winner of the FireKeepers Casino 400 and as the most recent Sprint Cup Series race winner, having claimed the checkered flag in Monday’s rain-postponed Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
Monday’s victory put Busch in a tie with NASCAR Hall of Famer Rex White for 25th on the all-time series win list, and it also secured his spot in the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. While there’s still plenty of racing to be done between now and Nov. 20, when the championship is decided at Homestead-Miami Speedway, there’s a bit of pressure that’s relieved for the Las Vegas native. Knowing he’s headed into the postseason, Busch and his Tony Gibson-led crew can now race aggressively for additional wins.
And that all starts this weekend, when the 28-time Sprint Cup Series race winner will look to score back-to-back victories for the second time in his career. He’ll do so at a racetrack where he’s won three times.
Busch scored his first Michigan win during the track’s June race in 2003, leading 23 laps along the way. He scored his second Michigan win with more of an exclamation point by leading a race-high 92 laps on Aug. 21, 2007. In his most recent win, Busch overcame adversity by winning the rain-shortened Michigan 400 in 2015 after starting 24th in a backup racecar.
In addition to his three victories, Busch has a pair of poles, having earned the top starting spot for the track’s June races in both 2010 and 2011.
Optimism is high for the driver of the Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet, knowing that Michigan has been a strong racetrack for SHR in recent years, as well. Teammate Kevin Harvick has claimed second-place finishes in three of the four races since joining SHR in 2014.
Busch has been among the top-10 finishers in the last eight races, a career-best streak for the Las Vegas native. He’d like nothing more than to extend that streak by scoring his second victory of the season Sunday at Michigan, as another win this weekend would greatly improve his standing in the Chase field. The 16 drivers who qualify for the Chase will have their point totals reset to 2,000 and will be seeded based on bonus points – three per win – earned prior to the start of the Chase. Busch and the Haas Automation/Monster Energy team will put all their focus and determination into finding their way to victory lane once again.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about racing at Michigan.
“Michigan is a sister track to Pocono. I hope we can back up our win there that we had in last year’s race. We worked our way from the back in a back-up car all the way to the front right at the right time. We got the lead and then the rain came. A lot of luck is involved in this day and age. We’ve got to have it all if we are going to position ourselves to win. Tony Gibson (crew chief) continues to give 100 percent as well as everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing to keep plugging away. It’s good that we are second in points. It feels nice.”
What is the key to getting around Michigan?
“Michigan is a tough place because of the way the cars have that grip level on fresh tires versus old tires. What I mean by that is when you put on fresh tires, your tires are cold and they don’t grab the asphalt as well. A lot of guys try to stay out at Michigan with the hot tires on and they get better restarts. Restarts at Michigan are already pretty wild with how wide the track is and how many lanes there are for options. It comes down to just trying to put yourself in the best position with the best-percentage chance on whether it’s fresh tires, or it’s staying out, or it’s making spots up on restarts.”
What is the toughest part of the track for you?
“The toughest part I think is turn three. It seems like the cars do this weird, four-wheel, light drift getting down in there. If your car is dialed in, and I’ve won there three times, it feels like turn three is the easiest corner. Turn three to me is the challenge each time I go there.”
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