KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation 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 and Jeff Gordon, interim driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet, as the winningest active drivers at the .533-mile bullring heading into Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race.
Kurt Busch, 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 made 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 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. He came up just short when the series last visited Bristol in March, rebounding from a tough start to finish third.
With the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoffs just four races away, Busch and the Monster Energy/Haas Automation team are determined to race their way back to victory lane, and there’s no better place to do that than at Bristol this weekend. While there’s still plenty of racing left before the 16-driver field that will compete for the Sprint Cup championship will be locked in, Busch knows he will be one of them.
Already having scored a victory earlier this season, at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in June, Busch now has accumulated enough points to mathematically guarantee a spot in the top-30 in the driver standings through the regular-season finale Sept. 10 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The 28-time Sprint Cup race winner will look to earn additional points for the postseason as 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.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation 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