KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – The No. 41 Haas Automation team is ready to put the month of May in the rearview mirror. Luckily, when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes to the mile concrete oval of Dover (Del.) International Speedway for Sunday’s FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks, the calendar will read June.
Kurt Busch, 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), had one of the busiest months of May in his racing career – choosing to race last Sunday in both the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The additional preparation and time demands resulting from running both series will now be a distant memory and his focus will return to one event instead of two.
The tracks that the Sprint Cup Series visits in June should lead to an immediate uptick in performance for the No. 41 team. Busch has recorded Sprint Cup wins at four of the five track that the series visits in the month of June, starting with this weekend’s visit to Dover.
Prior to Busch’s win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March, his last Sprint Cup Series win came 83 races earlier at Dover in October 2011 while racing for Team Penske. Busch also has two wins at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, two wins at Michigan International Raceway in Brooklyn, one at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway and two top-10s at Kentucky – all tracks on the Sprint Cup schedule in the coming month.
Busch knows the No. 41 team’s March 30 win at Martinsville virtually guarantees a spot in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, but adding a second win would cement the team’s place in the 10-race playoff. SHR teammate Kevin Harvick and Team Penske driver Joey Logano are the first two drivers to score multiple wins on the season, and Busch is one of eight single-race winners as the series heads to race 13 of 36.
In 27 career starts at Dover, Busch has the lone win, as well as six top-five finishes and eight top-10s with an average start of 11th and average finish of 18th. He also has led 426 laps at The Monster Mile.
DANIEL KNOST, Crew Chief of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are you expecting out of the month of June?
“I don’t think there are any tracks out there where we can’t be successful. You approach every week with the goal of being successful and winning, but when you look at Kurt’s track record and the Stewart-Haas track record, we’ve done well at Dover. We’ve done well at Pocono. Michigan has been a strong track for Kurt. We’ve had a good road-course program with him and with SHR. And then Loudon, it’s been a good track for him and the company, so I think there are a lot of places on the schedule in the next month or two that line up well for us.”
How do you stay focused when things haven’t gone as well as planned?
“That can be hard. The biggest thing is that you’ve got to evaluate each weekend based on your successes or failures. You can’t get too wrapped up in the end result, honestly. If you ran poorly and you steal something at the end, then maybe you did something that worked out but, at the end of the day, you still ran poorly and you need to figure out why you did. If you ran well and get taken out or something breaks that isn’t in your control or whatever, then you look at that. Then you say, ‘What did we do right,’ and, ‘How did we do in failure mode. What can we do to prevent that from happening in the future?’ That’s probably the best way to even out the highs and the lows. We look at each weekend to evaluate what we do well, what we need to work on and how do we improve on those things.”
What makes Dover a challenge from a crew chief’s perspective?
“The biggest challenge at Dover is that the track takes a lot of rubber and it really changes as it takes rubber. You start the weekend off and the track will be fresh, white and fast – the cars will be turning in the center. There is a lot of transition in the car at Dover that can be a bit of a challenge. But, as the weekend goes on, the track will get black and just lay down a lot of rubber. It will get greasy. That makes it hard to get the front of the car to work there and you just keep getting tighter and tighter throughout the weekend. It’s hard to keep up with it, let alone stay ahead of it.”
What are you expecting in terms of the ride height at Dover?
“It’ll be interesting to see the way that the car transitions. Dover is actually unique in that most places you drive into the corner and the car squats down. At Dover, the car goes up and then down – it actually unloads before it loads. If you watch the car, you’ll see it kind of stand up, go down and then stand up again. So, with the cars being down, it may allow some of that to come out of it or it may just pick the whole car up off the track. I’m not 100 percent sure how it’s going to react as it goes over some of those humps in the corner entry and the exit.”
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