KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – When Kurt Busch left behind his hometown of Las Vegas to pursue his NASCAR dream, his first stop was not the typical move to North Carolina. Instead, Busch moved to southeast Michigan to drive the No. 99 entry for Roush Racing in the Camping World Truck Series and work out of Roush Racing’s Truck Series shop.
As the Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400, Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), remembers enjoying his Michigan summer and trips to Houghton Lake with his Roush Racing teammate Greg Biffle.
Since those days in the Truck Series, Busch has enjoyed success at Michigan.
In June 2003, he won the Sprint Cup race at Michigan when he led 24 of 200 laps and crossed the finish line .774 of a second ahead of runner-up Bobby Labonte.
Busch was far more dominant in his second Sprint Cup win at Michigan in August 2007, when he led 92 of 203 laps and beat Martin Truex Jr., by .495 of a second.
Besides his two wins at Michigan, Busch also has two pole awards at the 2-mile oval.
His June 2010 Michigan pole was at 189.948 mph. His June 2011 pole was at 188.699 mph.
This weekend, Busch is hoping to do only slightly better than he did in his last visit to Michigan. Last August, he scored a third-place finish driving for Furniture Row Racing. He would love to score his second win of the season in this weekend’s 200-lap event.
Busch knows the No. 41 team’s win at Martinsville in March virtually guarantees a spot in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Adding a second win would cement the team’s place in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff. SHR teammate Kevin Harvick, Team Penske driver Joey Logano and Hendrick Motorsports drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson are the only drivers to score multiple wins this season. Busch is one of six single-race winners as the series heads to race 15 of 36.
In 26 career starts at Michigan, Busch has two wins, two poles, as well as four top-five finishes and nine top-10s with an average start of 12th and an average finish of 21st. He also has led 423 laps.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You lived in Michigan for a year when you raced in the Truck Series. What do you remember about living in Michigan?
“I spent a year up in Michigan. The summer was great and the winter was harsh. I got pneumonia the first week that I was there. I think the kid from the desert wasn’t ready for the cold Midwest winter. I really enjoyed the summer up there. I hung out with (Greg) Biffle a lot – we were teammates on the Truck Series team that year. It seems like in the Truck Series days you had more time to enjoy some off weekends. So the summer off weekends were great to enjoy up there. We had a big bash for the Fourth of July. There was a lake up north of Detroit called Houghton Lake. We went to the lake cabin house up there and it gave you that true sense of summer. It was a lot of fun. We never did anything up there in the winter, so no ice fishing or snowmobiling or anything like that. When I got up there, it was January and things in Daytona were starting to kick off. Then I got the Cup ride in September, so I started grabbing all my stuff out of Michigan when it started to get cold again.”
What do you have to do to be fast at Michigan?
“I like Michigan because it’s a balance of trying to make sure you have the speed through the corners, but then every change that you’re making, in the back of your mind you have to keep in mind the straightaways are so long there. You’re balancing trying to keep the drag out of the car.”
What did you take away from last year that you can use this year?
“The package that we had there last year was so unique that it really played a huge part in our third-place finish there. We qualified on the outside pole for both races last year, as well. To me, it’s just finding the balance with the front end of the car.”
Is this a portion of the schedule that you look forward to?
“What I like about this portion of the schedule is that it’s a good time to capitalize on the things that you did wrong during the first portion of the year. This is when a team starts to come together and show its strength.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine