KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is heading to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway this weekend looking for a pair of wins.
Before he heads to the 2.5-mile triangle, Busch will make an appearance in Thursday night’s Pocono Celebrity Charity Poker Showdown, benefitting the NASCAR Foundation and the Armed Forces Foundation, at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The third-annual event gives fans the opportunity to play against NASCAR drivers and other celebrities in the name of charity.
Following the poker tournament, his focus will shift to Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway, a racetrack where he’s experienced success. The driver of the Haas Automation Chevrolet has 11 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s, as well as a pole to go with his pair of wins in 26 previous NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at the “Tricky Triangle.” Busch has led at least one lap in 16 of those races, and finished third when the series last visited there in June.
Over the years, the triangular layout of Pocono has proven to be complicated and vexing to many drivers, but that has not been the case for Busch.
Busch’s solid performance numbers extend beyond the traditional and into some pretty stout loop data statistics as he ranks in the top-five in a number of categories, including laps led, fastest laps run, speed in traffic, green-flag speed and average running position. Add it all up and it equates to a third-place driver rating, placing Busch behind only six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who’s second, and recent perennial Pocono favorite Denny Hamlin, who’s first.
Coming off a disappointing finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Busch is looking to take advantage of this weekend’s race and continue to improve on his impressive stats at Pocono.
The No. 41 Haas Automation team will look to improve upon its third-place finish in June and will rely on Busch’s experience to get the most out of Sunday’s 400-miler. A win this weekend would cement the No. 41 team’s place in NASCAR’s 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship playoff. With its win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March, Busch is virtually guaranteed a spot in the 2014 Chase. However, there’s still plenty of racing to be done between now and Sept. 6, when the Chase field is set at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. And, with that being said, Busch and his Daniel Knost-led crew can race aggressively for an additional win at a track where the driver certainly knows how to get the job done.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You’ve had a lot of success at Pocono. You finished third there in June. How will you and your team build from that and pull out a win?
“It’s a good race to change some of our setups and cash in on our third-place finish from June. Where I felt like we could do better was the tunnel turn. So I’m hoping that tunnel turn that we knew we could be better in, we’ll have fixed, and we’ll be better this time around.”
Can you carry anything that you learned at Indianapolis last week over to Pocono?
“Oh yeah, there’s that feel in the car. Indianapolis has 90-degree corners that are shaped the same as the tunnel turn at Pocono. And there are the long, flat straightaways that you’re trying to balance the car out for the least amount of drag, and that translates from Indy to Pocono. So, the two racetracks are very similar. You can call the race differently, though, as far as pit strategy goes. But these are two sister racetracks where you can definitely say the same program can work at both.”
How does this race at Pocono compare to the August race?
“They are relatively the same. You can get more weather extremes from Friday to Sunday any weekend at Pocono than you can from June to August. It’s relatively the same. You’ve got to look at the forecast seven days in advance to see if you’ll be battling hot or cool conditions.”
It’s been eight weeks since the June race at Pocono. How has your 41 team progressed since then?
“Pocono was a great movement forward to stabilize this Haas Automation team. I felt like we were making more headway with the balance in the racecar, and our crew chief Daniel Knost’s confidence on the pit box seems to have grabbed another gear at that point. We’ve been doing well. It’s time now to go to that next step where we’re consistently throwing down some strong performances.”
Talk a little bit about Thursday night’s poker tournament.
“I look forward to the Poker Showdown each year. It’s awesome what Brandon (Igdalsky, Pocono Raceway president), Pocono Raceway and Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs do for the NASCAR Foundation and the Armed Forces Foundation. With the funds going to education programs for school children, it’s a great way for the organizations to partner together and advance their missions.”
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