KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – Kurt Busch has won twice at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
Those two victories have come in three NASCAR Nationwide Series starts at the 2.45-mile road course. The driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in NASCAR’s premier Sprint Cup Series has three poles and a third-place finish to add to his impressive pair of victories in NASCAR’s second tier of competition.
In NASCAR’s top series, the Las Vegas native has experienced a bit of a dry spell at The Glen. His best result in his 13 visits on the Sprint Cup side is a second-place finish in 2010, which also happens to be his lone top-five result there.
The legendary road course’s long straightaways and fast, sweeping turns have proven their difficulty for some of the sport’s greatest drivers. Recent series champions Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth are all winless at the 2.45-mile venue. Road racers Boris Said and Ron Fellows have fallen short in their bid to upset the series regulars. Busch, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr., are among those who have victories at the other road-racing venue on the circuit – Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway – but are winless in their attempts to conquer The Glen.
Busch’s win at Sonoma came in 2011. After qualifying 11th, he took the lead for the first time on lap 13, and he stayed there for the next 19 circuits. Busch relinquished the lead twice for scheduled green-flag pit stops, but took over the top spot for the final time on lap 88. He would lead the final 23 laps for a total of 76 laps led en route to the victory – his first and only Sprint Cup Series win on a road course.
Busch would like nothing more than to add a victory at Watkins Glen to his already impressive resume this weekend in the second and final road-course race of 2014. While the No. 41 team’s place in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship is virtually guaranteed thanks to its win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March, an additional win would move Busch ahead of the three other single-race winners of the 2014 season thus far. 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. That would see Busch, currently seeded 11th, jump to eighth.
Knowing another win would greatly improve their standing in the Chase field, Busch and the Haas Automation team will put all their energy, focus and determination into finding their way to victory lane once again in the final five regular-season races. Busch hopes that his past successes at the New York road course will finally translate into a long-overdue Sprint Cup win, which would also bolster his position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You have two wins and a third-place finish in three Nationwide Series starts at Watkins Glen, but only one top-five and five top-10s in Sprint Cup competition at The Glen. What will it take for you to translate that success to the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet?
“It feels like the balance I’ve found in the Nationwide car is a dominant type of balance. But, I’ve struggled a little with the Sprint Cup car trying to do two things – one is getting the car to cut in the corners the same way, and the other is the fuel mileage game that always comes into play with the Cup car. Most of my years in Cup, I’ve had to take a conservative approach on fuel so we wouldn’t have a big hit in points. So I’ve never really been able to gamble in the Cup races. This time around, with us virtually being locked into the Chase, we will be on the positive side of gambling on fuel.”
How does The Glen differ from Sonoma?
“Well, Sonoma is a track where the corners are a lot slower and you’re struggling to put the power down. It’s pretty much the opposite of that situation when racing at Watkins Glen. It’s still a road course but the differences are pretty big. Watkins Glen has wide, sweeping, fast corners where it’s not as tough to put the power down like it is at Sonoma. It’s also just more of a momentum racetrack, so there’s a lot of speed at Watkins Glen versus the finesse that you have to have at Sonoma to be successful.”
While you don’t have a Sprint Cup win at Watkins Glen, you do have one at Sonoma. So you obviously know how to get it done on the road courses.
“I don’t know what it is about Watkins Glen. My success at Sonoma just hasn’t translated to The Glen. I did finish second there back in 2010, and that was the year when the car cut the best in the corners.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine