KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – The nickname “Hotlanta” is often used in reference to the Atlanta nightlife and the abundance of activities in which to participate while in the popular Southern city. To a lesser degree, the nickname also refers to the hot summer temperatures typical in the Southeast.
This weekend, the nickname “Hotlanta” could certainly apply to Kurt Busch and his recent performances in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has three Sprint Cup wins – October 2002, March 2009, March 2010 – and 10 top-10 finishes in 23 starts at Atlanta. Perhaps more importantly, in his last five starts at the 1.54-mile oval, Busch hasn’t finished worse than 13th. In fact, the Las Vegas native has secured one win, two fourth-place finishes, one sixth-place effort and a 13th-place finish in those five races.
It’s easy to see that Busch is red hot when it comes to racing in Atlanta.
And with a third-place run two weeks ago at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and a fifth-place finish this past weekend at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Busch is riding a wave of momentum into this weekend’s Oral-B USA 500 that he hopes to continue.
The No. 41 team officially clinched a berth in the 2014 Chase thanks to Busch’s win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March. A win at Atlanta this weekend also would move Busch ahead of the four other single-race winners of the 2014 season thus far. The 16 drivers who qualify for the Chase will have their point total 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.
With this weekend’s Atlanta race also falling on Labor Day weekend – an annual national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country – Busch has added incentive to improve on his recent successes and find his way to victory lane.
A win on the Labor Day weekend race would also be the perfect way to salute the people and all of their hard work behind the American success story that is Busch’s sponsor Haas Automation. With more than 1,200 employees, Haas Automation – whose products are manufactured at the company’s expansive facility in Oxnard, California – is the largest, most modern machine tool manufacturing operation in the United States.
This weekend, Busch hopes to turn up the heat and take control in “Hotlanta.” With just two regular-season races remaining before the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship begins, Busch would like nothing more than to drive his No. 41 Haas Automation Chevy into victory lane, scoring his second win of the season and securing valuable bonus points for the onset of the Chase.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk a little bit about racing at Atlanta.
“It’s a tough, tough race. Especially now that it’s on Labor Day weekend with it being so hot there. The track is very greasy, it’s very hot. The asphalt is worn out, and the tires have a hard time maintaining pace. All of those factors combined make this a very challenging race. I won a couple of spring races in a row at Atlanta in 2009 and 2010, but those races were when it was nice and cool out. It’s a very different racetrack in cool and hot conditions. The practice sessions seem very limited when we’re there, so you’ve got to unload fast and stay fast.”
So this is a place where the driver may play a bigger role than the aerodynamics typically needed at most intermediate tracks?
“I think so. It’s an intermediate track because of its size and the banking, but it really is more of a driver’s track because you have a lot to balance there – aerodynamics, pit strategy and tire management.”
What’s the most difficult thing about Atlanta?
“I think one of the biggest things that can be tough at Atlanta is getting your car to handle in turns three and four. It’s very specific. You really need the car to hook at the bottom of three and four, particularly when you’re on fresh tires. If you have a car that can run the bottom close to wide open in three and four, then that’s when you can separate yourself to be a race-winning contender.”
You have often said that Atlanta is one of your favorite tracks. Why is that?
“It’s just because of the tire management element the track brings into the equation. If you take a look at them, most of the tracks that are in the Southeastern part of the United States really chew up the tires. Charlotte used to be that way before the track was repaved, and it’s starting to come back to that. You have Darlington, which has that reputation and, even though we don’t race there anymore, Rockingham is another track that was like that. And then you have Atlanta. It’s just one of those tracks. It’s fast. It chews up tires and you have to run up by the wall to manage your tires the best.”
- Jonathan Paluga
Director of Marketing & Sales
Armor All & STP Brands