KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – With five races remaining in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, this weekend’s GEICO 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway could be the most important to Kurt Busch.
The 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway is the lone stop in the final five on the circuit where Busch has failed to find to victory lane.
The driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has won on road courses and short tracks. He’s celebrated in victory lane at the high-banked ovals and flat tracks. He has had a seat at the head table at the year-end banquet.
His wins have come on tracks that are .526 of a mile, .533 of a mile, .75 of a mile, 1 mile, 1.5 miles, 1.99 miles and 2 miles in length.
With 25 Sprint Cup wins and the 2004 championship on his list of credits, a points-paying win at a restrictor-plate track is the one thing that has eluded Busch in his 15-year Sprint Cup career.
Busch has won in both the Sprint Unlimited and Budweiser Duel non-points races at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – both in 2011. He also has a 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series win at Daytona and a 2003 IROC victory at Talladega, but he has fallen short of grabbing the checkered flag in a points-paying Sprint Cup race at Daytona and Talladega.
While the Las Vegas native hasn’t won a Sprint Cup points-paying race at either restrictor-plate track on the schedule, he has come painfully close to winning many times. He has four top-three finishes at Talladega and six top-threes at Daytona, including runner-up results in the Daytona 500 in 2003, 2005 and 2008.
Just this past July, in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, Busch looked poised to finally break through and get that elusive victory. He led three times for a race-high 36 laps. With weather on the way, Busch was working the outside lane attempting to regain the lead when the race was red-flagged for the final time on lap 112 due to rain. He fell just short of victory once again and finished the race in third place.
This weekend, Busch will pilot that same chassis at Talladega, where he has six top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 27 starts.
With Busch no longer in contention to win another Sprint Cup championship this year, the Haas Automation driver has nothing to lose as his team tackles the always challenging Talladega circuit. Instead, Busch looks at this weekend as the perfect opportunity to finally get that win he so desperately desires.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk a little bit about racing at Talladega.
“It’s so difficult to predict Talladega. You can ride around in the back, or charge up front all day and, either way, your day can end with your car on the hook. You just hope to have Lady Luck guide you to a good finish. Restrictor-plate races have turned into this pattern that it is hard to have any type of advantage over any other team. It just comes down to being in the right place at the right time.”
What will it take for you to score your first win at Talladega this weekend and finally get a Superspeedway victory?
“Restrictor-plate races turn into more of a crapshoot. You see if your number is going to come up and be the lucky guy at the end of the day. The way you have to stay patient all day, stay out of trouble and be on the lucky side of things, it’s a tough combination to line up and get exactly right. Over the years, I’ve had good finishes. I just haven’t been able to break through for a Sprint Cup win at a superspeedway. But, you really can’t expect to win. You have to find little things that will help you have an advantage at the end of the race.”
If you were able to pull off another victory in these final races, which one do you look at and say, “That’s where I can get it done?”
“Talladega is probably our best shot. We’re still testing and pushing hard for Homestead – we’ll have a full-blown test session there. But I’m looking forward to going back to some of these racetracks. From where we were in the spring, we’ve learned a lot as a team. It’ll be good to cash in on that as the season winds down.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine