Kurt Busch Hopes History Will Repeat Itself At Louden

Kurt Busch & Gene Haas

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) enters this weekend’s New England 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon ranked 10th in the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship standings.

 

The second race of the 10-race playoff that will crown the 2016 champion will be contested at the 1.058-mile oval that helped Busch make his Sprint Cup championship dreams a reality in 2004. Busch hopes history will repeat itself this weekend and that, once again, the “Magic Mile” lives up to its moniker in helping him get one step closer to being crowned the Sprint Cup champion for a second time.

Busch led 155 laps and drove away from Matt Kenseth Sept. 19, 2004 at New Hampshire to win the first race in the first Chase. The historic victory would be the first of six top-five and nine top-10 finishes the Las Vegas native would rack up during that year’s 10-race playoff.

But the Chase format has changed drastically since then. What was then a true, 10-race series that would determine the champion is now a series of three elimination rounds during which the field of 16 drivers is narrowed to 12, then eight, and then to the final four who will compete for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

While a Chase driver cannot be eliminated from contention this weekend at New Hampshire, he can guarantee his championship hopes continue by scoring a win, as race winners from each round automatically advance to the next round. Busch would like nothing more than to pick up his second win of the season this weekend at New Hampshire and head to the final race of the Round of 16 without worry. But, with the rest of the teams advancing by total points accumulated, he knows a strong finish would also go a long way toward ensuring his advancement into the Round of 12.

In 31 Sprint Cup starts at New Hampshire, Busch has three victories – July and September 2004, and June 2008 – seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. While the finishes there of late have not shown the success of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation team, performances have been strong.

So, as Busch sets his sights on advancing throughout the Chase, he is also looking to rekindle the magic he’s shown at New Hampshire by capturing his fourth career Sprint Cup win there and guaranteeing his advancement into the Round of 12.

 

KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing: 
Are the challenges at New Hampshire the same as always, or does the track change over the years?

“It seems like it has changed a little bit toward the end of the race with a lot of aggressive restarts. That is when you gain positions, or it’s easy to lose positions. Everybody is out there elbows out, pushing hard, and you hope to not have trouble.”

 

What do you need your car to do really well at New Hampshire to have a chance to win?

“It’s got to be able to cut in the center of the corner, cut underneath guys, look to get to that bottom lane and drive up off the corner and get side-by-side with guys. That way you have position on corner exit.”

 

What are the pressures on a crew chief at New Hampshire?

“It seems more about a strategy now and knowing what we did the previous race, what we did the year before and sticking with that sequence based off of what the car’s current handling conditions are. It seems like the tracks and the tires aren’t matching up as well anymore and you’ve just got to stick with your strategy to even it out.”

 

Is there a role any greater for a spotter than at a track like New Hampshire?

“It’s a short-track atmosphere so the spotters definitely have more responsibility, but it’s not any different than any race weekend. You are there to do well and stay focused. You need every part of your team clicking on all eight cylinders.”

 

How do you approach this weekend’s race at New Hampshire?

“I feel like it’s a great track that is very comparable to Phoenix, and we get there in the final round, and so you hope that you have a good run at Loudon because that will bridge it to Phoenix. There, you just go to find the right success value. If you have a chance to win, go for it. The main objective there is to gain points.”

 

It seems like New Hampshire has bitten some of the Chase drivers the past few seasons. Why do you think that is?

“We have a really hard tire there and, when you have a really hard tire, you stretch it on fuel mileage and guys run out of fuel.”

 

With this being the third year of the Chase with the elimination format, how does the level intensify and how is that different from when it was just the 10 races? Obviously, there’s always a lot of intensity and pressure toward the end. Is it that much different in this format? 

 

“I think, speaking off my experience, the way to define the old Chase was a 10-week plateau of, ‘You’ve got to ramp up when the Chase starts,’ and you’ve got to hold that for 10 weeks. This system, it can go up and down like a heartbeat from Chicago to New Hampshire to Dover and back to Kansas. But if you have a smooth Chase, this one just ramps up at a linear pace. So, the first round, a team like we are – the Monster Energy/Haas Automation team, Stewart-Haas Racing – we’re a power team, we should be able to go out there and do our job as normal the first round and make it to the next round. Then you ramp it up. Then you ramp it up again. Then, at Homestead, you know, you don’t hold back anything.”

Monster Energy/Haas Automation Racing Team Report
Round 28 of 36 – New England 300 – New Hampshire
Car No.: 41 – Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet

Teammates: Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 ditech Chevrolet SS

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS

At-Track PR Contact: Rory Connellan, True Speed Communication (704-875-3388 ext. 811, Rory.Connellan@TrueSpeedCommunication.com)
Primary Team Members:
Driver: Kurt Busch
Hometown: Las Vegas
Crew Chief: Tony Gibson
Hometown: Daytona Beach, Florida
Car Chief: Chad Haney
Hometown: Fairmont, West Virginia
Engine Builder: Hendrick Motorsports
Headquarters: Concord, North Carolina
Engine Specialist: Stephen Raynor
Hometown: Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Spotter: Rick Carelli
Hometown: Denver
Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
Gas Man: Rick Pigeon
Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont
Front Tire Changer: Shane Pipala
Hometown: Frankfort Square, Illinois
Second Gas Man: Justin Wilson
Hometown: St. Paul, Minnesota
Front Tire Carrier: Jon Bernal
Hometown: Holland, Michigan
Windshield: Jay Guarneri (also serves as interior mechanic)
Hometown: Naples, Florida
Rear Tire Changer: Coleman Dollarhide
Hometown: Hickory, North Carolina
Jackman: Sean Cotten
Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina
Rear Tire Carrier: Dwayne Moore
Hometown: Griffin, Georgia
Road Crew Members:
Truck Driver: Todd Cable and Rocky Boggs
Hometowns: Shelby, North Carolina, and Burlington, North Carolina
Tire Specialist: Jeff Zarrella
Hometown: Southington, Connecticut
Shock Specialist: Brian Holshouser
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
Engineers: Johnny Klausmeier and Mike Cook
Hometowns: Perry Hall, Maryland, and Annapolis, Maryland
Mechanic: Shawn Warren
Hometown: Concord, North Carolina
Mechanic: Andy Spenner
Hometown: Hoyleton, Illinois
Chassis No. 828
Kurt Busch will pilot Chassis No. 828 in Sunday’s New England 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Formerly a No. 10 chassis for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate Danica Patrick, Chassis No. 828 debuted in November 2013 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Patrick started 24th and finished 20th. It was then put to use in March 2014 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where she started 22nd and finished 21st. It raced two weeks later at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, where Patrick started 27th and finished 14th. Chassis No. 828 last raced at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in May 2014, where Patrick started seventh and finished 10th. Chassis No. 828 was prepared and carried numerous times throughout the rest of the 2014 season as a backup car but didn’t see its first laps of action until May 2015 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Busch was on his way to scoring a top-10 finish at Dover but it wasn’t meant to be when, with just 14 laps remaining, contact between Clint Bowyer and Denny Hamlin proved unavoidable. The No. 41 was clipped by the spinning car of Hamlin and sent hard into the outside retaining wall, resulting in a 31st-place finish. Since then, Chassis No. 828 was fitted with a new body and front clip. Chassis No. 828 was utilized in a preseason tire test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and saw its first laps of 2016 at New Hampshire in July, when Busch had a strong run, but his 22nd-place finish didn’t reflect the effort of the No. 41 team.

 

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Notes of Interest:
  • Kurt Busch has career totals of 28 wins, 21 poles, 122 top-five finishes and 238 top-10s in 567 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts heading into Sunday’s New England 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. His most recent Sprint Cup win came at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in June. With the win, Busch moved into a tie for 25th on the all-time series win list with NASCAR Hall of Famer Rex White.
  • Sunday’s New England 300 will mark Busch’s 32nd career Sprint Cup start at New Hampshire. Busch has three wins, seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s at the 1.058-mile oval. Additionally, the 38-year-old driver has led 541 laps, has an average starting position of 11.8, an average finish of 16.2, and has completed 95.9 percent (8,807 of 9,187) of the laps he’s contested there.
  • Previous Winner – Busch has raced his way to victory lane at New Hampshire on three occasions. He overcame a 32nd-place qualifying result to earn his first win at New Hampshire in July 2004. His second came less than two months later to complete that year’s sweep. His most recent New Hampshire Sprint Cup win came in a rain-shortened event in July 2008. He led only 10 laps, but they turned out to be the most important laps as they were the final 10 of the 284 run that day.
  • Busch’s three New Hampshire wins tie him with Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart as the winningest active Sprint Cup Series drivers at the track.
  • Busch swept both races at New Hampshire in 2004. Only one other driver has swept both New Hampshire races in a single season – Johnson in 2003. Busch and Johnson are the only two drivers to have posted consecutive wins at New Hampshire.
  • Busch won the Camping World Truck Series race at Loudon in July 2000. He started fifth and led 35 laps en route to the win in his only Truck Series start at New Hampshire.
  • New Hampshire is one of 10 racetracks of the 23 on the Sprint Cup circuit where Busch has never captured a Sprint Cup pole. Busch’s best starting position is second, where he has started twice (July 2007 and 2013).
  • Thus Far in 2016 – Busch has accumulated one win, two poles, six top-five finishes and 15 top-10s in 27 starts.
  • Get to the Points – With his 13th-place finish Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, Busch advanced two positions to 10th in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship point standings. He is 19 markers behind leader Martin Truex Jr.
  • Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) at New Hampshire – In 42 overall starts at New Hampshire, SHR-prepared Chevrolets have earned two wins (Stewart and Newman in 2011), nine top-five finishes and 17 top-10s, have been atop the leaderboard for 948 laps, and have completed 97.7 percent of the laps contested (12,314 of 12,598).
  • SHR in 2016 – 27 races into the 2016 season, SHR’s four Sprint Cup entries have recorded four wins, two poles, 24 top-five finishes and 46 top-10s. SHR Chevrolets have completed 29,864 of 30,580 laps contested, and collectively have led 1,504 laps.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

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