Kurt Busch Heads To Talladega Knowing It Is A Toss Of The Dice

Kurt Busch pit stop

When asked how he attacks Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) said one word:.


Then, he added: “You rub the Buddha, you find lady luck, you say all your prayers and you hope you can get through.”

Despite holding a 17-point advantage over ninth-place driver Austin Dillon in the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, Busch and his No. 41 team know they’re headed to a racetrack where anything can happen and that, without a win in the first two of three races in this year’s Chase Round of 12, their advancement into the Round of 8 is far from guaranteed.

Talladega has always been considered the wild-card race of the Chase, where a driver’s fate is not entirely in his or her own hands. However, at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, host of the opening race in the Round of 12, a number of the drivers in contention for the 2016 Sprint Cup championship found trouble, prompting some to compare the carnage to that typically seen at Talladega. Fortunately for Busch, he was one of the drivers who brought home a solid finish, making him feel a little more comfortable than a lot of others heading to Talladega. Make that as comfortable as one can feel headed to a racetrack where all cars are essentially equal, and you’ve got to rely on your competitors to help you as you attempt to figure out which line to get in and who to work with.

Talladega is one of only two racetracks on the Sprint Cup circuit where restrictor plates are used. By definition, a restrictor plate is a device installed at the air intake of an engine to limit its power. The use of a restrictor plate is intended to both limit speed and increase safety with an eye toward equaling the level of competition. Races at Talladega and its sister track Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway are ones literally anyone can win. Horsepower-choked engines require drivers to draft together, side-by-side at speeds approaching 200 mph.

Some drivers elect to drop to the back of the pack and ride, waiting until the late stages of the race to make their move toward the front of the field. Other drivers will do whatever they can to stay at the front of the field throughout the race. Other drivers find themselves stuck in the middle, an area that can be somewhat of a disaster zone.

One driver will win the race. Some drivers will finish. Others will be involved in the almost inevitable “big one” – a multicar accident that typically eliminates multitudes of drivers prematurely. Busch hopes that he will be the winning driver for a couple of different reasons.

First, a superspeedway win is the only kind that has eluded Busch during his 17-year Sprint Cup career. With a victory this weekend, Busch would join an elite list of drivers who have won at every type of track on the Sprint Cup circuit: superspeedway, speedway, intermediate, short track and road course. But more importantly, it would do much more than that for the Las Vegas native’s 2016 championship hopes. A win this weekend would guarantee him a spot in the Round of 8.

After Sunday’s 188-lap race, eight of the 12 remaining Chase drivers will earn the chance to continue their playoff run beginning the following weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Busch hopes he will be one of those advancing, enabling his quest for a second Sprint Cup championship to continue.


KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing: 
You’ve won some of the non-points races at Daytona, but you haven’t won a points-paying race there or at Talladega, yet. What are your thoughts on heading to Talladega this weekend?

“I have yet to win one of the points-paying races at a restrictor-plate racetrack. This one is tough because it’s a Chase race. Winning versus finding a consistent finish is such a razor-blade edge versus wrecking. We can’t have a wreck take us out of advancing through the Chase. One year in the Chase, I tried going for a win, got spun at the end and I kicked myself for years afterward. In 2009, I was going for a win instead of just trying to ride it out for a better finish and it took me from second in points back to fourth in points. Over the years, Talladega has just turned into a points-gathering race in the fall.”


Is it possible to have a strategy at Talladega?

“It’s a matter of just trying to understand your surroundings early in the race. If people are getting crazy, you’ve got to get out of there, or you’ve got to get up front and be in that top-three. Where the congestion point is, it’s about fourth to eighth. Everybody wants to get out of that box and go forward, but that is where the guys are blocking really hard. It’s a tough balance. If there is a ‘big one’ and you are not in it, then that helps with understanding there are going to be fewer cars that are going to be competitive up toward the front.  Honestly, though, lady luck is really the dictator of how well you are going to do at Talladega.”


What are your thoughts on Talladega being an elimination race?
“It makes zero sense in my mind. I think it would be great to have Talladega as the cutoff to get into the Chase. I think we should switch Richmond and Talladega around. They are both owned by ISC, it won’t be too much of a problem and, that way, you have all the guys all year long who have earned their right to be in the Chase by a win and then there are those two, three or four who are trying to get in by points. Well, they need to know by race 25, not race 26, and then turn race 26 into the big gamble on who is going to get into the Chase or not. That way, that gamble isn’t part of the Chase.”

Haas Automation/Monster Energy Racing Team Report
Round 32 of 36 – Alabama 500 – Talladega

Car No.: 41 – Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet


Teammates: Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS

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

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 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. 965
Kurt Busch will pilot Chassis No. 965 in Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Built new for 2016, Chassis 965 debuted at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February in the Sprint Unlimited, when Busch finished seventh in the attrition-filled non-points race. It most recently raced at Daytona in July, when Busch was in position to challenge for his first points-paying restrictor-plate victory but was turned on the final turn of the final lap and relegated to a 23rd-place finish.


Talladega Superspeedway Notes of Interest:
  • Kurt Busch has career totals of 28 wins, 21 poles, 123 top-five finishes and 241 top-10s in 571 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts heading into Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. 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 wins list with NASCAR Hall of Famer Rex White.
  • The Alabama 500 will mark Busch’s 32nd career Sprint Cup start at Talladega. Busch has six top-five finishes and 16 top-10s at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. Additionally, the 38-year-old driver has led 150 laps, has an average starting position of 20.6, an average finish of 16.3, and has completed 95.4 percent (5,612 of 5,882) of the laps he’s contested there.
  • 28 Wins but No Superspeedway Victory – Yet: The 17-year Sprint Cup veteran has 28 Sprint Cup Series victories to his credit on 14 different racetracks. From a road course to short tracks, from high-banked ovals to flat tracks, Busch has won at every type of track on the circuit with the exception of one – a superspeedway. Busch did earn a 2012 Xfinity Series victory at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
  • Busch’s best finish at Talladega is third, where he has finished four times (April 2001, 2001, 2007 and October 2006).
  • The Las Vegas native has 21 career Sprint Cup poles. Busch has never won a pole at Talladega. His best start there is third, where he started in October 2010.
  • In two starts in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition at Talladega, Busch has one top-five finish and two top-10s.
  • Thus Far in 2016 – Busch has one win, two poles, seven top-five finishes and 19 top-10s in 31 starts.
  • Busch has won at all but three of the 10 Chase tracks. He is winless at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, Talladega and at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
  • Get to the Points – With his 13th-place finish Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Busch fell one position to sixth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship point standings. He is 20 markers behind leader Jimmie Johnson and has a 17-point cushion over ninth-place driver Austin Dillon.
  • Testing, Testing – Busch and the No. 41 team will spend Oct. 18 and 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway participating in a Goodyear tire test in preparation for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale.
  • Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) at Talladega – In 38 overall starts at Talladega, SHR-prepared Chevrolets have earned one top-five finish and 11 top-10s, have been atop the leaderboard for 136 laps, and have completed 96.2 percent of the laps contested (7,702 of 8,008).
  • SHR in 2016 – 31 races into the 2016 season, SHR’s four Sprint Cup entries have recorded six wins, three poles, 27 top-five finishes and 51 top-10s. SHR Chevrolets have completed 34,832 of 35,784 laps contested and collectively have led 1,608 laps.


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