Kurt Busch Prepares For A Tough Weekend At Phoenix

Kurt Busch & Gene Haas

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) heads into Sunday’s Can-Am 500k at Phoenix International Raceway ranked eighth in points, the lowest of those still in contention for the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. But while he may be down, he is certainly not out. He’ll look to a familiar source for a little inspiration this weekend as he hopes to see his championship run continue.

Sunday’s 500-kilometer event at Phoenix is the last race before the four drivers who will compete for the 2016 Sprint Cup championship are determined. And, for six drivers, this is their last chance to earn one of the two remaining berths to compete for the title next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Two of the four drivers that will comprise Homestead weekend’s Championship 4 have already been determined. Jimmie Johnson earned his berth two weeks ago by winning at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, while Carl Edwards earned his Sunday night thanks to his victory at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Only race-winning drivers from the Round of 8 have locked themselves into the Championship 4, so the other six drivers including Busch will look to advance via a race win Sunday or by being the among the highest remaining drivers in the point standings.

For Busch, whose fandom of the 2016 World Series-champion Chicago Cubs is well documented, he’ll look to his team’s recent playoff run as a huge source of inspiration. He was just a kid in Las Vegas when he adopted Chicago sports teams as his own, and his love for them hasn’t faded one iota through the years. So, as his own 2016 championship battle has played out, once his on-track obligations were complete, his focus would shift to his beloved baseball team and the eventual end of its 108-year title drought.

The Cubs, in one of the most dramatic World Series games ever played, knocked off the Cleveland Indians by a score of 8-7 in 10 innings of Game 7 of the 112th World Series. With that, the Cubs became the first team since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates to come back from a three-games-to-one deficit to win Games 6 and 7 on the road.

So, Busch knows full well that being down certainly does not mean you’re out. But for his 2016 championship run to continue, he’ll need to rally just as his Cubs did. Currently eighth in points, Busch’s best chance to clinch a Championship 4 berth is with a victory Sunday. He could lock himself in via points, as well, but he would need some serious help. So, Busch and his Tony Gibson-led team will focus on the former instead of the latter, and approach the race with a “win and we’re in” mentality. And, at a race where both Busch and Gibson have scored significant victories, they’d be hard to count out as a threat to do just that.

For Busch, his lone career Phoenix victory came in April 2005. It was his first win that season, and it came in the inaugural Phoenix spring event. In addition to his victory, Busch also owns six top-five finishes and 16 top-10s there. For Gibson, Phoenix was the site of his first win at the helm of a Sprint Cup team. In April 2010, he guided Ryan Newman and the No. 39 team to victory lane for SHR’s first victory at the desert oval.

Knowing a win would guarantee their presence in the Championship 4 next weekend, Busch and the No. 41 team know it will be imperative to put all their energy, focus and determination on doing whatever it takes to put the Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet in victory lane Sunday.


KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing: 
What do you feel you need to work on at Phoenix to continue the success you’ve had there?

“It seems like, each time we go back to Phoenix, the asphalt is getting a little bit older. It’s starting to get a little bit slicker, yet it still seems like you can stay out forever on tires. You are out there a long time on tires and the air pressures build up. We are going to work this time around on keeping the air pressure down and trying to make our long-run speed better.”

What makes Phoenix such a unique racetrack?

“It’s got a great atmosphere there with turns one and two being much tighter than turns three and four. They reconfigured the dogleg on the back straightaway, which is a huge corner now. It opens up the ability to go way below the yellow line. Sometimes you see cars five-wide on the back straightaway. That is definitely a wild card in the mix there.”

Monster Energy/Haas Automation Racing Team Report
Round 35 of 36 – Can-Am 500k – Phoenix
Car No.: 41 – Monster Energy/Haas Automation 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 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. 977
Kurt Busch will pilot Chassis No. 977 in Sunday’s Can-Am 500k at Phoenix International Raceway. Built new for 2016, Chassis 977 saw its first laps of competition in March at Phoenix, where Busch finished sixth. Chassis No. 977 was then raced at Richmond International Raceway in April, where Busch contended for the win but finished 10th after a lengthy, late-race pit stop. Chassis No. 977 next raced at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in June, where Busch overcame team and fuel challenges to earn his 28th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. Chassis No. 977 raced again at Pocono in August, when Busch finished 10th in the rain-delayed, rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400. Chassis No. 977 was most recently utilized at Richmond in September, when Busch finished eighth in the final event of the 2016 regular season.​


Phoenix International Raceway Notes of Interest:
  • Kurt Busch has career totals of 28 wins, 21 poles, 124 top-five finishes and 242 top-10s in 574 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts heading into Sunday’s Can-Am 500k at Phoenix International Raceway. 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 Can-Am 500k will mark Busch’s 28th career Sprint Cup start at Phoenix. Busch has one win, six top-five finishes and 16 top-10s at the mile oval. Additionally, the 38-year-old driver has led 750 laps, has an average starting position of 12.1, an average finish of 13.4, and has completed 99.5 percent (8,374 of 8,413) of the laps he’s contested there.
  • Previous Win – Busch has one career Sprint Cup win at Phoenix, which came in April 2005. It was his first victory that season, when the Phoenix event was run in the spring for the first time, and the 12th of Busch’s career.
  • Leading The Way at Phoenix – Busch’s 750 laps led at Phoenix are the third-most that the Las Vegas native has led at any track on the Sprint Cup circuit. The only tracks where he’s led more are Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (1,062) and Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (806).
  • Busch has made one NASCAR Xfinity Series start and one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Phoenix. He finished fourth in both.
  • The Las Vegas native has 21 career Sprint Cup poles. Busch has never won a pole at Phoenix. His best start there is second, where he has started three times.
  • A Place of Firsts – Crew chief Tony Gibson’s first win at the helm of a Sprint Cup team came at Phoenix on April 10, 2010. He was calling the shots for Ryan Newman and the No. 39 team and the win was also the first for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) at the desert oval.
  • Busch has wins at each of the remaining Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship tracks. He has one apiece at Phoenix and at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  • Thus Far in 2016 – Busch has accumulated one win, two poles, eight top-five finishes and 20 top-10s in 34 starts.
  • Get to the Points – With his 20th-place finish Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Busch fell one position to eighth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship standings. He faces a 34-point deficit to fourth-place driver Kyle Busch.
  • SHR at Phoenix – In 42 overall starts at Phoenix, SHR-prepared Chevrolets have earned one pole, five wins, 13 top-five finishes and 19 top-10s, have been atop the leaderboard for 1,308 laps, and have completed 97 percent of the laps contested (12,505 of 12,894).
  • SHR in 2016 – 34 races into the 2016 season, SHR’s four Sprint Cup entries have recorded six wins, three poles, 28 top-five finishes and 54 top-10s. SHR Chevrolets have completed 38,752 of 39,724 laps contested, and collectively have led 1,609 laps.


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