Kurt Busch: Are “The Playoffs” here?

Kurt Busch

With his victory in the season-opening Daytona 500, Kurt Busch pretty much solidified his spot in the NASCAR Playoffs for 2017.

And much like a baseball team that gets a huge lead in the division in May and doesn’t lose it, there is a feeling of, “Are the playoffs finally here? We’re, um, ready to play.”

For Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), the time is now as the playoffs start with Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.

Busch won the Cup Series title in 2004 during the first season of what was then known as the NASCAR Chase for the Championship.

The original 10-driver, 10-race Chase format has evolved into what is now a 16-driver playoff format involving three, three-race rounds and a winner-take-all championship among the final four drivers to advance. So, consistency and success are keys.

Busch will start this year’s playoffs 12th in points. This is his fifth consecutive playoff appearance and his 11th overall. After winning the championship in 2004, he finished 10th in 2005, seventh in 2007, fourth in 2009, 11th in 2010 and 2011, 10th in 2013, 12th in 2014, eighth in 2015 and seventh in 2016.

In 16 Sprint Cup Series starts at Chicagoland, Busch has two top-five finishes and nine top-10s. His best finish at the 1.5-mile track came in 2015, when he brought home a third-place finish. He overcame a flat tire on lap 86 and a green-flag pit stop that put him a lap down to still contend for the win. However, a late-race caution took away what appeared to be a sure win and an automatic advance into the next round of the playoffs for Busch and the No. 41 team.

And Busch heads into this year’s playoffs with a solid record in the last few weeks of the regular season. He has scored three consecutive top-five finishes and hasn’t placed lower than 13th in the last six races.

Busch, his crew chief Tony Gibson and the entire No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation team would love to bring SHR its third championship.

And it starts at Chicagoland this weekend. Here we go.

KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

You have a lot of connections to Chicago. Talk about that.

“Both my mom and dad were born in the Chicagoland area. My grandfather lived downtown and was a big Chicago Cubs fan. I remember growing up and going to his house and seeing all of his Cubs stuff. And then in (Las) Vegas, where I grew up, we had WGN-TV and it was cool to be connected to the Cubs at an early age. I still have aunts and uncles in the Chicago area. The Busches moved out to Vegas in the early 70’s. And that’s where Kyle (brother) and I were born and raised.”

Do you look at Chicago as another hometown race?

“It’s fun just with my affinity for Chicago. I love the town, the Chicago Cubs, the Bears. Over the years, I’ve met a lot of good people throughout the Illinois area. It does feel like a second home.”

What is the key to a good start in the playoffs?

“I think the key is having a strategy, sticking with it and staying calm. You might be a point or two ahead or a point or two behind, but you have to have a strategy. That’s what I remember about the year that I won and the years I was up in the top-five of the championship standings.”

How important is luck in the playoffs?

“Luck is definitely a key ingredient. You can’t do it without it. And being prepared for it is having the downforce at the levels that you need and the setup balanced properly with the simulation models. And making sure the driver feedback is there. Luck can be just as simple as, two weeks ago at Darlington, my teammate was faster than me on lap four of a run and I let him pass me, and then a yellow came out a lap later and I was like, ‘Oh man.’ And then we were on the wrong side for the restart. So that was like a double-whammy. Lose a position and then you’re in the worst lane for the restart. If you’re making a championship run, things come at you when you don’t even know it. And that’s when you end up in the right lane on a restart or somebody gives you a spot. First thing you think about is having a smooth race. If you’re running eighth, next thing you know you’re running fourth. And you think, “How’d that happen?’ Those are the days championships happen.”

The 1.5-mile ovals all look the same but are completely different. How is Chicagoland?

“They’re all very different. It’s all about the asphalt and grip level. And the tire that Goodyear is bringing for us to all race on. It’d be very interesting to all get to choose what sets of tires we all wanted to race on for grip levels. Chicago is very similar to Homestead and it’s similar to Atlanta that we run earlier in the year. Very worn-out mile-and-a-half that chews up tires and you have to be nice to your tires.”

Monster Energy/Haas Automation Racing Team Report
Round 27 of 36 –  Tales of the Turtle 400 – Chicagoland


Car No.: 41 – Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion


PR Contact: Joe Crowley, True Speed Communication (704) 875-3388 ext. 808 or Joe.Crowley@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: Roush-Yates Engines
Headquarters: Mooresville, North Carolina


Engine Specialist: Todd Hamm
Hometown: Kutztown, Pennsylvania


Spotter: Tony Raines
Hometown: LaPorte, Indiana

Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
Gas Man: Rick Pigeon
Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont
Front Tire Changer: Shane Pipala
Hometown: Frankfort Square, Illinois

Second Gas Man: Matt Schlytter

Hometown: Ponte Vedra, Florida

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: J.D. Frey
Hometown: Ferndale, California


Mechanic: Andy Spenner
Hometown: Hoyleton, Illinois
Chassis No. 1016:
Kurt Busch will pilot Chassis No. 1016 in Sunday’s Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. The car has not run in 2017, but was tested at Chicagoland last month.
Chicagoland Notes of Interest:

·   The Tales of the Turtles 400 will mark Kurt Busch’s 603nd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 17th career NASCAR Cup Series start at Chicagoland. Busch has two top-five finishes and nine top-10s at the 1.5-mile oval. Additionally, the 39-year-old driver has led 104 laps, has an average starting position of 19.1, an average finish of 15.4, and has completed 93.4 percent (3,995 of 4,278) of the laps he’s contested there.


·   Busch has career total totals of 29 wins, 21 poles, 130 top-fives, 256 top-10s and 8,874 laps led in 602 starts.


·   His most recent Cup Series win came 26 races ago in the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (Feb. 26).


·   His last Cup Series pole came 58 races ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway(March 4, 2016).


·   Busch’s best finish at Chicagoland came in 2015, when he came home third. Busch overcame a flat tire on lap 86 and a green-flag pit stop that put him a lap down to still contend for the win. However, a late-race caution took away what appeared to be a sure win and an automatic advance into the next round of the playoffs for Busch and the No. 41 team.


·   While Busch only has two top-five finishes at Chicagoland, he has nine top-10s. Each of those have either come by placing sixth or eighth, with the exceptions being the fourth-place finish he scored in 2013 and third-place result in 2015.


·   The Las Vegas native has 21 career Sprint Cup poles. Busch has never won a pole at Chicagoland. His best start there is second – in July 2002.


·   In his lone NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Chicagoland on July 8, 2006, Busch started third and finished sixth driving the No. 39 entry for Penske Racing. Busch also has a third-place finish at Chicagoland in his lone International Race of Champions race at the 1.5-mile racetrack.


·   Thus Far in 2017 – Busch has accumulated one win, five top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 26 starts.


·   Get to the Points – With his fourth-place finish Saturday at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, Busch enters the playoffs at Chicagoland 12th in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings with 2,005 points and is 48 behind series leader Martin Truex Jr.


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