Kurt Busch Another Week, Another Top-10

The folks who cover and follow NASCAR are of course talking about the “Big Three.” Kevin Harvick has seven victories, Kyle Busch has six wins and Martin Truex Jr., has four checkered flags.

 

They make up the top-three in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points. But fourth on the list is Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).

 

Busch has 14 top-10 finishes and has been in the top-10 in points for 18 consecutive weeks, his longest such stretch since 2016. But he has yet to score a victory this year.

 

Fortunately for Busch, the night race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway is next on the schedule.

 

Busch has five wins, 10 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s at the .533-mile concrete oval and has led 1,062 laps in 35 career starts there.

 

He scored his first career NASCAR Cup Series win at Bristol in March 2002. He started 27th and led 89 laps en route to that maiden victory. It was only his third visit to the fast, high-banked oval, making him the only driver to record his first win at Bristol in fewer than four attempts.

 

His five career Bristol wins – March 2002 and 2003, August 2003, March 2004 and 2006 – is second best among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers at Bristol behind his younger brother Kyle Busch, who has seven wins there.

 

The elder Busch brother even completed a Bristol Cup Series sweep in 2003, winning both the spring and fall events. He started ninth and led 116 laps in March while starting fifth and leading 121 laps in August. In March 2004, Busch went on to record his third consecutive win at Bristol when he started 13th and led 119 laps on his way to victory lane.

 

He is one of four drivers to win three or more consecutive Cup Series races at Bristol. Fred Lorenzen won three in a row starting with the fall race in 1963, followed by a sweep of both 1964 events. Cale Yarborough won four in a row with sweeps in 1976 and 1977. Darrell Waltrip won seven in a row, with sweeps in 1981, 1982 and 1983, then a win at the March 1984 race.

 

Busch has led laps in 15 of his 35 career Cup Series starts at Bristol and he has led more than 100 laps four times, including three consecutive races – 116 in March 2003, 121 in August 2003, and 119 in March 2004. He’s hoping that Bristol will be his first win of the 2018 season with the playoffs just around the corner.

KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing: 
Talk about Bristol Motor Speedway – you’ve won there five times.

“I don’t know what it is about the track. My first couple times there, I was blown away by the speed and intensity of it. When I went back in the spring of 2002, everything slowed down and it was like I had a perfect manual on how to get around there. That was all brought to me by Jimmy Fenning (former crew chief from Roush-Fenway Racing). He really helped calm me down and told me the different points to look for. The biggest key is knowing when to run hard and when not to run hard. If you try to run hard every single lap, you’re not going to make it. There are certain points in the race when you run hard and there are certain points when you’re not necessarily cruising, but just trying to maintain the right pace. You go hard, and then you save a little bit and then you go hard again because you saved a little bit. It’s a matter of applying it at the right time.”

 

And changes to Bristol since you starting running there in 2002? You have driven everything there. 

“I haven’t won since they put in the transition banking, the way it goes from the low groove to the high groove. They ground the high groove and that seemed to backfire on what they were trying to accomplish. The outside groove is now the preferred groove. When it heats up with rubber, it’s like glue. But you have to wait for it. You have to wait for that rubber to get warm and grab the tires. In the end, though, it’s still the same characteristics of Bristol. Lap times are still in the 15-second range. The races I’ve won there, we were maintaining good lap times throughout the 100-lap run. And that’s still what it takes to win at Bristol.”

 

What do you like about how to approach a Bristol race?

“I like how you can attack the track in certain situations. And then you have to cruise in other situations. You always have to know your surroundings at Bristol. When someone is on your rear bumper, or if you are really trying to pressure somebody hard, is there a reason to be doing that? You have to be one with the track and then just digest where the other cars are around you.”

Bristol Notes of Interest:
· The Bass Pro Shop NRA Night Race will mark Kurt Busch’s 636th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 36th career NASCAR Cup Series start at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Busch has five wins, 10 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s at the .533-mile oval. Additionally, the 40-year-old driver has led 1,062 laps, has an average starting position of 17.2, an average finish of 15.1, and has completed 95 percent (16,679 of 17,527) of the laps he’s contested there.

 

· Busch has career totals of 29 wins, 25 poles, 134 top-fives, 272 top-10s and 9,311 laps led in 635 career starts.

 

· His most recent Cup Series win came 59 races ago in the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (Feb. 26, 2017).

 

· His last Cup Series pole came four races ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (July 20, 2018).

 

· Busch scored his first career NASCAR Cup Series win at Bristol in March 2002. He started 27th and led 89 laps en route to his first victory. It was only his third visit to the .533-mile, high-banked oval, making him the only driver to record his first win at Bristol in fewer than four attempts.

 

· Busch’s five Bristol wins (March 2002 and 2003, August 2003, March 2004 and 2006) put him two victories behind younger brother Kyle Busch as the winningest active NASCAR Cup Series driver at Bristol. Kyle Busch has seven victories at Bristol.

 

· The elder Busch brother completed the Bristol sweep in 2003, winning both the spring and fall NASCAR Cup Series events. He started ninth and led 116 laps in March while starting fifth and leading 121 laps in August. In March 2004, Busch went on to record his third consecutive win at Bristol when he started 13th and led 119 laps on his way to victory lane.

 

· Busch is one of four drivers to win three or more consecutive NASCAR Cup Series races at Bristol. Fred Lorenzen won three in a row starting with the fall race in 1963, followed by a sweep of both 1964 events. Cale Yarborough won four in a row with sweeps in 1976 and 1977. Darrell Waltrip won seven in a row, with sweeps in 1981, 1982 and 1983, then a win at the March 1984 race.

 

· Busch has led laps in 15 of his 35 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Bristol for a combined total of 1,062 laps. Busch led 278 laps in March 2010 and finished third. He has led more than 100 laps four times, including three consecutive races – March 2003 (116), August 2003 (121) and March 2004 (119).

 

· The Las Vegas native has one pole to his credit (August 2006) at Bristol.

 

· 9,000 and counting – By leading 98 laps in the April race at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, Busch became just the 21st driver to lead 9,000 laps in his NASCAR career. He is now 20th in the laps-led standings, having led 9,311 laps, and he’s 433 laps behind Buddy Baker while he is 209 laps ahead of 21st-place Denny Hamlin. Busch is fifth among active drivers in laps led.

 

· Get to the Points – With his sixth-place finish Sunday at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Busch is fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings with 750 points. He has three top-five finishes, 14 top-10s and 17 top-15s in 23 races.

 

· Busch has been in the top-10 in points for 18 consecutive weeks. The last time he was in the top-10 for 18 consecutive weeks was when he was in the top-10 for the first 27 races of the 2016 season. He’s been the top-five in points for four consecutive weeks. The last time that happened was in late 2016 between Dover (Del.) International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

TSC PR/Photo Credit Jerry Markland/Getty Images

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