Kurt Busch seems to like Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. And since he’s won there three times, for three different owners, he’s hoping he can score victory number four while driving the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
Busch first won at Pocono in July 2005 driving for Roush Fenway Racing, leading 131 of 203 laps after starting second. He then dominated in August 2007 driving for Roger Penske. He started second again but led 175 of 200 laps en route to victory at the 2.5-mile track known as the “Tricky Triangle.” Both those races were 500 miles in length.
In June 2016, driving for SHR, he started ninth and led 32 of 160 laps of the now 400-mile race to score his third Pocono victory.
Perhaps Busch’s success is tied to the track’s unique design. The triangular layout was designed by two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rodger Ward and remains unlike any other track in the world with three different corners each modeled after a different track.
Turn one, which is banked at 14 degrees, is modeled after the legendary Trenton (N.J.) Speedway. Turn two, banked at eight degrees, is a nod to the turns at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And turn three, banked at six degrees, is modeled after the corners at The Milwaukee Mile.
Busch’s first-ever NASCAR victory came on July 1, 2000 at Milwaukee when he started on the pole and led 156 of 200 laps to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Greg Biffle was third, while a young Jamie McMurray finished 31st. Joe Ruttman, who is the brother of Troy Ruttman, the 1952 Indianapolis 500 winner, finished 24th. Troy Ruttman competed against Ward 10 times in the Indianapolis 500 during the 1950s and 1960s.
The No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion will again be serviced by crew chief Tony Gibson, who won at Pocono in June 1992 with Alan Kulwicki and in July 1998 with Jeff Gordon. He served as car chief during both events. He was not on the pit box last June when Busch scored the victory at Pocono, but lead race engineer Johnny Klausmeier called the shots. Both he and Gibson will be back for this go-around with Gibson back as crew chief.
Both Busch and Gibson are hoping that they can score another victory in the Overton’s 400 Sunday to gain more points as just five races remain after Pocono until the NASCAR playoffs begin.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You’ve won three times at Pocono, but the 2007 win was so dominant. Can you describe that race?
“The win in 2007 with Penske Racing – that was the fastest car that I’ve ever driven. That car would turn, stick, drive down the straightaway – that car did everything. It didn’t have a single flaw. I knew how good that car was on the first lap of the race. I remember telling myself, ‘Don’t screw this up.’ I ran the rest of the race more nervous than I had in years prior. I’ve never dominated a race like that. We led 175 of 200 laps. That was, by far, the best car I have ever driven. It was a great race to show the balance of that team and the strength of where we were at that point. I think the 25 laps that we didn’t lead were from a bad pit stop at one point. My first win at Pocono in 2005 was pretty great, too. It’s fun to win at a racetrack that is so unique because of how different that track is compared to all the other oval tracks. Pocono is a little bit like Darlington in that all the corners are different, so you have to manage them the best that you can and not be perfect in one corner versus another.”
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you go to Pocono?
“How unique the place is. You drive in through the Tunnel Turn and that corner to me is one of the most unique corners of all the tracks that we go to. When you go to Pocono, the first thing you really think of is compromise – you have to juggle all three corners being different. It’s called the Tricky Triangle for a reason.”
Of the three turns, which is the most important to you and why?
“It’s weird, I’ve had winning cars there a few different times and turn two always feels the best when my car has a chance to go to victory lane. But, I think turn three, if you are able to pass cars and maneuver around them, you’ve got to get a good run off turn three to be ready to pass them in turn one. All of them are important. You can’t exclude one from another.”