Kurt Busch finished fifth in the spring races at Dover (Del.) International Raceway, second at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and fifth at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
If he repeats those finishes, he should easily advance to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR playoffs. And he is off to a good start. He finished fifth at Dover in last weekend’s Round of 12 opener and now heads to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway sixth in the standings, 21 points ahead of the Round of 8 cutoff.
While he would like another second-place finish at Talladega this weekend, he would love to find victory lane in Alabama.
Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), was runner-up to Joey Logano at the 2.66-mile oval in April, and he’s finished third there four times – April 2001, 2002 and 2007, and October 2006.
He’s won a restrictor-plate race before – the Daytona 500 in February 2017 on the high banks of Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. And, he’s won at every other type of racetrack on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
From the shortest racetrack – Martinsville (Va.) Speedway – to a road-course victory at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, to Daytona, Busch has found victory. He’s won on racetracks ranging in length from .526 of a mile, .533 of a mile, .75 of a mile, 1 mile, 1.5 miles, 1.99 miles, 2 miles and 2.5 miles. He’s celebrated in victory lane at the high-banked ovals and flat tracks. He even won the championship in 2004.
Busch has won at 15 of the 23 racetracks on the Cup Series schedule, but Talladega is now his focus.
Talladega is one of only two racetracks on the NASCAR 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 at Daytona are ones literally anyone can win. Horsepower-choked engines require drivers to draft together, side-by-side, at speeds approaching 200 mph.
The key point for Busch’s crew chief Billy Scott is to give his driver a good-handling racecar, while Roush-Yates Engines must give Busch a Ford engine with a lot of horsepower.
And hopefully score Busch a big playoff win.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk a little bit about racing at Talladega.
“It’s so difficult to predict Talladega. You can ride around in the back or charge up front all day and, either way, your day can end with your car on the hook. You just hope to have Lady Luck guide you to a good finish. Restrictor-plate races have turned into this pattern that it is hard to have any type of advantage over any other team. It just comes down to being in the right place at the right time.”
Restrictor-plate racing has been described as a 200-mph chess match. How would you describe it?
“That’s pretty much it. You’ve got to be able to know the draft, understand the draft, use the draft, block other guys, find holes, make holes. It’s definitely a chess game because you’re always thinking three or four steps ahead. It’s tough to get caught up when you make a mistake. You’ve got to quickly get rid of that and put together a new plan. At the end of the race, everybody is saving their best for the end. Cars are just going everywhere. The plan you thought you had, you’ve got to make a new one. You’ve got to go on the fly.”
In order to be successful in a restrictor-plate race, you need some assistance from other drivers. How do you get that assistance when every driver out there is trying to beat one another?
“Cash? I don’t know. There are certain guys you know to draft with. There are certain guys you know they’re going to be tough. There are certain guys you might see work their way up, like the Fords always come on strong. The Roush cars are always there. The Penske cars have been tough the last five, six years at the restrictor-plate races. So, you just get a gauge as the race goes on who’s been up front all day. But you’ve got to keep track of the guys who have been hanging out in the back and they’re going to show up at the end.”