When Kurt Busch takes to the track at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Food City 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, his No. 41 Ford Fusion will sport a bit of a different look as Haas Automation, the largest CNC (computer numerically controlled) machine-tool builder in North America, will highlight Demo Day 2017 that will be held May 10 at local Haas Factory Outlets (HFOs) nationwide.
The annual event provides HFOs an opportunity to feature the latest CNC machines, innovations, and technology from Haas Automation. Showcased will be machine-cutting demonstrations and educational seminars to explain how the latest Haas machines and options can help make current Haas users, potential customers, and anyone in the manufacturing industry learn how the latest Haas machines can help a business be more productive, efficient, and profitable.
Fittingly, Busch will begin his promotion of Demo Days at one of the smallest racetracks on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tour, where races tend to include numerous accidents and have, at times, resembled a different kind of demo day. It’s been one of the best tracks on the circuit for the veteran driver over his career, having won there five times. But it’s also been a place that has seen Busch struggle to reclaim some of his past successes in his return trips.
Busch earned his first career NASCAR Cup Series win at Bristol in March 2002. It came in only his third outing there, making him the driver with the fewest starts at “Thunder Valley” to record his first win at the high-banked, concrete oval.
But his Bristol success didn’t stop there. He went on to win in three of his next four visits by sweeping both the March and August Cup Series races in 2003, and winning again in March 2004.
His incredible three-race win streak made him one of just four drivers to have accomplished the feat at Thunder Valley. Fred Lorenzen was the first, winning the fall race in 1963 and following that with a season sweep in 1964. Cale Yarborough is the second driver to record three straight wins – and he added a fourth for good measure – sweeping both the 1976 and 1977 seasons. Darrell Waltrip became the third to win three or more races in a row when he reeled off seven consecutive wins, sweeping the 1981, 1982 and 1983 seasons, and also winning the spring race in 1984.
Busch’s most recent win at Bristol came in March 2006 and he’s had runs since that could have given him his sixth victory there, but circumstances have prevented him from sealing the deal. In fact, since joining Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, Busch has found himself on more than one occasion in position to return to his winning ways at Bristol.
In the 2015 running of the Food City 500, Busch led six times for 98 laps. But when the caution flag flew for a five-car incident on lap 482, Busch headed for pit road while most of the others up front at that point in the race did not. Busch restarted sixth but, barely a dozen laps later, was collected in a multicar accident.
In his most-recent Bristol start, Busch lined up second for a lap-372 restart. Coming off turn two, he passed Joey Logano for the lead. However, Busch got loose in front of Logano, and contact between the two set off an 11-car incident that would see the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion’s race end early.
Busch heads to Thunder Valley looking to return to the form to which he is so accustomed. Despite a string of bad luck since winning this year’s season-opening Daytona 500, Busch and his No. 41 team have scored three top-10 finishes in the first seven races. Their goals remain the same – scoring another early season victory, accumulating playoff points and returning to victory lane at Bristol.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
There’s always beating and banging at a short track. What’s acceptable and what isn’t?
“It depends on who it is. It depends what’s on the line, what time of the race it is. We’ll see. With these new segments this year, you might throw a door ding in there, a donut on somebody trying to get a stage win. But then, you can’t risk too much and you don’t want damage for the rest of the race that will hurt you long term. So, it’s a balance. But, honestly, it’s good old short-track racing. There should be no problem in it.”
If you inadvertently get into someone, do you try to right that wrong so it doesn’t come back and bite you later?
“Again, it depends upon the circumstances, but, yes. Usually you’re trying to keep your eye on the main prize, which is victory lane at the end of the day. If you have a run-in early in the race, that guy is going to be trying to find you, or you’re looking over your shoulder. If somebody did me wrong, you’re going to be after that guy. But there are still bigger prizes out there.”
Talk a little bit about returning to Bristol this weekend driving an SHR-prepared Ford Fusion.
“To me, getting around Bristol is all about low-end torque and being able to jump out of the corner with a lot of speed. Doug Yates (engine builder) seems to have the right package for that at Bristol. Joey Logano has won a couple of races there recently. Brad Keselowski has been strong, as well. The Roush cars seem to run well every time we go there.”