Kurt Busch is 15th in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points. There is one race remaining before the playoff field is cut from 16 drivers to 12 and Busch is 17 points behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Austin Dillion, who are tied for 12th.
Because Busch is all in for Dover.
That’s the attitude of Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). That is also that attitude of Tony Gibson and his veteran crew.
It’s been done before – a driver on the verge of being eliminated scores a victory that propels him to the next round of the playoffs.
Busch doesn’t need to look that far as his SHR teammate Kevin Harvick has done it twice. In 2014, Harvick was in eighth place and all but eliminated but scored a huge victory at Phoenix International Raceway. Harvick locked himself into the final four at Homestead-Miami Speedway and went on to win the championship.
It happened again in 2015 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway where, again, Harvick was on the verge of elimination but led 355 of 400 laps to score a victory to advance to the next round.
That’s what Busch is hoping for going into Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400 at Dover.
Busch has conquered Dover once in his career – in October 2011. He pulled away from Jimmie Johnson on a pair of late-race restarts to earn his 24th NASCAR Cup Series victory.
Busch also owns nine top-10 finishes in 34 starts at the concrete oval known as the “Monster Mile,” where he’ll look to earn both his second career Dover victory and second of 2017 Sunday.
The hill is steep but Busch knows it can be climbed. Which is why they are “all-in” at Dover.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Are you “all-in” for Dover?
“It’s all-in. We’ll go there with everything we’ve got, like we have been. We’ve got to find the setup that will make that car cut, that will make it go through the center of the corner, and carry that speed on exit and give it our best.”
What is it about Dover that makes it such a challenging racetrack, and what do you have to do to be successful there?
“The tough thing about Dover is things happen so quickly. At any moment, at any time, somebody can spin in front of you or you can lose control off the corners and you are going to wreck. There is no real forgiveness about Dover. That is what makes it tough. To be good there, you have to be good on corner exit. The track really rubbers in so you can see the concrete change to black as the weekend progresses. On corner exit, you get really tight or really loose. The time I won there, I could almost hold it wide open on corner exit. That is what you’ve got to have.”
Do you feel it has earned its nickname?
“It’s called the Monster Mile for a reason – the track can chew up cars and spit them out. It’s because of those tough transitions into the corners with the high banking and even the high-banked straightaways. It’s tough to do that sharp of a turn on a mile racetrack. It’s like you literally jump down into the corner and then jump back up out of the corner onto the straightaway, and so those points of the track are the toughest part – the transition from straightaway to corner. It’s a fun track to drive.”
How physically demanding of a racetrack is Dover?
“You’re just on edge there and, the speed that you have to carry on corner exit, you’re right there at the wall every corner exit and you do it 800 times with 400 laps and two corner exits. That makes it tough. This race will wear you out, for sure, and you have to pace yourself.”
What’s it like heading off into turn one at Dover? Do you focus more on corner entry or exit there?
“The drop into turn one is definitely tough. It’s one of the biggest ones we encounter on the circuit. You have to have the car nice and soft when it lands, but then the suspension has to be rigid enough to not allow the car to hit too hard. It’s a nice balance that you have to find at Dover to be successful. Most importantly, though, it is getting that corner exit when the track rubbers in because you can’t get on the tight side.”