Hank Stram always liked Kansas City. The Gary Lew Wallace High School and Purdue University graduate was head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs from 1963 to 1974.
Stram led the Chiefs to two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl IV 23-7 over the Minnesota Vikings. He was made famous by wearing a microphone for NFL Films during the winning Super Bowl and telling the offense, “Just keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys.”
And, with the Chiefs on the goal line, calling for his favorite play, “65 toss power trap.”
So what does all this have to do with Kurt Busch? Nothing.
But Busch would like to matriculate his No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) all the way to victory lane Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. It’s one of only eight tracks on the schedule where he has not seen victory lane in his great career.
He’s won 29 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races and his first came at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Driving the No. 97 Ford, he found his way to the winner’s circle in just his third start at the .533-mile oval. It took 32 attempts at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway to find his way to victory lane, but he was finally able to do so in the 2017 season-opening Daytona 500.
At the eight mile-and-a-half venues where the NASCAR Cup Series competes, Busch has earned a total of six victories. They’ve come at four tracks – three at Atlanta Motor Speedway and one apiece at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Busch is still searching for victory lane at four – Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Kansas.
Busch has been running at the end of all but two of the races in which he’s competed at the 1.5-mile oval, the first non-finish coming prematurely with an engine failure in 2003, the other due to an accident in October 2014. And in addition to a pair of top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 23 starts there, Busch owns one pole at Kansas, having scored the top starting spot in June 2011. The Kansas pole was the first of three consecutive poles Busch scored that month.
So while “65 toss power trap” won’t do much for Busch at Kansas, he’s hoping he can formulate a big play to find victory lane.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Kansas hasn’t always been a strong racetrack for you but, as of late, that seems to be changing. Do you agree?
“Kansas has been a good track and a tough track. It’s fun to go race there and, with the way the tires change and the downforce has changed, I haven’t quite found that perfect combination to win. But, as of late, we consider it one of our strong tracks.”
What has been the key to your three top-10 finishes in three of your five most recent starts at Kansas?
“I think it’s a matter of being on the right pit strategy and understanding when to pit for the final time. Track position becomes so important at these fast mile-and-a-half tracks that, if you are stuck around 10th or 12th, there is no way to crack that top-five. You’ve got to be there before the final sequences start. But, honestly, a big part of it has been having this great car setup by Tony Gibson and everyone on the Haas Automation/Monster Energy team.”
What is one part of the racetrack or your driving style that you’ve had to work on at Kansas over the years?
“It always seems like turn four is the toughest part about Kansas, whether it’s the wind angle or the sharper corner exit with the SAFER Barrier jumping out at the cars. You either lose a lot of time or gain a lot of time in turn four at Kansas.”