While the weather is cooling down as the fall season is in full swing, Kurt Busch is getting hot on track as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway this weekend.
Last week at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Busch finished just 2.248 seconds behind race-winner Martin Truex Jr., to finish an impressive second. It was Busch’s sixth top-five of 2017 and his best finish since he won the Daytona 500 to start the year.
Busch now looks to Martinsville, were he will drive the No. 41 State Water Heaters Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). It’s a different look for the No. 41 Ford this week, but State has long been associated with NASCAR and SHR.
In 1946, State Water Heaters was founded by Herbert Lindahl, Sr., as a small entrepreneurial company in a garage in Nashville, Tennessee producing coal- and wood-burning stoves. By 1948, one year before Red Byron won the very first NASCAR race at Martinsville, the company produced its first water heater.
In the years that followed, State expanded and became a leader in the water heating industry through steadfast commitments to seeking new materials, new technology and innovative engineering techniques.
Busch has had success at Martinsville in the past, winning the fall race in 2002 and the spring race in 2014 for SHR.
He also won the pole positon for the fall race in 2006.
Busch is feeling hot coming off that runner-up finish at Kansas and is hoping he can keep the energy flowing with a solid run at Martinsville Speedway this Sunday.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 State Water Heaters Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You had a solid run at Kansas. Talk about your day there.
“For us, we had a really adventurous day. Actually, I brushed the wall early on, got a lap down, had to dig out of that hole all day. The early calls to stay out and then to put on scuffed tires to limp it home through one of the stages, those were gutsy decisions by Tony Gibson. I have to say hats off to Gibson for that because that put us back on the same sequence with the leaders and the tires. That gave us the same amount of (tire) sets of stickers that we could use toward the end of the race.”
What is the toughest part about racing at Martinsville?
“To me, the toughest part about Martinsville is you just never have a moment to breathe. You have to be on your game nonstop for 500 laps because somebody’s on you, or you are on top of somebody the whole time, and there’s just no room for error.”
How much does pit strategy become a factor at Martinsville?
“It’s definitely something that comes into play. You may gamble early to pick up some positions on the track, especially if you’ve had trouble in qualifying. It’s just one of those things, though, where you always hope you’re on the right one (strategy) and, if you get caught on the wrong one, then you’re kicking yourself the whole time.”
How much more important is track position at a place like Martinsville?
“Track position is everything, everywhere, but at Martinsville it is just so easy to lose it. It doesn’t take much to find yourself going backward, whether it’s a situation with someone bumping you out of the way or you get too high on the track and up in the marbles. Then, deal with what that does to the tires and, boom, next thing you know, you may have had a 10th-place car and now you are 18th. It’s a goal all day to work your way forward and then just to have smooth pit stops to carry you through those midpoints of the race. Then, at the end, when everything is on the line, you have to be aggressive and you can’t be afraid to use the fenders on people to get that solid finish.”