KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Aug. 8, 2017) – Kurt Busch may not remember the 1980s Michigan television commercials that ended with the theme “Yes, Michigan!”
But as the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series rolls into historic Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, he is thinking “Yes, Michigan!”
Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has three wins at Michigan, which puts him in a tie with Matt Kenseth for most among active drivers. And just like at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, he’s won three times, with three different teams.
He scored his first win at Michigan in June 2003 driving for Roush Fenway Racing, then backed it up with a victory in August 2007 with Roger Penske. His last Michigan win came in a rain-shorted race with SHR in June 2015.
Busch also qualified on the pole in June 2010 and 2011 and has scored five top-five finishes at the 2-mile oval.
He’ll be looking to take Ford back to victory lane at Michigan, which is about an hour from the Detroit area, where Ford is based. The blue oval has a long history at Michigan, winning nearly half the races since the track opened in 1969. Of the 96 NASCAR Cup Series races contested at Michigan, Ford and its Mercury brand have won 47 of them – 35 wins by Ford and 12 by Mercury.
Busch is credited with one of those triumphs – June 2003, when he snatched the lead from Jeff Gordon with 24 laps to go to claim his seventh career Cup Series win.
The Las Vegas native has four top-12 finishes, including a win, in his last five starts at the 2-mile oval. He’s hoping to score another victory this weekend so he can once again proclaim, “Yes, Michigan!”
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You won the June 2003 Michigan race for Ford almost 100 years after the company was formed. Can you talk about what you remember from that experience?
“It was really neat. In my office at my house, I have a letter form Edsel Ford congratulating our team on the race win. And it’s something I framed and put in a similar format to a letter that my grandfather got from Henry Ford when he was a Ford employee. And it was really neat to have that moment and the lineage of our family of letters from the Ford Family.”
Any difference in track temperature between the first Michigan race and the second one?
“I would say it’s usually warmer in the second race, but there isn’t that much of a difference. It’s very similar to Pocono. The temperatures are just very similar each time we go. It’s just a matter of if you catch cloud cover or a cold front.”
You’re back with Ford, with whom you won your first 14 NASCAR Cup Series races. But in this go-round, there’s a One Ford mentality instead of a team-by-team philosophy. How is it working out?
“Right away, at Daytona, everybody from Ford was there, and there was a big meeting with all the Ford teams about how we need to all work together at the restrictor-plate tracks. Then, as we moved forward to the mile-and-a-halves and the short tracks, there are little things that we’ve been doing at SHR versus what Penske has been doing or Roush or RPM (Richard Petty Motorsports), and so we want to try to share the information but, at the same time, you’ve got to keep the technology in-house. So, Ford has a nice balance of what they’ve asked us to do and how we’re all sharing information moving forward. Really, it’s a unique situation with having Doug Yates as our engine builder. He’s really smart. He’s on top of everything. So whether it’s the oiling system, the water cooling system, different gear ratios and things, we’ve been working closely together on those.”
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (continued):
What does it take to be fast at Michigan?
“Michigan is a tough place because of the way the cars have that grip level on fresh tires versus old tires. What I mean by that is, when you put on fresh tires, your tires are cold and they don’t grab the asphalt as well. A lot of guys try to stay out at Michigan with the hot tires on and they get better restarts. Restarts at Michigan are already pretty wild with how wide the track is and how many lanes there are for options. It comes down to just trying to put yourself in the best position with the best-percentage chance of whether it’s fresh tires, or it’s staying out, or it’s making spots up on restarts.”