The summer stretch of races has begun on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit. The speedweeks at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway are through and the series is now venturing across the northern part of the country.
Last week’s stop was at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, and this week it moves to historic Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
Kurt 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 and Kyle Larson for most among active drivers. And just like he’s done at Pocono, his three wins have come 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 Team Penske. His last Michigan win came in a rain-shorted race with SHR in June 2015.
Busch also qualified on the pole at the 2-mile oval in June 2010 and 2011, and he’s scored five top-five finishes there.
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 97 NASCAR Cup Series races contested at Michigan, Ford and its Mercury brand have combined for 47 wins – 35 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 five top-12 finishes, including a win, in his last six Michigan starts. He’s hoping to score another victory as the dog days of summer get underway.
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.”
What does it take to be fast at Michigan?
“Michigan is a tough place because of the way the cars have a certain 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 according to whether you’re on fresh tires, or by staying out, as you try to make up spots on restarts.”
What’s been the key to your success at Michigan?
“The biggest thing about Michigan is respecting the speed. It’s a very fast racetrack.”
What do you feel like is the toughest part of Michigan?
“The toughest part is turn three. It seems like the cars do this weird, four-wheel, light drift getting down in there. If your car is dialed in – and I’ve won there three times – it feels like turn three is the easiest corner. Turn three to me is the challenge each time I go there.”