Kurt Busch won the Daytona 500 in February 2017 on the high banks of Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. And, he has won at just about every other type of racetrack on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
From the shortest racetrack – Martinsville (Va.) Speedway – to a road-course victory at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, to Daytona, Busch has found victory. He’s won on racetracks ranging in length from .526 of a mile, .533 of a mile, .75 of a mile, 1 mile, 1.5 miles, 1.99 miles and 2 miles. He’s celebrated in victory lane at the high-banked ovals and flat tracks. He even won the championship in 2004.
Busch has won at 15 of the 23 racetracks on the Cup Series schedule and can now shift his focus to checking another box. He’ll head to Talladega this weekend looking to return to his winning ways by putting a check in the win column there for the first time.
Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), has finished third at Talladega four times – in April 2001, 2002 and 2007, and October 2006.
Talladega is one of only two racetracks on the NASCAR circuit where restrictor plates are used. By definition, a restrictor plate is a device installed at the air intake of an engine to limit its power. The use of a restrictor plate is intended to both limit speed and increase safety with an eye toward equaling the level of competition.
Races at Talladega and its sister track at Daytona are ones literally anyone can win. Horsepower-choked engines require drivers to draft together, side-by-side, at speeds approaching 200 mph.
The key point for Busch’s crew chief Billy Scott is to give his driver a good-handling racecar, while Roush-Yates Engines must give Busch a Ford engine with a lot of horsepower. And both Scott and Roush-Yates trust a key technical partner, Mobil 1, to give them a unique advantage.
This weekend, Busch would like nothing more than to add another win to his already impressive resume and win the second restrictor-plate race his career.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk a little bit about racing at Talladega.
“It’s so difficult to predict Talladega. You can ride around in the back or charge up front all day and, either way, your day can end with your car on the hook. You just hope to have Lady Luck guide you to a good finish. Restrictor-plate races have turned into this pattern that it is hard to have any type of advantage over any other team. It just comes down to being in the right place at the right time.”
Restrictor-plate racing has been described as a 200-mph chess match. How would you describe it?
“That’s pretty much it. You’ve got to be able to know the draft, understand the draft, use the draft, block other guys, find holes, make holes. It’s definitely a chess game because you’re always thinking three or four steps ahead. It’s tough to get caught up when you make a mistake. You’ve got to quickly get rid of that and put together a new plan. At the end of the race, everybody is saving their best for the end. Cars are just going everywhere. The plan you thought you had, you’ve got to make a new one. You’ve got to go on the fly.”
In order to be successful in a restrictor-plate race, you need some assistance from other drivers. How do you get that assistance when every driver out there is trying to beat one another?
“Cash? I don’t know. There are certain guys you know to draft with. There are certain guys you know they’re going to be tough. There are certain guys you might see work their way up, like the Fords always come in strong with Front Row Motorsports. The Roush cars are always there. The Penske cars have been tough the last five, six years at the restrictor-plate races. So, you just get a gauge as the race goes on who’s been up front all day. But you’ve got to keep track of the guys who have been hanging out in the back and they’re going to show up at the end.”
BILLY SCOTT, Crew Chief of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are the keys to setting up a car for Talladega?
“It’s all about getting that higher terminal velocity. Aero is a huge part, but so are all the driveline components. A lot of work goes into not just engine oil, but gear lubes and bearings. We’ve partnered with Mobil 1 and that has been a huge help to have them on board and all their research and development to get that stuff more and more efficient.”
It seems like Mobil 1 is more of a technical partner than a sponsor. Is that true?
“Oh yeah, absolutely. And those are the best kind to have. They’re not there just to have their name on the car, but to bring a product to us that can help us perform better each and every week.”