|Kurt Busch won in 2011 for Penske and was 3rd in 2012 for James Finch|
But when the Furniture Row Racing driver gets asked which race at the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California’s wine country initially stands out, he has a surprising answer.
One would expect the 34-year-old former NASCAR champion to say his Cup victory in 2011 or last year’s incredible performance when he was contending for the win before a suspension problem dropped him to third in a Phoenix Racing entry.
His answer came without hesitation.
“It was my win in the Southwest Series during 1999 NASCAR weekend,” said Busch. “That victory put me on the map and fast-tracked my racing career.”
Busch, a native of Las Vegas, took advantage of a golden opportunity since more NASCAR Cup drivers and owners were intently watching the Saturday race to strategically learn more about the new track design.
“My Southwest Series win at Sonoma was the year the track was reconfigured,” explained Busch. “It was the first time it didn’t have the carousel; they had what they call the chute. So that was a direct straightaway from Turn 4 to Turn 7.
“I think a lot of Cup teams were interested to see how the race was going to play out and they watched the Southwest Tour race with more strategic thought that year. After winning the race it seemed like things moved a lot of easier in my racing career and I have the Sonoma track to thank for that.”
Busch, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet SS, is looking to give another tip of the hat and a thank you nod to the Sonoma track on Sunday for the 25th running of the Toyota/Save Mart 350. It will be his first road race with the single car, Denver-based Furniture Row Racing team.
“We tested at VIR (Virginia International Raceway) in preparation for this race and feel the road course package that Furniture Row Racing had and that I had give us two avenues to look at when we show up for the race,” noted Busch. “Sonoma is a demanding race on a very technical road course. You have to be patient and have the right pit strategy.”
At the previous Sprint Cup race in Michigan, Busch was one of the prerace favorites, qualifying second and posting the fastest times in Saturday’s two practice sessions. He led the first 21 laps, but a few laps later his car broke loose, hit the wall and suffered major damage. He was able to finish the race, limping home to a 35th-place result.
“Our Furniture Row team needs a strong performance this weekend,” stated Busch, who dropped from 15th to 20th in points following Michigan. “We threw away a bunch of points in Michigan last week after having a really fast race car. We need to rebound and get some of those points back.”
Busch’s overall Sprint Cup record at Sonoma Raceway includes 12 starts, one win, five top-fives, five top-10s, one pole and 139 laps led. He has completed 1,312 of 1,329 laps for a 98.7 percentage. He also has the best driver rating at Sonoma of 107.8 and the best average running position of 9.2.
- DMF Communications for Furniture Row Racing