Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Expect an outstanding run by Kurt Busch at Richmond

Kurt Busch is 8/1 to win at Richmond
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (April 22, 2015) – Should Kurt Busch, the driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), be able to notch his first win of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, he would be able to add his name to a short list of distinguished drivers who know that, when they return to “The Action Track” in September, they will do so with a lot less pressure on their shoulders.

For the drivers who are able to score regular-season victories, they know their presence in the postseason is all but secured. With the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format, a win virtually guarantees a driver and his team a berth in the Chase, provided they are among the top-30 in driver points.

The six drivers who have already all but secured their presence in this year’s championship battle are among of the sport’s most decorated perennial championship contenders. There are nine Sprint Cup championships among four of those drivers dating back to the 2003 season, and the other two made it to the final race of the 2014 season as part of the four-driver Championship Round of the Chase that determined the 2014 Sprint Cup championship.

Joey Logano. Jimmie Johnson. Kevin Harvick. Brad Keselowski. Denny Hamlin. Matt Kenseth.

When looking at that list, it would be difficult to bet against any of them and their chances of becoming the 2015 Sprint Cup champion. However, there’s a lot of racing to be done before the final Chase field is set at Richmond in September and the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. For Busch, he’d like nothing more than to score his first win of the season this weekend, which would be his second at the .75-mile racetrack, and add his name to that distinguished list and get people talking about his chances of contending for his second Sprint Cup championship.

Busch’s 2015 season is off to a strong start. He’s been a weekly contender and has yet to finish outside of the top-15. His average finish is 10.2, and he’s led a total of 229 laps, 119 of which have come at short tracks. Busch has shown the focus needed to contend for races early on and, now, it seems to be just a matter of time before he breaks through and secures his spot in the Chase.

Should he be able to notch his first regular-season win this weekend at Richmond, Busch knows his return there in September won’t be the pressure-filled, high-stakes race that it could be. There would be no “win-to-get-in” or some detailed Chase-clinching scenario for the No. 41 team to study, plan for or worry about heading into that weekend.

KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:

What’s the toughest part about racing at Richmond?

“All of it has been pretty tough for me, but the toughest part of that track has always seemed to be the exit of turn four. It’s really hard to get the traction put down just right to not be just flat-out dead sideways all the way to the start-finish line. It’s really hard to get the speed through three and four and carry the traction off of turn four. So, going into this weekend, that’s something I know I’ll be looking for right from the start of practice on Friday.”

What are your thoughts on racing at Richmond?
“You know, this has always been a tough place for me. Even with the win there, I still just find it to be one of the more difficult tracks to get a handle on. It’s a short track but it’s pretty unique because, other than the fact that it’s less than a mile in length, it really doesn’t compare to a Martinsville or Phoenix. It’s pretty wide whereas, at some of our other short tracks, you are dealing with one-lane racing grooves. It’s almost like a 1.5-mile track that has been packaged into a three-quarter-mile track. It’s a place where you can get caught in the outside lane on restarts but you won’t necessarily fall back 10 or more positions like you would at a Martinsville because, if your car is handling, you are able to maintain position. The last few times we’ve been there, though, the bottom is the place to be. Aside from it being the shortest way around the track, you can get more aggressive in the bottom lane and, if you have to, you can move people to advance your position.”

Kurt Busch’s Richmond International Raceway Performance Profile:
YearEventStartFinishStatus/LapsLaps LedEarnings
2014Toyota Owners 4002123Running, 400/4000$77,190
 Federated 40097Running, 400/4000$96,915
2013×Toyota Owners 400149Running, 406/40636$114,630
 Federated Auto Parts 40022Running, 400/40073$185,355
2012Capital City 4001328Running, 397/4000$93,243
 Federated Auto Parts 4003028Running, 396/4000$93,843
2011Matthew Hansen 4003622Running, 397/4000$113,950
 Wonderful Pistachios 400115Running, 400/4000$144,325
2010Crown Royal Heath Calhoun 4001618Running, 400/4000$114,673
 Air Guard 4002118Running, 399/4000$115,173
2009Crown Royal Russ Friedman 4001712Running, 400/4008$93,475
 Chevy Rock & Roll 400132Running, 400/4000$170,825
2008×Crown Royal Dan Lowry 4002142Accident, 229/4100$65,205
 †Chevy Rock & Roll 4002010Running, 400/4000$82,550
2007Crown Royal Jim Stewart 400335Running, 400/40027$139,858
 Chevy Rock & Roll 400149Running, 400/4000$113,958
2006Crown Royal 4001329Running, 397/4000$105,008
 Chevy Rock & Roll 4001827Running, 398/4000$105,808
2005Chevy American Revolution 400417Running, 400/40011$116,695
 Chevy Rock & Roll 40051Running, 400/400185$242,900
2004Chevy American Revolution 4002331Running, 386/4006$76,025
 Chevy Rock & Roll 4001715Running, 399/40094$80,830
2003*Pontiac Excitement 40078Running, 393/39317$89,925
 Chevy Rock & Roll 4002524Running, 398/4000$78,605
2002Pontiac Excitement 4003727Running, 395/4000$51,650
 Team Monte Carlo 4002219Running, 398/4000$53,780
2001Pontiac Excitement 4003118Running, 399/4000$48,650
 Team Monte Carlo 4004024Running, 399/4000$46,580
* Race cut short due to weather.
† Qualifying canceled due to weather, starting position set via car owner points.
× Race length extended due to green-white-checkered finish.

- True Speed Communication for Stewart-Haas Racing

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