Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Kurt Busch on Phoenix: "We would be stupid not to run a Kevin Harvick set-up"

Kurt Busch is 12/1 to win Sunday at Phoenix.
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Nov. 9, 2015) – It all comes down to this.

Sunday’s Phoenix 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race atPhoenix International Raceway is the last one before the eight drivers competing in the Eliminator Round of the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship are reduced to the four who will take part in the winner-take-all Championship RoundNov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Thus, it is the last chance for Kurt Busch and the No. 41 Haas Automation team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) to lock themselves into the field that will compete for the title.

Currently seventh in points, Busch can control his own destiny by winning the penultimate race of the 2015 Sprint Cup season and earning an automatic berth into the championship final. He also could lock himself into the final four by points, as well, since only Jeff Gordon is currently locked into the final via his Elimination Round victory at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. But, Busch would need tremendous help to out-point the drivers ranked ahead of him. While Gordon celebrated his Martinsville victory, Busch was left to wonder what might have been after being involved in an accident not of his own making that relegated him and his SHR team to a disappointing 34th-place finish and left them essentially in a must-win scenario to advance.

If he was to advance the hard way, Busch would need to have a strong enough finish Sunday at Phoenix while three other drivers suffer enough misfortune that they wouldn’t be able to overtake him in the points. And that’s only if a non-Chase driver wins the race, leaving the final three spots open for the highest-ranked drivers still eligible for the championship. If one of the seven Elimination Round contestants were to win at Phoenix other than Gordon, that would leave just two transfer spots open via points.

Sound complicated? Well, it is. Busch and his Tony Gibson-led team will focus on making it easy. “Win and we’re in,” they say. And, at one of Busch’s best racetracks, statistically speaking – his average Phoenix finish is 13.9, third-best among active racetracks on the circuit – Busch expects to not only clinch a spot in the Championship Round, but to establish the momentum he’ll need to potentially win his second series championship, as well.

Busch has an April 2005 win, six top-five finishes and 14 top-10s in 25 career Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix. But he’s not the only one who’s experienced success there. Gibson’s first win at the helm of a Sprint Cup team came at Phoenix in April 2010. He was calling the shots for Ryan Newman and the No. 39 team, and the win was also the first for SHR at the desert oval.

Knowing a win Sunday would guarantee their presence in the Championship Round, Busch and the No. 41 team know it will be imperative to put all their energy, focus and determination on the race itself and do whatever it takes to drive the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet into victory lane and into NASCAR’s final round of the playoffs.

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

You recently tested at Phoenix. What kind of confidence does that give you going into the weekend?

“We were out in Phoenix a couple of weeks ago working primarily on the 2016 package and helping Goodyear find a tire that fits the low-downforce package. But there was a day at the end where we went into the 2015 downforce package that we currently run and showed equivalent speed to guys like (Matt) Kenseth, who was out there testing, and (Brad) Keselowski who was out there testing.”

What is the key to success at Phoenix?
“I think, over the years, the way that track has changed and now it’s starting to mature with the asphalt. Turns three and four seem to be where most of the speed can be gained or lost.”

What is the hardest thing to figure out about Phoenix?
“The way the track changes. It goes into the shade in turns one and two as the race progresses. Then the restarts have always been tough. Now, we are restarting so close to turn one with the restart zone, some guys are even leaving in third gear going through there.”

How much are you able to take from the first race at Phoenix, which was much earlier in the season, into this weekend’s race?
“We would be stupid not to run a Kevin Harvick setup. He’s won almost every race there the last few years. Things do transfer from race to race but, yeah, the technology has evolved a lot over the summer.”

How crazy do you think the race will get as we trim the eight drivers still in contention down to the Championship Four?
“It’s gotten pretty crazy. There are a lot of guys who think they need to be in that top-four who aren’t, and there are guys who are in it who want to defend those positions. The Chase is definitely at a boiling point for everybody.”

Kurt Busch’s Phoenix International Raceway Performance Profile:
YearEventStartFinishStatus/LapsLaps LedEarnings
2015CampingWorld.com 500k85Running, 312/3120$132,690
2014The Profit on CNBC 500k1039Engine, 292/3120$64,380
 Phoenix 500k107Running, 312/3120$96,265
2013×Subway Fresh Fit 500k2527Running, 315/3160$102,920
 Advocare 500k85Running, 312/3120$137,630
2012Subway Fresh Fit 500k1915Running, 312/3122$102,883
 ×Kobalt Tools 500k68Running, 319/3190$112,493
2011Subway Fresh Fit 500k28Running, 312/31231$126,025
 Kobalt Tools 500k1722Running, 311/31257$112,975
2010×Subway Fresh Fit 600k1935Running, 366/3780$117,173
 Kobalt Tools 500k39Running, 312/31220$128,148
2009Subway Fresh Fit 500k33Running, 312/31263$145,375
 Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500k26Running, 312/31269$112,250
2008Subway Fresh Fit 500k4023Running, 310/3120$65,875
 ×Checker O’Reilly Auto Parts 500k32Running, 312/31360$156,525
2007Subway Fresh Fit 500k618Running, 312/3120$103,108
 Checker Auto Parts 500k912Running, 312/3120$109,333
2006Subway Fresh 500k724Running, 310/3120$103,833
 Checker Auto Parts 500k88Running, 312/3120$93,050
2005Subway Fresh 500k21Running, 312/312219$264,000
2004×Checker Auto Parts 500k2810Running, 315/31514$84,300
2003Checker Auto Parts 500k74Running, 312/31298$142,585
2002Checker Auto Parts 500k16Running, 312/312117$76,500
2001Checker Auto Parts 500k4122Running, 312/3120$52,850
2000Checker/Dura Lube 500k2629Running, 311/3120$50,675
× Race length extended due to green-white-checkered finish.
* Race cut short due to weather.         
† Qualifying canceled due to weather, starting position set via car owner points.
- True Speed Communication for Stewart-Haas Racing

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