Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Kurt Busch 21.5 average finish at Martinsville, his worst among all tracks

Kurt Busch is 15/1 to win for third time at Martinsville.
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (March 29, 2016) – After a quick glance at the results at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), it’s fairly easy to see why he has a love-hate relationship with the Virginia short track.

He has endured times of feast and famine at the .526-mile paperclip. In 31 starts at the shortest track on the Sprint Cup circuit, Busch has two wins, three top-five finishes and five top-10s. It’s the other finishes that have been less than kind to Busch. Those are the results that have played a part in making his average Martinsville finish 21.5, which happens to be his worst of the active tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule.

Busch scored his first Martinsville win in October 2002. It was his second career Sprint Cup victory and a record-breaking one, at that, as he took the green flag from the 36th starting position – the deepest in the field a Martinsville winner had ever started. Busch was able to take advantage of a strong racecar and work his way to the front of the field, leading 111 laps en route to the win, which came in just his fourth career start at Martinsville in Sprint Cup competition.

Fast-forward to March 2014, when the 2004 Sprint Cup champion was able to end an 83-race winless streak by claiming his second Martinsville victory. The win was special for Busch, but was even more so for Haas Automation founder Gene Haas, who co-owns SHR with three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart. When Haas hired Busch, his directive was clear: win – be the guy to finally place the Haas Automation-sponsored Chevrolet SS in victory lane. Victory had eluded the largest CNC machine tool builder in the Western World for 114 races and 11 different drivers since 2002.

Despite the lack of results there that one would expect from the Las Vegas native, Busch has made the most of his races at Martinsville by being listed as running at the end of all but two of his 31 starts there. He has completed 15,086 of the 15,534 laps run during that span for a lap-completion rate of 97.1 percent. So while strong finishes at Martinsville may not occur with regularity for Busch, he always seems to make the most of what he’s got. Also in his favor is crew chief Tony Gibson, who also has a win to his credit at Martinsville as he led Ryan Newman to victory lane in April 2012.

While he has experienced success at Martinsville, Busch would still label the Virginia track as his own personal Achilles heel. As the series travels to Southern Virginia for Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500, Busch will hope to continue on his impressive start to the 2016 season. With four top-10 finishes in the first five races, the No. 41 team is already focused on gaining the wins and consistency it will need over the next 21 races in hopes of once again joining the 16-driver, 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

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

Talk a little bit about Martinsville. Is there a reason that the track suits you?

“It’s been a good track to me over the years. It’s one of those tough tracks, though. Short tracks, things happen. Things move quickly. I think it has to do with level of patience and technology advancements each time we race at Martinsville. Sometimes the racecar drives very differently. Some of the old patterns that we all learned as short-track racers apply, but you have to apply them in different ways.”

Talk about the evolution from a time when brakes were the most important thing to now where it’s all about finding grip.
“Technology has advanced so far to where the brakes aren’t necessarily an issue. It used to be that brakes were the main concern. You had to make sure you saved them, that you didn’t wear them out and that you had them for the latter part of the race. Now, with newer technology, the brakes don’t seem to have as many issues, but it’s a matter of how much you can get out of the rear tires for grip, which has always been an issue at Martinsville, trying to get that traction out of the corner and down the straightaway. For me, it’s all about corner exit. It’s trying to get that traction put down and trying to turn underneath another car to complete a pass.”

What is it that makes Martinsville such a special racetrack?
“I know that everybody looks forward to coming to Martinsville to see the action at a short track. It’s very different than all the other racetracks on the circuit because of the intimate setting. Pit road, the racetrack, the fans are right on top of it and, as drivers and teams, you feel that intensity from the fans and so it’s great to have their passion. And the ability for the fans to be so close to the action at Martinsville, that’s what makes this place so unique.”

How much more important is track position at a place like Martinsville?

“Track position is everything, everywhere but, at Martinsville, it is just so easy to lose it. It doesn’t take much to find yourself going backward, whether it’s a situation with someone bumping you out of the way or you get too high on the track and up in the marbles. Then, deal with what that does to the tires and, boom, next thing you know, you may have had a 10th-place car and now you are 18th. It’s a goal all day to work your way forward and then just to have smooth pit stops to carry you through those midpoints of the race. Then, at the end, when everything is on the line, you have to be aggressive and you can’t be afraid to use the fenders on people to get that solid finish.”

Chassis No. 865

Kurt Busch will pilot Chassis No. 865 in Sunday’s Martinsville 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Formerly a No. 10 chassis for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate Danica Patrick, Chassis No. 865 debuted in March 2014 at Martinsville , where Patrick started 10th but struggled with an ill-handling racecar and finished 32nd. Its next event was in July at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, where she started 29th and finished 22nd. Chassis No. 865 then raced again at Martinsville in October, where Patrick started 30th and finished 34th after being involved in a massive accident on the frontstretch late in the race. Chassis No. 865 was utilized in both races at Martinsville in 2015, where Busch finished 14th in March and was in contention for the win in October when he was caught up in an incident not of his own making and was relegated to a 34th-place finish. Chassis No. 865 will make its first start of the 2016 season Sunday at Martinsville.

Martinsville Speedway Notes of Interest:
Kurt Busch has career totals of 27 wins, 21 poles, 117 top-five finishes and 226 top-10s in 545 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts heading into Sunday’s Martinsville 500at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. His most recent Sprint Cup win came at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn on June 14, 2015.

Sunday’s Martinsville 500 will mark Busch’s 32nd career Sprint Cup start at Martinsville. Busch has two wins, one pole, three top-five finishes and five top-10s at the .526-mile oval. Additionally, the 37-year-old driver has led 464 laps, has an average starting position of 19.6, an average finish of 21.5, and has completed 97.1 percent (15,086 of 15,534) of the laps he’s contested there.

Twice a Winner at Martinsville – Busch won his first race at Martinsville in October 2002. It was his second Sprint Cup victory and a record-breaking one at that as he took the green flag from the 36th starting position – the deepest in the field a Martinsville winner had ever started.

His most-recent Martinsville win came in March 2014. He held off six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and eight-time Martinsville race-winner Jimmie Johnson to win the Martinsville 500.

The Las Vegas native has one pole to his credit (October 2006) at Martinsville. Busch has 21 career Sprint Cup poles.

A Place of Firsts – Busch’s March 2014 win at Martinsville was the first for Haas Automation as a primary sponsor in the Sprint Cup Series. Prior to Martinsville, Haas Automation was winless as a primary sponsor for 11 different drivers and 115 races since 2002. Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool builder in the Western World, is owned by Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) founder and co-owner Gene Haas.

SHR at Martinsville – In 38 previous Sprint Cup races at Martinsville, SHR has posted one pole, three wins, six top-fives and 16 top-10s, have been atop the leaderboard for 432 laps, and have completed 97.4 percent of the laps contested (18,552 of 19,048).

Get to the Points – With his 30th-place finish last Sunday in the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Busch enters Martinsville seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship point standings.

SHR in 2016 – Five races into the 2016 season, SHR’s four Sprint Cup entries have recorded one win, two poles, four top-five finishes and nine top-10s. SHR Chevrolets have completed 5,144 of 5,260 laps contested, and collectively have led 506 laps.

- True Speed Communication for Stewart-Haas Racing

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