Kurt Busch earns hard-fought seventh place finish at Phoenix

Haas Automation driver secures 11th top-10 finish of 2014.

Kurt Busch earns hard-fought seventh place finish at Phoenix
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Kevin Harvick celebrates
Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Kurt Busch was able to overcome a late-race setback in the Phoenix 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway and bring the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) home with a seventh-place finish.

Busch started 10th in the 43-car field Busch and held steady among the top-five for the race’s first 245 laps. But following a red-flag period, the tires on his black-and-red machine heat cycled, which left the 36-year-old driver fighting an extremely tight-handling condition. Busch, who was running third at the time of the red flag, fell to 19th after making a four-tire pit stop on lap 245.

I don’t know if I broke something...

Kurt Busch

“It was like a switch flipped,” Busch said. “The car had been really good all afternoon. When we stopped for the red flag, I turned the wheel to the right to act like a parking brake. I don’t know if I broke something in the front end when I cranked the wheel back to the left when we restarted or what happened. We came to pit road and put four fresh tires on it and that helped, but we’ll have to get a better look at the Haas Automation Chevrolet when we get back to the shop to figure out what exactly happened.”

After making the lap-245 pit stop, Busch found himself mired in the 19th position. He steadily climbed his way through the field, breaking back inside the top-10 on lap 260. Despite having to battle a tight-handling racecar, Busch continued to pace himself among the top-10 drivers throughout the remainder of the race. The Haas Automation driver recorded lap times faster than many of his competitors in front of him, but he ran out of laps to improve his position. Busch’s comeback saw him take the checkered flag in seventh.

24th point-paying Sprint Cup win for SHR

Busch’s teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, led the four-car SHR contingent Sunday by winning the Phoenix 500k. It was the 24th point-paying Sprint Cup win for SHR since its inception in 2009 and the organization’s fifth this season.

Harvick started third and led three times for a race-high 264 laps around the 1-mile oval to bring his laps-led total at Phoenix to a series-best 978. It was Harvick’s 27th career Sprint Cup win, his fourth this season and his series-leading sixth Sprint Cup win at Phoenix.

Most importantly, the victory punched Harvick’s ticket to the Championship Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Harvick is one of only four drivers from the original field of 16 Chase drivers who made it through three elimination rounds to contend for the title in the series finale Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Harvick will battle Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman, with the highest finishing driver in the 400-mile race at Homestead being crowned 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion.

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 20th.

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 22nd.

Jeff Gordon finished 1.636 seconds behind Harvick in the runner-up spot, while Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Hamlin rounded out the top-five. Logano, Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Marcos Ambrose comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were 12 caution periods for 58 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 312-lap race.

The Sprint Cup season finale Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway begins at 3 p.m. EST, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with a prerace show at 2 p.m.

Haas Automation Racing

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