Kurt Busch looking to repeat in postponed Pocono race

Since 1999, four drivers have gone back-to-back five times at Pocono Raceway.

Kurt Busch looking to repeat in postponed Pocono race
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet takes the checkered flag
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Can Kurt Busch become number six on Monday — or whenever NASCAR finally runs the Pennsylvania 400?

Busch, who turns 38 on Thursday, picked up his third win at the Tricky Triangle in June. Busch and the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation team accomplished the task sans its fearless leader Tony Gibson (suspension).

“Well, it’s special anytime you win,” Busch said. “For Tony Gibson (crew chief) to be out because of a lug nut issue, we had to overcome a lot. Johnny Klausmeier, our interim crew chief, our lead engineer, he stepped up and, when you do that, it makes you really feel that team camaraderie,  that team chemistry and that team effort. 

June victory

“It’s awesome to have a team that week-in and week-out can be competitive and can overcome adversity like that. It was our first win in the Sprint Cup Series for Monster Energy, and that was really special, as well.” 

Busch made the most of the final restart. He passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Chase Elliott to take the lead after the final restart. Although Busch was notified the car was two laps short of fuel, he held onto the lead for the final 32 laps. 

“Yeah, restarts at Pocono are always crazy, two-wide, three-wide, five-wide,” Busch said. “If the guy in front of you doesn’t get going, do you challenge him to the inside or to the outside? Do you push him? 

“But, you’ve got to watch in the mirror if guys get a run on you because they will swallow you up quick and, the next thing you know, you are in the wrong groove getting into turn one.”  

He qualified 15th on Friday but was fourth in Happy Hour on Saturday. Although Busch will be making his 31st start at Pocono, he still finds shifting challenging at the 2.5-mile track. 

“You have to work on that,” Busch said. “But, each time we go back, the setups change so rapidly that you have to find the right setup to gain the speed, whether it’s turn one, turn two or turn three. Each time there, you have to challenge the track and the car’s technology.”

Busch, who is third in the standings, has enjoyed one of the most consecutive performances on the tour this season. Last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he tied Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s record of leading every lap in 20 consecutive events set in 2012. 

Busch can have the record out week if he completes every lap in the Pennsylvania 400. The key to continuing the streak will be getting a feel for all three turns. 

“It’s weird, I’ve had winning cars there a few different times and turn two always feels the best when my car has a chance to go to victory lane,” Busch said. “But, I think turn three, if you are able to pass cars and maneuver around them, you’ve got to get a good run off turn three to be ready to pass them in turn one. All of them are important. You can’t exclude one from another.”  

Rain man

But Busch has also been extremely fortunate in rain-shortened and rain-delayed events. He won the Monday race here in June, the rain-delayed race last spring at Richmond, the rain-shortened race at Michigan last June. Yes, his last three victories have come in rain-affected races.

“There are quite a few rain-delayed wins that I have,” Busch said. “And with all the different teams I’ve been with, with Roush and Penske and Stewart-Haas, I don’t know. I was Rain Man a couple of months ago. 

“The rain is definitely something you have to be patient with. It’s something you can’t predict. We do have a lot stronger tools in radar and everything else, but whenever the green flag drops, no matter if it’s a quick rain delay. And one of the biggest things we have now that we didn’t have in year’s past are the Air Titans. And so they can quickly get a track in race conditions. And so you have to be ready at all moments, whenever they’re going to drop the green and try to stay as levelheaded and focused as possible whenever we get to go.  

“You can’t challenge Mother Nature. It feels good to be able to be ready, to be prepared, and to have a team behind you to go out there and perform at any moment.”

 
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