Aug 24, 2013; Bristol, TN, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch (78) pits during the Irwin Tool Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

NASCAR: Kurt Busch a season to remember

With all the press and media attention that NASCAR has had over the past couple of weeks there is probably no one else in the pit lane that is more accustomed to this type of attention than Kurt Busch. The ‘bad boy’ of NASCAR has shown this season that he has turned over a new leaf which has been rewarded by a record-setting place in the Chase. His move to Stewart Haas Racing has been very well publicised but what impressed people the most was his determination to finish on a high with Furniture Row Racing and by making them the first single car team to make the Chase he has certainly done that.

Kurt is fully aware of the scale of his achievement

You know, with this small team, it’s a big accomplishment, and for me it’s very satisfying to have bounced back and put this group in Chase contention.  It’s like a top-five moment, with my career, with a championship, and big wins, consistency over the years, making seven out of 10 Chases, this year was a significant top-five type moment.

Sep 15, 2013; Joliet, IL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch (78) before the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t even as if he just scrapped into the Chase he was able to get in by 12 points which given the scrum for the final few places over the course of the last couple of races is a massive margin. I expected him to make the Chase but must admit that I thought he would scrape in by the skin of his teeth in 10th. Part of that is down to his new aggressive focus, while in the past he might have used that aggression at the wrong time both on and off the track this season he is very aware of when to use it on the track to get the best result and knows that it’s the little things that can make a big difference.

Well, I think it was the fact that our backs were up against the wall about four weeks ago with our points situation and making the Chase, and I was aggressive on restarts to gain those spots back after some poor pit stops, and it turned out to bear fruit and gave us the points we needed to make the Chase… But I passed nine guys on one restart in Atlanta being on the aggressive side.

Of course being part of a one car team can be tough and made even tougher when that same team is not based in the traditional heartland of NASCAR but rather in Denver where they are 9 hours from the closest Cup track (Kansas in case you’re interested!). But it is precisely this type of setup that has helped with his ‘come back’ where other than the pressure he puts on himself there are no expectations other than to try to run competitively.

I chose to settle into this program with working with Phoenix Racing and finding that genuine fun of what it meant to go back to the racetrack because of all the distractions, requirements and monotonous things and situations that kept developing with a big team like at Penske Racing.  So it was great to get a breath of fresh air, roll up my sleeves blue-collar style and work with the guys, and then to do the same thing with the Furniture Row group who’s a step up from where that Phoenix Racing team was and then to try to get the results side of it back, and we’ve done that

Given the last couple of weeks there are no doubt advantages to being in a single car team, mainly that he doesn’t have to pull over for anyone and can run his own race, but it also means that decisions can be made quickly without having to defer to ( to use Kurt’s words) ‘a big mother ship’. From an outsider’s point of view the one drawback to being in a single car team is the lack of sharing of technical knowledge and setup information. But Kurt has other ways of discussing this information and that is his brother Kyle with whom there is a two-way street of discussions.

He’s definitely a genuine teammate in life in the way that we talk to each other and share information about what we see on the racetrack.  Yes, I can lean on him and he leans on me for that.

There is even a little bit of discussion going on with Kevin Harvick, as even though Harvick races for RCR Kurt’s Furniture Row Racing team is a satellite team of RCR and therefore there is often technical information shared between these teams. But that should take nothing away from the hard work that FRR have done, they don’t have the budget of the big teams and there has been more than one occasion where it seemed like a certain win was taken away from them by poor pitstops but they have worked hard to improve and are now getting their reward battling for the biggest prize in NASCAR.

So it’s onto New Hampshire where Kurt has three wins and expectation is high that he can finally break his 2013 duck and take the 78 team to victory lane. While making the Chase would be seen as a great year for most drivers it is not enough for Kurt

What keeps me even more hungry this year is that we haven’t won yet, and I know we’re capable of doing it, and here it is.  The Chase, it’s the most important time to win, so it would be great to see it all come together.

I don’t think there is anyone that begrudge him and the team that win but even he goes the rest of the season without making into victory lane there is no doubt that Kurt is back and he is once again a force to be reckoned with.

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