According to motorsports pundits, Kurt Busch and Furniture Row Racing accomplished one “improbable” mission and will embark on another when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series begins the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
Busch, who became the first driver from a single-car team to qualify for the Chase, is now looking to become the first single-car driver to win the outright championship since Alan Kulwicki’s 1992 Cup title.
“I can understand how some folks felt it was an improbable accomplishment for a little single-car team from Colorado to make the Chase, but in reality the Chase was our goal from the beginning of the year,” said Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Cup champion. “And believe me this Furniture Row team continues to move the needle forward and grab traction. We have some muscle to flex in the next 10 weeks.”
Though Busch has yet to win a race this season, he enters the playoffs with some of the strongest momentum among the 12 Chase drivers. He is coming off his best finish of the season – runner-up at Richmond -- and also posted three top-five results in three of the past four races and five top-10s in his last six starts.
The only stumble in the last six races was at Bristol when a part failure (wheel hub) doomed Busch’s performance after he was leading the race by more than 15 car lengths.
Busch finished the regular season eighth in driver points but was reseeded to 10th when the points were reset for the Chase championship run.
“I keep saying we need to keep plugging away, protect our car and avoid major mistakes,” explained Busch, a seven-time Chase participant. “These Furniture Row guys keep on giving me fast cars and I expect the same during the Chase. Look at our record. Our worst finish since the middle of March when something didn’t go wrong was 15th. The downer during this period is that we had six finishes in the 30s due to either a mechanical issue or an accident. It’s a matter of putting it all together in the 10 crucial Chase races.”
Busch’s finishes since the middle of March were: 13 between 1-10, four between 11-15 and six between 30-37.
Busch, who will drive the No. 78 Furniture Row/Serta Chevrolet during this weekend’s race, is looking to bring home his best finish at Chicagoland Speedway. In 12 starts at the 1.5-mile track he has claimed six top 10s, but no top-fives.
"My fondness for Chicago has been well documented over the years,” noted Busch “It is indeed my kind of town. I'm a diehard Chicago sports fans -- have always loved the Cubs and the Bears in both good and bad times.
‘I am hoping my fondness for Chicago will rub off at Chicagoland Speedway and I'll have a breakthrough race there on Sunday afternoon. For us to do well in the Chase we have to master the 1.5-mile tracks like Chicagoland since there are five of these mile-and-a-half tracks in the Chase. It's a great feeling to make the Chase and be here with the big dogs as we compete for the Sprint Cup championship."