When Kurt Busch joined Furniture Row Racing in mid October, the former NASCAR champion said the main goal for the final six Sprint Cup Series races would be for the driver and team to get to know each other and successfully prepare for the 2013 season.
“Anytime you start something new you have to work out the kinks,” said Busch. “And we have had our share of kinks to work out and have a few more to go, but overall we’ve made a big transition in a short period of time.”
Though the performances were better than the finishes in the past four races, Busch still managed to pull off a pair of eighth-place results in the last two events at Texas and Phoenix. The eighth-place finishes were the best back-to-back results in Furniture Row Racing’s history.
“After our first race together in Charlotte (finished 21st) we’ve had some strong runs in our Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet,” explained Busch. “Accidents that weren’t our fault stopped us from potential top-five finishes in Kansas and Martinsville. We also had some issues the past two weeks but still brought home top-10s.”
With Sunday’s season finale approaching at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the 34-year-old Busch said the Denver-based team has made a nice progression.
“It would be nice to finish strong, but it's not the end of the world,” noted Busch. “I've seen enough so far to know that our Furniture Row Racing team will be going into the offseason with plenty of confidence. We reached our first goal. The newness has worn off and you can feel it in our debriefing meetings. We now have sarcasm and fun compared to the beginning when it was a little tense.”
Furniture Row Racing crew chief Todd Berrier, who joined the team in July, is also upbeat about the future.
“We’ve made a lot of progress and shortened the learning curve since Kurt has come on board,” said Berrier. “Kurt is a wheelman, one of the best, and that gives all of us a big boost. It’s been good, but we still have more to do.”
Before he heads into the offseason, Busch will have to contend with Homestead’s 1.5-mile oval. To say that he has had his ups and downs at the South Florida track would be an understatement.
“Homestead is one of the weirdest tracks for me because of all the excitement that has happened there through the years as well as all of the disappointments,” said Busch.
Busch’s excitement at Homestead-Miami Speedway reached an all-time high in 2004. He claimed the pole that year and finished fifth, which gave him enough points to clinch the NASCAR Sprint Cup season championship, beating out Jimmie Johnson by eight points and Jeff Gordon by 16.
Another highlight for Busch at Homestead was winning the 2002 race from the pole.
There were also lowlights like finishing last (43rd) twice due to accidents in 2006 and 2008.
“I am always a little anxious to get to Homestead and also a little apprehensive at the same time,” noted Busch. “If you look at my past history at Homestead it seems like it's either a win, top-five or a DNF.”
Busch’s actual record at Homestead is – 11 starts, one win, four top-fives, four top-10s, two poles, 96 laps led and an average start of 14.6 and average finish of 20.7.