For the second straight week Kurt Busch overcame double adversity to post a top-five finish. The Furniture Row Racing driver charged to a fifth-place result in Sunday’s Auto Club 400, which followed a fourth-place finish last week at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
(Note: initial scoring had Kurt finishing third, but after further review NASCAR revised the order and had Kurt finishing fifth)
The California result was the first time in the history of Furniture Row Racing that a driver has recorded back-to-back top-fives. Since joining Furniture Row Racing with six races remaining in 2012, Busch has notched two top-fives and five top-10s in 11 starts.
The fifth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway lifted Busch from 16th to 13th in the driver point standings.
“Today was very similar to last week in Bristol when we had to overcome a number of issues,” said Busch. “We had a loose wheel and damage to our front-end before finishing fourth in Bristol. This week it was getting into someone else’s oil before slapping the fence and then being penalized for speeding on pit road. Though we never quit, and do the best we can to fight back, it sure would be nice to have a smooth race, something we haven’t had this year.”
Right from the beginning of the 200-lap, 400-mile California event it appeared that Busch’s No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet SS was going to be a contender. He started 10th and was running in the top-five by Lap 10.
But on Lap 37, he got into the oil that was dropped from the No. 32 car (Timmy Hill) and went for a slippery ride into the concrete barrier. Busch was forced to come down pit road for two unscheduled pit stops to make repairs to the right-side of his car.
“That was so discouraging because we had a fast car,” noted Busch. “You start to wonder when is this all going to end. It seems this bad luck started during our first practice in Daytona when we got collected in an accident.”
The oil/hitting-the-wall incident sent Busch back to 31st place. He made another charge to the front, running as high as 17th before being called for a pit-road speeding penalty on Lap 68. That relegated him to 32nd place in track position and one-lap down.
Busch was stuck in the low 30s until he got the “Lucky Dog” free pass on Lap 131. Once he got back on the lead lap, the former NASCAR champion steadily moved to the front with a stalwart driving performance.
Busch moved into second place late in the race and challenged his brother Kyle for the lead on the 2-mile oval.
“I had a chance to pass him (Kyle) for the lead on that final restart, and I took it,” explained Busch. “Normally I'd have followed him, pushed him and drafted with him and tried to break away from the field.
“But I went to his outside, and it was a move that held him up, took his momentum away and gave me a shot for clean air. The car just was a little tight on that top-side, couldn't quite get the power down and couldn't get in front of him and (Joey) Logano to seal the deal. But they were fast, and that was my one shot to win and I took it.”
Kyle Busch did end up winning the race. Rounding out the top-10 in order were Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman.
The race had 17 lead changes among eight drivers and there were nine cautions for 35 laps.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will have Easter weekend off. The schedule resumes April 7 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.