Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), was able to overcome an early pit-road miscue and ensuing penalty as well as late-race contact with his brother to score an eighth-place finish in the MyAFibStory.com 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. The finish was his eighth top-10 in 14 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1.5-mile oval, and it moved him to ninth place in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship point standings.
“I made a mistake early on trying to get on pit road trying to get all I could,” Busch said. “It was as if I was going to pass 15 cars and go to the lead all at once. I spun her around; it was a bad mistake on my part. We spent two-thirds of that race digging out of that hole. We spent the last one-third racing hard. I felt like we were in the mix, racing our Haas Automation Chevrolet with the frontrunners. We got up as high as fifth or sixth on the final restart but fell back to eighth. Every spot is so crucial. You can see how everybody is racing. I had a great time out there racing hard carrying the weight of the team after I made my mistake.”
Busch started 14th for the 400-mile race but was able to crack the top-10 within the first 25 laps. Then the team suffered its first setback during the first round of pit stops, which occurred under green-flag conditions. As Busch began applying the brakes to bring his Haas Automation Chevrolet to pit-road speed, his rear brakes locked up, resulting in him spinning at the entrance of pit road and hitting the commitment cone with the rear of his car. While Busch was able to avoid any additional contact, he was forced to serve a pass-through penalty for hitting the cone and lost a lap to the race leaders. Busch was in 30th place after serving his penalty, so he quickly went to work to overcome the setback. He spent the next 55 laps working his way into position to be the free-pass car and was rewarded for his efforts when the caution came out on lap 99.
Busch restarted in the 22nd position, the last car on the lead lap. He rose to 11th by lap 189, despite battling a racecar that was tight into the track’s corners and loose off. Following a restart on lap 237, Busch’s younger brother Kyle was struggling through turns one and two, and with the laps quickly winding down, the elder Busch stuck the nose of his Haas Automation Chevrolet underneath Kyle’s slower racecar. The two made contact that resulted in right-side damage to the No. 41 machine. When the caution flag waved once again on lap 244, Busch had the opportunity he needed to come to pit road for repairs and four fresh tires. Another caution period with just a handful of laps remaining gave the Haas Automation crew one last shot at making the necessary repairs for Busch to improve his position. The move paid off, as Busch was able to climb over the final six laps from 13th to eighth, where he would finish.