Kurt Busch was in position to continue his bid for a second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship for much of Sunday’s AAA 400 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway, but a part failure saw the 2004 series champion fade in the closing stages of the race. While the driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) was able to soldier to an 18th-place finish in his 500th Sprint Cup start, Busch missed the cut for the Contender Round by a scant six points.
“It was just tight the last 100 miles,” Busch said. “I felt like we were in good position to advance, but you just can’t expect to advance by running 18th. You have to be more competitive. We gave it a good run, you know? We put this team together pretty late. Gene Haas believed in me to come in here and do this; and thanks to Haas Automation and Chevrolet and great associate sponsors like Mobil 1 and State Water Heaters and Monster Energy. We don’t get to advance to the championship, but we can still run for pride and run for wins. You can’t expect to advance running 18th. You’ve got to have better lap times every time you go and hit the track. If you’re off, it’s hard to put the car up on your back and run it. I just chalk it up to me not getting the job done. It’s all my fault that we didn’t advance.”
Busch started 22nd in the 43-car field and, despite battling a racecar that was tight in the center of the turns, was able to slowly advance his way through the field. Crew chief Daniel Knost called for adjustments each time Busch hit pit road, but the Las Vegas native continued to fight a racecar that was tight in the center and loose off of the corners. Despite the setback, Busch spent most of the first half of the race in or above the transfer spot.
After making a scheduled pit stop just past halfway, Busch reported that the tight-handling condition had intensified. The 36-year-old driver continued to struggle with the handling issue as the race wound down, but his never-give-up attitude saw him fight to the very end. It was only after the checkered flag waved that Busch received word that the No. 41 team did not transfer past the Challenger Round.
“We made it in, that’s cool,” Busch said. “But it’s not just making it in, it’s being able to capitalize and advance through the rounds. One little mistake from last week (at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon) will haunt me, and that was the tire rub that we got. Sometimes you get tire rubs and they go away. Sometimes you get tire rubs and there’s no smoke, which we had no smoke and then we had a flat tire about three laps into that run. That was the difference maker.”