Kurt Busch will park his typical black-and-red Chevrolet SS for Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in favor of an orange-and-black model.
The No. 41 Chevrolet will sport new colors when State Water Heaters, a leading manufacturer of commercial and residential water heaters, adorns Busch’s ride for the first time. Based in Ashland City, Tennessee, State Water Heaters has seven water heater manufacturing plants and hundreds of distribution centers across the United States to ensure efficient service to State’s national customer base of residential homeowners, wholesalers, contractors, and members of the engineering community.
Founded in 1946 by Herbert Lindahl, State Water Heaters began in a Nashville garage as a small entrepreneurial company producing coal- and wood-burning stoves. In the years that followed, State Water Heaters expanded and became a leader in the water-heating industry through steadfast commitments to seeking new materials, new technology and innovative engineering techniques.
It would make sense that a company like State would choose to align itself with a team like Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) and driver Busch. After all, both started out small and rose quickly due to their commitment to excellence.
Gene Haas, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing with three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, founded Haas Automation in 1983. The company has always produced top-quality products at affordable prices, and all are built in the U.S. – in the company’s facility in Oxnard, California. It’s something Haas takes great pride in doing, and his goal was simple – to manufacture economical and reliable machine tools. That commitment has seen Haas Automation grow to become the largest machine-tool builder in the western world.
In 2002, Haas formed Haas CNC Racing and entered the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series that year with driver Jack Sprague. Nearly six years later, Haas announced a partnership with Stewart, and SHR was formed. With a goal of delivering excellence in every facet of the organization and exceeding commitments to fans, partners and employees, SHR builds value by creating an environment of competitiveness, superior technology, performance, teamwork and family amid the rich history of motorsports. Since 2009, the Kannapolis, North Carolina-based operation has expanded to a four-car team, claimed the 2011 Sprint Cup championship, and overall has earned 22 wins, 22 poles, 98 top-five finishes and 195 top-10s.
Busch’s career mirrors the foundations and goals that have made both State and SHR leaders in their respective industries. He began racing in his hometown of Las Vegas. The second-generation driver got his start the way most youngsters do – tagging along with his father to racetracks dotted among the Mountain and Pacific Time zones. At just 7 years old, he was behind the wheel of a go-kart and, by 15, he was racing alongside his father Tom in Dwarf Car competition. Busch’s career was on the fast track as he was running full-time on the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour by 1998. He earned rookie of the year honors that season and won the series championship the following year.
It was during that championship-winning season that Busch’s skill attracted the attention of NASCAR team owner Jack Roush, who hosted driver auditions for a team he fielded in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Busch got the call to participate and, in a pivotal moment in his life, he won the audition and his big-time racing career was underway.
Busch’s star shined quickly. Less than a year after being hired to race in the Truck Series, Busch was promoted to driving the No. 97 Sprint Cup car. His aspiration of competing at the sport’s highest level was met, but it was quickly exceeded by his ability to compete among the best, and win. He claimed the Sprint Cup Series championship in 2004, in just his fourth season of full-time competition.
State Water Heaters, SHR and Busch have each become champions in their respective trades thanks to their level of commitment. And this weekend, Busch hopes to celebrate the partnership with some shared success at the home track for most of NASCAR’s teams.
While he may no longer be in contention to win another Sprint Cup championship this year, Busch can’t be counted out as a threat to finish the season on a high note by bringing home a win or two. After all, he’s scored victories at five of the six tracks remaining on the schedule – one apiece at Charlotte, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Phoenix International Raceway and at Homestead-Miami Speedway. And with his win in March at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Busch became a two-time winner at the half-mile oval.
Busch has proven he knows what it takes to get around Charlotte, having claimed the checkered flag in the 2010 Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest race. Perhaps this weekend, he’ll be able to score a second Charlotte win and deliver State Water Heaters its first Sprint Cup victory.