Kurt Busch had a strong run in the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
The driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) started fourth and maintained his presence in the top-10 for much of the 500-mile race. Busch was able to overcome a series of slow stops on pit road in the second half of the race that had put a sure-thing top-10 finish in doubt. Using some late-race pit strategy, the Las Vegas native was able to charge from 15th to the lead and appeared to have a shot at the victory before a series of late-race crashes would greatly alter the desired outcome.
“It was great to have a shot at the win,” Busch said. “Tony Gibson (crew chief) and the engineers did a great job reading my balance, and I was trying to pick up on their changes. So, it was nice to go out there and execute. We just lost too many spots on pit road, and that put us behind a few times. The strategy was to stay out at the end, and we didn’t need all those yellow flags.”
Gibson, in his first race as crew chief of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, executed smart strategy calls and coordinated a series of adjustments to help remedy Busch’s handling woes that saw his black-and-red machine tight into and loose off of the corners. However, problems on pit road after the midpoint of the race saw Busch lose positions each time he came in for scheduled service.
As the race wound down, an incident involving the No. 66 car brought out the caution flag on lap 296. With nothing to lose, Busch and Gibson agreed to stay on the racetrack to give the No. 41 team a shot at the victory. The move paid off, as Busch would advance from ninth to second for the restart, which placed him in position to overtake Matt Kenseth for the race lead on lap 303.
Busch would hold the point for two restarts and 15 laps, but his older tires were no match for racecars on fresher rubber that began to overtake him. When Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 car spun on lap 320 to bring out the caution, Busch knew he’d have to come to pit road for fresh tires.
With just three laps remaining in the scheduled race distance, Busch had his work cut out for him if he was to rally from the 23rd position, where he took the green flag, to get back inside the top-10. Fortunately, an additional caution flag and two strong restarts gave Busch just the opportunity he needed to get the job done. The Haas Automation driver was able to mount an incredible comeback that saw him take the checkered flag in eighth.
“All those yellows gave everybody with fresh tires a chance to catch me,” Busch said. “We had to pit but were able to use the last yellow to our advantage. We worked our way from, I don’t know, 25th to eighth. All in all, it was a great first day working with Tony Gibson and these guys. We are going to be good. We just have to work out the details.”
Busch’s teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, led the four-car SHR contingent by finishing second in the AAA Texas 500. It was Harvick’s 12th top-five of 2014 and his fourth top-five in 24 career Sprint Cup starts at Texas.