Despite struggling with a myriad of handling issues, Kurt Busch led one lap and brought home a hard-fought 11th-place finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was Busch’s 18th top-15 of the season.
“We had a tough battle,” said Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). “The handle on the car wasn’t where we thought we were from practice. The pit stops didn’t really help us keep the track position. We were the last car on the lead lap a few times. Restarts – they sometimes were good, sometimes I missed it, and at the end of the day to come home 11th after battling, it was almost good to get a tough day out of the way in 2014 with (crew chief) Tony Gibson.”
After starting second, Busch maintained position inside the top-five until the first caution of the day was displayed on lap 10. Gibson opted for a two-tire stop, sending Busch back onto the racetrack with the lead. However, with the rest of the field on four tires Busch struggled to maintain position. Coupled with transmission issues that saw his Haas Automation Chevrolet repeatedly jump out of gear, Busch continued to lose positions as the laps clicked off.
Busch struggled with an ill-handling racecar for much of the race, despite numerous chassis adjustments. Gibson made track bar, wedge and air pressure changes to try to resolve Busch’s handling woes that saw his red-and-black racecar loose entering and too tight exiting the corner, but nothing seemed to work.
With a number of late-race cautions, Busch and Gibson gambled, electing to stay out under some and hitting pit road for fresh tires on others. The strategy, combined with Busch’s ability to make the most of the restarts, saw the Haas Automation Chevrolet take the final checkered flag of the 2014 season in 11th.
“Trying to communicate and build on the car’s setup throughout the race tonight and find some of our weak areas will help us for next year,” Busch said. “I’m glad it wasn’t all easy for these final three weeks. But we know we have to pick up the game. Congratulations to Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team, they are true champions. I have never seen such a dominating season from one organization.”