Kurt Busch and the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS team of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) overcame adversity at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon, winning the rain-shortened Michigan 400 after starting 24th in a backup racecar. Busch led six laps en route to the win, which marks his 27th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career victory, second in 2015 and third overall at the 2-mile oval.
“It’s a team combination all the way around,” Busch said. “Tony Gibson (crew chief) led these guys through a backup car, and the pit crew was there giving their best. It’s an unbelievable feeling to know what we went through, paced ourselves and found the lead toward the latter part of the race when the rain came in.”
Busch’s weekend didn’t start out as well as it ended; on Friday he lost control of his car and made contact with the wall during the first practice session. Not having any seat time in the backup car prior to qualifying, he fought ill handling and only advanced to the second round, earning a 24th-place starting position.
In addition to the team’s fine-tuning during Saturday’s two practice sessions, two adjustments made during Sunday’s race gave Busch the smooth-handling Haas Automation Chevrolet he needed to work his way to the front. A fast racecar combined with spotter Rick Carelli’s expert guidance enabled the Las Vegas native to pull off the win.
“It’s amazing when you have team chemistry at the level we do,” the 36-year-old driver stated. “I grew up watching Rick Carelli and Ron Hornaday – the legends of the Southwest Tour run – and to have Carelli as my spotter, I have so much respect for him. He has so much wisdom to give and he’s a good mentor. He teaches me so many things.”
Busch had made seven passes before the first caution emerged on lap 10 for inclement weather. The race was then red-flagged for increased precipitation, which would occur three additional times throughout the afternoon. Busch advanced several positions during each green-flag run and raced his way into eighth by lap 42.
Gibson’s call for four tires and fuel on lap 122 worked to Busch’s advantage, as the fresh tires allowed him to catapult to the lead just before the final caution flag waved for rain. As the rain came down harder, officials parked drivers on pit road on lap 138. Shortly thereafter, Busch was declared the Michigan 400 winner.
“You have to get down and dirty,” Busch said. “You have to really roll up your sleeves, get your elbows dirty and put the work into it. And Tony Gibson makes these guys work a little extra hard. I always say thanks and I’m always there early with them. Thanks to Haas Automation, State Water Heaters, Chevrolet, Monster Energy, Mobil 1 and Rush Truck Centers. This is a fantastic series to race in and it’s a pleasure to be able to drive into victory lane.”This was the 29th points-paying Sprint Cup win for SHR since its inception in 2009 and the organization’s fourth this season. Busch won earlier this year at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, and SHR teammate Kevin Harvick won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway.