Kurt Busch headlines PIR breakfast with champions

NASCAR star Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automotive Chevrolet and 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, kicked off the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup during Phoenix International Raceway’s second annual Breakfast With Champions as part of NASCAR’s “Chase Across North America” Wednesday at Phoenix's Heard Museum.

In front of an audience of more than 75 invited guests and local media, Busch and veteran motorsports broadcaster Ralph Sheheen discussed the NASCAR Chase format and the increased pressure on drivers and teams each week during the 10-race Chase, and in particular at the Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500 at PIR. A native of Las Vegas, Busch enjoyed being able to come back to promote the Chase in Phoenix.

“This is wonderful to come out to Phoenix, come out to the desert Southwest,” Busch said. “I grew up in Las Vegas and came out to Phoenix as a kid when they were actually taping the “Days of Thunder” movie. Before Las Vegas Motor Speedway was built, this was our racing capital of the Southwest at Phoenix International Raceway. It’s always good to come back and feel that desert air.”

The Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500, on Sunday, Nov. 15, is the final Eliminator race in the Chase, after which the field of championship contenders will be reduced to the final four who will head to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the title showdown.

“There are those ’bottom-of-the-ninth’ moments now, similar to this race last year here in Phoenix,” Busch said. “My teammate Kevin Harvick, he won this race and if he didn’t win here, he wouldn’t have even gone to Homestead with a shot of winning the Championship. That’s how pivotal any kind of cut-off race is. It makes it great for you guys here in Phoenix. I heard the race is already almost sold out, and that’s because it’s that ’bottom-of-the-ninth’, cutthroat atmosphere.”

Walking through each round of the playoffs, Busch also shared his picks for the Chase Grid on what drivers he believes will advance, and not surprisingly, why his No. 41 team will take the Championship title.

“It’s all about consistency,” said Busch. “That’s how I won the series back in 2004. I ran nine out of the 10 races in the top 10. We just want to go have solid finishes and not sweat the pressure of a cut off race. With the way the new Chase format is all set up, it really puts the emphasis on the teams and the strength of the teams. The way it’s going to play out is the least amount of mistakes is what it’s going to take to win the Championship, along with that fastest car.”

Busch will be making his ninth overall and third consecutive appearance in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff. He currently sits seventh in the Sprint Cup point standing with 2,006 points. Coming into the semifinal race in the Chase at PIR in November, Busch has made 25 career Sprint Cup starts in Phoenix. He has one win, six top-five finishes and 14 top-10’s at the track.

NASCAR’s playoff — the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup — is a 10-race culmination to the season that crowns a battle-tested champion. Starting with a 16-driver field, four drivers will be eliminated after every three races, setting up a "winner take all" championship showdown at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 22. The top finisher among the Championship 4 in Miami will win the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.