Kurt Busch ‘We Are Down but We Are Not Out’

When Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) spoke to reporters following Sunday’s race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, he seemed more focused on looking forward than dwelling on what might have been.

“We are down but we are not out,” Busch said. “We can go to Texas and win, we can win at Phoenix. We want to get an invite to Homestead.”

Busch’s No. 41 Chevrolet was running third after a late-race restart when Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski made contact in front of him, turning Kenseth’s car sideways. Busch ducked to the inside but was unable to avoid hard contact with Kenseth that momentarily sent his No. 41 Chevrolet airborne then into the inside wall.

After being in contention for a strong finish, if not a win, in Sunday’s 500-lap race at Martinsville, Busch now heads to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth ranked seventh among the eight remaining Chase for the Sprint Cup drivers. He is 36 points behind Chase leader Jeff Gordon and likely needs to win one of the next two races if he is to continue his quest for the 2015 championship.  

Under the previous Chase format, drivers looked at the postseason as a 10-race stretch. Now, it’s taken three races at a time, which leaves little room for error. While the current Eliminator Round did not open the way the 2004 Sprint Cup champion hoped, he feels confident that his No. 41 Haas Automation team can rise to the challenge and earn a victory either this weekend at Texas or the following week at Phoenix International Raceway. A win in either of those races would essentially delete his 34th-place finish at Martinsville and earn him an invite to the winner-take-all Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Busch saw this very scenario play out last season, when his SHR teammate Kevin Harvick appeared to be on his way to a top-five finish at Martinsville only to have his solid run derailed when he was involved in an on-track incident, ironically enough, with Kenseth. Harvick was able to limp his battered racecar home and was credited with a 33rd-place finish when the checkered flag waved. He found himself in a must-win scenario to advance to the Championship Round and did just that at Phoenix. That set the stage for Harvick and the No. 4 team to secure the 2014 Sprint Cup championship the following week at Homestead. 

So, while Busch may be down, it would be difficult to count him out. He’s in championship contention during the month of November for the first time since winning his first title in 2004 and has every intention of keeping his drive for a second series championship alive in 2015.