Kurt Busch Richmond Repeat?

Should Kurt Busch, the driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), be able to do this weekend what he did one year ago – notch his first win of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season Sunday at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway – he would be able to add his name to a short list of distinguished drivers who know that, when they return to “The Action Track” in September, they will do so with a lot less proverbial weight on their shoulders.


For the drivers who are able to score regular-season victories, they know their presence in the postseason is all but secured. With the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format, a win virtually guarantees a driver and his team a berth in the Chase, provided they are among the top-30 in driver points.


Busch returns to the .75-mile oval as the defending winner of the Richmond 400. A repeat performance is certainly possible, as a quick glance at his stats at Richmond show that he cannot be overlooked. In 30 Sprint Cup starts at Richmond, Busch has two wins, six top-five finishes and 11 top-10s, and has led 748 laps. Richmond has, at times, been a strong venue for the 27-time race winner. 


Up until last year, when Busch led six times for a race-high 291 laps and held off SHR teammate Kevin Harvick for the win, Richmond had been a bit fickle for the Las Vegas native. While Busch had flirted with victories, he’d also had runs that were less than stellar. But it was in this race last year that he was finally able to take advantage of a dominant racecar and find his way to victory lane there once again.


After starting third in the rain-postponed 400-lap race, Busch took the lead for the first time on lap 95 and maintained the top spot for the next 35 circuits around the .75-mile oval. Busch would go on to exchange the lead a handful of times with Harvick over the next 100-plus laps, but he never dropped lower than third in the running order. Busch took the front spot for the last time on lap 354, leading the final 47 trips around the Richmond oval en route to victory lane.


Should Busch be able to do as he did last year – notch his first regular-season win this weekend at Richmond – he knows his return there in September won’t be the pressure-filled, high-stakes race that it could be. There would be no “win-to-get-in” or some detailed Chase-clinching scenario for the No. 41 team to study, plan for or worry about.