Quite simply, Kurt Busch and the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team are getting better. Just look at the results from the past few weeks.
Busch finished fourth at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta Saturday night to earn his first top-five finish at the 1.5-mile oval and, in doing so, he now owns at least one top-five at each racetrack the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits.
In the closing laps of the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Busch was in position to earn his first points-paying restrictor-plate victory but was spun on the final lap and taken out of contention.
He scored back-to-back 10th-place finishes at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. And, the week before, he earned his first victory of the 2016 season at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, virtually locking himself into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs for the 10th time in his career.
Busch heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon looking to continue his strong 2016 season by finding a little more magic at “The Magic Mile.” After all, the 1.058-mile oval has been the site of three of Busch’s 28 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins – a sweep of the 2004 spring and fall events, and a victory in June 2008. It is one of his best tracks, statistically – his average New Hampshire finish is 16th – so it’s difficult to overlook Busch as a threat to potentially earn his fourth Sprint Cup win there this weekend.
Busch overcame a 32nd-place qualifying result to earn his first win at New Hampshire in July 2004. At a tight, narrow layout like New Hampshire, track position is everything. And, in that July 2004 win, he overcame the huge deficit quickly, taking over the top spot on lap 171 and leading the next 42 circuits around the track. Busch would lead the final 68 laps before going on to score the win.
The second New Hampshire win followed less than two months later and completed that year’s sweep. In the September event, Busch led a race-high 155 laps en route to a historic win. It was the first race in the first-ever Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. The win catapulted him into the championship lead.
Busch’s third New Hampshire Sprint Cup win in July 2008 was a rain-shortened event during which he led only 10 laps, but they turned out to be the most important laps as they were the final 10 of the 284 run that day.
In addition to his three Sprint Cup wins, Busch has a win in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition at New Hampshire, coming in his rookie season in the series in 2000. Busch held off Mike Wallace and Randy Tolsma in a furious last-lap scramble to win his second consecutive race.
With his Chase berth this season all but guaranteed, the 28-time Sprint Cup race winner will look to earn additional points for the postseason as the 16 drivers who qualify for the playoffs will have their point totals reset to 2,000 and will be seeded based on bonus points – three per win – earned prior to the start of the Chase.