Kurt Busch’s last NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win came six races ago at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Wheeling a red and black No. 41 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Busch started ninth and overcame team and fuel challenges to capture the victory.
Busch ran inside the top-10 for the first half of the race, then steadily moved into the top-five for the second half of the 160-lap race. The critical stretch came with 40 laps to go when, on lap 119 interim crew chief Johnny Klausmeier, filling in for the suspended Tony Gibson due to a lug nut issue the week prior, took a gamble. He elected to bring Busch to pit road for fuel in hopes it would take the No. 41 to the finish. But, by Klausmeier’s calculations, Busch likely would be two laps shy of making it to the end.
He restarted third after the final caution of the race, then made a bold move to pass Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Chase Elliott as the three Chevrolets exited turn three. He eventually made the pass for the lead in turn one. From there, Busch was not only able to keep the lead, he was able to save enough fuel to make it to the checkered flag and still have enough for his celebratory burnout on the frontstretch.
The victory tied Busch with NASCAR Hall of Famer Rex White for 25th on the all-time series win list, and it all but secured his spot in the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. While there’s still plenty of racing to be done between now and Nov. 20, when the championship is decided at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Las Vegas native has been relieved of at least a bit of pressure. Knowing he’s likely headed into the postseason, Busch and his Gibson-led crew can race aggressively for additional wins.
And that’s exactly what they’ll look to do at this weekend’s Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono, when the driver of the Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet will look to complete the season sweep at the 2.5-mile triangle, a racetrack where he’s now won three times.
In addition to his three wins, Busch has two poles, 13 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s in 30 career starts at Pocono. Busch has led laps in 19 of those races, including a record-setting 175 circuits spent atop the leaderboard en route to his win in August 2007.
A return to Pocono couldn’t come at a better time for Busch. While his win last month put him in prime position for a 2016 Chase berth, he will be able to clinch his spot with a second win.
With little to worry about in terms of making the Chase thanks to his Pocono win last month, the 28-time Sprint Cup race winner will look to officially secure his playoff berth and earn additional points for the postseason as the 16 drivers who qualify for the Chase 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 postseason at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois.