Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) enters this weekend’s New England 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon ranked 10th in the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship standings.
The second race of the 10-race playoff that will crown the 2016 champion will be contested at the 1.058-mile oval that helped Busch make his Sprint Cup championship dreams a reality in 2004. Busch hopes history will repeat itself this weekend and that, once again, the “Magic Mile” lives up to its moniker in helping him get one step closer to being crowned the Sprint Cup champion for a second time.
Busch led 155 laps and drove away from Matt Kenseth Sept. 19, 2004 at New Hampshire to win the first race in the first Chase. The historic victory would be the first of six top-five and nine top-10 finishes the Las Vegas native would rack up during that year’s 10-race playoff.
But the Chase format has changed drastically since then. What was then a true, 10-race series that would determine the champion is now a series of three elimination rounds during which the field of 16 drivers is narrowed to 12, then eight, and then to the final four who will compete for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
While a Chase driver cannot be eliminated from contention this weekend at New Hampshire, he can guarantee his championship hopes continue by scoring a win, as race winners from each round automatically advance to the next round. Busch would like nothing more than to pick up his second win of the season this weekend at New Hampshire and head to the final race of the Round of 16 without worry. But, with the rest of the teams advancing by total points accumulated, he knows a strong finish would also go a long way toward ensuring his advancement into the Round of 12.
In 31 Sprint Cup starts at New Hampshire, Busch has three victories – July and September 2004, and June 2008 – seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s. While the finishes there of late have not shown the success of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation team, performances have been strong.
So, as Busch sets his sights on advancing throughout the Chase, he is also looking to rekindle the magic he’s shown at New Hampshire by capturing his fourth career Sprint Cup win there and guaranteeing his advancement into the Round of 12.