It all started with an idea contrived in the No. 41 hauler last Friday morning at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Back at the racetrack for the first time since winning the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the idea came to Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), as he explained to the team that there are just two Harley J. Earl trophies made each year – one each presented to the winning driver and car owner of the Daytona 500. Gene Haas, the listed car owner, shipped his to Haas Automation’s headquarters in Oxnard, California, where it will be displayed.
But Busch wanted to order replica trophies for crew chief Tony Gibson, sponsor Monster Energy and others. Unable to do that, he came up with the idea of sharing his trophy with his teammates and others, as is the tradition with the trophy awarded annually to the National Hockey League championship-winning team, The Stanley Cup.
Lord Stanley’s Cup is first presented on the ice to the captain of the winning team after the series-clinching game. Each member of the team then gets a turn to skate around the rink with the trophy hoisted high. For the next 100 days, the championship-winning team gets to keep the Cup in its possession for parades, sponsor functions and other celebrations. Beginning with the New York Rangers in 1994, a tradition also began wherein each member of the winning team is allowed to retain the Cup for a day.
So, Busch begins his self-proclaimed Harley J. Earl Trophy Tour this weekend when he takes it to his hometown of Las Vegas, the site of this Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Thursday, Busch and the trophy’s first stop will be Durango High School, where he will be inducted into the Las Vegas school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Along with his Daytona 500 trophy, Busch will also have a replica of his No. 97 Ford Taurus with which he won the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series championship. A period-correct hood will be raised to the rafters to commemorate the occasion.
On Saturday, Busch will take the trophy to Star Nursery, the sponsor that adorned his car when he drove in the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour back in the day. Busch ultimately parlayed his success driving Craig Keough’s No. 70 car into his championship-winning NASCAR career. From there, Busch plans to leave the trophy at Monster Energy’s corporate headquarters in Corona, California, where it will be displayed for employees and customers alike.
Just two races into the 2017 season, Busch is already enjoying the most successful start to a season of his NASCAR Cup Series career. With a seventh-place finish Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Busch finds himself ranked second in the point standings. He’s looking forward to earning a little more hardware Sunday in the form of his first winner’s trophy from his home track. While he has yet to score a win there, he certainly has put his best foot forward when it comes to qualifying at Las Vegas. Busch has started outside of the top-10 only four times in 15 starts, and has a pair of poles, scored in 2010 and 2016. He’s confident that this year, with Ford horsepower under the hood of his No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Fusion, he’ll be finally be able to find his way to his hometown victory lane.