Growing up in Las Vegas, Kurt Busch spent the early years of his career competing at tracks along the West Coast.
And when he wasn’t behind the wheel of his racecar, the driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) traveled to area tracks to take in races as a spectator. Throughout the 1990s, Busch regularly made the trek to Phoenix International Raceway just to have the chance to watch NASCAR superstars like Dale Earnhardt and Davey Allison compete.
Getting the opportunity to race at the mile oval in the desert west of Phoenix – the same track where he had cheered for many of his racing heroes – was a dream come true for Busch. Racing at the track was like a home game for Busch, who also attended college for several semesters at the University of Arizona down the road in Tucson before making it in NASCAR’s big leagues.
While he was coming up through the ranks, Busch made a number of race starts at Phoenix, competing in series such as NASCAR’s Southwest Series tour. Then, in 2000, Busch took to the track for the first time as a competitor in NASCAR’s top touring series, competing in both the Camping World Truck Series race in March, in which he finished fourth, and then in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in November later that same season, when he finished 29th.
Since his first NASCAR Cup Series start at Phoenix, it has been a track where Busch has performed consistently. He only has one win in Cup Series competition at Phoenix, but he also owns seven top-five finishes and 17 top-10s in his 28 starts there. He has an average finish of 13.1, which is the third-highest finishing average for Busch at any active track on the Cup Series schedule.
While competing and winning at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway is considered the ultimate accomplishment for NASCAR drivers, the mile oval in the Arizona desert outside Phoenix is often thought of just as highly by young racers growing up out West. While Busch is certainly proud of what he’s been able to accomplish at Phoenix, he’d like nothing more than to score another win there not only for the personal pride, but also to better his position for NASCAR’s playoff. Drivers earn five playoff points for every regular-season race win, which they will carry through the 10-race run for the championship.