For Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), there are racetracks on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule to which he’s been able to quickly adapt. There are others that took time to master. Then, there’s Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
He’s found his way to victory lane at 15 of 23 active racetracks on the circuit for a total of 29 career NASCAR Cup Series triumphs. His first came at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Driving the No. 97 Ford, he found his way to the winner’s circle in just his third start at the .533-mile oval. It took 32 attempts at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway to find his way to victory lane, but he was finally able to do so in the 2017 season-opening Daytona 500.
At the eight mile-and-half venues where the NASCAR Cup Series competes, Busch has earned a total of six victories. They’ve come at four tracks – three at Atlanta Motor Speedway and one apiece at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Busch is still searching for victory lane at four – Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Kansas.
Kansas has been a racetrack for Busch that has been complicated and vexing, but since being paired with crew chief Tony Gibson in 2015, he’s seen marked improvement. In the four races with Gibson atop the pit box, Busch has scored finishes of eighth, sixth, third and 13th for an average finish of 7.5. His average finish prior was 19th. So, while he has yet to find victory lane there, he has been able to compete at the track with the kind of consistency that could see him continue that trend of marked improvement this weekend.
Busch has been running at the end of all but two of the races he’s competed in at the 1.5-mile oval, the first DNF ending prematurely with an engine failure in 2003, the other due to an accident in October 2014. And in addition to a pair of top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 22 starts there, Busch owns one pole at Kansas, having scored the top starting spot in June 2011. The Kansas pole was the first of three consecutive poles Busch scored that month.
So, while a breakthrough victory at Kansas would add to the list of successes the Las Vegas native has experienced in his career, it would do much more than that for his 2017 championship hopes, as it would give Busch and his No. 41 team a second victory in 2017 and another five valuable bonus points for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. With his postseason eligibility already in place, they can head west and look to finally conquer Kansas.