Kurt Busch has one win, three top-five finishes and 131 points in his last three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits to the road course at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway. It’s more points than any other driver has scored there the past three seasons, and the win and three top-fives tie him for most in those categories during that time. The interesting part is that Busch’s success has come with three different teams – Team Penske, Phoenix Racing and Furniture Row Racing.
As the Sprint Cup Series heads back to Sonoma for Sunday’s SaveMart 350k, Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion and driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), would like to make it four top-fives with four teams in four years, especially if that top-five was to come in the form of a second win.
Busch dominated the 2011 Sprint Cup race at Sonoma when he led 76 laps of 110 laps and crossed the finish line 2.685 seconds ahead of runner-up Jeff Gordon to score the win for Team Penske.
In 2012, Busch finished third to score his only top-five of the season for underdog team Phoenix Racing. He battled with eventual race-winner Clint Bowyer and second-place finisher Tony Stewart in the closing laps. He looked to be in position to score an unlikely win until contact with a tire barrier caused suspension damage to the front of the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet.
Busch drove the No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet to his third consecutive top-five finish at Sonoma last June, when he led 15 laps en route to a fourth-place finish behind race-winner Martin Truex Jr., Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards.
All things considered the past three seasons, perhaps most important for Busch when it comes to Sonoma Raceway is that the legendary road circuit served as a springboard to a full-time NASCAR ride early in his career.
In June 1999, Busch, then a 20-year-old virtually unknown driver from Las Vegas, drove to victory lane in the Featherlite Southwest Series race that preceded the Sprint Cup Series main event. Busch eventually went on to capture the series title that season, which helped him open doors that led to a full-time NASCAR ride.
This weekend, Busch is hoping to add to his already impressive Sonoma resume. He would love to score his second win of the season in this weekend’s 110-lap event.
Busch knows the No. 41 team’s win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March virtually guarantees a spot in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Adding a second win would cement the team’s place in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff. Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson is the only driver with three wins, while SHR teammate Kevin Harvick, Team Penske driver Joey Logano and Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., each have two wins this season. Busch is one of six single-race winners as the series heads to race 16 of 36.
In 13 career starts at Sonoma, Busch has the one win and one pole, as well as six top-five finishes and six top-10s with an average start of 10th and an average finish of 16th. He also has led 54 laps.