Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, led the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent Sunday at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway by finishing 12th in the SaveMart 350k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Busch started fifth and raced in the top-5 consistently for the first half of the race, reaching as high as third on lap 58, just past the halfway point of the race. Busch and crew chief Daniel Knost chose to stick to a predetermined two-pit-stop race strategy for the 110-lap event, staying out on old tires to keep the third position when a caution flag flew on lap 62. When the race restarted on lap 64, the Haas Automation Chevrolet struggled to maintain track position on old tires ahead of the majority of teams behind them with fresh tires, resulting in a drop from third to 23rd by the next caution on lap 72.
The No. 41 team had planned to make a final pit stop on lap 72, but a flurry of cautions on laps 72, 76 and 82 worked against the strategy for the Haas Automation Chevrolet.
Knost called an audible and brought Busch’s No. 41 down pit road under caution for an additional stop on lap 83 for a chassis adjustment, which caused the team to restart 28th on lap 85. Busch raced his way to 17th by the final caution on lap 90, and as several cars ahead of him pitted for the final time, he moved up to eighth for the final restart on lap 94.
Busch did his best to hold track position with older tires and a damaged racecar, managing a 12th-place finish.
“Kurt and I talked this morning and came up with a race strategy that we both agreed on,” Knost said. “We were sticking with the two-pit-stop strategy if everything went our way early on. We were in a great position, but unfortunately the cautions didn’t fall our way to give us a shot at the win. We brought home a solid 12th-place finish, which is a good points day, but we wanted a shot at the win. It was a little disappointing because I know we had a fast Haas Automation Chevrolet, but we’ll learn from it and continue on.”