What is in a number? By definition, a number is a mathematical object used to count, label and measure. A number’s use, however, can extend beyond mathematical purposes and is oftentimes used for ordering or for codes.
NASCAR is a sport that is all about numbers and their mathematical measures. Speed is reported by numbers in both miles per hour and time. Mathematical equations are used to determine the proper amount of fuel needed for a specific run. Pit stops are timed down to the thousandth of a second. Even drivers are identified by the number that appears on the side of their respective cars.
Kurt Busch is identified by the number 41 as he serves as the driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). That number, however, is only one of several by which he is identified. Busch’s driving career is filled with numbers. Numbers such as 15, 25 and 489 are just a few that identify Busch with 25 being the number of Sprint Cup Series wins he owns in 489 career starts as a 15-year veteran of NASCAR’s top series. The list goes on to include the number 34, which is the number of wins he has in NASCAR’s top three touring series since making his debut in the Camping World Truck Series in 2000, as well as the number 26, which is where he ranks on NASCAR’s all-time win list in Sprint Cup Series competition.
It’s always about the numbers in auto racing. This weekend, the series turns its attention to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon – a track where the numbers have been very good for Busch.
The first number to note for Busch at New Hampshire is 26. That’s the number of Sprint Cup starts Busch has made at the “Magic Mile.” In those 26 starts, Busch has scored 11 top-10 finishes for a 42 percent top-10 finish rate. Additionally, he has scored seven top-five finishes, which has helped to give him an average finishing position of 15.3.
The most notable number for Busch at New Hampshire, however, is three. Three is the number of wins scored by the 2004 Sprint Cup champion at the mile oval. Busch earned his first win at New Hampshire in the July 2004 race en route to the championship despite having to overcome a 32nd-place qualifying result. At a tight, narrow track like New Hampshire, track position is everything and he overcame the deficit quickly, taking over the top spot on lap 171 and leading the next 42 circuits around the track. Busch would lead the final 68 laps of the event before going on to score the win.
Busch quickly followed his first New Hampshire win with a second one less than two months later to complete a sweep of the track’s 2004 races. In the September race, Busch scored the “W” in dominating fashion, leading a race-high 155 laps after starting seventh. Additionally, the win catapulted Busch into the lead in the championship standings in the inaugural Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Busch earned his third New Hampshire Sprint Cup win in the July 2008 race. It was a rain-shortened event and Busch led only 10 laps, but it was the most important laps as they were the final 10 of the 284 laps run that day.
In addition to the three Sprint Cup wins, Busch has a win in Truck Series competition at New Hampshire, earning the victory during his rookie season in the series in 2000. Other numbers that apply when discussing Busch’s record at New Hampshire include one and 95, in that he’s only failed to finish one of the 26 races in which he’s competed, and he has a lap-completion rate of 95.5 percent.
Busch’s New Hampshire record features a lot of numbers, and numbers with significant implications when considering the 35-year-old’s Sprint Cup career. When it’s all added up, it equates to a positive outlook when considering the New England-based track.
Some more recent numbers for Busch and the No. 41 team include its current streak of five consecutive top-13 finishes. But, the most important number for Busch is two. Scoring a second Sprint Cup Series win this weekend in New Hampshire would lock him into the 16-team Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
Busch knows the No. 41 team’s win at Martinsville in March virtually guarantees a spot in the 2014 Chase, but 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 drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano, Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards each have two wins this season. Busch is one of five single-race winners as the series heads to race 19 of 36.
And at the end of the day, it’s all about the numbers.