Kurt Busch Finishes 17th at New Hampshire

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), experienced a weekend of ups and downs at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon that ended Sunday with a 17th-place finish in the Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

Busch started 18th and struggled early with a Haas Automation Chevrolet that lacked front grip. When the caution flag waved for an incident involving the No. 48 car of Jimmie Johnson on lap 13, crew chief Daniel Knost called Busch to pit road for right-side tires and chassis and air-pressure adjustments that allowed the Las Vegas native to make slow but steady progress in working his way toward the front of the field. As the race continued uninterrupted, those that opted to stay out under the earlier caution period were forced to make their scheduled stops under green-flag conditions. Those who pitted earlier stayed out and went to the front of the field, and the No. 41 took the lead on lap 80. Busch would hold the lead for just one lap before relinquishing the top spot to hit pit road for his scheduled service.

Busch continued to struggle with a tight-handling condition as the laps clicked off, and after the caution flag waved once again for debris on lap 112, Knost called Busch to pit road for additional adjustments. However, as the 2004 Sprint Cup Series champion began to turn into his stall, he was blocked by the No. 11 car of Denny Hamlin. Busch was forced to abort the stop and make a second trip to pit road. The incident saw Busch scored in the 20th position for the restart on lap 118.

Now mired in traffic, Busch struggled with the handling of his Haas Automation Chevrolet as he fought a loose condition caused by the dirty air produced by those racing in front of him. Knowing that track position was key, Busch and Knost decided to gamble by taking two tires on consecutive stops in the middle stages of the race in an effort to regain lost ground. However, a series of late-race caution periods saw them unable to capitalize on their strategy.

With other teams on various strategies and the caution flags not waving in their favor, all Busch and the Haas Automation team could do was push for the best finish possible. Despite impressive position gains on restarts, Busch was unable to hold the spots due to the ill handling of his red-and-black machine and was forced to settle for a 17th-place finish.

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Steven B. Wilson

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