And then there were 16.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), will be one of the 16 drivers competing for the NASCAR Sprint Series Championship when the Chase for the Championship begins next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois. Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway served as the regular season finale – an event in which Busch finished in seventh-place for his 10th top-10 in 28 career Sprint Cup starts at the .75-mile oval.
While it may not have been the exclamation point of a win, it was a strong effort in what Busch hopes is the precursor for a run to his second career NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
“We wanted to run tonight like we were running in the Chase,” said Busch. “We ran our own race tonight and finished seventh. If you can finish seventh in each of the first three races in the Chase you will advance. So tonight was a nice feel for us to run our own race and our team has really developed over the year. We’re ready. We have a nice 10 weeks ahead of us that we’ve prepared for and we’ve built better cars. Thanks to Chevrolet, Monster Energy, Mobil 1, Rush Truck Centers – it’s been a great ride and most of all, thanks to Gene Haas for believing in me. It’s my job to get the car championship eligible and we’re here and ready to go racing.”
After starting ninth Saturday night, the Haas Automation driver flexed a little muscle early, racing his way into the top-five by the time the competition caution waved on lap 50 despite a loose-handling issue at the entry and exit of the turns. The longer the race went the more exacerbated the loose condition became. Compounding handling problems were a couple of issues during pit stops – all of it adding up to cost Busch a handful of positions in the running order by the time the race reached the halfway point.
Adjustments and patience by the wheel helped Busch to overcome the mid-race issues that plagued his No. 41 Haas Automation Chevy. He was able to race his way back into the top-10 as the race drew to a close, making his way to seventh-place by the time the checkered flag waved.