Kurt Busch just enjoyed another spoil of winning the Daytona 500.
Busch and members of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team were fitted for their Daytona 500 championship rings last week, marking the organization’s first victory in NASCAR’s premier event.
“Overall, when you win the Daytona 500, it can carry you for a lifetime,” said Busch. “It’s an amazing victory with the prestige and the history and the value of Daytona.
“It can carry you for a season and so far, the first 11 races, we’ve had a great deal of success and we’re very happy about that with our Ford, with Haas, with Monster and for everybody on the team.”
Busch, the 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion, can only hope the early-season success will extend to the Go Bowling 400 on Saturday night at Kansas Speedway. For all of his accomplishments during an 18-year career, Busch is still searching for his first win at Kansas.
Busch, 38, is one of four drivers, along with Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth, to have started all 22 Cup races at Kansas Speedway since it opened in 2001.
And he’s the only one of the four yet to win at the track.
During that time, Busch has driven for five teams, including powerhouse Roush Fenway Racing and Penske Racing. He has piloted Fords, Dodges and Chevys on two different surfaces at 1 1/2 -mile tri-oval but still has come up empty.
“Kansas has definitely been a tough one on me through the years,” said Busch. “It’s one of those tough mile-and-a-half tracks where it feels like you’re on a razor-blade edge, and if your set-up is not close, it always seems to make for a long day because you’re fighting all day long a looseness here or a tightness there, and it could be real slippery real quick.”
Busch has had some chances to win at Kansas. In 2011, he won the pole for the final spring race before the track was repaved a year later but finished ninth; and in fall of 2013 he finished a distant second to Harvick.
“I’ve had a couple of solid runs, and what I haven’t found is that sweet spot,” said Busch, now in his fourth season with Stewart-Haas Racing. “Kansas has definitely changed over the years, and being with different teams and different setups, it’s hard because we haven’t built up that solid notebook with past history.”
Busch’s inability to win at Kansas is baffling because he has won 29 career races on 15 Cup tracks, including short tracks (five wins at Bristol, two at Martinsville), intermediate tracks (three each at Atlanta, Michigan, Pocono and New Hampshire), on the road course at Sonoma and capped by this year’s Daytona 500, a restrictor-plate, superspeedway.
Perhaps Busch will take a cue from his younger brother Kyle, the 2015 Cup champion, who won last spring’s Go Bowling 400, his first Cup win at Kansas after 16 starts.
“I could go off of his success that he had last year,” Kurt Busch, who is coming off a sixth-place finish at Talladega. “We’ve been trying to find our stride.
“This is where we have to turn the corner with Kansas and Charlotte the week after … those are both races that will be in the playoffs later this year.”
Busch’s win at Daytona has likely ensured his spot in the 16-driver playoffs, so he can use Saturday’s race as a rehearsal for the fall event, which will be an elimination race in the playoffs.
“Any race that is part of the spring schedule where we race in the playoffs is very important,” Busch said. “There’s more level of focus, and the intensity is that much higher for those playoff tracks we race in the spring.
“We’re always after trying to find that cutting edge, and there might be some of the race strategy we might play just to have a deeper notebook for when we get back. Pit strategy has changed a ton now with the stages, so it’s always up in the air and it’s a matter of executing as a team.”
Even if Busch fails to conquer Kansas, he’s proud of his trophy shelf, which distinguishes him as just the 14th driver to win a Cup championship and a Daytona 500.
“I hope there are more wins like that and more championships,” he said, “but right now, the way it feels, I won a championship early in my career, and I won the Daytona 500 late in my career, and it’s neat to have both of those bookends.”
Go Bowling 400
6:30 p.m. Saturday at Kansas Speedway, Fox Sports 1