Kurt Busch, Furniture Row Racing out to make history

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Since the inception of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, a single-car team has never been able to break into NASCAR’s “playoff” stretch. Tonight at Richmond International Raceway, that could all change.

Kurt Busch and Furniture Row Racing control their own destiny in the Federated Auto Parts 400, which Busch will start from the outside of the front row. Should “The Outlaw” notch his first victory of the season tonight, he’ll have the chance to battle for a second Sprint Cup title.

And for himself and FRR, the single-car squad based out of the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado, making the Chase would also stand as a massive victory for the underdog in a sport that’s dominated by multi-car powerhouses.

But while Busch would regard such an accomplishment as a big one, he isn’t racing for 10th in the Cup standings, either.

“Championships are what every driver sets out to achieve,” Busch said Thursday at Richmond. “When they’re building a team, they want to win championships.”

First thing’s first, though, and for Busch and the No. 78 FRR team, that’s making sure to stay within the Top 10 of the standings tonight so they can get in the post-season. Busch holds the 10th spot on the table, but has no wins this year and only has six points between him and 11th place Jeff Gordon.

At several points this season, Busch looked in position to take the checkered flag only to have various issues keep him from doing so. But he doesn’t like to play the “what if” game. All that matters now is tonight.

“We’re here to make the Chase with the 78 car,” he said. “Two weeks ago at Bristol, we had a right rear [wheel] hub failure. That put us up against the fence. We knew at that point Atlanta and Richmond would be the two most important races of the 78 car’s career.”

Busch got the first part down with a fourth-place finish at Atlanta last Saturday night that was fueled by a brilliant late restart. He reckons that restarts will once again play a key role in tonight’s race.

Another possible factor? Pit road. Busch’s FRR team has had its share of pit woes during the year, but Busch is still confident that his crew will shine when they need to.

“I see this coming down to a pit stop or two, down to a restart at the end,” he said. “I know they’re going to put their best stop down when it counts, because we know the whole season rides on this weekend.”

Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s INDYCAR race was postponed until Monday

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Here’s what several drenched drivers had to say after Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was postponed until Monday morning (11:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner, 2018 pole winner): “It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us. We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water on every straightaway. Then the rivers started flowing, high-speed compressions in Turns 1 and 2, fast corner, 12 and 13, fast corner where the river starts to form. Just tough. I mean, look, we love racing in the rain. It’s got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It’s that this type of track with this water level was too much to race today. We’ve run here in the rain before, but it intensified to the point where you’re starting to get in a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands. What happened with Will (Power), I don’t think is a driver error. I don’t know how anyone is going to drive hydroplaning on the front straightaway. I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too. A tough situation. Thanks for the fans that came out and supported us. Hopefully we’ll get some people back tomorrow and we’ll get the show in and put on a great event.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
“Tough day so far. We had some problems with our radio and fuel alarm, but otherwise the car was alright. It was just too dangerous out there, we couldn’t see anything, so I think they made the right call. Hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s just a real shame for everyone on the Verizon Chevy team. The car was good and we were doing our best out there, but it was really hard to see anything in front of me. The conditions were just so bad. As soon as I got to the frontstraight, the car just came around, and I tried to keep it off the wall, but it was hydroplaning and there was nothing I could do. I feel bad for the team and for the fans in this weather. Just too bad. Hopefully our luck can turn around when we get to Indianapolis.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Very difficult day for us. In the race we were 13th at the time and we had some electrical issues, so that caused us to pit and we lost a lap. Not the ideal situation, but we don’t give up. There’s still a race tomorrow and we’re going to go for the most points. Anything can happen.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue today, no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in today, but that’s life. We will go racing tomorrow.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “I think definitely the right decision was made to red flag the race. It’s a very difficult position for everyone to be in. It’s never the result that you want, but safety is obviously a priority. I think everyone did a good job considering the conditions of looking out for each other. Not being able to see is not doing anybody any good. It is hard for everyone, but glad that we’re all in one piece and try again later.

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “As you could see on TV, if you couldn’t see the car, it was probably three times worse in the cockpit on the main straight or any straight. You had to completely trust the guys that they were accelerating. Never the less, I made good progress on the short stint and I made up a few positions.  The car was working well, but also was aquaplaning a lot, too, so I have to respect INDYCAR’s decision for everyone’s safety. Now we really need to concentrate on having a good car for tomorrow. I’m sorry for the fans that sat in rain all day, but thank them for their support.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “It was a short day. In the beginning the conditions were not that good, but afterwards the conditions started to improve. The race was stopped, then restarted, and I think the conditions were not too bad at that point. Unfortunately, it was red flagged again and then cancelled for the day. It would have been nice to get halfway, but we will come back and try again tomorrow.”