Between Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick, it’s probably safe to say that more people believe the latter will be Stewart-Haas Racing’s best hope to win the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
But while Busch hasn’t had the overall performance that Harvick’s had in 2014, the “Outlaw” and his No. 41 SHR team has shown steady improvement after a first half that saw him win at Martinsville but also suffer multiple DNFs.
Busch will begin the Chase this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway as the No. 10 seed. He and SHR tested at the 1.5-mile oval in Joliet, Illinois late last month.
In addition, the group has also tested at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the lead-up to the Chase. Busch hopes that those sessions will prove valuable and help them put up good results that can ensure an advancement to the Contender Round.
“I hope we are able to take advantage of the test and not fall behind on that first practice session [Friday] – that has been some of the trouble this year and we have played a little bit of catch-up after the first Friday practice,” Busch noted in a team release.
“Now, with a test session used at Chicago, a test session used at Loudon, we have to apply that knowledge the right way and make these finishes count because that is what the Chase is all about.”
Last year at Chicagoland, Busch turned in a fourth-place effort for Furniture Row Racing. But over the years, Chicagoland has been an up-and-down track for him: One Top-5 and 7 Top-10 finishes, plus five finishes outside the Top 25.
Busch likes the place enough, but as you’ve probably guessed, it hasn’t always been lucky for him.
“An example is the 2002 race,” Busch said, referring to a race where he finished sixth for Roush Racing after starting on the front row. “We had a really fast car for that race but, for some reason after the last pit stop, the car just wasn’t handling the same as it had been. We were just way too tight and really couldn’t figure out why.
“When we got back to the shop and started going over the car, we realized that the radiator pan had come off and that’s like 100 pounds of front downforce. We were going so fast that the car bottomed out and dragged the radiator pan out. It’s just weird stuff like that.”
One could argue that Busch’s already had enough “weird stuff” happen to him in 2014, and that he definitely doesn’t want more of it on Sunday.