NASCAR: Top drivers of 2014 – No. 12 Kurt Busch


Kurt Busch

Season finish: 12th

2014 Season Stats: 1 wins, 6 top-5, 11 top-10, 0 Poles.

What went right: The 2004 Sprint Cup champ started off the season right when he wound up back with a major team when Gene Haas signed him. Busch won his first Sprint Cup win race since 2011 when he triumphed in the spring at Martinsville. He also drew global attention when he was the first driver to do “The Double,” finishing sixth in the Indianapolis 500, but wound up 40th and failed to finish the Coca-Cola 600 due to engine problems.

What went wrong: Busch started the Chase with an eighth place finish, but a 36th place finish at Loudon and 18th at Dover sealed his fate and he was among the first four drivers eliminated from advancement following the first round of the Chase. While he did have some strong finishes in the latter stages of the Chase at Talladega (7th), Texas (8th) and Phoenix (7th), the best he was able to finish in the final standings was 12th. Interestingly, Busch competed the last three races with a new crew chief, when veteran and old-school pit boss Tony Gibson replaced Daniel Knost, and had three of his better finishes of the season, finishing 8th, 7th and 11th.

2015 Prospectus: With Gibson for a full season as his crew chief, Busch should see improvement on the racetrack. Plus, Gibson is bringing a number of his long-time crew members with him. For whatever reason, Busch seems to work better with older veteran crew chiefs than younger ones. Example: he won the first Chase championship in 2004 with old-school crew chief Jimmy Fennig. If things go better, Busch could wind up having a big comeback season in 2015.

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Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.