After having some poor finishes to open up the season, Kurt Busch posted his first top five of the season as he finished third in Sunday’s Auto Club 500.
“We put ourselves in good position at the end of the race,” Busch commented afterwards. “This race has two mindsets. One is to race 400 miles and not abuse your tires. The other mindset is it’s most likely going to come down to a green-white-checkered or a short run at the end with fresh tires.”
Busch had a good solid race throughout the day, running inside the top 10, though put himself in a position to get a top five when he took two tires versus four on the final set of pit stops.
“The strategy call was two tires,” Busch said. “Me and Daniel Knost, my crew chief, we both agreed that was the right call.”
Busch restarted second and raced side-by-side with teammate and boss Tony Stewart, who used the same strategy, for the lead till he got passed by his younger brother Kyle and Kyle Larson.
“We needed that after this season started as good in season reasons with leading laps and running up front, but it’s been horrible with our finishes,” Busch said. “So it was nice to race the boss, Tony Stewart, today for the win. You’re excited in one moment.
“I didn’t get a perfect restart, but it wasn’t a horrible restart. It’s just that everybody starts pushing and shoving, and I didn’t get down into Turn 1 leading. I got down into Turn 1 side by side with Tony and the two of us raced for the next three miles side by side. If I could have gotten clear, gotten up front, maybe we could have brought the Haas Automation Chevy to victory lane, but we’ll take a top 5 any day.”
Many people thought the strategy played by Busch’s team would be disastrous considering the tire issues that a majority of the drivers experienced during the day. However, Busch said that they experienced trouble in practice and that led to going with a conservative approach for the race.
“I’m glad that we had that. Sometimes it’s a blessing in disguise, so to blow a tire and to not pay a penalty by spinning and wrecking your primary car,” Busch said. “Tires, Goodyear is doing a good job. It’s the same type of tire. But here’s what we have. We have faster cars, more downforce, and NASCAR is allowing us to put whatever cambers we want into the cars, and therefore it’s up to the team’s discretion if you’re going to have a problem or not. I’ve been in this game 15 years, and normally NASCAR mandates what certain air pressures you have to run and what cambers you have to run not to have a black eye for Goodyear, by no means is this a problem for Goodyear, it’s actually a thumbs up for NASCAR allowing the teams to get aggressive in all areas.”
Kurt Busch will hope to carry the momentum forward to Martinsville, a track that he hasn’t done the best at with only four top 10s in 27 starts on the paperclip.