Kurt Busch will park his black-and-red Chevrolet SS for Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in favor of an orange-and-black model.
The No. 41 Chevrolet will sport the colors of State Water Heaters, a leading manufacturer of commercial and residential water heaters. Based in Ashland City, Tennessee, State Water Heaters has seven water heater manufacturing plants and hundreds of distribution centers across the United States to ensure efficient service to State’s national customer base of residential homeowners, wholesalers, contractors and members of the engineering community.
Founded in 1946 by Herbert Lindahl, State Water Heaters began in a Nashville garage as a small entrepreneurial company producing coal- and wood-burning stoves. In the years that followed, State Water Heaters expanded and became a leader in the water-heating industry through steadfast commitments to seeking new materials, new technology and innovative engineering techniques.
It would make sense that a company like State would choose to align itself with a team like Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) and driver Busch. After all, both started out small and rose quickly due to their commitment to excellence.
Gene Haas, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing with three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, founded Haas Automation in 1983. The company has always produced top-quality products at affordable prices, and all are built in the U.S. – in the company’s facility in Oxnard, California. It’s something Haas takes great pride in, and his goal was simple – to manufacture economical and reliable machine tools. That commitment has seen Haas Automation grow to become the largest machine-tool builder in the Western World.
In 2002, Haas formed Haas CNC Racing and entered the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with driver Jack Sprague. Nearly six years later, Haas announced a partnership with Stewart, and SHR was formed. With a goal of delivering excellence in every facet of the organization and exceeding commitments to fans, partners and employees, SHR builds value by creating an environment of competitiveness, superior technology, performance, teamwork and family amid the rich history of motorsports. Since 2009, the Kannapolis, North Carolina-based operation has expanded to a four-car team, has claimed a pair of Sprint Cup championships, and overall has earned 30 wins, 26 poles, 131 top-five finishes and 246 top-10s.
Busch’s career mirrors the foundations and goals that have made both State and SHR leaders in their respective industries. He began racing in his hometown of Las Vegas. The second-generation driver got his start the way most youngsters do – tagging along with his father to racetracks dotted among the Mountain and Pacific time zones. At just 7 years old, he was behind the wheel of a go-kart and, by 15, he was racing alongside his father Tom in Dwarf Car competition. Busch’s career was on the fast track as he was running full-time on the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour by 1998. He earned rookie of the year honors that season and won the series championship the following year.
It was during that championship-winning season that Busch’s skill attracted the attention of NASCAR team owner Jack Roush, who hosted driver auditions for a team he fielded in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Busch got the call to participate and, in a pivotal moment in his life, he won the audition and his big-time racing career was underway.
Busch’s star shined quickly. Less than a year after being hired to race in the Truck Series, Busch was promoted to driving the No. 97 Sprint Cup car. His aspiration of competing at the sport’s highest level was met, but it was quickly exceeded by his ability to compete among the best, and win. He claimed the Sprint Cup championship in 2004 in just his fourth season of full-time competition.
State Water Heaters, SHR and Busch have become champions in their respective trades thanks to their level of commitment. And this weekend, Busch hopes to celebrate the partnership with some shared success at the home track for most of NASCAR’s teams by scoring the win in the first race of the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. Doing so would guarantee him a spot in the three-race Eliminator Round that will ultimately determine which four drivers vie for the championship in the season finale Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Having scored victories at five of the seven tracks remaining on the schedule – one apiece at Charlotte, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Phoenix International Raceway and at Homestead-Miami Speedway and twice at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Busch can’t be counted out as a threat for the 2015 championship.
Busch has proven he knows what it takes to get around Charlotte, having claimed the checkered flag in the 2010 Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest race. Perhaps, this weekend, he’ll be able to score a second Charlotte win and deliver State Water Heaters its first Sprint Cup victory.
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 State Water Heaters Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Without a win a race in the first three races of the Chase, you still have momentum now heading into the second round. How nice is it to be part of the Contender Round?
“Well, it’s fantastic. Our team – we still feel like we’re a top-four team, so we still have work to do. But to have made it through the first round, all of the bugs and butterflies and all of the anxiety and the appendixes being taken out are done and overwith, and now we need to settle in. This is the who’s who. This is the top-12. This reminds me of qualifying each week. You advance to that third round of qualifying, which is the top-12, and you lay it out on the line and see what you get. These 12 can win at any given track, at any given moment, and they’re tough to compete with.”
You’re going to be racing 100 fewer miles and at night more of the time Saturday vs. the Charlotte race in May. How different do you expect the racing to be?
“It’s always faster in October, and you cannot rely on May’s notes as much as what you would want to do from last October, so October ’14 is more relevant than May of ’15. That’s what I’ve seen over the years about Charlotte.”
With the change in weather, how much different does the track drive than the last time you were here?
“It’s much cooler out, so it’s much faster. So what you ran to help preserve a tire in the May race is definitely different than October. You’ve just got to keep in mind that, yeah, what you did in May is good, and if you ran well, don’t get too stuck with it because October is very different.”
With Charlotte being the next race this week, what changes because it is a playoff race? Or, do you just go back to what you did the May race, the 600, the back half of that race and just kind of go off those notes?
“Yeah, you’re exactly right. It’s going off of the most consistent notes. Most of that is the spring race. But then the fall race, there’s something special about the fall race at Charlotte because of the speed that’s in the track. It’s like the earth has cooled off and you get into those cool nights that are in the 50s, and the track has so much speed in it that it’s a different setup than what you ran in May when the track is warmer.”
Kurt Busch’s Charlotte Motor Speedway Performance Profile:
|2015||Coca-Cola 600||14||10||Running, 400/400||118||$140,045|
|2014||Coca-Cola 600||28||40||Engine, 271/400||0||$81,350|
|Bank of America 500||11||11||Running, 334/334||2||$95,640|
|2013||Coca-Cola 600||2||3||Running, 400/400||8||$218,560|
|Bank of America 500||10||14||Running, 333/334||0||$110,280|
|2012||Coca-Cola 600||42||27||Running, 396/400||0||$112,413|
|Bank of America 500||21||21||Running, 332/334||0||$100,143|
|2011||×Coca-Cola 600||26||4||Running, 402/402||3||$190,900|
|Bank of America 500||20||13||Running, 334/334||0||$119,625|
|2010||Coca-Cola 600||2||1||Running, 400/400||252||$399,623|
|Bank of America 500||15||30||Running, 331/334||0||$75,950|
|2009||*Coca-Cola 600||17||34||Running, 226/227||0||$106,900|
|NASCAR Banking 500||15||10||Running, 334/334||2||$99,600|
|2008||Coca-Cola 600||8||16||Running, 399/400||64||$97,250|
|†Bank of America 500||19||3||Running, 334/334||0||$145,750|
|2007||Coca-Cola 600||2||32||Accident, 296/400||107||$126,758|
|×Bank of America 500||8||26||Running, 335/337||13||$102,383|
|2006||Coca-Cola 600||20||39||Running, 290/400||0||$122,858|
|Bank of America 500||42||32||Running, 208/334||0||$102,258|
|2005||Coca-Cola 600||35||43||Accident, 26/400||0||$132,145|
|×UAW-GM Quality 500||7||2||Running, 336/336||2||$222,625|
|2004||Coca-Cola 600||32||11||Running, 400/400||0||$107,380|
|UAW-GM Quality 500||21||4||Running, 334/334||3||$110,250|
|2003||*Coca-Cola 600||12||15||Running, 275/276||1||$110,950|
|UAW-GM Quality 500||17||41||Accident, 229/334||0||$64,870|
|2002||Coca-Cola 600||24||31||Running, 395/400||2||$64,775|
|†UAW-GM Quality 500||11||12||Running, 334/334||46||$68,650|
|2001||Coca-Cola 600||42||12||Running, 400/400||0||$70,775|
|UAW-GM Quality 500||43||22||Running, 331/334||0||$46,580|
|2000||UAW-GM Quality 500||42||13||Running, 399/400||0||$42,600|
* Race cut short due to weather.
† Qualifying canceled due to weather, starting position set via car owner points.
× Race length extended due to green-white-checkered finish.