Photo: Stewart Haas Racing
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (July 13, 2018) – “Blue Moon of Kentucky” is the official bluegrass song of the State of Kentucky. It was written by bluegrass musician Bill Monroe in 1946 and recorded by his band the Blue Grass Boys.
The song has been covered by many artists, including Elvis Presley, Patsy Klein and Paul McCartney and, in 2003, the song was added to the United State Library of Congress National Recording Registry.
Perhaps the most famous – or infamous – version of the song was in the 1987 smash hit movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.” Steve Martin, playing Neal Page, and the late John Candy, playing Del Griffith, sang it in tune while they were driving a burned-out and roofless car in Illinois, headed to Chicago for Thanksgiving.
What does all this have to do with Kurt Busch and Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta? Nothing, but anytime a Del Griffith reference can be made, it’s good for copy.
Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is hoping his car will stay in much better shape than the one Page and Griffith were driving in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”
There have only been seven NASCAR Cup Series races at Kentucky since the series made its inaugural trip to the 1.5-mile oval in 2011. Busch, while winless at Kentucky, has knocked down a top-five finish, four top-10s and led a total of 51 laps. His average start is 12.0 and his average finish is 12.9.
Busch’s best Kentucky performance came in 2016, when he qualified third and led once for 10 laps before finishing fourth. The third-place qualifying effort equaled his best at Kentucky, first earned in the inaugural Cup Series race in 2011. And his fourth-place finish was his best at the track, topping his previous best of sixth secured in the 2013 race.
That fourth-place finish allowed Busch to check off another stat box on his tenured Cup Series resume, as it gave Busch a top-five at every track on the Cup Series schedule.
And if Busch scores his 30th career victory Saturday night in the Bluegrass state, he’ll have to decide between “Blue Moon of Kentucky” and “My Old Kentucky Home.”
KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Talk about Kentucky Speedway.
“Kentucky was one of the first tracks to reconfigure their banking along with the new asphalt. They changed turns one and two to add a bunch of banking and then left turns three and four on the lower side of the banking. It just completely changes both ends of the track. SMI (Speedway Motorsports Inc.) is challenging themselves to almost replicate someplace like Darlington, where both ends of the track are very different. It just makes it that much more challenging. I had been going to the track for nearly a decade and it was Kentucky, it was flat on both ends. So you just have to go in with a new mindset. I still think the key is to make sure the car is cutting though turns three and four. You can make a pass coming out of turn four.”
So it’s sort of like Pocono and Darlington, where you’re trying to find the right combination even though both ends of the track are different?
“That’s exactly what it is. The track was designed where you have to dial it in at both ends and you have to compromise. And anytime there is compromise, some teams will have speed in one corner and not in the other. And that will create better opportunities for passing.”
You’ve been in the top-five a lot this year. Do you think a victory is on its way?
“You have to be in position and you have to be able to pounce when others have a miscommunication or a slow pit stop. I mean, the 18 car wasn’t very effective in the first half of the race at Chicago two weeks ago. The second half of the race, whether it was adjustments or the track, came to them, and his pit crew leapfrogged him above other pit crews and he put himself in position. You can’t just expect to win if you’re running fifth with 50 laps to go. You have to execute.”
You’ve been competing at Kentucky since its beginning, running the track’s inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in 2000. The track has changed quite a bit even since the NASCAR Cup Series began racing at Kentucky in 2011. What did you think of the place when you first arrived as a Truck Series rookie?
“I went there for the first time when I was racing Trucks. It was an inaugural race and I thought that, since it was the first time anyone went there, that rookies had just as good of a shot to win as veterans. I overdrove that race every ounce I could and ended up wrecking with about 15 laps to go while running in the lead pack. I hit pretty hard. I think that was one of the hardest hits I’ve taken. Kentucky stood up and bit me the first time I was there. And, up until 2011, we never ran a Cup race there, so we used it as a test facility. My time when I was at Roush, I think we were there every other Tuesday making laps. So, I had plenty of laps at Kentucky, but not in race configuration.”
Monster Energy/Haas Automation Racing Team Report
Round 19 of 36 – Kentucky 400 – Kentucky
Car No.: 41 – Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion
PR Contact: Joe Crowley, True Speed Communication (704) 875-3388 ext. 808 or Joe.Crowley@TrueSpeedCommunication.com)
Primary Team Members:
Driver: Kurt Busch
Hometown: Las Vegas
Crew Chief: Billy Scott
Hometown: Land O’ Lakes, Florida
Car Chief: Tony Cardamore
Hometown: Bristol, Virginia
Engine Builder: Roush-Yates Engines
Headquarters: Mooresville, North Carolina
Engine Specialist: Evan Cupples
Hometown: Hudson, Illinois
Spotter: Tony Raines
Hometown: LaPorte, Indiana
Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
Gas Man: Rick Pigeon
Hometown: Fairfax, Vermont
Front Tire Changer: Shane Pipala
Hometown: Frankfort Square, Illinois
Windshield: Kyle Anderson (also serves as interior mechanic)
Hometown: Jewell, Iowa
Rear Tire Changer: Coleman Dollarhide
Hometown: Hickory, North Carolina
Jackman: Sean Cotten
Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina
Tire Carrier: Dwayne Moore
Hometown: Griffin, Georgia
Road Crew Members:
Truck Driver: Tim Hussey and Larry Lush
Hometowns: Asheboro, North Carolina, and Waynesville, North Carolina
Tire Specialist: Nathan McGuire
Hometown: Palmyra, New York
Shock Specialist: Aaron Kuehn
Hometown: Kensington, Connecticut
Engineers: Scott Bingham and William Lee
Hometowns: Lawrenceville, Georgia and Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina
Mechanic: Nick McIntosh
Hometown: Harve, Montana
Mechanic: Joe Zanolini
Hometown: Sybertsville, Pennsylvania
Kentucky Notes of Interest:
- The Kentucky 400 will mark Kurt Busch’s 631st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his eighth career NASCAR Cup Series start at Kentucky. Busch has one top-five, four top-10s and has led a total of 51 laps in his seven career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Kentucky. His average start is 12.0, his average finish is 12.9 and he has a 99.5 percent lap-completion rate, 1,866 of 1,876 laps available.
- Busch has career totals of 29 wins, 24 poles, 134 top-fives, 267 top-10s and 9,161 laps led in 630 career starts.
- His most recent Cup Series win came 54 races ago in the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway (Feb. 26, 2017).
- His last Cup Series pole came four races ago at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (June 8).
- Personal Best – Busch’s bestNASCAR Cup Series race at Kentucky came in 2016. In that year’s Kentucky 400, Busch qualified third and led once for 10 laps before finishing fourth. The third-place qualifying effort equaled his best at Kentucky, first earned in the inaugural Cup Series race in 2011. And his fourth-place finish was his best at the track, topping his previous best of sixth secured in the 2013 race.
- Check It Off The List – When Busch finished fourth in 2016 at Kentucky, he succeeded in earning a top-five finish at every track the NASCAR Cup Series visits.
- Busch has two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Kentucky, both during the series’ two visits to the Bluegrass State in 2012. Busch’s best finish is second, earned in the June race that year.
- Busch’s first career start at Kentucky came on June 17, 2000 in the track’s inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. It was a rough outing for the Truck Series rookie as he qualified his Ford F-150 32nd and finished 29th. But before an accident ended his race on lap 112, Busch led 12 laps. It remains Busch’s only Truck Series start at Kentucky.
- 9,000 and counting – By leading 98 laps in the April race at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, Busch became just the 21st driver to lead 9,000 laps in his NASCAR career. He is now 20th in the laps-led standings, having led 9,161 laps, and he’s 583 laps behind Buddy Baker while he is 79 laps ahead of 21st-place Denny Hamlin. Busch is fifth among active drivers in laps led.
- Get to the Points – With his 37th-place finish last week at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Busch is seventh in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings with 566 points. He has three top-five finishes, nine top-10s and 12 top-15s in 18 races.
- Busch has been in the top-10 in points for 13 consecutive weeks. The last time he was in the top-10 for 13 consecutive weeks was when he was in the top-10 for the first 27 races of the 2016 season.