Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 State Water Heaters Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), scored a solid fifth-place finish in Sunday’s rain-postponed Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch, who started sixth in the 43-car field, earned his seventh top-five in 31 career Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte and his 10th top-five of 2015.
“That is all we had,” Busch said. “We fought hard and we ran fifth, eighth, we were back as far as 12th to 15th, but all in all I thought we were a competitive car with the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin); he finished right in front of us and the other (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) car right behind us, so that is a solid day for our State Water Heaters Chevrolet. I fought hard, I’m kind of out of gas here myself. Thanks to Haas Automation and all our crew guys. The pit strategy side that (crew chief Tony) Gibson called was good. All in all there were a few guys faster than us, but we played to our strength, and we brought it home fifth.”
Busch struggled with a tight-handling racecar in the early going, but was able to advance to the fourth position on lap five. He would continue his forward progress, advancing to second on lap 31. He forfeited the spot when, under caution, he followed the race leaders to pit road for right-side tires and fuel. Due to varying pit strategies, Busch would fall to 13th, where he struggled with a lack of track position and clean air that his State Water Heaters Chevrolet desperately needed.
Busch worked his way back to 10th on lap 175, and he maintained a presence inside the top-10 for the balance of the race despite fighting handling issues that saw him loose exiting the turns but tight in the center. As extended green-flag conditions throughout the event saw the field spread out on the 1.5-mile speedway, Busch would make the most of his opportunities on restarts, working his way to the fifth spot when the checkered flag waved.
“It was an impressive day because we had to work on strategy and manage our car that was not quite performing well on restarts to gain the spots early in the run,” Busch said. “Our State Water Heaters Chevy was good. It just didn’t do anything perfect. It didn’t do anything terrible, so I’m real happy with this effort. To be top-five, you know there are some quality cars that are running here for the Chase. If we keep doing our homework like this, we are going to have great days. Thanks to Haas Automation, Monster Energy, State Water Heaters, it’s great to have them on board for a weekend and have them all come down and have a good time at the track and sell more water heaters. That’s what it’s all about.”
There were nine caution periods for 44 laps, with five drivers failing to finish the 334-lap race.
As the fourth race in the 10-race Chase, Charlotte served as the first race in the Contender Round. The original, 16-driver Chase field was whittled down to 12 following last weekend’s race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Two more races will be run with the next cutoff coming after the Oct. 25 race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, whereupon the Chase field shrinks to eight for the Eliminator Round. Another three races will be run in that round, where after the Nov. 15 race at Phoenix International Raceway, only four drivers will advance to the final, winner-take-all Championship Round Nov. 22 in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Harvick and Busch continue to represent SHR in this year’s Chase. Harvick leaves Charlotte second in points, six behind Chase leader Logano. Busch leaves Charlotte in fifth, nine points out of first.
The current Chase standings before next weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas are as follows:
- Joey Logano (3,048 points)
- Kevin Harvick (3,042 points, -6)
- Martin Truex Jr. (3,041 points, -7)
- Denny Hamlin (3,040 points, -8)
- Kurt Busch (3,039 points, -9)
- Carl Edwards (3,039 points, -9)
- Jeff Gordon (3,037 points, -11)
- Brad Keselowski (3,035 points, -13)
- Ryan Newman (3,029 points, -19)
- Kyle Busch (3,025 points, -23)
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (3,016 points, -32)
- Matt Kenseth (3,003 points, -45)
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Oct. 18 Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas. The race starts at 2:15 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBC.