Kurt Busch quietly finishes strong in California

When drivers change teams, usually performance changes briefly before leveling out. The chemistry between the driver and their team, crew members and sponsors take time to wedge their way into a comforting blend to begin running smoothly.

Rarely do you see a driver switch to a new team and constantly run and finish up front, that is unless a driver gets a big change in a high tier team. Case in point, Ross Chastain at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last year driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, grabbing the win and getting to smash the watermelon to lay out a new tradition for himself as a Florida watermelon farmer.

The start of the 2019 season brought a change of face for Kurt Busch. The 2004 champion left Stewart Haas Racing to join Chip Ganassi Racing, replacing Jamie McMurray in the No. 1. He also left the blue oval Fords and joined the Chevrolet bow ties. Despite his talent and competitive nature, most expected him to take a couple of months into the year before finding his groove and competing strongly once again.

However, the new face behind the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro has had strong success after the first five races. He quietly has been leading the Chevrolet camp, is the only driver with multiple top five finishes, and teammate Kyle Larson has been right alongside. The two Ganassi drivers are currently eighth and ninth in points, with Larson only three points ahead in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, and Busch holding yet another strong run at California finishing sixth.

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“We had a good day. I was just hoping to get a top five and came home just a bit short,” Kurt shared as he was one spot short of his third top five finish of the season. “But the growth rate of us at Ganassi and the adjustments we’re making, I couldn’t be happier. I’m smiling as I’m driving the car. It’s so much fun to toss it down in there with all this downforce and the horsepower, you just pitch it sideways and see if it’s going to stick. But, we know we’ve got our work cut out for us. It’s awesome to run up front. I’m smiling. But, we know at our growth rate, we’re not on a plateau yet. I’ve got to keep going.”

The Las Vegas native got to witness his brother’s milestone in history at the end of Sunday’s race when Kyle Busch won his 53rd career Cup Series victory. It was also his 200th win across all three series, including the Xfinity Series and the Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

“Yeah, I thought he was done,” Busch reflected when his brother received the uncontrolled tire penalty on pit road. “But, this is a big day. For my little brother to have 200 wins, they’re all added up through his hard work and his dedication to perfection. Not bad for two kids with an attitude from Vegas.”

Kurt Busch talks about his sixth place run after the 2019 Auto Club 400. Photo courtesy of Rachel Schuoler from Speedway Media.

The media joked about the history of the Busch brothers having “hotheads” as kids, but as the two have matured throughout the years, everyone acknowledged their footprint in the sport.

“As far as attitudes and winning? I’ve got to hold up my end of the bargain,” Kurt laughed as he discussed his and his brother racing in NASCAR throughout the years. “I’ve gotten too nice and I’m not winning enough; but I’m having fun. I love the Ganassi guys. Matt McCall (crew chief) wants more. I know he does. I want more. I was hoping for a top five today but we’ll take it. All in all, we’re running where we need to be running.”

Kurt knows his team still has work ahead of them, but he sounded very optimistic heading into Martinsville Speedway next weekend.

“I want to see more Bowties up there all around me.”

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