Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, led the way for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) Thursday night at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway by finishing third in the second Budweiser Duel race. The Budweiser Duel consists of twin qualifying races that set the 43-car field for the season-opening Daytona 500. Busch’s third-place finish in the second Duel allows him to start eighth for the 56th Daytona 500 Sunday.
The No. 41 Haas Automation team Busch drives for is brand new, with no owner points from the previous season. However, as the 2004 Sprint Cup Series champion, Busch was eligible for the champion’s provisional, provided SHR teammate and co-owner Tony Stewart, a three-time Sprint Cup champion whose most recent title came in 2011, didn’t use the champion’s provisional.
“I had a gift from Tony Stewart. He raced his way in and that gave us the champions provisional, which meant we could go race our car and not have to worry about side-effects,” Busch said. “When somebody says the green light is on I want to go. With Gene Haas, thanks to him and all this Haas Automation crew, it’s fun going to race at these restrictor plate races when you don’t have to worry about racing your way in. I tried to put on a show.”
Busch started the second Duel in 14th position after he qualified 28th in single-car qualifying runs Sunday. The Haas Automation Chevy didn’t stay in 14th long, racing up to fifth within eight laps and remaining in fifth until the only pit stop of the race on lap 36. Busch came in for fuel and minor adjustments and gained three positions on pit road, rejoining the race in second trailing only race leader Denny Hamlin. The No. 41 ran second until the final lap, when Jeff Gordon, running in third, passed Busch for second just before the start-finish line.
“Denny Hamlin was strong. He won the race off pit road. Who would have known that would have been where the difference maker was,” Busch said. “With all four of our Chevys lined up I thought we could get a run on them. The problem is when you are running there second place, third place, the fifth- and sixth-place guys are developing their plan. I blocked Jeff Gordon once coming off turn four. I couldn’t block him twice otherwise I would have been in the wreck. So I have to thank everybody that is involved with this Haas Automation team Chevrolet, Monster Energy, it is going good.”
Busch and the Haas Automation team start eighth for the 56th running of the Great American Race.