What was shaping up to be a solid outing for Kurt Busch and the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team in Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway came to a disappointing end when he was collected in an unavoidable incident on lap 394, resulting in heavy damage to the Haas Automation Chevrolet that would see the 24-time Sprint Cup Series winner finish the race in the 35th position.
“We had an up-and-down day,” Busch said. “We struggled with our Haas Automation Chevrolet today. The car was good on the short run, but we struggled on the long runs. Daniel Knost and everyone on this No. 41 team worked hard to dial the car in, but we never could get it to where it needed to be. We were able to lead laps, and at times had a racecar that was capable of running up front, but it went through numerous changes as the race went on, and we found ourselves chasing the correct adjustments to make.”
Busch started 13th in the rain-delayed race and maintained position inside the top-15 in the early going of the race despite struggling with a tight-handling racecar. When NASCAR elected to throw a competition caution at lap 50, crew chief Daniel Knost brought Busch to pit road for routine service of four tires and fuel, but also elected to make a track bar adjustment to help correct the handling woes of Busch’s red-and-black machine.
Despite continuing struggles with the front end of his Haas Automation machine, Busch was able to advance to the sixth position before rain began to soak the track on lap 117, forcing NASCAR to display the red flag due to the inclement weather.
Some three hours later when the race restarted, Busch showed the strength of his Haas Automation Chevrolet, charging to the lead on lap 120. Busch continued to hold position inside the top-five until the halfway point of the race, when a combination of the tight-handling condition and a long green-flag run saw him fall as far back as 19th on lap 269, when he would lose a lap to the race leader.
Busch fought hard to maintain position in front of others a lap down and was rewarded for his efforts; when the caution flag waved on lap 333 for a multicar accident, he received his lap back as the first car one lap down. He restarted 16th on lap 339 and reported that the handing of his racecar had finally stabilized. Unfortunately for the 15-year Sprint Cup Series veteran, an incident on lap 394 involving a spin by his younger brother, Kyle, proved unavoidable. He went high to miss Kyle’s No. 18 machine and wound up making contact with the outside retaining wall. As a result of the damage sustained in the incident, Busch was forced to take the No. 41 behind the wall to make repairs to the right-front suspension. He was able to rejoin the field but was relegated to a less-than-desired finish.