Kurt Busch wants to break the chains that bind him.
No, he doesn’t want to leave Stewart-Haas Racing or part ways with his sponsors.
Rather, Busch wants Daytona International Speedway to set him free and cut him a break or two.
“This track owns me,” Busch said Wednesday during Daytona 500 media day at DIS. “It doesn’t owe me anything, it’s just owned me over the years.”
Busch has made 31 career NASCAR Cup starts at the 2.5-mile tri-oval and has come away with 12 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes.
But he’s never reached victory lane there (nor at NASCAR’s other restrictor plate track, Talladega Superspeedway).
Yet, he keeps coming back to Daytona, twice a year, trying to tame the track that just won’t give him a break.
“You have to keep that optimism and show up each time with the enthusiasm to go after it as a fresh start and as a championship weekend all wrapped into one,” Busch said. “This is one of those tough races to win. It’s the most prestigious stock car race there is.
“It’s not easy and I’ve got to do a better job at being better in the clutch moments at the end of the race to capitalize on my track position to hold off the guys from behind and to win it this time, instead of figuring out what I need to do better finishing second.”
Indeed, the Las Vegas native has finished second three times in the “Great American Race” (2003, 2005 and 2008).
“I feel like 2005 I had a chance to make a move on Jeff Gordon going down the back straightaway,” Busch said of the final lap. “I looked in the mirror and I saw Dale Jr. behind me and a load of Chevrolets.
“This was when I was driving with Ford and I guess I just should have jumped out of line and made the move to see what would have happened through turns three and four, to see if I could have won it that year.”
Another Daytona finish that still eats at Busch is 2011, when he ended up fifth.
“In 2011, I had everything going my way,” he said. “I won the Clash. I won the qualifying Duel. I was in the same position on the last lap of the 500 and I didn’t pull it off.”
Could Busch’s 0-for-63 record in restrictor plate races finally come to an end this Sunday? Sooner or later, the law of averages will turn in his direction, Busch hopes.
“I’ve been close many a times,” he said. “I definitely want to try to get this big trophy.”