Kurt Busch hopes to revisit early career success this weekend at Loudon

0 Comments

New Hampshire Motor Speedway was one of Kurt Busch’s go-to tracks early in his career.

He won his first race ever there – in a Camping World Series truck in 2000 – and then went on to earn three NASCAR Cup wins (back-to-back races in 2004 and a third triumph in 2008).

“When you’re able to go to a track where you’ve had that kind of success, it just gives you confidence,” Busch said. “Because of the wins and everything, it’s a place we go to where I feel like I especially know what it takes from the car and the driver to be successful.”

But since his 2008 Cup win, Busch has struggled more often than had success at the 1.058-mile flat track in bucolic Loudon, N.H.

In the 12 NASCAR Cup races at NHMS since his last top five there (third in summer 2010) through this race last summer, Busch’s best showing was 10th (twice). On the flip side, he also recorded six finishes of 20th or worse in that same stretch.

But things may be turning around for Busch, who races in Sunday’s Overton’s 301 at NHMS. In his most recent visit to the track, last fall’s playoff race, Busch finished fifth – his best finish since that third-place showing in 2010.

Busch looks forward to continuing his recent success at New Hampshire, and if it means tight racing and the kind of fender banging that’s typical at New Hampshire, Busch is ready to get it on.

Usually, you’re trying to keep your eye on the main prize, which is victory lane at the end of the day,” Busch said. “If you have a run-in early on in the race, that guy is going to be trying to find you or you’re looking over your shoulder.

“So if you can sort of hit a reset button and right a mistake, you do that, but not at the expense of taking yourself out of position for the win.”

Overall, Busch, 39, is tied for most wins (three) among active drivers at New Hampshire with Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman.

In addition, Busch also has two runner-ups, seven top threes, eight top fives and 13 top 10s. He has also led 541 laps in 32 starts at NHMS. His average start is 11.8, average finish is 15.8 and his lap completion rate is 96 percent.

Thus far this season, Busch has one win – the season-opening Daytona 500 – as well as two top-fives and eight top-10s in the first 18 races on the NASCAR Cup schedule.

Busch comes into Sunday’s race ranked 15th in the NASCAR Cup standings. He’s struggled in his last two starts (Daytona, 28th, crash; Kentucky, 30th, engine) and has three DNFs in his last six starts (Dover, 37th, crash).

The key to success at New Hampshire will be to stay alert for wrecks unfolding in front of you, stay out of trouble and especially stay on top in late restarts.

“It seems like it has changed a little bit toward the end of the race with a lot of aggressive restarts,” Busch said. “That is when you gain positions, or it’s easy to lose positions.

“Everybody is out there elbows out, pushing hard, and you hope to not have trouble.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski