It’s only two races into the season, but Kurt Busch is accomplishing goals set before the year.
Heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Busch has scored a series-high 22 stage points.
“We had a big focus on stage points, especially Stage 1,’’ said Busch, who has scored 13 of his 22 stage points in the opening stage. “That was a weak area last year, and we hope to continue the trend of getting points early in the race and lead laps. Last year was my career low with laps led. With Truex leading all the laps it was tough to break through.
“We knew we needed to work harder and to go stronger at the beginning of the races. I hope we are able to continue that trend. Stage 2 is still interesting to me because you can try to go for points in Stage 2, but then it puts you behind for the run to the finish. We are still trying to sort through the best way to approach the mid portion of the race.”
Busch had 93 stage points for 36 races (2.6 stage points per race) last year.
Busch also led 16 laps last year. This year, he led 16 in the Daytona 500 and 52 at Atlanta on the way to an eighth-place finish.
Those could be a good sign for Busch, who has never won at his hometown track (younger brother Kyle won at Las Vegas in 2009).
“I put too much pressure on myself every year that I come back, and I keep trying to come back and be loose and just let the race come to us,’’ Kurt Busch said. “I hope we are able to find that raw speed in the car that we need in the second half of the race. I have always been a good qualifier here and the team always brings me great cars but when you have a race that is so early in the season, a lot of the performance value at the end of the race comes from work done in the off-season.
“I know we are as prepared as we can be. My teammate (Kevin Harvick) won last week. There is no reason why the 41 car can’t win here this weekend. It would mean the world to me. I have won Daytona and Charlotte and been close at the Southern 500. Vegas ranks up there in the top-five for me.”
Here’s a look at drivers who have scored the most stage points through Atlanta:
22 – Kurt Busch
20 – Kevin Harvick
18 – Ryan Blaney
18 – Brad Keselowski
18 – Martin Truex Jr.
16 – Aric Almirola
16 – Joey Logano
13 – Kyle Busch
11 – Clint Bowyer
11 – Michael McDowell
11 – Paul Menard