After four races, the move to shake up Chip Ganassi Racing’s driver lineup appears to have been the right one.
Last year, that feat wasn’t accomplished until the Coca-Cola 600 in May and achieved only a total of four times, with the last coming at IMS Raceway in last fall’s playoffs.
Busch, who replaced Jamie McMurray in the No. 1 Chevrolet this season, earned his third straight top 10 following top fives at Atlanta and Las Vegas.
“I’m glad we got a top 10,” Busch said. “We had to battle hard for this one. We didn’t do really good on pit road and we didn’t really do good on restarts, but overall with the Global Poker Chevy it was nice to have a read on some looseness and tightness at a short track and get more notes under our belt. That is key for me and (crew chief) Matt McCall.”
With his three top 10s, Busch needs five more to match McMurray’s total from 2018. He’s already tied McMurray’s total for top fives. Busch also led 23 laps at Las Vegas, which bettered the nine McMurray led in all of 2018.
Last year, Busch didn’t earn the third of his 22 top 10s until race No. 7 at Texas Motor Speedway. He had to wait until race No. 11 at Talladega to earn his first of six top fives.
Busch said it was “awesome” to race head-to-head with Larson in the closing laps around the one-mile track.
They were the top finishing Chevrolet drivers after Busch was at Atlanta and Las Vegas.
“The two of us got a pretty good read on each other on when we are holding each other up or if we are helping each other and then at the end they told me I was about a lap shy on fuel, so I had to save and I just let Larson go and it worked out,” Busch said.
Larson’s finish was much-needed for the No. 42 team after it placed 12th in the last two races in part due to pit road issues.
“It was a clean day for us, so I was happy about that,” Larson said. “Had some really good restarts that kept us in the game. We worked on our balance throughout the race, tried to free it up and got too free and then had to go back on changes to tighten us back up.
“So, yeah to come away with a sixth is nice after the last couple of weeks we’ve had of just making mistakes and even this week we made a big mistake in qualifying, but thankfully, we were able to work through it.”
The two-car team now heads to Auto Club Speedway, where Larson will be seen as a favorite.
Four of his five Cup wins have come on 2-mile speedways, including a win at ACS in 2017. He placed second last year for his second top five there.
Busch will be aiming for his second win there in 26 starts. The first came in 2003.
He’s failed to finish better than 14th at ACS in his last three starts.