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Kurt Busch, crew chief Tony Gibson proving to be a winning combination
In every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, 42 drivers lose but somebody always wins.
This past Sunday at Michigan, it was Kurt Busch who was back in Victory Lane for the second time this season. The driver of the No. 41 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing passed Kyle Larson on Lap 133 of the rain-shortened, 138-lap race for his one and only lead of the afternoon.
Busch overcame wrecking his primary car in practice Friday and starting in 24th to join his teammate Kevin Harvick and Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson as the only drivers to win multiple times this season.
Busch took advantage of Larson’s late pit stop for fuel and the timing of the rain worked out well for him. The victory, however, was far from those two lucky breaks.
Busch has proven he is one of the series’ best drivers and crew chief Tony Gibson is a seasoned vet. This combination has proven to be a winning combination, figuratively and literally.
"It was a fantastic group effort," Busch said. "To be able to pull the backup car out and to have it as prepared as it was and then to have the extra work that went into it, all the crew members that Tony Gibson leads rolled up their sleeves, jumped right on in it, and we made it a race-winning backup car. That shows you the depth of Stewart-Haas Racing. It gives every crew member that much more confidence to know that we're doing things right."
That was only half the battle, though. The other half was turning a good car into a race-winning car.
"Today, the way the race unfolded for us, to come up from 24th and work our way through and have those restarts, everything unfolded perfectly for us with changes to the car, the restarts, to not break momentum, to end up on the outside lane most of the time, and then to have a shot up front," Busch said. "Our car just kept getting better and better the closer we put it to the front, and that's what you set up for. You set up for the wins, and you don't set up for the dirty air, you set up for running out front, and that's what Tony Gibson did. I believed in it, and I just took my time but also had to keep working on each of those restarts to get the car towards the front."
Gibson played a key part, too, in masterminding strategy on a day when the weather was awful.
"It's stressful when it rains like that, when it's off and on and off and on," he said. "You're looking at a radar screen, but you don't know exactly when it's going to hit. It was pretty stressful for everybody, but everybody stayed calm and cool. Rick Carelli did a great job in the spotting stand keeping Kurt informed. I would keep him informed on the weather and he would tell Kurt. Everyone just worked good as a team today, and it kind of paid off."
The timing couldn't have been better as NASCAR looks ahead to an off week this weekend.
"The best part about winning on a day like today, there's an off week next week, so everybody will take this win and enjoy it for an extra week, recharge, and that will give us the gas we're going to need because we're going to try to go all the way to Homestead (for the season finale)," Busch said.