A recent test session at Watkins Glen International has sprung new optimism for the Chase-contending Kurt Busch, who will make his 13th career start at the central New York road course in Sunday’s CHEEZ-IT 355 At The Glen.
Busch, driver of the Denver-based No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet SS, spent two days testing at the 11-turn, 2.45-mile circuit on July 29 and 30.
Though he is known as one of the premier road racers on the Sprint Cup Series circuit, Busch has had mixed results at the Watkins Glen track. In 12 previous Cup starts at the Glen, the former NASCAR series champion has claimed one top-five and four top-10s. His best finish was second in 2010.
“Watkins Glen is a fast road course that has been tough on me over the years,” noted Busch, who finished fourth in the June road race in Sonoma, Calif. “We actually used one of our NASCAR tests at Watkins Glen and I am glad we did.”
Busch, a 24-time tour winner, said what the team learned during the two days of testing, especially with braking, will be a huge benefit for Sunday’s 90-lap, 220.5-mile race, the second and final road-race competition of the season.
“When we went there (Watkins Glen) we opened up Pandora’s box with some braking issues and were able to master that by the end of the test,” said Busch. “I feel confident heading back there – not to just have speed in qualifying but to have speed throughout the race. It’s an important race in a critical juncture of the season.”
Busch, who is attempting to become the first driver to qualify for the Chase with a single-car team, finds himself in 13th place, 11 points from the coveted 10th position in the standings. The top-10 in points qualify for the 10-race Chase playoffs along with two wildcard entries.
“We have five races remaining before the Chase and in those five races we need to do what we did last week in Pocono,” stated Busch. “We had a fast car and closed the deal at the end with a third-place finish. It’s this type of finishes that it’s going to take to get into the Chase. We had fast cars a number of times this year but could not close the deal with a strong finish.”
Busch said the competition is fierce among the drivers battling to make the Chase.
“You’re running against Jeff Gordon, a four-time champion and (Brad) Keselowski, a champion from last year is in the mix. (Greg) Biffle is strong, (Martin) Truex won earlier in Sonoma, (Ryan) Newman won at Indy. They’re all Chase material,” stated Busch. “For us, we’re just putting the blinders on and worried only about the 78. We just need to have nice, smooth races and execute like we did in Pocono.”
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