Atlanta’s nightlife and abundance of activities in which to participate while in the popular Southern city have earned it the nickname “Hotlanta.” The nickname also refers to the hot summer temperatures typical in the Southeast. But Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is looking forward to returning to Atlanta during one of the colder months.
That’s when the 37-year-old driver has been most successful there, as of late. In his last two spring Atlanta starts – March 2009, March 2010 – Busch has found victory lane. He’ll look to do so again this weekend when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its second stop of the 2016 season.
In addition to that pair of wins, Busch won at the 1.54-mile oval in October 2002. He’s also accumulated five top-five finishes and 10 top-10s in 24 starts there. Perhaps more importantly, in his last six Atlanta starts, Busch hasn’t finished worse than 13th. In fact, the Las Vegas native has secured one win, three top-fives and four top-10s in those last six races.
Busch would like nothing more than to score another win in Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500 to record his fourth Sprint Cup win at Atlanta, which would virtually lock Busch and his No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation team into the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. With the 16-driver Sprint Cup championship format, scoring a win virtually guarantees a driver and his team a berth in the Chase, provided they are among the top-30 in driver points.
Sunday’s Folds of Honor 500 will present a new challenge for many of the Sprint Cup drivers, as it will mark the first race with the 2016 low-downforce rule package. That the race will be contested on one of the fastest, oldest and slickest mile-and-a-half racetracks will present one of the biggest challenges of the season very early on.
It will likely cause headaches for drivers and crew chiefs alike as they attempt to figure out how to maximize the handling of their cars from the beginning to the end of each run, let alone the entire race. Fortunately for Busch, he and his Tony Gibson-led team participated in a preseason test session with the new downforce package at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which they hope will give them an edge on the competition.