Phoenix NASCAR Notebook: Kurt Busch Quickly Up To Speedway In Return To Sprint Cup Series

(NASCAR Wire Service)

By Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Kurt Busch (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kurt Busch (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images for NASCAR)

AVONDALE, Ariz.—It would be a tall order to ask Kurt Busch to win Sunday’s 500 at Phoenix International Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX) in his first outing of the season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Based on Saturday’s practice, however, a victory for the driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet is not out of the question.

Returning from a three-race suspension triggered by the finding of a Delaware Family Court commissioner that Busch more likely than not had committed an act of domestic violence against former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll, Busch topped the speed chart in Saturday’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session with a lap at 136.768 mph.

In the final session, he ran third behind teammate Kevin Harvick, the polesitter for Sunday’s race, and Matt Kenseth.

NASCAR cleared Busch to race after the driver participated in a Road to Reinstatement program and after the Delaware Department of Justice declined to charge Busch with domestic abuse, citing insufficient evidence.

Clearly, without the opportunity to drive a race car during his absence, the 2004 series champion already is up to speed. And to Busch, it’s a fortunate coincidence that his first race back in action comes at PIR.

“Phoenix is probably the track that I have the most amount of laps on in my career,” Busch said Friday after qualifying eighth for Sunday’s race. “It was great to roll right off the hauler and be towards the top of the chart. It’s not me; it’s the team. The team is building very competitive cars.

“Kevin Harvick is in one of the strongest sequences that I’ve ever seen in our sport, and I’ve got a teammate car to his. So, it’s really up to me to try to keep up with him. Overall, I’m pleased with how I was able to get back in the seat and show some speed, and now you’ve got to work on those little things that pay dividends at the end of these races on Sunday.”


NASCAR put a new tool in the hands of Sprint Cup Series drivers this year — the capability to adjust the track bar from the cockpit.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. used the newfound ability to change the handling characteristics of his No. 88 Chevrolet to his advantage in salvaging a fourth-place finish last Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

On the other hand, Kasey Kahne, Earnhardt’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, felt he might have gone too far with his track bar adjustments in Friday’s qualifying session at Phoenix International Raceway.

“Every week so far this year we’ve been right there in the Top 10, maybe a little better,” Kahne said. “So I’m really happy. The guys are doing an awesome job. Right there (on his qualifying lap), I just screwed-up the third round there.

“I think I put too much front brake in it or dropped the track bar. I did something to tighten it up a little too much. So, I missed it on the lap.”

In race trim, Kahne was fifth fastest in Saturday morning’s first practice session as he prepares to make his 400th start in NASCAR’s premier series on Sunday.

“I was surprised when they told me that this week,” Kahne said. “It’s kind of crazy how many starts I’ve had. I’ve enjoyed it. We’ve won some races and enjoyed all the racing and traveling and all those things. It’s a lot more than I thought.”


Sometimes there are benefits to a mediocre qualifying effort.

Uncertain about the durability of the Earnhardt Childress Racing engine in AJ Allmendinger’s No. 47 JTG/Daugherty Chevrolet, the team opted to replace it.

Accordingly, Allmendinger will drop to the rear of the field to start Sunday’s 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, but it’s not a catastrophic disadvantage, given that Allmendinger had qualified mid-pack in the 22nd position.

“We didn’t qualify as well as we wanted to anyway, so we decided to take the opportunity to change (the engine) now and eliminate any doubts,” said Brian Burns, Allmendinger’s crew chief. “We have a good race car, and ECR Engines have been awesome all year. We are just taking some precautionary measures to make sure we’re good to go to the end.”

If Allmendinger can’t improve on his Happy Hour session after the engine change, however, he may be in for a long day. Allmendinger was 30th on the speed chart in final practice.

Follow RaceDayCT On FacebookFollow RaceDayCT On Twitter

Leave a Reply

Copyright 2018 E-Media Sports

Website Designed by Thirty Marketing