Kurt Busch unexpectedly chasing the Chase

jutter@charlotteobserver.comAugust 30, 2013 

NASCAR Bristol Auto Racing

Kurt Busch waves to fans during driver introductions before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in Bristol, Tenn.

WADE PAYNE — AP

Much has been written this week about Kurt Busch’s new job.

He still has much left to accomplish in his current one.

This week, Busch was introduced as the newest addition to Stewart-Haas Racing, where he will compete in the Sprint Cup Series next season along with co-owner Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick.

With two races left before the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field is set, Busch has a very good chance at making the cut – which would be a first for his Furniture Row Racing team.

Busch is 12th in the standings but only six points outside of the top 10, which guarantees a spot in the Chase. Without any wins this season, Busch’s only hope to make the Chase is finishing among the top 10 in points.

He talked recently about the focus going forward, his expectations and what he and FRR have accomplished this season.

Q: You’ve qualified well and you are in position for a Chase berth. Did you expect that this season?

A: It’s been great on qualifying days. Fridays have been, I think, our strongest suit. What I mean by that, it can be defined in a few categories and that’s all the hard work at the shop the guys do with the simulator. So, when your first lap out is fast, it’s encouraging all weekend long. And when we switch over into qualifying trim, that speed is there again.

To say that I didn’t expect it wouldn’t be the right phrase. It’s been a great work in progress that I knew we could achieve. But when you need to get through a Saturday practice session and still have that speed and then translate it into Sunday, we’ve just come up a little bit short on some of our speed. That’s maybe why we haven’t driven the Furniture Row Chevy into Victory Lane.

Q: Is winning the only thing that’s missing?

A: Well, we’re (two) weeks away from the Chase. I said this about six or seven weeks ago, we don’t have to win to make this Chase. Even if we had a win right now, we would be not guaranteed a spot in the Chase. Consistency is what gets you in and consistency wins the championship. You just have to ramp it up a notch once you’re in the Chase. So right now, the blinders are on. We are full focus on just making sure we get nice, consistent finishes.

Q: How exciting is it to be in a position like this, especially after last year?

A: This is tremendous. Jumping in with the Furniture Row guys last year, running six races together, got a lot of the bugs worked out. It allowed us to discover things about ourselves, some weaknesses on the team. Each section through this season, like every six races, we can lump them together and say that we've improved.

Q: After having to go behind the wall last week at Bristol (Tenn.), you still managed to gain positions back on the track. Is that another statement by this team?

A: Yeah, it’s just never give up. You feel like going back out sometimes is really just a hazard, but guys had trouble (at Bristol) towards the end and we might of actually passed a couple of them. We are down, but we are not out.

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