Kurt Busch wasted no time Friday thanking his boss for sticking by him.
Just after winning the pole for Sunday’s Auto Club 400, Busch brought up the name of Gene Haas, owner of his Stewart-Haas Racing team. Haas stuck by Busch after NASCAR suspended him over a domestic abuse accusation in Delaware that did not ultimately result in legal charges.
“Thank you, Gene, for believing in me,” Busch said in a television interview immediately following qualifying. “This is my job: Come to the track, drive the car and put it up on the pole and go for wins.
“That is what Gene has told me to do from the get-go, and I’m glad I have this chance to go back out there and live up to why he hired me.”
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Busch’s winning lap was clocked at 185.142 mph.
“I feel confident in the car’s ability to have that speed,” Busch said. “You just don’t have to overthink it.”
SHR teammate Kevin Harvick finished second in qualifying, followed by Matt Kenseth, David Ragan and Kyle Larson.
Backup car for Edwards
Carl Edwards hit the wall with the right front of his No. 19 Toyota in the first practice session Friday. That forced Joe Gibbs Racing to go to Edwards’ backup car.
At least Edwards retained a sense of humor. Referring to his Subway sponsorship, he said of the accident, “We went from a 12-inch to a six-inch sub real quick.”
Edwards nearly hit the wall with the back of his car, attempted to correct with his steering and ended up swerving back up the track with the front of his car.
One consolation for Edwards – since he changed cars before qualifying, he won’t have to go to the back to start Sunday’s race. He qualified 15th.
During prerace inspection NASCAR confiscated the truck arm from the No. 33 Chevrolet driven by Brian Scott. The part will be sent to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center for further inspection next week.
A truck arm is a part of the rear suspension on a Sprint Cup car.
One move leads to another
Brian Vickers being diagnosed again with blood clots caused two driver changes for Sunday’s Auto Club 400.
Brett Moffitt again will drive the No. 55 Toyota, as he did subbing for Vickers in the season’s first two races at Daytona and Atlanta. Moffitt was originally going to drive the No. 34 Ford.
Moffitt’s changing rides opens up the No. 34 for Chris Buescher to make his Sprint Cup debut. Buescher, 22, is a regular in the Xfinity Series, where he has one win, seven top-five finishes and 18 top 10s. He also has 10 victories in the ARCA series. He is second in the Xfinity standings.
Although Buescher has never started a Sprint Cup race, he has done considerable testing in Cup cars.
“It’s kind of similar to how my first Xfinity race went down,” Buescher said. “I was getting ready for an ARCA race and got the call and was rushed to Richmond, so it’s been wild. It’s gonna be a wild weekend between the two schedules. I’m excited to get the opportunity, so I appreciate that very much, but we’re gonna have to be on our toes this weekend.
“The circumstances that bring it about are not ideal. We wish Brian Vickers the best and want to try to do the best we can for Front Row Motorsports.”
Jeff Gordon said his recent conversation with NASCAR officials, concerning the need for universal SAFER walls, made him feel much better about the circuit’s commitment to driver safety.
“I realize they are now doing everything they possibly can,” Gordon said. “I can look at the past and try to rehash some of the things that should have been done prior to this year, but the most important thing is we’re doing everything we can going forward.
“All of us want this to happen tomorrow, and that can’t happen. But we as the teams and the tracks have to make sure they stay on a timeline to get these things done.”
There were multiple reports of bees infesting the Xfinity Series garage, which became a constant hazard as crews worked on and moved around race cars.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell