Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

2020 Cup Series Season Preview: Kurt Busch

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into February’s running of the Daytona 500.

Age: 41

Years in Cup: 19

Career Wins: 31

Biggest Accomplishment: 2004 NASCAR Cup Series Champion

The most experience full-time driver on the grid is entering his second season with Chip Ganassi Racing and there are no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Kurt Busch entered 2019 with a yet another new team in the 2010s, but like each team he’s driven for throughout the past decade, he made them better.

In the regular season, Kurt was inside the top-10 in points for much of that span with 14 out of his 18 top-10s and five of his six top-fives to his name.

Three races come to mind that fans will remember Busch’s 19th full year – the spring Bristol race, the July Daytona race, and Kentucky.

Kurt gave his younger brother Kyle a run for his money during the closing stages at Bristol, but ultimately ended up runner-up to Kyle that April 7th afternoon. It would be far from the last battle they’ll have in 2019.

Then at Daytona, a pit call by crew chief Matt McCall backfired as Mother Nature reared its ugly head and the race was called after 127 laps. Rather than being in front before pitting, Kurt ended up 10th while Xfinity Series regular Justin Haley got the upset victory.

Frustrated, Kurt entered the following race at Kentucky with a chip on his shoulder. This time around, it Kyle who was chasing Kurt in the closing laps as they put an absolute barn burner in overtime with Kurt one-upping Kyle.

Kurt’s 31st win easily brought a whole new spark to the No. 1 team that hasn’t seen a Cup win since 2013 with Jamie McMurray, with many of his pit crew visiting victory lane for the first time.

Chip Ganassi said last November that Kurt’s win was one of the attributes he’s brought to the team and with him signing a multi-year deal to stay with CGR, there’s a lot more he can bring to the table.

“It’s not often to bring a guy into a team that’s a champion, but he proved that in his driving this year,” Ganassi said. “He sparked the No. 1 car to taking it into places that’s never been there before. I’m pretty pleased with that and having Monster (Energy) as a great partner has been a real shot in the arm for our team.

“Kurt brings a lot more than just what’s on the track. He brings a lot off the track and brought a lot of guys on the No. 1 team their first NASCAR Cup win and I think you saw the exuberance at Kentucky. I’m very proud to keep him a part of this team for the foreseeable future.”

While the regular season was solid, his playoff run wasn’t as memorable. The 2004 champion was eliminated after the Round of 16 and finished 13th in points. This was due to falling out of the race at Las Vegas due to an accident along with two subpar results that prevented him from fighting for a second Cup title.

Heading into 2020, Kurt is relieved to have a deal set up for years to come and with Monster Energy still committed of sponsoring him, there’s a lot of fuel left in his tank and is grateful with the support he’s received from both his team and sponsor.

“It means the world to me to have this come together and have a championship quality ride to race at this point in my life and in my career,” Busch said. “They’re special to me and I told them that we got to come in right away and go hard. We raced smart earlier this year to build a solid points base. We were able to win at Kentucky and had some other close wins that slipped through our fingers.

“Ultimately, this is about the partnership that we generated in a short time and the word and commitment that Monster Energy gave to me early in my career. To be with a sponsor for almost a decade – that’s something it doesn’t happen all that often and it’s very special to me.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to race for Monster Energy. To deliver big time wins for them like Daytona with all the CEOs. There’s still more special moments ahead and more to accomplish. There’s plenty of gas in this tank and it’s going to be a lot of fun moving forward.”

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. He's also covered Idaho Athletics and high school football as both a writer and videographer. Additionally, he spent 2017 writing several racing columns as an independent journalist. Luis does video and photography, and is a fan of Seattle sports, a music critic and a motivator who wants to impact people's lives.