By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Kurt Busch extended his top-10 streak to four straight following a valiant sixth-place finish in Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The road towards a top-10 finish began well before the 325-lap race began when Kurt’s No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE had to give up the 12th starting position due to his car failing pre-race inspection three times.
Not only Kurt had to start at the rear of the field, but he had to serve a pass-thru penalty once the green flag waved. Following the three-time Atlanta winner’s penalty service, he was already a lap down.
However, his Chip Ganassi Racing machine was setting blistering laps during the first green flag stint that he was second car in line behind race leader Chase Elliott and the first car a lap down.
It was close as Elliott had lapped both Josh Bilicki and J.J. Yeley, but Kurt made quick work on both backmarkers to get the free pass once the competition caution came out on Lap 25.
By the time the race resumed, Kurt went from restarting 32nd to as high as 12th. However, there were multiple problems that plagued him for much of the race, notably battling a very tight Camaro and struggling driving under traffic.
Instead of being on the cusp of scoring stage points, Kurt ended up with angering 17th place finish in Stage 1, venting his frustrations over the radio about his car.
Once cooled down and the No. 1 team made key adjustments, Kurt described his car at great length before Stage 2 commenced. He notably reported that his car was “really bad tight with aero” on the short runs among other things shown on my tweet that proved to be challenging:
"Here's what's going on if you have a pen and paper…"
"The track was cleaner than what it is right now. We can power through the corner. Each run out, we loose speed. Left front is going down. With low air, the left front goes down…it goes through the splitter."
— Luis Torres (@TheLTFiles) June 7, 2020
Throughout Stage 2, Kurt remained relatively quiet over the radio, saying that lack of grip and getting through traffic were still an issue. He ended up 12th in the stage.
The final stage had a much better outcome for Kurt as he finally cracked the top-10 in the latter portion of the race and felt more satisfied on his car’s performance.
More so, when pit services were done for the day as Kurt kept gaining ground on his competitors, getting by the likes of Hendrick Motorsports teammates Elliott and Jimmie Johnson.
In the end, Kurt crossed the line in sixth for his seventh top-10 in the last eight Cup races and still retained 10th in the regular season standings after 10 races.
Kurt described his thoughts on the closing laps over the radio following the 3.5 hour race.
"That last lap, just missed the paint on both ends. I couldn't press hard at the beginning. Tight on end and it's snapped loose on exit. Good stuff." – Kurt Busch following his sixth place result#NASCAR | #FOHQT500
— Luis Torres (@TheLTFiles) June 7, 2020
Crew chief Matt McCall summarized Sunday’s adventurous race as a full effort from the entire CGR squad following the deficits they’ve endured during inspection.
“(Kurt) did a great job racing to stay in position for the free pass, to get back on the lead lap at the competition caution on lap 25, after that we just worked on trying to make the car better,” said McCall. “We had good long run speed, but the short-runs near the stage breaks were tough. Kurt did a great job of driving up through the field on the last long green-flag run to score another top-10 finish. Really proud of this Monster Energy team today.”
Kurt gave his overall post-race thoughts a few hours after the race in a video posted on Twitter.
“My boys, Matt and everybody at Ganassi, were pushing hard and apparently we didn’t pass tech like we were supposed to. So, we had to start in the back and do a drive-through,” said Kurt.
“We were fifth or sixth after we came back out, but we were a lap down and had to race hard to be in the position for the lucky dog. The car was dialed in right from the start and we got our lap back early on. As the race went on, man, just loose – tight – loose – tight, and then ended up P-6!”
Kurt will look to continue his consistency three days from now as the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway will air live at 7:00 pm EST on FS1.