By David Morgan, Associate Editor
If there’s one Chevrolet team that has stood out above the rest of the Bowtie Brigade in 2019, it has been the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing team piloted by Kurt Busch.
Following a 25th place finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season opener, Busch and company have rebounded in the races since, piling up top-10 finish after top-10 finish. In Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, it was more of the same with the elder Busch brother bringing home a sixth-place finish on the day.
“We had a good day,” Busch said. “I was just hoping to get a top 5 and came home just a bit short. But the growth rate of us at Ganassi and the adjustments we’re making, I couldn’t be happier. I’m smiling as I’m driving the car.
“It’s so much fun to toss it down in there with all this downforce and the horsepower, you just pitch it sideways and see if it’s going to stick. But, we know we’ve got our work cut out for us. It’s awesome to run up front. I’m smiling. But, we know at our growth rate, we’re not on a plateau yet. I’ve got to keep going.”
After being one of the only cars to make a single car run in qualifying on Friday, Busch had his work cut out for him when the green flag flew, rolling off 21st.
Despite the mid-pack start, Busch made the most of his situation, driving his Camaro up to 11th at the end of the first stage, just missing out on accumulating those all-important stage points.
Stage two began with a 17th place start, but Busch was able to crack the top-10 for the first time during the run, eventually driving up to seventh before peeling off onto pit road during a round of green flag pit stops. Once things cycled out, he would drop one spot to finish the stage in eighth place.
Busch powered his way into the top-five as the final stage played out, but when the caution flag flew during a green flag pit stop cycle, he would find himself among several drivers trapped a lap down. Luckily, Busch was the first car a lap down and was awarded the free pass to get back on the lead lap for the final run to the finish.
Restarting seventh, Busch climbed up the leaderboard, getting as high as fourth before losing a couple of positions with the checkered flag in sight to claim his sixth-place finish.
While Busch said that he was proud to lead the Chevrolet contingent, he noted that Chevrolet as a whole has some work to do going forward.
“I want to see more Bowties up there all around me,” he said. “It’s those teams that are there right now with Penske, SHR, Gibbs, that’s what’s towing the boat and towing the whole sequence. For us at Ganassi, we’ve got to cross over that threshold and get to that next level. Whether Chevy is going to help us or we’re taking them, we’re just going to continue to work hard as a team no matter what it is.”
Next week, Busch and the rest of the Cup Series heads to Martinsville, where the Las Vegas native has two wins, most recently in March 2014.