By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
After an early exit at Las Vegas last week, Kurt Busch had a competitive car in Sunday’s TicketGuardian 500 at ISM Raceway, crossing the line in 10th for his second top-10 finish of the season after leading six of 312 laps.
Busch consistently worked his way through the field in his No. 41 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion after starting 23rd, reaching up to 16th on Lap 23. His crew made no changes during early pit stops and ended stage one in eighth.
Busch continued to pick pocket his competitors, reaching the top-five in the closing stages of stage two.
A late stage caution was brought out for Chris Buescher, whose car kissed the Turn 4 wall on Lap 146. Busch, who pitted 23 laps prior, stayed out and took the lead.
Busch held off Brad Keselowski in a one-lap shootout for his second stage win of the season. After earning a playoff point, Busch pitted and restarted 25th.
During his a stage win interview, Busch remained optimistic despite having to work his way back up.
“Whoo! We’re stage winners! Whoo! We’re starting 25th now,” Busch exclaimed. “That’s part of the game of how you gotta play these stages. It’s comes with good and it’s comes with bad.”
Busch slowly worked his way back to the top-10 without major changes being done during his stops. With his teammates, Kevin Harvick (winner), Clint Bowyer (sixth) and Aric Almirola (seventh), all scoring top-10 finishes, it marked Stewart-Haas Racing’s first race where all four cars finished in the top-10.
The 2005 race winner praised his car’s performance and did what he could to score 10th at Phoenix.
“The car responded well to my steering and gas inputs. I was a little slow on restarts but I love being able to lean on the right-rear tire and make passes later in the run,” Busch said after the race. “Our strategy unfolded the best it could have to win stage 2 and get back in the top-10. We just didn’t run the same lap times we did at the end as we did at the beginning of the race, but all in all it was a good day.”
Despite moving up to 11th in points, Busch’s winless streak extends to 39 races and will look to snap it in next Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Busch has one win at the 2-mile circuit back in 2003 when he captured his second of four wins that season.