It’s somewhat surprising to note that Kurt Busch, a driver with a hard-charging, push-the-button reputation, remains winless in restrictor-plate racing.
He’s shooting to end that long hunt in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
In 25 Sprint Cup races at Daytona, Busch has 10 top-five finishes but no wins. He has four runner-up finishes in the Daytona 500. In 24 Talladega events, he’s 0-for-24, although with six top fives.
"The restrictor-plate races turn into more of a crap shoot,” Busch said. “You see if your number is going to come up and be the lucky guy at the end of the day. The way you have to stay patient all day, stay out of trouble and be on the lucky side of things is a tough combination to get exactly right.”
At Talladega, in particular, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time and making the key move in the final lap or two.
Sometimes, the big move instead becomes a big wreck.
“Over the years I've had good, consistent finishes – just haven't broken through for a Cup win at a superspeedway,” Busch said. “As of late, I've been pushing hard to get that win, and then I end up in wrecks.”
From 2004 to 2007, Busch rang up a run of seven straight top-10 finishes at Talladega, including back-to-back thirds. His recent record, however, isn’t as pleasant – finishes of 30th, 18th, 36th, 20th and 39th in the past five races.
“I just have to go back to the basics to try and survive, and hopefully our number will come up at the end of the day,” he said. “You can't expect to win. You have to find little things that will help you have an advantage at the end of the race."
Busch has had strong cars much of the season and recorded his third top-10 run of the year last Saturday at Richmond. He finished ninth in the chaos of the closing two laps, irritating both Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth with his aggressive driving during that stretch.
“We were much better than ninth at Richmond, but that’s OK because it was the performance that showed us that we can run up front and be a legitimate contender,” Busch said. “We still have to make improvements and keep the mistakes and malfunctions to a minimum.”
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 31 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.