When looking at Kurt Busch’s 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, one thing sticks out. See, you can take his year and split it in halves. From the Daytona 500 to the Coca-Cola 600 and from the Coca-Cola 600 on. From Feb. 14 to May 30, Busch had two top 10 finishes. From June 1 through now, Busch has seven top 10’s in a span of 10 races.
On paper, it’s obvious what the turning point was. But, behind the scenes, what happened? From 12 races of 13th or worse to 7 of 10th or better over the next 10. What transpired within the walls of Chip Ganassi Racing?
“For us on the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevy team, we had a really weird beginning of the season,” Busch told me during Tuesday’s Playoffs Media Day. “Points were a struggle. Finishing races with odd ball things happening. It was weird. We weren’t slow, it was just weird.
“For the ‘600, we had an engine failure and we were like ‘that’s got to be it as far as weird things happening.’ Since June 1, we’ve really put in a good run of consistency. The finishes started to help our starting position build back up and to win at Atlanta, it really spring boarded us to really where we needed to be as a playoff contender.”
He’s back in the postseason for the 15th time. He’s made 138 playoff start with 4 of the last 6 years marching all the way to the Round of 8. How much does past playoff experience matter in that standpoint?
“It means staying calm. Staying cool. How to use your points cushion or if you’re behind, how to get points on the other guys,” said Busch. “It’s where the driver and the crew chief if they’ve been together for a while they know exactly what to do without saying anything and executing.
“It all comes down to teamwork, preparation and staying a step ahead.”
Also, this will be his final championship pursuit with Chip Ganassi Racing as Busch shifts over to 23XI Racing next season. CGR was bought out by Trackhouse Racing and will transfer all assets over once the checkered flag drops on the year in Phoenix. How much does Busch reflect on what he’s done with Ganassi?
“Vegas was a special win. We’ve had great memories all the way through,” he said. “To win at Kentucky for the first time that the 1 car had been back in victory lane in so many years. Atlanta was one of those dominating cars with Gear Wrench for someone who’s been with Chip Ganassi Racing for I think six years, it was great to deliver that moment for them.
“Drafting at the superspeedway’s. There was a wreck at a short track where Chip was all over me. It’s been great to have all these emotions with such a legendary owner in NASCAR.”
The playoffs kick off on Sunday at Darlington for the annual Southern 500. Busch, has five top eight’s in his last seven starts there.