Playoff Payoff 2019: Kurt Busch

Above all, Kurt Busch proved he's still a winner on the track in 2019. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Above all, Kurt Busch proved he’s still a winner on the track in 2019. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Sure, this year’s NASCAR Playoffs treated Kurt Busch rather unevenly.  Still, the 2004 Cup Series champion demonstrated his limitless talents with Chip Ganassi Racing, especially at Kentucky Speedway.

All things considered, the 41-year-old Las Vegas, Nev. native tallied a win (Kentucky), six top-fives, and 18 top-10 finishes, good enough to score 13th in the final points tally.  While Busch ranked outside of the top-10, the venerable, aggressive racer left nothing on the table on any given weekend.

Impressively, Busch lived up to his reputation as a racer who improves a fledgling organization.  As an illustration, Busch boosted Furniture Row Racing, at the time, to its highest points finish of 10th in 2013.

Furthermore, Busch joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 as the driver of their No. 41 entry, piloting this powerhouse ride until 2018.  With six wins, 37 top-fives, 90 top-10’s, and 11 pole awards during this five-year span, the raw, talented racer showcased his prowess and tenacity with points finishes of 12th, eighth, seventh, 14th, and seventh.

Without delay, Busch took it to the streets in his No. 1 Monster Energy Chevy Camaro. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

Without delay, Busch took it to the streets in his No. 1 Monster Energy Chevy Camaro. (Photo Credit: Josh Jones/TPF)

However, as the chapter closed on the SHR era, Busch entered his next with CGR.  Following a tough outing in the Daytona 500, Busch had a torrid start with only seven finishes outside of the top-10 in the first 19 races, including a riveting win at Kentucky.

While the first 19 races treated Busch and his No. 1 team kindly, the final 17 behaved more like episodes of Miami Vice from seasons three through five – unevenly.

In fact, Busch placed outside of the top-10 on 10 different occasions.  By the same token, his only glimpses of sunshine came in a three race span between Kansas and Texas (fourth, sixth, and ninth).

Fittingly, Busch’s regular season and NASCAR Playoffs average finishes matched at 13.1.  Appropriately, his postseason results mirrored his outings in the regular season.

At times, Busch asserted himself as either the top Chevrolet racer or best driver from the Ganassi stable.  However, even top racers and teams struggle with consistency during the grind of a season.

Although this may be true, Busch appreciates his successes and excels from adversities, the sign of a maturing, wiser racer.

On the whole, Busch smiles at the prospects of contending for wins and championships with Ganassi. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

On the whole, Busch smiles at the prospects of contending for wins and championships with Ganassi. (Photo Credit: Stephen Conley/TPF)

“You have to adjust and adapt to the setups,” he said. “Or the cars and the different teams that I’ve been with. At 22, when I first got my start in NASCAR, a lot of people forget how young I was and from where I came from with basically racing Legend cars one year and then jumping into a NASCAR car the next.

It was a quick rise.  And so, it’s been neat now to have it all come together, and for the sport to slow down, and for me to be able to digest it all, and to understand what it takes to be a winner on and off the track.”

By all means, while it took some doing, Busch evolved from a brash, young lion to a wiser, mature leader.  Sure, like most racers, he’s as intense as can be, but he possesses savvy, commitment, and patience.

In addition, Busch has an equally adept crew chief in Matt McCall.  To say the least, these two coalesce nicely and strengthened the No. 1 team and Ganassi’s NASCAR organization.

Unsurprisingly, Busch excelled at short tracks, intermediates, and road courses with average finishes of 9.8, 12.54, and 14.33.  Conversely, Busch struggled at superspeedways and Daytona and Talladega with average finishes of 16.5 and 17.25.

That said, Busch finished in all but two races in 2019, with two DNFs due to accidents.  By finishing 94.44 percent of the time this season, he kept his No. 1 Chevy Camaro in position to challenge for wins or strong results.

Ultimately, KB1 drops the hammer at Homestead. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Ultimately, KB1 drops the hammer at Homestead. (Photo Credit: Daniel Overbey/TPF)

Moving into 2020, Busch looks for more consistency and stage points.  Certainly, in order for Busch to truly contend for the Cup championship, his average finish needs to be inside the top-10.  Also, he’ll need to at least double his stage win total, as Kevin Harvick earned six en route to a Championship 4 spot.

In the end, Kurt Busch absolutely has the makings to be a solid contender in 2020.  With a passionate car owner, crew chief, and an arsenal of revamped Chevy Camaros at the shop, look for KB1 to surge up the points rankings heading into the roaring 2020’s.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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