By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
After failing to finish the last two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, Kurt Busch bounces back with a Top 10 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Busch finished eighth in the No. 41 Haas Automation / Monster Energy Ford Fusion after running up front for much of the race.
Busch excelled on the sticky PJ1 compound that NASCAR officials sprayed on the lower and upper lines in the corner throughout the weekend. Aside from pit strategy near the end of Stage 1, Busch spent the entire race inside the Top 10 and in contention.
The final restart ultimately proved crucial as Busch moved forward. He also had to work his way around Dale Earnhardt Jr., who did not pit. Busch was forced three-wide by his Stewart Haas Racing teammate, Clint Bowyer, as they passed Earnhardt.
Busch found the race to be like the old days,
“Those long greens are reminiscent of the old days where you would have green flag pit stops mixed in. It is neat to change lanes and try to find different things with the VHT and the grip that they put down. When you are out there running and you get in that rhythm, you think if you preserve your tires you can get two or three-tenths when we get to lap 50, half a second when we get to lap 70. It gave you the old school feel of taking care of the tires. Overall, you have to go fast for 50 laps, that is all you have to do anymore. We need to get better on the short run speed.”
Evidence of Busch’s strength can be seen in his Stage 2 finish. He finished Stage 2 in fourth, netting an extra seven Championship Points. This helped Busch move up in the Championship standings.
Busch’s eighth place finish was his ninth Top 10 finish of the season. His finish moved him from 15th to 14th in points, however, his win in the Daytona 500 already has him locked into the Playoffs. Busch is 303 Championship Points behind Martin Truex Jr., who leads the standings. Truex also leads the series in Playoff Points with 29, Busch is 24 behind.
This was not Busch’s first experience on a track treated with PJ1. When the PJ1 or ‘VHT’ was first used at Bristol Motor Speedway last year, he dominated the early portion of the race until crashing out around half way.
Now Busch will look to next week as NASCAR’s Premier Series heads to one of the ‘Holy Grails’ left on his list, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a track that he has not yet won at.