DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – For practical purposes, Kurt Busch is locked into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Sure, there’s the possibility that a surfeit of race winners – more than 16, to be precise – could eliminate a driver who has been to Victory Lane in the first 26 events. Based on recent history, however, the prospects of that happening are remote, and as the winner of the season-opening Daytona 500, Busch figures to be competing for the championship in the final 10 races.
With that in mind, Busch feels his time is best spent preparing for the five 1.5-mile intermediate speedways that populate the playoffs. Only one problem: there’s only one 1.5-mile track on the schedule (July 8 at Kentucky Speedway) between now and the postseason opener at Chicagoland.
Accordingly, Busch and his team will have to be creative with their preparation.
“Well, we tested at Kentucky earlier…about a month ago…working with Goodyear on the tires,” Busch said in his media availability prior to Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC). “I know that we have a Chicago test with Goodyear on the tire that they’re wanting to bring to that race…
“Again, a lot of it is getting into sim work. I was on the simulator before we went out to Sonoma to physically drive the simulator. And then there are the computer simulation models that the engineers use.”
Busch said Texas Motor Speedway used to be one of the most important tracks on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule because the asphalt was closest in character to that of Homestead-Miami Speedway, site of the championship race.
But after the recent repave in Fort Worth, Busch’s emphasis is elsewhere.
“Right now, I think the two most important races coming up are Kentucky and Chicago, if we’re gearing up for a championship run,” he said.
Incidentally, Busch will try to join an exclusive club in Saturday night’s race. Only Fireball Roberts (1962), Cale Yarborough (1968), LeeRoy Yarbrough (1969), Bobby Allison (1982) and Jimmie Johnson (2013) have swept both Daytona races in the same year.