Kurt Busch starts Monster Energy era, Ford reunion with ‘bummer’

Photo by Russell LaBounty/NKP

By Yvonne Jones, Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — It’s not the showing Kurt Busch wanted for Monster Energy as NASCAR’s new entitlement sponsor.

Neither for Ford. His Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, that is.

Busch’s Monster Energy-sponsored No. 41 Ford was the first car out of the race as the Advance Auto Clash got underway on Sunday.  Joey Logano won the event in his Penske Ford, but Busch had long been gone after reigning champ Jimmie Johnson got loose and sent him into the Turn 4 wall on Lap 17.

The exhibition race marked Busch’s first event since Monster Energy took over from Sprint as NASCAR’s new entitlement sponsor. It also marked Stewart-Haas Racing’s debut in a Ford after its switch from Chevrolet. For Busch though, it’s a return to the manufacturer he drove for when he won his lone Cup title in 2004 while with owner Jack Roush.

“I was just minding my own business in the low groove and we got tagged in the right-rear,” said the 38-year-old Busch. “It’s kind of a shame — all of the hard work and the effort everybody puts into the off-season — Doug Yates and his engines and everybody from Ford and everybody at Stewart-Haas, all of the effort put towards building a car and we didn’t even make it to the first pit stop, so it’s kind of a bummer.”

In the non-points race that was postponed from Saturday night to Sunday morning due to rain, Busch finished last in the 17-car field as Logano avoided a last-lap wreck to find Victory Lane.

“You’re gonna have to work out the bugs and some guys were loose, some guys were tight and that’s just the way it is,” said Busch, who won the Clash in 2011.  ”We just ended up on the wrong side of the coin.”

Busch’s Stewart-Haas teammates Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

“The confidence is high just because a of how fast our Ford is today, so I think once we got the balance and have an idea now of where the balance needs to be we can get the handling right, but speed is not an issue,” Harvick said.

Patrick, who started the final segment in 11th, also dodged the bullet at the end, too.

“I will say that I got a little lucky, but there’s a lot of that in speedway racing,” Patrick said. “It was a nice way to start things off in the TaxAct Ford today. These Fords seem pretty fast. Roush Yates [Engines] does a great job.”

And though Busch didn’t go the distance in the 75-lap event, he did learn about the recently implemented concussion protocol. And applauded NASCAR for the improvement.

“There was an individual that met me out by the car, rode with me in the ambulance and again met with the doctors and just went through different sequences to check all of the different vitals and we were released,” he said.  “It’s just a little bit of an upgrade.  You can tell that they’ve made an effort and it’s nice to have that security.”

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