New Daytona 500 champ Kurt Busch relaxed as ever at Atlanta

Photo by Yvonne Jones

By Yvonne Jones, Staff Writer

HAMPTON, Ga. — No driver is more relaxed ahead of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway than Kurt Busch. Winning the first race of the year will do that.

And it’s not just any race. It’s the Great American Race.

“It is an incredible feeling to win the Daytona 500 but it comes with a peace of mind to know that you are a race winner in 2017 and you have five bonus points that we will carry with us all through the playoffs and it gives you that motivation to go out there and win these different stages and get those bonus points and to get race wins,” said the driver of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford.

“It also gives you a sense of calm that if you have a bad race there is no huge issue.”

The Daytona 500 win was Busch’s first and it came in the first regular-season race for NASCAR’s new entitlement sponsor, Monster Energy, which backs the No. 41. He also gave Tony Stewart his first 500 –as an owner; Stewart drove 18 seasons and didn’t hoist a Harley J. Earl trophy.

Since Sunday’s win, Busch has been on a whirlwind tour, something the 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion says he’s lost track of.

“Years ago when I won the championship you look at it and think, ‘Oh man, there is a lot that goes with this,’” he said.

“Maybe you don’t soak it all in, but this time around my phone is like 400 texts deep and I can’t get caught up. All the shows, interviews and moments, I am trying to soak it all in and feel everything I can.”

NASCAR is unveiling a lower downforce package at Atlanta this weekend as it continues last year’s efforts of lessening aerodynamic forces from the cars. This makes the car harder to drive, which emphasizes the drivers’ ability to get the most out of the machines.

“Today, there is a lot of anxiety with the crew chiefs with cars getting through tech inspection in time to be able to qualify,” said the 38-year-old driver. “Since it is a new procedure and new process we are as focused and for us on the 41 car we have some wiggle room with things. It is neat to have that sense of security as our foundation for the 2017 season.”

Busch is referring to the changes under the 2017 rules package, which decreased downforce from 2,100 pounds last year to 1,600 pounds:

  • Spoiler height decrease from 3.5 inches to 2.375 inches
  • Outboard regions of the splitter are reduced by 3 inches
  • Deck fin is tapered to match spoiler height
  • Drivers must start the race on the tires used in qualifying

“Since it is a new procedure and new process we are as focused and for us on the 41 car we have some wiggle room with things,” Busch added.

“It is neat to have that sense of security as our foundation for the 2017 season.”

Busch has won three times – 2002, ’09 and ’10 — at Atlanta, which is set to be repaved later this month. He has six top 5s and 11 top 10s in 25 Cup races.

 

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