Kurt Busch scores top five result in 600th career Cup start

Kurt Busch isn’t giving up the fight any time soon.

Kurt Busch scores top five result in 600th career Cup start
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, Tony Gibson
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, Trevor Bayne, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford

After a tough time in practice and qualifying 25th on Friday, Busch battled back for his 10th top-five finish at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday and his 128th top-five result in 600-career Cup starts.

The driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford — the only manufacturer represented in the top five besides a Toyota — picked up his third top-five result in 2017 and moved up to 13th in the Monster Energy Cup Series standings.

“We’ve been struggling with the VHT on the bottom, so I just knew we needed to wait and wait and wait, and I was hopeful at Lap 250 that it would come to us,” Busch said. “I pushed it too hard then and got some right-front tire damage on the fender (after contact with teammate Clint Bowyer). We had to work through that, but I think at the end we got in position because (crew chief) Tony Gibson made a good call and put us on fresher tires than the competition — and it was the old fun Bristol for me.

“So I’m really proud of this Monster Energy Ford -- to be first in class, to get a top-five in my 600th start, and to see the lead with 50 to go.”

It wasn’t smooth sailing for all 500 laps. Busch came from 25th to finished 14th in the first stage. Between segments, he overshot his pits during service on Lap 129 and had to be pushed back in his box. He restarted 21st and finished 12th in the second stage. Busch gained three positions in the pits and restarted ninth for the final stage.

Busch was slicing through the field when he grazed the Turn 4 wall on Lap 272. His car became tight — and he was ready to be lapped by Erik Jones — when Ty Dillon triggered the sixth caution on Lap 354. He restarted 13th and worked his way up to ninth before pitting for tires and fuel on Lap 417.

Busch pitted for the eighth and final time on Lap 417. He restarted 12th on Lap 421 and quickly cut through the field. In six laps, he was up to eighth and passed Bowyer again for seventh-place on Lap 433. With 50 laps to decide the contest, Busch was running as high as fourth but was passed by Denny Hamlin over the next 10 laps. 

Busch soldiered on for his first top five since June at Pocono. His brother Kyle broke the tie between the siblings for most wins at the track with his sixth victory at Bristol. For Kurt Busch and the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team, it was their third top 10 in the last six races.

“It was great,” Busch said. “It was fun knifing through the leaders. We got to fourth and it was like I ran out of mojo, but I’m really happy with my 600th start to sniff the lead with 50 to go and get beat by the same team cars. I’d call that first in class, but I’m really happy with our Monster Energy Ford.”

Although Busch’s future is still uncertain with SHR, his team appears solid with two races remaining before the playoffs begin at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 17.

“I’m not an old bull,” said the 39-year-old NASCAR champion and 2017 Daytona 500 winner. “I’m ready to fight these young guys and put up a good battle. If we run like this in the playoffs we’ll be good.”

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