When Kurt Busch won the pole on Friday for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, he became one of the race favorites. He does have three prior victories at the racetrack.
Stage 1 looked promising for the No. 41 team, leading the opening 46 laps. However, late in the stage Ryan Blaney chased Busch down to take the playoff point away from the Stewart-Haas Racing team, while he came home seventh after a caution flew with three laps remaining, setting up a one-lap shootout.
Having the first pit stall on pit road helped Busch gain a few positions back, and during the second stage the No. 41 drove to third, making it a 1-2-3 sweep for SHR.
“We had an excellent day all the way through,” Busch said after the race. “No big mistakes, no rough moments. Pit stops were solid, adjustments were solid. Restarts, I’d say three quarters of the time I was on the inside lane, so that might have been a little bit where we were pinned down.
“I’m happy with our effort today. To finish third, rain shortened, of course you always want to go back racing again, but to see the two cars in front of me at the end, the [Nos.] 4 and the 14, that’s a big day for Stewart‑Haas Racing. It’s very special to finish 1‑2‑3.”
The third-place finish was Busch’s first top-five effort at Michigan since winning this event in 2015, also in a rain shortened race. But since SHR has joined Ford at the beginning of 2017, it’s his first top-10 finish in Fords backyard being Detroit, MI.
“We come here to Michigan for bragging rights,” he said. “I’ve always driven that way. We put in a full effort.”
This was Busch’s third top-five finish of the season, all coming in the past six races. However, this finish comes after a disappointing 19th-place effort at Pocono Raceway last weekend, where the No. 41 car never cracked the top 10.
Overall, Busch sits seventh in the championship standings, 162 points above Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who currently is the first driver outside the playoff grid. Moving forward, the No. 41 team wants to build off its third-place performance.
“We’ve been consistent this year. We haven’t had that super perfect All‑Star type day,” Busch said. “We’ve chiseled away at being consistent, not making mistakes, and our day will come. We just have to put ourselves in position more often.”