LOUDON, N.H. —
“You don’t have to win, but you have to stay away from those bad finishes,” Busch said. “If you do just nice, consistent runs, then you control your own destiny going to Richmond.”
Busch knows how easy it is to lose control. He blew rides at multicar teams owned by Jack Roush and Roger Penske because of a lengthy list of confrontations and bad behavior. Out of elite ride options, he hitched a ride last year with James Finch’s underfunded racing team before making a late-season switch to Furniture Row.
He finished 28th in the season-opening Daytona 500 and sprinkled two top-fives in with five finishes of 20th or worse over the first seven races. He was doing well in April at Martinsville until a bad fuel pump and then a brake issue caused his race to end in a fiery crash. The car that had been seventh was dumped to 37th place.
Busch and crew chief Todd Berrier have found the right combination over the last month. Busch has gone from 20th to 17th to 14th to ninth in the standings and suddenly looks like the driver who was always a threat to win at any track.
“Kurt was always hands down to me the guy that I looked to and said, ‘Wow, how did he do that? How did he go that fast? How did he make that happen?’” former teammate Brad Keselowski said. “I always walked away and said that guy was talented.”
While his behavior will always be scrutinized, his outbursts at the media and dustups with other drivers that once landed him on probation have fallen by the wayside this season.
No one’s really waiting for that next high-profile incident — just the next win.
“We can’t force it,” Busch said. “I keep saying it and then I go out there and I try a little bit harder and drive that 101 percent and it steps over the line.”