Kurt Busch Making an Impact

Kurt Busch

Furniture Row Racing had eight top-10 finishes in 193 races. Busch has 11 in 24 races, including eight top-10 finishes this season. (Photo: Getty Images)

LOUDON, N.H. - Kurt Busch is teaching Furniture Row Racing how to be better. And others not to dismiss him.

He’s not doing it, though, by lecturing or pontificating. He’s doing it by his actions.

Furniture Row Racing has responded. Busch has climbed from 20th to ninth in the points the past three weeks heading into Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He’ll start second beside pole-sitter Brad Keselowski.

It’s a remarkable rise for the single-car team affiliated with Richard Childress Racing and based in Denver, Colo. Busch and crew chief Todd Berrier have helped change the culture for a team that has never made the Chase. Consider:

  • Furniture Row Racing had three top-five finishes in its first 193 races. Busch has four top-fives in 24 races with the team.

  • Furniture Row Racing had eight top-10 finishes in 193 races. Busch has 11 in 24 races, including eight top-10 finishes this season.

    “They have just persevered as a company, as a team for years and years to get to this point,’’ Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “It’s really refreshing to see a team make it in the manner and the path that they took. I applaud what they’re doing and excited about their potential going forward. I don’t think they have realized their potential and understood just how good they can become.

    “Kurt is the key to that whole thing. When he’s on his game and focused and everything is going in a good direction, he’s one of the best drivers in the sport.’’

    That’s what Berrier told his team when Busch was hired. He also prepared the team for what it would be like with Busch.

    “I told all the guys in the shop ... he is going to bring out every weakness we have in a company,’’ Berrier said.

    His point was that Busch is so good that if the car doesn’t match Busch’s talent it will become evident. The team has worked in those areas and also improved overall. They’ve still made mistakes - which slowed them early in the season - but they’ve been better at overcoming those issues. The result is five top-10 finishes in the last seven races.

    Now the question becomes if this team can make the Chase and take a spot from a higher-profile team. Busch is cautious because he’s only 19 points ahead of 16th in the standings. Included in that group is Keselowski, the defending series champion, four-time champion Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne.

    One mistake could drop Busch several spots in the points. Or one right move can widened the gap. Just like what happened at Kentucky two weeks ago when he finished sixth.

    “We didn’t have a great car but we finished sixth,’’ Busch said. “I looked at the podium afterwards and saw Tony Stewart finished 20th. I was running with Stewart at the beginning of the race and we were both slip sliding around trying to get all we could. After 267 laps we’re sixth and he’s 20th. It just shows you the sixth through the 20th finishing order is just that tight and it can change that quick. One pit stop or strategy can put you ahead or get you behind.’’

    With the top 10 in points after the September Richmond race guaranteed a Chase spot, Berrier admits he’ll have to balance how he makes decisions during races.

    “You want to win and you’re here to win and you feel that week in and week out you’re in a position you could possibly win, but at the same time when you start teeter-totting around that last (automatic Chase) spot, you don’t want to give anything up,’’ Berrier said. “I’d like to go win, and I think we can.’’

    The team has won only one Cup race, the 2011 Southern 500 with Regan Smith. That this got that far surprised some, let alone what they’re doing now. The thought is that a team outside the hub of Charlotte, N.C., can’t succeed. This team is starting to show that’s not the case.

    That’s not the only lesson this team and Busch are providing. Car owner Barney Visser says Busch also has taught him something.

    “Huge groups of people can be wrong about somebody,’’ Visser said. “I think he’s showing right now who he is, who he really is. He’s a good guy.’’

    Others may debate that but it’s hard to argue about the team’s success this year.

    Visser, after years of limited success, is enjoying this ride. His greatest joy?

    “Just watching the team get better and better as the whole year goes on,’’ Visser said. “It can’t get much better than that.’’

    Actually, it can and it might.

  • Related Topics:

    NASCAR Sprint Cup, Kurt Busch

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